The histrionics! The guilt trips! The German accent! Actress Kate Fleetwood, Victoria’s Feodora, shares insights into her character, her costars, and what makes the two-faced teuton tick in Victoria Season 3. Whether or not you’re a Feo fan, you’ll love learning about how Fleetwood portrayed a character mostly unknown to history.
MASTERPIECE: Can you introduce Feodora, and how she came to leave Kensington as a young woman, and how she came to return to England?
FLEETWOOD: Feodora is the maternal half-sister of Queen Victoria. She was born in Germany and when her father Emich Carl, Prince of Leiningen died, her mother Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld remarried Prince Edward, the son of King George III. The household moved to the United Kingdom, and the mother soon gave birth to the new potential heir, Victoria. Feodora lived with Victoria in Kensington Palace as a young girl.
Feodora was soon married off to Ernst I, Prince of Langenburg, and sent back to Germany. Her mother wanted her out of the way of any potential powerful British suitors which might jeopardize Victoria’s ascent to the throne. Feodora had a very unhappy marriage and during the German revolution she decides to return to Buckingham Palace and seek refuge with her sister and possibly mark out a better future for herself.
I think she wants to be invaluable to everyone, all at the same time, and that means being two-faced at times.–Kate Fleetwood on Feodora
MASTERPIECE: Did you imagine what she went through in Langenburg as part of your understanding of her character? If yes, can you share?
FLEETWOOD: By all accounts, Feodora lived a very threadbare life in Germany, despite being a member of the Royal family. Her husband Ernst I had no domain and the couple lived in a very cold and uncomfortable castle within a loveless marriage. With little income and no power, Feodora must have longed to return to the life she had known as a child. I imagine that watching her little sister rise to be a powerful and glamorous monarch in a passionate and caring marriage must have been incredibly galling!
MASTERPIECE: Sometimes, it seems like Feodora wants to undermine and dismantle everything Victoria has that she wants: her marriage, her rule, her parenting. Other times, it seems like she is truly genuine with her sister, and wants the relationship she was deprived of. What’s her end game??
FLEETWOOD: Feodora has a complex relationship with Victoria, wanting to love her and undermine her at the same time. It’s family, and we can all relate to the contradictions that our families impose upon us. We can be at our best with them and at our worst with them all at the same time. Feodora can be tactless in order to feel more powerful; she is the eldest sister after all, and she has enormous amounts of insecurities and inferiority issues. She can strike very low at times but it comes from needing to feel part of the action and not sidelined anymore. I think she wants to be invaluable to everyone, all at the same time, and that means being two-faced at times.
MASTERPIECE: Some of this looks like run-of-the-mill sibling rivalry—who has better clothes, who can play piano better… Do you imagine that if Victoria and Feodora had grown up together, they would have worked it all out before they were adults?
FLEETWOOD: Who knows if they could have worked it all out if Feodora had not been sent away. Feodora is the product of her circumstance, but I imagine that Victoria would have become Queen even if Feodora had remained in England. If she had felt loved and valued by her mother, I’m sure the sibling rivalry would have ironed itself out in time.
MASTERPIECE: Feodora and Palmerston’s relationship is wonderful—it’s as though they’ve met their match in one another…Do you love it, too, and if so, why? And Is there the tiniest hint of a sexual tension between them, or am I imagining it?
FLEETWOOD: The Feodora-Palmerston relationship is great, and so much fun to play. Yes, they most certainly have met their match and I think the interplay and tension between them is because they are surprised to have found a match! I think they are both used to being lone wolves that they are intrigued to square up to one another. I don’t know if it exactly sexual tension, but rather a narcissistic pull towards each other. They reflect each other and it creates a subconscious reaction, a little masochistic at times.
MASTERPIECE: Feodora has such a specific physical presence, depending on whatever situation she’s in—sometimes minxy, or mincing, or self-effacing, or sneaky…What decisions as an actress did you make to achieve that complex mix?
FLEETWOOD: I’m flattered you think that I’ve managed to make her complex, but that’s in the writing too. Feodora spins lots of plates at the same time and each needs its own tone and distinct manner to achieve what she wants, or manipulate others to give her what she wants. She is quite a performative character but she has a huge amount of subtext so that’s very rewarding to play and it yields lots of choices to an actor. I followed my instinct with her and because she has a lack of social tact spun from her righteousness, you can play with protocols and normative behavior. The accent/language barrier also helps with the playfulness. You can pretend not to understand, choose to be incredulous, or entertained by things that have different meanings to other people. It gives her license.
MASTERPIECE: Is your role somewhat liberating because there’s not much historical documentation about the real-life Feodora?
FLEETWOOD: You’re right, there is very little documentation about her and so I just had to play with what the writers gave me without having to worry too much about genuine historical fact, although the context was historically accurate.
MASTERPIECE: Any hints for fans wanting to do a fabulous, Feo-inspired German accent at home?
FLEETWOOD: There are lots of YouTube videos for learning accents. It’s all about the W’s with Feo!
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