Friday, January 26, 2018


Artist: Franz Xaver Winterhalter  
According to Wikimedia Foundation,
faithful reproductions of two-dimensional
public domain works of art are public domain".

"This photographic reproduction
 is therefore also considered
 to be in the public domain
 in the United States."
For some time I have been wanting to celebrate the PBS "Masterpiece" series, Victoria, tracing the history of Queen Victoria's leadership as Queen of England. Well, this is the day.

I've always been fascinated by the Victorian Era — witness the name of this blog. Most of the Era's appeal for me has been the sense of mystery shrouding stories that feature swirling fog, the clatter of horse hooves and carriage wheels on cobblestone streets, gaslit street lamps, women wearing long dresses with bustles and hats with veils. I've been a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, whose adventures take place in the Victorian Era, and  I've been equally drawn to Wilkie Collins's gothic-flavored mysteries, The Woman in White and The Moonstone. But it wasn't until I wrote my own mystery set in the era (Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, a middle-grade novel) that I had to do my own research on the Victorian Era. (And what a surprise that was! How strange that I had forgotten it included Jack the Ripper.)

I knew next to nothing about Queen Victoria herself, except that she lived for a long, long time and that she and her husband, Albert, were devoted to one another, which isn't always the case in royal families. (Years ago, my brother and his wife, who lived close to London, had taken me sightseeing on a trip and pointed out the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens.)

And then Season I of Victoria came on last year, and I was hooked. I had always been intrigued by Queen Elizabeth Tudor (who, alas, did not have such a happy love life), but I had no idea what an fascinating ruler Victoria was and what a fascinating life unfolded for her from the moment she became Queen at age 18. (It was probably fascinating from the get-go, but the series begins with the death of her father.) There were attempts on her life. Attempts by a relative to have her removed as incompetent and unstable so that he could have the throne instead. Political intrigue milled all around her by those hoping for control or at least influence. Even motherhood was fraught with intrigue: who would inherit if she and the baby died, etc.?

Well. Season II arrived a couple of weeks ago, and it does not disappoint. (I haven't been this hooked on a series since Downton Abbey.) The cast of Victoria is superb: Jenna Coleman is wonderful as the young and maturing queen. Convincingly she develops from the teenager who ascended the throne, married, and became a mother, while navigating the political minefields in Season I to a ruler juggling motherhood, wifehood and the weighty business of running a country with a steady hand in Season II.  Tom Hughes is the perfect match for her as Prince Consort, Albert: romantic, supportive, yet firm and independent-minded. Rufus Sewell is moving as Lord Melbourne (who actually advised her to get married while being in love with her himself). There is a large supporting cast who have starring scenes of their own in a variety of subplots, and the acting shimmers on all sides.

Thank goodness the Queen lived and ruled for such a long time! That means (I hope) quite a few more seasons of Victoria.

How about you? Are you hooked on a particular TV series? Are you fascinated by a particular period of history? A famous historical figure?

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop co-hosted by Lexa Cain at: Lexa Cain,  L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge , and Tonja Drecker @ Tidbits Blog(You can go to any of these sites to add your name to the links, if you want to participate.)


Geo. said...

An historical figure? A particular era? I think you know of my fondness for Victorian England. Yes, I know my longtime predilection for Prince Albert Pipe Tobacco refers not to Victoria's consort, and my love of Conan Doyle stems from the popularization of ratiocination during her reign, but my favorite REAL Victorian pundit was one whose long life happily overlapped my own, from whom I offer this quote:“The Victorian Age, for all its humbug, was a period of rapid progress, because men were dominated by hope rather than fear. If we are again to have progress, we must again be dominated by hope.”

I think Russell would approve an amendment expanding "men" to women as well.

So be it, and thank you, Elizabeth, for a most encouraging post.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Geo. What a good quote to share. Bertrand Russell had it right. I certainly would like to see us and the world at large become dominated by hope rather than fear.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I started watching Season 1 of Victoria from the beginning. I had studied her when I created my Kings and Queens altered book a few years ago. I understand that although she had all those children, she hated childbirth and being pregnant. Yes, I am hooked on the show and all things British (since my ancestors came from England).

