Historical drama Victoria returns to ITV Choice (DStv channel 123) for its third season on 3 June and with it, a brand new character: Queen Victoria’s older sister, Princess Feodora. According to the Radio Times, Victoria’s “resentful” half-sister “creates tension in the royal household,” creating a rift between the Queen and Prince Albert. Victoria’s older sister really did exist: Princess Feodora of Leiningen was the daughter of Victoria’s mother, Princess Victoria (later the Duchess of Kent), and her first husband, Emich Carl, Prince of Leiningen. Twelve years older than the future Queen Victoria, she left Kensington Palace for Germany when her half-sister was eight in order to marry Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenbury. While Victoria and Feodora were reportedly close in real life, Victoria depicts her as something of a villain, bitterly jealous of her younger sister. Jenna Coleman, who plays Queen Victoria, told the Radio Times, “When [Feodora] arrives back there’s this unexplored tension between them, a resentment.”
Victoria screenwriter Daisy Goodwin told Deadline, “There she is, living in a crumbly, draughty castle in the middle of Germany and she’s having a miserable time. And there’s Victoria being Queen of England. It doesn’t go down so well.”
“They’re sisters, they love each other and are jealous of each other,” Jenna Coleman (who plays Victoria) told the Radio Times. “They haven’t seen each other for years but they both went through the Kensington System. [Feodora] manages to drive a wedge between Victoria and Albert. She becomes Albert’s confidante.”
As for Kate Fleetwood’s performance as Feodora, Goodwin told the magazine, “She brings this glorious, fabulous sister campness. She’s just great. She’s flamboyant. She’s a villain, a wonderful villain and you don’t know how much of a villain she is… she’s the drip of poison in the royal household.”
Kate Fleetwood discusses her provocative new role.
Feodora is a mixture of being incredibly understanding of the monarchy and the establishment, while at the same time putting two fingers up at it. As the Queen’s older sister, she comes back with a huge amount of built-up resentment and sadness about the things she has lost. She comes to see her little sister who is living a good life with a huge amount of responsibility, which is what Feodora is lacking. She is quite reckless, whereas Victoria is responsible and carries the weight of the crown upon her head with grace. Feodora, while she wants the crown on her head, would have to relinquish her freedom if she did and she very much enjoys that. She is incredibly complicated and has been an interesting character to play, one I have thoroughly enjoyed. She is layered and manipulative, but at the same time she is emotional and wears her heart on her sleeve most of the time. She doesn’t really have much respect for protocol either; she arrives and quite literally just throws herself on the ground.
Fleetwood reveals she felt a little overwhelmed when she arrived on set for her first day.
I was happy to join the skillful set of actors who make up the Victoria cast and everyone was incredibly kind to me. It is grand when you first arrive, because you get sent straight into Buckingham Palace! The set is extraordinary and is rather overwhelming when you first arrive, because you genuinely feel like you are standing at the doors of the palace.
Fleetwood explains that Feodora was less overwhelmed, wasting no time before delving into her sister’s royal wardrobe.
When Feodora first arrives she is down at heel and has holes in her socks. Over time, however, you see her getting her feet under the table and that she’s a bit of a magpie. She borrows dresses and jewellery from Victoria. Her hair and her costumes become more and more elaborate and she becomes more well-heeled and that was likely one of her motivations for coming – to better herself.”
Fleetwood discusses Feodora’s accent and how her character cunningly uses language to her own advantage.
I enjoy working with the voice and accent and a different vernacular – I find that is one of the parts of my job I love the most. The accent, for me, is a way into the character, so hopefully it’s plausible as I enjoy using that layer and part of the skillset you have as an actor. With Feodora, her accent helps to represent her emotional dislocation from her family. I found that fascinating, using her language – English isn’t her first language, she can use that to her benefit as in she can be tactless and raise an eyebrow, passing things off as just a misunderstanding or simply just the way she speaks.
Fleetwood reveals a little about Feodora’s relationships with this series’ two leading men; Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) and Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston (Laurence Fox).
Feodora’s relationship with Palmerston is playful. She has met her match and enjoys sparring with him, but also realises that it is best to keep him as an ally. They work on the same parameters of manipulation and enjoy being a little reckless and pushing the boundaries. They both revel in being provocative, and enjoy each other’s company because of that. With Albert, she is manipulating him and it seems self-serving, but while she is getting between Albert and Victoria, the reason is because she wants to be needed by them both. She wants to be indispensable to both of them at the same time, but for different reasons. She is trying to make herself indispensable but the result of that is that she is completely two-faced.
Fleetwood hopes that audiences will laugh at and sympathise with her comical and multi-layered character.
Feodora is misunderstood. She is incredibly emotional and funny and joyful and expressive and cheeky and I hope people will enjoy the mischievous quality she brings. Hopefully they also understand her predicament, for she has been rejected and become an invisible member of a very visible family. There is an isolation to her and she doesn’t always follow the right path, but it comes from a place of feeling lonely, so hopefully people will sympathise with her on some level.