One of TV’s great soap operas is returning with the continuing story of one of history’s great real-life soap operas — Season 3 of “Victoria.”
It’s 1848, and Victoria (Jenna Coleman) — now pushing 30 — has been on the throne for more than a decade. Europe is aflame with a fever to oust monarchs, and there are some threats at home, but the queen just keeps having children.
As Season 3 begins (Sunday, 8 p.m., PBS/Channel 7), she’s pregnant with her sixth. And there are three more to come. Which was a pretty good sign that, whatever other problems the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert might have had, they didn’t extend to the bedroom.
“Victoria just fancied the pants off him, as we say in England,” said executive producer Daisy Goodwin. “She was in lust with him as well as in love with him.”
(She wrote a novelized biography, “Victoria,” published in 2016; she’s written every episode of the series “Victoria.”)
“There was never any question of either of them looking at anyone else, which you can’t say for many royal marriages,” Goodwin said. “Sadly, for me. I love a little scandal.”
Goodwin did dig up a bit of family drama for Season 3. Joining the cast is Victoria’s half-sister, Feodora (Kate Fleetwood), who’s not the queen’s biggest fan. Feodora is the daughter of Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent (born a German princess), and her first husband, a minor German noble.
Feodora lived in Kensington Palace with Victoria and their mother — until “she was packed off to marry some penniless German prince” at age 16, Goodwin said. The Duchess of Kent arranged that marriage because England’s King George IV, “who was in his late 50s and single, had taken a fancy to” Feodora.
Victoria’s mum was “horrified” that Feodora might become the mother to a royal heir of George IV — which would upset the duchess' plans to control Victoria when she assumed the throne upon George’s death.
(Go back and watch Season 1 of “Victoria,” if you missed it.)
So the duchess decided “to get rid of" Feodora.
“As you could imagine, that caused some resentment,” Goodwin said. “And here [Feodora] is living in a sort of crumbling, drafty castle in the middle of Germany with a kind of drunken husband and lots of children with [tuberculosis], and she’s having a really miserable time. And there’s Victoria being queen of England. Doesn’t go down so well.”
But it does make for “such a good family drama.” A fine soap opera, complete with period costumes and fabulous sets. It’s “Dynasty” about a real dynasty.
You can see in “Victoria” the foundations of what the British royals are today. According to Goodwin, Victoria was the first “media monarch.” The first to be photographed, and as something other than a “godlike figure — in a bonnet, not a crown; with her children and dogs.”
“You’ve got to remember that this is a time of revolution where kings are being thrown off their thrones all over Europe,” Goodwin said, and Victoria realized that the best thing she could do “was to make an identification with the public.”
“And that, I think, was a really clever thing to do. And whether she did it consciously or unconsciously, I think the reason we still have a monarchy in Britain is because of Victoria and Albert.”
And the present-day royal family remains the world’s best real-life soap opera.