Is PBS’s ‘Victoria’ Based on Fact? Find Out How Historically Accurate the Show Really Is

PBS’s Victoria has plenty of romance, intrigue, and babies. But is the show, which is based on the life of Britain’s long-ruling Queen Victoria, historically accurate? The costume drama, which kicks off its third season on January 13, is definitely inspired by real events. However, it sometimes embellishes facts or makes up stories entirely. Here’s what’s real, and what’s not, about Victoria. (Spoilers ahead for Seasons 1 and 2 of Victoria.)

True: Victoria was madly in love with Prince Albert

Victoria

Tom Hughes as Prince Albert and Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria in Victoria | ITV Plc for MASTERPIECE

Queen Victoria’s love for her husband, Prince Albert, is well established. Victoria and Albert, who were first cousins, fell in love before they married. That was somewhat unusual for a royal couple at the time. Many of the details of their romance as depicted on the show are also true to life. Her uncle, King Leopold did encourage the match, and Victoria was the one to propose marriage, not Albert.

While the show hasn’t gotten there yet, Albert’s death in 1861 at age 42 devastated the Queen. She remained in mourning for the rest of her life.

False: Victoria fell in love with Lord Melbourne

Prime Minister Lord Melbourne became one of the teenaged Victoria’s closest advisors when she assumed the throne. The pair were very close friends, but there’s no evidence to suggest that Victoria was in love with him – or that she went so far as to propose marriage, as she did in the third episode of Season 1. Series creator Daisy Goodwin has said Victoria’s diaries reveal that she had a bit of a crush on the politician, but others say he was more of a father figure to her.

True: Victoria was ambivalent about motherhood

Victoria and Albert had nine children together. But despite the large brood, Victoria was not a particularly doting mother. She compared being repeatedly pregnant to being “more like a rabbit or a guinea pig than anything else” and was not overly affectionate with her children.

Earlier seasons of Victoria have touched on her dislike of pregnancy, as well as the way she resented how it took her away from her duties and gave Albert a chance to take on more responsibility. The should also addressed her experiences with post-partum depression, a condition many historians believe she suffered. Goodwin has said that Season 3 will touch on those tensions in more detail, exploring the idea that the Queen refused to have sex with her husband because she was sick of having children.

False: Albert was really King Leopold’s son

In Season 2, Albert – and viewers – were shocked to learn that his father was really King Leopold. While this dramatic twist made for good television, there’s no hard proof that the two were more than uncle and nephew. According to the Telegraph, there’s some sketchy evidence that Albert might have been the son of a man his mother had an affair with, and that man could have been Leopold. But no one knows for sure. But it is true that Albert’s parents had a very unhappy marriage, and that his mother was sent away from the family home when her younger son was just 5 years old.

Surprisingly true events in Victoria

Some of Victoria’s bigger plot twists aren’t rooted in fact. However, a few memorable moments on the show you might think producers invented actually happened.

Take Albert’s heart-stopping plunge into an icy pond while skating in Season 2. A similar accident did befall the Prince, but he was quickly rescued, according to PBS. Edward Drummond, Prime Minister Peel’s private secretary, really was assassinated, though the circumstances were somewhat different than what’s depicted on the show. There’s also no evidence he had a romantic relationship with Lord Alfred Paget. Victoria was also the first British monarch to visit France since Henry VIII, as seen in Season 2, and the stylish did think the Queen was a bit of a frump.

And while you might think that the palace servants are all characters invented for TV, some are real people. Francatelli, the chef, did cook for the queen and did make an abrupt departure from the palace, but not because of his unrequited love for Mrs. Skerrett. The latter was the Queen’s real-life dresser, but there’s no evidence she ever worked as a prostitute.

Victoria Season 3 premieres Sunday, January 13 at 9/8c.

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