When eighteen-year-old VICTORIA becomes Queen, her mother the DUCHESS OF KENT, led by her advisor, CONROY circle around the young monarch, itching to seize power. Hating Conroy and exasperated by her mother’s dependence on him, Victoria shuns them both. Belowstairs, the servants adjust to their their new boss - Victoria’s trusted governess LEHZEN. JENKINS, the Queen’s dresser, is incensed to learn that Lehzen has appointed her an assistant without consulting her: the mysterious SKERRETT.
Victoria copes with the unknown with the help of her Prime Minister LORD MELBOURNE. They are enchanted by each other: Victoria by the older man’s erudite wisdom, and he by the young Queen’s irresistible guilelessness. Gossip erupts over the closeness of their relationship and MELBOURNE, fearing scandal, retreats, leaving VICTORIA prey to CONROY, who seizes the chance to take control and undermine the Queen.
Determined to bring him down, VICTORIA latches on to a piece of gossip that could ruin both CONROY and in the process her mother’s Lady in Waiting LADY FLORA. Against Melbourne’s express instructions, VICTORIA rushes into an ill-considered accusation and the glory of her coronation is abruptly curtailed when she learns she has covered the crown in scandal. CONROY waits in the wings for VICTORIA to abandon hope so that he can establish a Regency, but MELBOURNE’S confidence in the Queen protects her from despair.