Holley Morgan is a graduate student at SNHU and currently works as a college essay tutor and IT consultant.
The Chemistry! But Was It Real?
Victoria is one of my favorite shows. Season four is still so far off, but the old episodes are fun to rewatch. I especially enjoy the ones with Lord Melbourne, portrayed by Rufus Sewell. I began to wonder how much of the compelling, fictitious relationship between the Sovereign and her Prime Minister was based in reality, so I did some research. As it turns out, the show seems to stay pretty close to the truth, but the writers do take a few liberties. Here are some facts about the real-life Victoria and William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne.
1. Victoria Wrote About Lord Melbourne in Her Diary With Poignant Honesty
At just 18 when she ascended the throne, Victoria was quite taken with her Prime Minister, the much older and experienced Lord Melbourne. Due to a power shift in the House of Commons in 1839, Melbourne resigned, which devastated the young queen. (He came back when Robert Peel was unable to form a government after him.) According to a New Republic article, she wrote in her diary, “I cannot say how low, how sad I feel, when I think of the possibility of this excellent and truly kind man not remaining my Minister!” On the day that he gave her his resignation, Victoria wrote, “All, all my happiness gone!”
Lytton Strachey, in the same article, writes that Victoria “noted, to the minute, the exact time of the arrival and the departure of her beloved Minister.” It is clear that the attachment Victoria feels toward Melbourne on the show is not exaggerated or dramatized.
2. People Insulted Victoria by Calling Her “Mrs. Melbourne”
The Whig makeup of Victoria’s household—and Victoria herself—had been under scrutiny for some time in the late 1830s. This came to a head during the Flora Hastings scandal, in which Victoria believed her mother’s lady-in-waiting to be with John Conroy’s child. When Flora’s mother requested that Lord Melbourne remove a physician from court, a physician who had failed to help her daughter, he refused. This cast both Victoria and Melbourne in a negative public light, and one day when Victoria went riding, she had to endure jeers calling her “Mrs. Melbourne,” perhaps brought on considering what they perceived as his undue influence over the queen.
Victoria did not take kindly to her mother’s or Conroy’s attempts to control her, and Sewell’s portrayal of Melbourne as an unassuming but highly intelligent gentleman seems spot on, given what has been written about him. He did not seek to control, but to guide. As Victoria proved throughout her reign, she was very much capable of making up her own mind about things—and in the case of Flora Hastings, this was to her own detriment.
3. Victoria Gave Melbourne His Own Private Apartment at Windsor Castle.
That Victoria enjoyed having her Prime Minister nearby was no secret, and some days, they would spend hours together. While it is highly unlikely that Victoria provided the apartments for any “other” reason, it is fun for fiction writers to dream about given the compelling dynamic between the two (and the on-screen chemistry between Jenna Coleman and Rufus Sewell).
4. The Queen Shared Details of Her Personal Life With Melbourne
In April 1839, Victoria expressed to Lord Melbourne that she felt against ever marrying, and she shared with him that she was reluctant to see her cousin Albert before his autumn visit that year. Could an intense attachment to Melbourne have prompted her to feel this way? This is where the show Victoria fills in the gaps. There is nothing to suggest in real life that a proposal scene like the one at the show’s Brocket Hall ever occurred, but…
5. Until Victoria’s Marriage, She Received Flowers From Brocket Hall Every Week
Yes! This was a real thing, and she even stayed there on a few occasions. Many sources refer to Melbourne’s affection for the monarch as being “paternal,” but if this is so, it seems a little strange that the flowers stopped coming after she was married—of course, he was probably worried about the appearance of the gesture and how it would come off to the public, regardless of what was really meant by it.
And There You Have It
While the show Victoria and Daisy Goodwin’s novel make it fun to dream about these two, I am glad that in the end Victoria changed her mind about marriage and Albert. She was 18 upon ascending the throne, and Melbourne was 58. Victoria still had much of her life ahead of her and would undoubtedly grow and change throughout her reign. As her wardrobe after Albert’s death tells us, she came to love her husband very much.
I think what makes the fictitious Victoria and Melbourne so compelling is the dynamic brought on by their age gap and differences in temperament, with Victoria being young and fiery, and Melbourne being resigned to life as it was, accepting that passion and love were not possibilities for a man like him. (This Tumblr post really sums it up.) His history before Victoria is also quite sad.
Got any facts I missed? Please leave them in the comments!
 Strachey, L. (1921). Lord Melbourne and Victoria (II). New Republic, 26(334), 259–262.
 Williams, K. (2009). Queen Victoria and the Palace Martyr. History Today, 59(4), 42–47.
© 2021 Holley Morgan
Holley Morgan (author) from Upstate New York on July 10, 2021:
I am lucky because he tends to be or get interested in the things that I like, which keeps us from fighting over the TV remote too much, lol. I looked it up, and the movie I was thinking about is Victoria & Abdul. This was about events that took place later in her life and until a couple of decades ago, were covered up. It seems she had a few different compelling relationships throughout different stages, which in my opinion is one of the things that makes her so fascinating.
Kyler J Falk from California on July 09, 2021:
I've never actually ran into much about Victoria and Disraeli outside of literary ventures, so if there is I might also need to look into that. Your husband sounds like a man of culture, or at least some culture, lol! It is awesome that you two share an interest in these things, Erin, my girlfriend, is more for the modern star-crossed tales like Sid and Nancy.
Holley Morgan (author) from Upstate New York on July 09, 2021:
Isn't there a movie about Victoria and Disraeli? I think my husband was telling me something about that yesterday. Thank you for bringing that back into my awareness! It seems that Queen Victoria exhibited similar behaviors with her Prime Minister Melbourne, asking after him, etc. I'm glad to have turned you on to the show and hope you like it if you decide to watch it! It's a good one!
Kyler J Falk from California on July 09, 2021:
I'm going to have to give "Victoria" a chance, because I've long studied the relationship between Queen Victoria and Benjamin Disraeli; although, my focuses are always on Benjamin Disraeli and how he swayed those around him. His presence in her life was quite the problem, because her courtiers began to disrespect her for being so childlike, so easily affected by Disraeli's attentions toward other women. On one occasion, I believe it was him laughing and being flirtatious with a German duchess or some such, Queen Victoria was nervously and jealously questioning where Disraeli was all throughout the night.
Without your article I never would've even considered watching the show, to be honest I didn't even know it existed, so thank you!