Eighteen-year-old Princess Alexandrina Victoria (Jenna Coleman) is awakened in the middle of the night when a messenger arrives informing her of the death of her uncle, William IV. Later that morning, Sir John Conroy (Paul Rhys) tries to take charge of the situation and advises Victoria to adopt a name more fitting to a queen before informing her not to see anyone without him or her mother.
Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) arrives at Kensington Palace to greet the new queen but is waylaid by Conroy who tells him Victoria has led a sheltered life and it would be better if he acted as her private secretary. Melbourne remains polite but it is obvious he does not agree. When Melbourne has his audience with Victoria, he notices a doll with a crown and she informs him the doll is named Doll 123 and she made the crown herself when she realised she would be queen one day. Melbourne reveals Conroy wants to be her private secretary and she informs him it is out of the question.
A nervous Victoria meets with her ministers who are quite hostile towards her but she takes courage from Melbourne’s presence and he advises Victoria to show herself on the balcony. Before she does so, the queen informs him she will henceforth be known as Queen Victoria.
Conroy tries to intimidate Victoria into making him her private secretary but Victoria is adamant she doesn’t need him and tells him to leave. Victoria decides to move to Buckingham House to put some distance between her and Conroy but her mother (Catherine Fleming) is not pleased. Excited about the move, Victoria makes her way to the Throne Room where she promptly sits on the overly large throne and decides to rename the place Buckingham Palace. Victoria reveals to Melbourne that her mother and Conroy think her incapable of being queen but Melbourne disagrees and reassures her she will do a splendid job. Pleased, Victoria asks him to be her private secretary and he accepts.
Lady Flora Hastings (Alice Orr-Ewing) provides Victoria with a list of prominent ladies she believes will be suitable ladies-in-waiting, saying she has deliberately chosen those below average height which annoys the queen. Victoria takes the list but immediately discards it. While Lady Flora continues to point out her failings, Victoria is introduced to the Duchess of Sutherland (Margaret Clunie) whom Melbourne advises would make an excellent Mistress of the Robes.
At Parliament, the ministers continue to express their dismay at Victoria’s young age and doubt whether she is capable of leading the country, however Melbourne continues to come to her defence. Conroy and the Duchess of Kent question Melbourne’s intentions towards Victoria much to their amusement. While out riding, Victoria questions Melbourne about his wife’s infidelity with Lord Byron and says she would not have been so forgiving.
At an elaborate ball, Victoria is introduced to Alexander Nikolaevich, Grand Duke of Russia, who appears to be the leading candidate for her hand in marriage but Victoria’s only concern is the whereabouts of Melbourne who is conspicuous by his absence. Victoria and Alexander Nikolaevich begin the dancing but the queen is soon distracted by the arrival of Melbourne. When Melbourne finally gets the chance to dance with Victoria, she scolds him for abandoning her and then says she wishes she could dance with him all night.
During a quiet moment, Lehzen (Daniela Holtz) informs Victoria she believes Lady Flora to be pregnant by Conroy and a tipsy Victoria argues with Conroy and insults Lady Flora in front of her guests. Melbourne ushers Victoria away from the ball before the situation gets out of hand but Victoria is upset when he refuses to dance with her again.
The following day, Victoria demands her mother send Conroy and Lady Flora away but when the duchess questions it, Victoria informs her mother Lady Flora and Conroy have been dallying behind her back. Melbourne urges Victoria to be cautious but Victoria refuses to listen and orders Lady Flora to be examined by a doctor. A deeply offended Lady Flora agrees to the examination which is carried out during Victoria’s coronation at Westminster Abbey.
After the coronation, Victoria is dismayed when the doctors reveal Lady Flora is not pregnant and the swelling of her abdomen is due to a inoperable tumour. When news of Lady Flora’s illness spreads, Victoria is heavily criticised by the public for her part in the scandal but Melbourne urges her to make peace with Lady Flora. As Lady Flora’s condition deteriorates, Victoria asks for her forgiveness but Lady Flora censures her for behaving like a little girl rather than a queen. When Lady Flora dies, the duchess blames her daughter but a distressed Victoria lays the blame on Conroy. Victoria, full of remorse over Lady Flora’s death, hides at the palace instead of inspecting the troops as planned but Melbourne urges her to have courage by telling her about the death of his son and how she has given him a new purpose.
As expected, Victoria is booed at the inspection but she holds her head high. With renewed purpose, Victoria writes a letter of gratitude to Melbourne and tells him she can be queen as long as he is by her side.
- Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom on 20 June 1837 but her coronation didn’t take place until 28 June 1838 after the official period of mourning.
- Since the St. Edward’s Crown was deemed too heavy, a new Imperial State Crown was made for her by the Crown Jewellers, Rundell and Bridge.
- Queen Victoria had a large collection of dolls, most of which were made by Victoria herself and her governess, Baroness Lehzen, and 132 have been preserved.
- William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne (1779-1848), was forty years older than Victoria and she saw him as a father figure rather than a romantic one. Victoria’s own father, Edward, Duke of Kent, had died when she was only eight months old.
- Melbourne’s wife, Lady Caroline Ponsonby (1785-1828), had a well-publicised affair with Lord Byron from March to August 1812. When Byron ended the affair, Caroline refused to accept it and her attempts to reconcile with him often led to public spectacles and periods of self-harm.
- Melbourne’s son, George Augustus, who was born on 11 August 1807, suffered from a mental affliction which led to his death in 1836.
- Lady Flora Hastings (1806-1839) was a lady-in-waiting to the Duchess of Kent who helped keep the young Victoria isolated from the rest of the royal family. Lady Flora began to suffer from lower abdominal pain in 1839 but she refused to be examined and Baroness Lehzen began to spread rumours that Lady Flora was pregnant. Victoria jumped to the conclusion Sir John Conroy was the father. When Lady Flora finally consented to an examination, she was diagnosed with an advanced cancerous liver tumour and died on 5 July 1839. After her death, Conroy began a press campaign against Victoria, accusing her of disgracing Lady Flora with false rumours.