When eighteen-year-old Victoria becomes Queen, her mother the Duchess of Kent and her advisor Conroy circle around the young monarch, itching to seize power. The servants adjust to their new boss, Victoria's governess, Lehzen, who gives the Queen's dresser, Jenkins, an unwanted assistant. Victoria grows close with her Prime Minister Lord Melbourne; their relationship brings gossip until Melbourne pulls back. Conroy seizes the chance to undermine the Queen. The glory of her coronation is curtailed due to potential scandal.
As Lord Melbourne's popularity in the house wanes, the Tories eagerly await their imminent triumph, while the Duke of Cumberland views it as a chance to prey on his niece's vulnerability and establish a co-regency with the Duchess of Kent and Conroy. Victoria is devastated when Melbourne regretfully announces he is stepping down and even more bewildered that she must ask complete stranger Sir Robert Peel to form a government, and she desperately implores Melbourne to return.
A Chartist uprising in Newport underlines the instability of the monarchy. Victoria's uncle Leopold capitalises on this, urging Victoria to secure the monarchy by marrying her cousin Albert. Sensing an opportunity to a finally control the headstrong Queen, Conroy latches on to the plan. Victoria however demonstrates utter indifference to all suitors, because (as Leopold rightly suspects) the only man that really interests Victoria is her Prime Minister. When the Chartists strike again, Victoria is compelled to confess the depth of her feelings to Melbourne. The distress of her senior dresser Jenkins at the brutal execution of the Chartists inspires Victoria to defy Melbourne's harsh ruling and a more lenient sentence is granted. She is outraged to hear that Albert is arriving at Leopold's behest.
Prince Albert arrives in England for the first time, and he and Victoria take an instant dislike to each other in an awkward first encounter. Below stairs, Albert's valet clashes with the royal servants, while Skerrett is visited by a girl in need of money.
When Victoria's efforts to secure Albert a settlement are rejected by parliament, both she and her fiance start to fear for their future together. As the wedding draws ever closer and the tension escalates, will Victoria and Albert manage to reconcile their differences in time?.
Albert feels he needs a greater role in public affairs, and becomes involved in the anti-slavery movement. Victoria matches wills with the Duke of Sussex to see that her husband is granted more respect, while Skerrett faces a dilemma when she realises that the only person who can save her cousin and child from certain death is the man she trusts the least.
The queen becomes pregnant, and declares that Albert will become head of state in the event of her death. The developments outrage members of the Tory party, who fear a German prince holding sway over the nation and make arrangements to disrupt his visit to the industrial north. The consort finds an unlikely ally in Sir Robert Peel, who seeks royal approval for the rapidly developing railway. At first, Victoria does not approve, but soon changes her mind when she experiences Peel's creation for herself.
A heavily pregnant Victoria is frustrated by both Albert and her mother's attempts to confine her to the Palace. Cumberland arrives in London, hoping that Victoria may die in childbirth, as he is still the heir Presumptive. Determined to show herself in public, Victoria goes for a drive and is accosted by an unhinged admirer, desperate to free her from her 'German tyrant'. Whilst Victoria is taken aback, she is resolute that it will not frighten her and despite Albert's misgiving, goes out again.