This TV season brought not one, but two series about famous monarchs and as both featured two of the three British Queens, it’s nearly impossible not to compare both shows from the start. The Crown and Victoria, tackling Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria (respectively), have similar starting places – young queens with dozens of men surrounding them trying to influence policy – and even have some of the same cast: actor Alex Jennings is both David, Duke of Windsor (in The Crown), and King Leopold of Belgium (in Victoria) – but the focus of each show is different.
The Crown is taking a longer look at the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, from the early days of her rule (as seen in the first season) and progressing through more current times. During the shows run, multiple actresses will play the Queen through the years, and hopefully the two or three other women will do just as well as Claire Foy has done so far. In the first season, Elizabeth’s advisors constantly try to govern for her, be it Churchill, Prince Philip, or her private secretary. She simply follows so much of what these men tell her as if it is status quo that it is hard to find her power and strength amid all the other voices.
With Victoria, Jenna Coleman plays the young Victoria, who ultimately shaped modern Britain that we still see today. She too, follows along with some of what her Prime Minister says (though with the added hint of a sexual attraction), but after she is married to Prince Albert, Albert does his best to guide his wife and monarch.
However, given that both women are strong rulers, who are equally defiant in their roles as monarch, it’s hard not to compare both shows.
The Crown has the money behind it to really make the life of Queen Elizabeth shine, but it does not focus as much on what Elizabeth might want, whereas Victoria gives the audience a strong sense of what Victoria wants and how she goes about getting it.
Though we all know the history behind both rulers, Victoria seems more willing to bend the truth for the sake of drama (the flirting Victoria does with Lord Melbourne and how she wasn’t already smitten with Albert as the two shining examples of inaccuracies), but if anything The Crown wants Elizabeth’s story to be as real as possible.
Of course, the rationale behind both shows is different and at the heart of each, there is a different purpose and a different audience (with different reactions; it’s much easier to glorify the past rather than the current) but in the end, each show is about a woman ruling Britain, and that is where any comparisons should end.
Is it hard to do just that? Yes, at least for me. But, the next seasons of each show may make it easier to separate them as being of the same cloth.