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TV Review: Victoria (Series 2, Episode 1)


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The hotly-anticipated return of Victoria, the ITV drama depicting the events of the reign of Queen Victoria aired last night, and it did not disappoint. 

Following its hugely successful first series - an adaptation of Daisy Goodwin's novels - Jenna Coleman gave another stunning and effortless performance as the Monarch, who in this episode fights against the restraints of her confinement following the birth of the first of her and Albert's nine children, the Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary. 

Being the Queen we all know and love, this week we see Victoria struggling with motherhood and the expectations placed upon her in addition to those she suffers from as a monarch. Although Albert seemingly adores his newborn daughter, we see Victoria struggling with what seems to be postnatal depression, as she did indeed suffer from following the births of several of her children, as well as pre-natal depression and a hatred of pregnancy. 

Not willing to remain idle after the birth, Victoria raises awareness for the issues surrounding mothers of the 18th century, albeit quite a different picture to those living in poverty in the winding cobbled streets of London. She struggles to rekindle the power that she had become accustomed to as Queen at such a young age, and feels stifled as her husband, although with honourable intentions, shields her from matters of duty and public office. 

With childbirth being an extremely dangerous and complicated event during this time, it is expected of Victoria to remain palace-bound following the birth of her daughter in order to recover and bond with the child. The court are also concerned for her safety following the supposed assassination attempts that took place last series - the first of no less than seven attempts on her life throughout her reign.

The episode covers a common ritual performed on women following childbirth, in which women must be "purified" and have their "sin" washed away before they can return to the public sphere. It was believed to be "most irregular" for Victoria to attend any royal engagements prior to this ceremony - something which Victoria's headstrong and stubborn disposition struggles to accept. 

This week's opener also raises the issue of the place of the mother within Victorian society, with even the Queen - one of the most powerful figures of the time - being expected to spend her time in the nursery, rather than taking care of matters of state and her country. Victoria defies this expectation in an admirable display of feminism, remarkable for her time, leaving the modern audience to cheer her on.

This week also showcases issues in Afghanistan, as almost 4,000 soldiers are annihilated in battle while crossing the Khyber Pass, a matter which was kept from Victoria by her husband and new Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel. The event was one that shook the nation and has been hailed "the worst British military disaster until the fall of Singapore exactly a century later". 

As ever, the series returns with the attitude that "this country has a past, as well as a future", and that is a sentiment that rings true throughout much of Victoria's endeavours. The decision to celebrate the feats of the British army through the medium of the HMS Trafalgar demonstrated a much-needed display of patriotism and British pride; the Queen seeks to honour the past efforts of those who fight for the country, while looking to the future respectively. 

The episode also contained many hints of what we can expect over coming weeks, and it seems set to be an exciting series. Albert is keen to reform the army and play a larger part in the control of them, with Victoria at this point claiming that she doesn't "give a fig about your helmets" - implying that this may be a work in progress. I am anxious to see the drama unfold between Chef Francatelli and Mrs Skerrett, and how the Duchess of Bucleuch - a new character played by Dame Diana Rigg - will settle in and cause mischief at the palace. 

I also detect a potential kindling romance between Wilhelmina, the new Maid of Honour to the Queen, and Prince Ernest, who caused quite a stir last series regarding the Duchess of Sutherland. Episode two will also see the return of Rufus Sewell's beloved 'Lord M' - which is sure to ruffle feathers.

Victoria continues to live up to her obstinate, determined and remarkable reputation, as the series remains as elegant, patriotic and heart-wrenching as ever. It seems that "little Vicky is doing her country proud" once more.

Victoria airs on ITV 1 at 9pm on Mondays.

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