It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a period drama in possession of a prime time Sunday night slot, must be in want of a smouldering hero – and ITV’s Victoria found him in Rufus Sewell’s Lord M.
Indeed, from the minute he appeared on screen in episode one, ITV viewers were on their knees, eager to bow to the glory of the mightily handsome and utterly charismatic Lord Melbourne.
“Poldark who? Scything what?” All thoughts of Aidan Turner evaporated as Sewell gazed at them with his penetrating eyes.
It was no mean feat for an actor best known for playing villainous cad; who usually keeps fair princesses away from their true loves.
So convincing was Sewell’s largely fictionalised PM (the real Melbourne wasn’t quite as dreamy) that many wished he’d actually re-write history and whisk our Vicky away before Prince Albert could even enter stage left.
Leading lady Jenna Coleman and Sewell’s chemistry was infectious from the off. As the teenage Victoria almost falls at the feet of her mentor turned man of her dreams, it was difficult not to do the same off screen.
It’s little wonder their failed rendezvous beneath the rooks shattered so many hearts.
Damn history. To hell with fact. Daisy Goodwin’s fiction was making far better Sunday night telly than Victoria’s own tale ever could.
And then in walked Albert, a German prince with whom the Queen spent the guts of 45 minutes sparring, before declaring her undying love for him and asking for his hand in marriage.
The tall, handsome Tom Hughes set hearts racing, indeed, but his on-screen dynamic with his soon-to-be wife was missing something: Lord M’s seemingly effortless smoulder. By comparison, Albert seemed a bit of a cold fish.
How were we supposed to believe that a genuine (and fictionally reciprocated) infatuation/romance could be so easily trounced by a Saxe-Coburg stallion who’d walked straight out of a vintage shop in Shoreditch and – naturally – couldn’t believe his new flame didn’t know anything about his beloved art?
It’s nothing if not testament to Sewell’s superb performance, which provided a welcome anchor for a period drama that could have easily lost the run of itself.
Lord M’s final moments with his monarch were beautifully bittersweet, and as Sewell exits stage right we can’t help but wonder how Victoria will rule the screens without him.
As he was in A Knight’s Tale, Sewell has been drawn. He has been measured. And we’ve been found wanting him to stick around and be our Sunday night life partner.