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Celebrating Victoria: the period drama with the best frocks and the boldest locks

Tara Ward, The Spinoff’s supreme queen of the period drama, tells you why you should bravely enter the court of Victoria

It’s 1837 and Queen Victoria is up to her ears in worries. Is her head too small for the crown? Are her ear plaits symmetrical? Is her uncle plotting to dethrone her and seize power? Just your average teenage angst, then, with a fancy palace and a few colonies chucked in for good measure.

If you love a good historical costume drama, then this is your safe place. Focusing on the early years of her reign, Victoria is a tightly wrapped parcel of drama and intrigue, topped with a curly ribbon of scandal. So tighten your corsets, wrap your hair around your ears and bring out your smelling salts, as we unwrap the many the reasons to love Victoria.

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Yaas Queen: Victoria’s got this

Jenna Coleman’s come a long way since she pashed Debbie Dingle on Emmerdale. Now she’s playing a teenage monarch whose every move is challenged and undermined by a bunch of shouty old men who think slavery is progress. They question Victoria’s experience, insult her height and gossip about her mental wellbeing. Just as well she didn’t wear pantsuits.

Spoiler alert, gents: Victoria has this gig for life.

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“I hear her tongue is too big for her mouth,” declares one generous subject. Slack tongue or not, Victoria calls the shots. She changes her name from Alexandrina to Victoria (easier to pronounce, probably also faster when signing treaties) and refuses to bow to political pressure. She also likes to look wistfully into the distance, no doubt watching her Empire expand by the minute.

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But best of all, Victoria refuses to take anyone’s shit. “I shall not need your assistance,” she tells Regent wannabe Conroy, which is Queen speak for “you and your sideburns can feck right off, you power hungry turncoat.” Amen, sister.

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It celebrates a new modern world

Breaking news: I am Mrs Jenkins. She distrusts gas lighting like I distrust Snapchat. Videos that disappear in seconds? Light that comes out of a pipe? It has to be witchcraft – and don’t even get us started on that new-fangled ice room in the palace basement, because it’s obviously the devil’s work.

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Lord Melbourne is the new Darcy

“Queens do not chase after prime ministers,” warns the Duchess of Kent. Don’t be so hasty, Vicky’s Mum.

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Praise the Lord, someone call an M-tervention, because I’m obsessed with a Whig. If only all politicians were as stoic and loyal and steadfast as Lord Melbourne, with kind eyes and a cravat that I want to press my face into and inhale all the well-laundered goodness that lies beneath. I bet Lord M smells like musk and devotion. No wonder they named a city after him.

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“To me, Ma’am, you are every inch the queen,” says Melbourne, his reassuring advice gushing everywhere like a nineteenth-century open sewer. It was music to Victoria’s ears, and to mine. I may or may not have turned Melbourne’s words into my new ring-tone. Lord M, call me.

Great frocks, great locks

Victoria has everything we expect in a costume drama: gorgeous costumes, beautiful scenery, and lavish sets with more armless statues than you can shake your sceptre at. But hold the parade, because Victoria has a secret weapon in the war against bad television: outstanding hair.

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I’ve a sudden urge to manoeuvre my own limp mane into tiny ringlets and rock a mean centre parting, just so that my hair can enter the room three minutes before the rest of me. We salute you, curls of Buckingham Palace. I will never eat another curly fry without thinking fondly of you. 

Facts, schmacts: it’s all about the big cheese

Outraged experts foam at the mouth over historical inaccuracies that pop up in dramas like Victoria. There should be more servants in the kitchens! Victoria’s uncle never tried to seize power! The Queen’s eyebrows shouldn’t be so smooth!

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Whatever. Victoria’s best bits are found lurking silently in the background, like a feral rat ready to pounce onto a royal birthday cake. Who cares about historical truths when there’s a giant wheel of cheese waiting to be devoured?

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Ignore Victoria’s emotional outbursts and check out the impressive size of those hedges. Imagine trimming those bastards with a tiny pair of scissors, just so the Queen can jam her umbrella into them in a fit of teenage rage.

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And as for this servant who spat on his hanky to polish the statue’s breast: may an infestation of palace rats fall out of the wall and into your nightmares, you uncouth, baggy-sleeved imbecile.

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Let the people rejoice, for Victoria has ascended to the throne. It’s a cracking piece of costume drama with a gutsy heroine, a grand world of politics and privilege, and flame that comes out of a pipe. What more could you want, other than a chunk of Mrs Jenkins’ cheese and a comforting look from Lord M? God save the Queen, indeed.


Victoria airs on TVNZ 1, Sundays at 8.30pm

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