Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Yasssss Queen

Is your domestic political situation getting you down? Is it mirroring that of your average banana republic? Is your political discourse devolving into an ever-festering sewer of hyperventilating outrage and batshit insane conspiracy theories? Is someone trying to build a wall out of tacos and rage on your southern border? 

Well, never fear. ITV has installed teevee's Jenna Coleman (Dr. Who) as the queen of bloody England. Literally. She is now the queen and will henceforth be in charge. Stand aside and let Miss Thing run this bitch.

Sashay, shante

So, here's what happened. George III of England and Hanover (yes, that George III) had a fuckton of kids. A literal fuckton. What's the best way to ensure a smooth succession and have heirs to spare? Fuck like rabbits

There has been much speculation that Queen Charlotte's brandishing of her dairy products caused the royal squires to assemble posthaste to the sovereign quadrangle.

One would think with all of these offspring, keeping the Hanovers on the throne would be no biggie. Actually, not so much. It turns out that keeping your daughters locked in the palace, and not allowing them to marry isn't a good strategy toward procuring an heir. Neither is being unable/unwilling to stop your sons from having licentious (and public) affairs with every passing tart.  George III's sons who made it to adulthood, George (Prince Regent, then George IV); William (William IV); Edward, Duke of Kent; Ernest Augustus (Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover); Prince Frederick, Duke of Albany and York; Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge; and Augustus, Duke of Sussex, all failed to produce legitimate offspring (or they entered into morganatic marriage, which by definition made their children ineligible to inherit). 

Well, that's not entirely true. George IV put aside his drinking, whoring, gambling, and skirt-chasing aside long enough to marry Caroline of Brunswick, whom he hated, but impregnated and then abandoned. Caroline gave birth to a daughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales. Thus securing the monarchy, George and his fellow brothers went back to drinking, whoring, and gambling. Accompanying these vices were good doses of immorality, wickedness, iniquity, villainy, lechery, and moral turpitude. Everything was going along swimmingly. Princess Charlotte was popular -- viewed by the British public and the press as a welcome antidote to her father's and uncles' debauchery.

Look at Miss Thing snagging King Leopold of Belgium.

AAAAAnnnd then Princess Charlotte died in childbirth. THUD. 

Princess Charlotte's tomb monument...I'm not saying you shouldn't blink, but...


Enter Clara. 

I mean Queen Victoria. 

The remaining male offspring of George III and Queen Charlotte (who were well into their 50s and 60s by the time of Princess Charlotte's death in 1817), rushed around to find a willing woman of childbearing age upon whom to beget a child. The first to the finish line (HA!) was Edward, Duke of Kent, who married Victoria, Princess of Leiningen, sister of Charlotte's widowed husband King Leopold. Princess Victoria of England was born in 1819. 

Having fulfilled his duty, the Duke of Kent dropped dead the following year.

Princess Victoria was left to be raised by her (by all accounts) controlling, parvenu mother, and her mother's advisor (some say LOVAH), John Conroy.

Side note: There is a conspiracy theory among some royal historians that the Duke of Kent was not actually Victoria's father. Rather, the conspiracy posits that John Conroy was her natural father. The line of reasoning comes from Victoria's introduction of the gene for hemophilia into the royal bloodline. There were no known hemophiliacs in the Hanover line until Victoria (the suspected carrier) passed the gene onto her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren (infamously, Tsarevich Aleksei of Russia). However, Conroy was't known to have been a hemophiliac, and hemophilia has been known to arise in children of older fathers.

So, given all of that unnecessary historical context, what should we make of Victoria, airing on PBS this month?


Hold onto your ovaries, ladies.

Seriously. I am not all into the serious, moody, brooding type (shut up, Clovis), but OMG. That floppy hair. That dickish, condescending attitude. 


Get it, girl,  

Episode I: Homegirl Awakens 

Episode I begins at the time history takes note of Victoria -- upon the death of her uncle, Princess Victoria becomes queen at the age of 18. 