So glad you spotlighted this show and this era. I really enjoyed the way you wove your own facts and stories in with the era that is being shown on PBS. It's a wonderful show and I look forward to many more years, as it appears, so do you.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi there B&E! Thanks for stopping by. Regarding Victoria's attitude toward childbirth that I only learned while re-reading some earlier research, I had assumed since she and Albert had so many children that she was mad about motherhood. Well, maybe we'll learn she did like her children, but, as you pointed out, she wasn't that keen about the pregnancy/childbirth part. (I found that a strange contrast to a friend of mine who, once she and her husband had decided to limit their family size, really regretted she wouldn't be pregnant again. She loved pregnancy.)

I do hope we get many seasons out of this series. Victoria was such an interesting historical figure for so many reasons, and so very much her own person during a time when that must have been such a challenge.

Suzanne Furness said...

Victorian England was a time filled with much change and so many stories to tell of our history. Glad you are enjoying the series.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

You are so right, Suzanne. The changes were enormous during that period. And I had never realized how complex English society was at that time. A lot bubbling under the surface.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Elizabeth, to answer your questions about altered books, it all started when I joined a group of scrapbookers. I don't like to scrapbook, so I tried to find a way to make meaningful art like they did in their scrapbooks. Come to find out, they didn't like my style of art (I don't do CUTESY) and they were not interested in seeing what I was making. So, I quit their clickish group and looked for a group online. I started visiting an altered book group in 2002 (on Yahoo) and caught the bug. I started my own Yahoo group called ABC (for altered book club). Then in 2005, I started my blog. I was lucky because back then, "alteredbooklover" was not taken.

I still make art in altered books and now I have started an art journal. The BIG difference between altered books and journals seems to be the number of words you use. I often make art that is NOT for an art journal that doesn't include a single word.

Should you like to learn more about altered books, and possibly teach the concept to your students, feel free to check out the lessons I taught a few years ago. Lessons are on my right sidebar. They were my way of giving back to the online community. Feel free to ask any questions, too. You'll need to do so on a current post, though, since I don't get comments through e-mail.

Lexa Cain said...

Yay for finding a TV series you love so much! We all need more of those. ;)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Lexa. Yes. There's another one that is starting as well, about my earlier favorite English monarch, Elizabeth I, but right now it is on too late. I hope they will re-run it at an earlier hour.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Thanks for such a thorough answer. I don't think (at this point) I'll be using the concept with my students, as I'm really working with fine art concepts (landscapes, portraits, still life) and traditional media (oil pastel, soft pastel, watercolor, acrylic, etc.) But I'll keep it in mind. I enjoy your posts a lot.

Julia Thorley said...

I've enjoyed the Jenna Coleman series, too. Apparently, it's based on Victoria's letters and diaries, so I like to think it's all true. It must have been a fascinating time to live through: I wonder if people were aware of that at the time.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Julia, I trust that it's true, too. Apparently she kept copious diaries. Regarding whether people realized the age they were living through . . . that's always such an interesting question, whether people of any era realize the significance of things happening. I suppose writers did and do.

Mirka Breen said...

For all the "transparency" of our nowhere-to-hide age, the monarchs are still shrouded in mystery. I never take any writer's take on the personal lives of the royals as fact. We know very little, which is part of why even staid and colorless figures like the current queen draw an audience when fiction writers attempt to tell their intimate stories.
But the public Victoria, then mother-to or cousin-to every monarch in Europe, cast a long shadow to this day, even as we never really "knew" her.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

You make a very good point, Mirka. Apparently she was a prolific diarist and much of the series has been pulled from her diaries. But even then, there would be so much she wouldn't write down, suspecting that it would eventually be read. It is amazing how interconnected she was with all of Europe, isn't it!

DMS said...

This show sounds perfect for me. I haven't seen it- but it is a time that definitely intrigues me. Thanks for the recommendation. :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Hi, Jess, If you google it, you can find a way to watch earlier episodes. They may be on YouTube, I'm not sure. If you like that era, I think you would like the series for sure.