History in Images: Victoria Season 2 Episode 1
Who was the real Duchess of Buccleuch? Did Ada Lovelace really drive Victorian innovation? Get the scoop on the true history behind Victoria Season 2 Episode 1, and see images from the era of Her Majesty’s reign.
In the Victoria Season 2 premiere, the Queen enjoyed a moving performance of Othello by an African-American actor.
This real life performer was named Ira Aldridge; he was born free in New York City.
Aldridge began working as an actor in America, but was often met with hostility and violence. In the 1820s he traveled to England to try his hand as a Shakespearean actor. He soon rose to stardom for his portrayal of Othello and is known as the first African-American Shakespearean actor.
Aldridge was recently honored with a plaque at the Coventry Theatre (U.K.) where he rose to prominence, and once worked as manager.
Ada Lovelace–the mysterious female mathematician who caught Prince Albert’s eye in Victoria–is based on a real-life scientific pioneer.
The daughter of poet Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace is widely considered to be the first computer programmer. From a young age she was encouraged to study mathematics, and her demonstrated knowledge in the subject caught the attention of famous mathematician Charles Babbage.
Lovelace served as the key interpreter on Babbage’s “Analytical Engine” project, an early computer.
Victoria’s uncertainty about her new circumstances at the start of Season 2 culminates in a moving public appearance to relaunch a rebuilt ship, the HMS Trafalgar.
In real life, Victoria and Albert did attend the 1841 launch of the HMS Trafalgar, which reportedly boasted nearly 500,000 spectators.
To film this dramatic scene, Victoria‘s crew made their way to the coastal town of Hartlepool. Visitors can visit Hartlepool’s National Museum of the Royal Navy to step back in time and experience a recreated 18th century port.
Duchess of Buccleuch
The Duchess of Buccleuch, played by Diana Rigg, was Queen Victoria’s Mistress of the Robes.
In real life, the Queen and the Duchess were good friends; Victoria was the godmother of one of the Duchess of Buccleuch’s children, and a portrait of the Duchess was once given to the Queen as a gift.
The young couple’s first child, also named Victoria or “Vicky,” was christened in the Season 2 premiere.
The real Vicky was born in 1840, the same year that her parents were wed. In her diaries, Queen Victoria expressed disappointment that she and Albert’s first child was not a boy, although she was grateful for the child’s health.
The princess was known for being an excellent student, proficient in over four languages.
The Khyber Retreat
In the Victoria Season 2 premiere, the Queen expressed outrage when she learned that Albert was sheltering her from the horrors experience by the British Army in Afghanistan. In real life, the Army endured a fatal expedition known as the Khyber Retreat.
In 1842, the British Army was forced to retreat from Kabul to a garrison in Jalalabad, over 90 miles away. This journey proved fatal for many soldiers, who found themselves in mountainous terrain during the winter, without food or supplies. It’s estimated that this incident resulted in over 12,000 casualties.
It is true that one survivor, Assistant Surgeon William Brydon, made it back to England with harrowing stories. He claimed to have survived a sword attack because he had a magazine stuffed into his hat.