Victoria, however, shows her immaturity pretty much right off the bat. Screenwriter Daisy Goodwin has chosen to focus on the Flora Hastings affair, which really happened, and which did indeed mark a turning-point in Victoria's reign.

A side note about Daisy Goodwin. I was a little hesitant to watch this drama when I discovered that Daisy Goodwin wrote the screenplay. I have read one historical fiction novel by Goodwin, and I can't say that it was terrible, but it was THE SILLIEST book I have read in a long, long time. It was amazing. Go read it. I giggled through the whole thing.  

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the level of detail and relative historical accuracy displayed in Goodwin's screenplay.  The miniseries is based on Goodwin's novel, also called VictoriaFor this, Goodwin drew on her reading of Queen Victoria's diaries.

Goodwin  takes some...creative liberties with the relationship between Lord Melbourne and Queen Victoria. It is entirely possible that Victoria had feelings for Melbourne, because let's face it, she probably had a ton of daddy issues, but there's no extant evidence to suggest that Victoria was in the lovez with Melbourne, nor he with her. Their relationship certainly was very close, but Victoria tended to get close to her PMs, forming a close bond with Benjamin Disraeli later in life. It is all very juicy to watch, though. 

Rufus Sewell and Jenna Coleman are both very well cast in this. Coleman is especially noteworthy, convincingly playing an 18-year-old (she's 30).

Yo, dawg.
The action of the first episode is primarily centered around Victoria's struggle for independence from her mother and the presumptuous Conroy. Is he portrayal of Conroy and Victoria's mother entirely historically correct? Well, from what I have read about Conroy and the Duchess of Kent, it's not far off. In fact, the portrayal of the duchess is actually more flattering than some biographical accounts that I have read. Victoria was undoubtedly much more attached to her governess Lehzen than she was to her actual mother, and had more daughterly feelings toward her. Conroy is generally viewed as something of a villain, out to control Victoria, and, according to some accounts, to inveigle himself into the monarchy itself. In any case, the movie does a good job of setting up the conflict between Victoria and her mother and Conroy. 

Even those unfamiliar with the actual history behind all of this can get some satisfaction from how delightfully bitchy Victoria gets to be toward them.

However, Victoria's inexperience and immaturity are brought to the fore in the Flora Hastings affair. Basically, members of Victoria's court decided that her mother's lady-in-waiting, Lady Flora, was pregnant. In the movie, it is Victoria who accuses Lady Flora, but in actuality, it was Lehzen. Hastings had been visiting Dr. Clark because of pain and swelling in her abdomen, and I imagine after bleeding and sweating her, he decided she was pregnant, and not, you know, dying of fucking cancer. You have to remember this is 1839 and an unmarried pregnant woman at court was ESCANDELO!

Lehzen passed her suspicions onto the queen and Lord Melbourne, and Queen Victoria wrote in her journals that she suspected Conroy was the father. So, the takeaway is the Flora Hastings affair did happen, only not exactly as it goes down in the movie. 

Of course, the only problem with the whole scenario was that Lady Flora wasn't preg. She agreed to be examined by royal physicians, and that is when they discovered the tumor. She died a few months later, but Victoria did reportedly visit her on her deathbed.

I gonna haunt dat bitch her dreamz yo.
The political intrigue following the affair wasn't quite as complex as it is in the series. Flora's father, Francis Rawdon-Hastings, was actually a Whig.

However, Flora's brother and Conroy stirred up some press hysteria, in an attempt to get Victoria to LEARN HER LESSON ALREADY and appoint Conroy to some kind of advisory position. 

Homegirl wasn't having it. As guilty as Victoria felt about the Hastings affair, she kept Conroy at a distance, and eventually finagled a way to have him leave court for good. 

Welp, that's all for Episode 1. Stay tuned for Episodes 2 and 3, brought to you by the letter Z. 

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