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TV Review: Victoria - 'Comfort and Joy'

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On the first day of Christmas, Daisy Goodwin gave to us... a stunning retelling of some of the most exciting events in young Victoria's life, complete with drama, heartbreak and incredible visuals.

This Christmas special was the jewel in the crown of this year's festive telly, with the true message of family festivity shining through. 

Victoria is known for its lavish sets, superb plots and stellar cast, which are always balanced with a delicate dusting of history and morally enlightening stories - and this year was no exception. In addition to the exceptional visuals and sets, today's audience learnt an incredible amount on the topical issues of the 19th century, and were implored by the stellar performances of the cast to actually feel something about them. 

This special episode touched on the slave trade of 19th Century America, which was still very much in full swing. Mrs Skerrett comes across a life-changing inheritance which would see her through her life in an extremely comfortable position - but which is tainted with the lost freedom of a group of slaves. 

The audience are also given the chance to form a personal perspective on the issue, as the child of an African family sold in slavery is presented as a 'gift' to the Queen, who takes her under her wing as her godchild. That's a present you won't be finding in the Boxing Day sales. 

Family is an underlying theme within this year's special, with Victoria donning a corset over her baby bump (not just a food baby one) and Prince Albert dusting off his elf uniform and picking up the slack that England has made during the festive period. We learn that it is he who is responsible for bringing the Christmas tree tradition to England, as he insists upon a tree being suspended from the ceiling by its trunk, and surrounded by several smaller trees, decorated with an abundance of candles and oranges. He adapts this from the tradition originally coined by Martin Luther, whose idea was to have candles that shone like the stars of Bethlehem. (I bet that would be a nightmare trying to hoover up the pine needles as they fall from the ceiling.)

Although some are less than welcoming to these "foreign ideas" of Christmas, everyone is anxious to create a festive holiday that is memorable, magical and the pearl of childhood, with Victoria keen to forget her past, and Albert keen to relive his. It is a sentiment that rings true with much of the audience, as sometimes the traditions become so integral to our image of the perfect Christmas that we lose sight of the joy of them in the process. 

This is certainly a problem for the young royals, as their usual troubles bubble to the surface and the Christmas row reminds us of how human the young couple are. 

The royal Victorian traditions are fascinating, as we see the Queen and her Prince venture down to the servants' quarters to enjoy an evening of food and merriment, with all welcome and equal. It is a charming sight to see the Queen of England dancing with her chef, and we are reminded of the festive spirit that Albert is trying so hard to spread. 

Just when you think that this is all very typically Victorian and quintessentially royal, Goodwin and co. shock us with arguably the most exciting scene we have seen yet. In a scene which many believed to be a dream sequence due to its unpredictability, Victoria finds Albert ice skating on a frozen pond which has formed in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. In a turn of events foreseen by nobody, Albert falls through a crack in the ice, whilst a pregnant Victoria scrambles desperately to save his life. The dark accident is portrayed incredibly well, with the sense of danger adding to an already exquisite Christmas special. 

The answer to the question on everybody's lips- yes, this was in fact adapted from a very real accident that took place in early 1841, when Albert decided to try out the ice skates that Victoria had had custom made for him. Just a day before their first wedding anniversary, Victoria managed to pull her husband to safety as he was submerged in freezing water up to his neck. Suddenly, the royal way of life is a little more exciting!

Elsewhere, we are reminded that love actually is all around, with not one, but two proposals. Lord Alfred is still suffering from the loss of Lord Drummond, but this Christmas he notices what has been under his nose the whole time. Mr Francetelli is a valuable source of support for Mrs Skerrett, and this week proves that their love knows no bounds. Prince Ernest begins to come to terms with his illness, but pushes away those most important to him in the process.

Victoria and Albert battle against the age-old Christmas conundrum - what to get the other half for Christmas? Victoria shows her boisterous side and commissions a portrait considered to be scandalous at the time ("with your hair down 'Drina? Shocking!"), and Albert crafts a gift that is all we could ever want for Christmas. 

Thanks to stellar performances, sets and plots, Goodwin has pulled off a stunning festive period drama, complete with comfort and joy, historical enlightenment and incredible twists and turns.

Victoria will return for a third series in 2018.




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