One of my coworkers is all about this show. When I told him I was watching Victoria, he insisted I watch this. Unfortunately, I had to wait about six months in between. And then I was kind of disappointed.
Victoria aired on PBS last winter, and was about the early reign of Queen Victoria, who inherited the crown in 1837 at 19 years old. Women were not generally allowed to have any kind of power at all, but she was head of state and had to not only assert herself politically but find a husband and have a family while being queen. The writing wasn’t always the best and the show could be amazingly soapy (there were also all these intrigues involving the serving class) but the costumes were amazing and the drama was real. Victoria was only in line to be queen because her older cousin had died during childbirth, a thought that terrified Victoria when she got married and became pregnant. But since neither birth control nor c-sections existed, and discussing women’s health was considered vulgar, there wasn’t much she could do about it.
The Crown is available on Netflix and is about the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II, who inherited the crown in 1952 at the age of 25, when she was already married and had two children. This show is about how stifling the manners and traditions of monarchy can be, and most episodes follow this template:
Loved One: I want to do this thing.
Queen: That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Of course you can do the thing.
Government: They cannot do the thing. It’s against tradition, and since your uncle abdicated the throne everyone’s just waiting for you to turn out to be crazy so you can’t do anything against tradition.
Queen: Sorry, Loved One, you cannot do the thing.
Loved One: You suck!
Queen: Being queen sucks.
The fashion is pretty, but since it’s the 1950s and not the 1850s, it doesn’t seem that alluring to us today. And as an American, being told that the traditions of the monarchy are constricting just doesn’t make sense. If traditions aren’t working for you, just change them. Tradition for tradition’s sake isn’t a part of our culture. My coworker who loved the show has a British wife, who explained to him all the nuance that probably flew straight over my head. I will say that John Lithgow does an amazing job playing Winston Churchill, who has a much more complicated character with an actual arc and everything. But I strongly suspect the show is trying very hard not to disparage people who are still alive… and have a lot of power. Unfortunately, when the conflict can play out over one episode, it ends up feeling like the same episode over and over again.