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Behind the scenes of ITV’s Victoria with David Oakes

Posted:
9 September 2016
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English Heritage
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David Oakes as Prince Ernest

David Oakes is a British actor who plays Prince Ernest (Prince Albert’s brother) in the new ITV drama Victoria. David is no stranger to playing historical characters, having previously starred in The White Queen and The Living and the Dead. He gave us some insight into his experiences filming the series, his personal connection to Queen Victoria and shares memories of visiting her summer home, Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

Where David’s love of history started – visiting Osborne and the impact of Queen Victoria

Back in 1995 when I was 11, I went on an adventure (read: school trip) to the Isle of Wight. Part history project and part reward for completing primary school, we spent a week seeking out Isle’s treasures. The Needles, odd coloured sand, a donkey called Josephine… and a couple of amazing and unique historical buildings, which are the jewels in the Isle of Wight’s crown.

There are still donkeys at Carisbrooke Castle. Their names traditionally all begin with J because it's the letter that Charles I used to sign his letters when he was planning his escape routes.

There are still donkeys at Carisbrooke Castle. Their names traditionally all begin with J because it’s the letter that Charles I used to sign his letters when he was planning his escape routes.

Apart from Josephine, Carisbrooke Castle is perhaps most famous for housing Charles I. He was in prison there for 14 months prior to his execution. Two hundred years later, the island gained another royal inhabitant – this time out of choice!

Osborne House was Queen Victoria’s rather audacious holiday home. It was designed by her husband Albert in the style of an Italian Renaissance Palazzo – he liked to get his hands dirty with a little bit of architectural design work.

To this day, I remember being stunned by Osborne. I’d been dragged around old houses before by my parents, but somehow at Osborne the ceilings seemed taller, the carpets softer, and the whole place sung with heritage, purpose and beauty.

Suddenly, to my young eyes, Victoria and the industrial revolution didn’t seem so far away. History suddenly seemed relevant. Canal boat holidays had taught me that what had happened in the Victorian era shaped modern Britain. She was the people’s monarch. By sharing photographs of her and her family she made monarchy seem human, not divine.

Despite being and English Heritage member, for my sins, I haven’t revisited the Osborne since this first trip. But luckily, a job presented itself that gave me an oddly suitable alternative.

On playing Prince Ernest in ITV’s Victoria

I play Prince Ernest, the older brother of Prince Albert. He is a cad, bounder, socialist, philanthropist, explorer, composer and bon vivant. Basically the opposite of Albert, who was more reserved. And he lived almost as long as Victoria herself.

David Oakes in action as Prince Ernest in ITV drama, Victoria.

David Oakes in action as Prince Ernest in ITV drama, Victoria.

He was loved within his Dukedom and integral in the unification of Germany. He had operas performed in New York, and supposedly had more sexually transmitted complications than you could wave a mercury-lined stick at. What a charmer!

What it’s like to work on a period drama

It’s a joy to be in a period drama. Getting the chance to wear the clothes, walk down lavish hallways and grow a moustache; to follow in the footsteps of the great – and the less great – makes the eleven-year-old in me very happy indeed. Our production, costume and makeup designers (Michael, Ros and Nic respectively) have made spectacular near replicas of the original palaces and fashions, and the whole production looks divinely regal.

Our story in this first season reaches 1840 – Osborne won’t be inhabitable for nearly a decade, but this series has given me the chance to run around real properties like Harewood House, Raby Castle, Beverley Mister and Wentworth Woodhouse. I also spent a great deal of this year living at Buckingham Palace – or at least a replica built in a disused Yorkshire aircraft hangar!

Victoria will be shown on Sunday nights at 9pm on ITV.

See Victoria’s home for yourself

Osborne was Victoria’s seaside residence on the Isle of Wight, where she and Albert raised their children. Explore the Indian-style plaster work of the opulent Durbar room, where Victoria entertained European royalty, or get a glimpse of family life in the nursery and miniature Swiss Cottage where the royal children played.

Osborne House is open from 10:00-18:00, 7 days a week, until 30 September, and from 10:00-17:00 throughout October.

Entry is free for English Heritage Members.

Ticket prices for non-members are: Adult: £15, Concession: £13.50, Child: £9, Family: £39.

Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Queen Victoria and Albert bought the estate in 1845.

Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Queen Victoria and Albert bought the estate in 1845.

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  • About the Author

    English Heritage
    English Heritage cares for over 400 historic sites around England.

Comments

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  1. Really enjoyed reading this article, love the series and especially the part that David Oakes plays. Well done.

  2. I really enjoyed this article as well. So nice to hear his memories as an 11 year old boy of Osborne House. I was there about 6 weeks ago for the first time and its truly incredible.
    I’m very much enjoying Victoria as well.

  3. Hi Sophie, thanks for your feedback. Great to hear that you enjoyed your visit to Osborne. You might also enjoy reading our article ‘Victoria: Queen Beyond the Screen’ http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/osborne/queen-victoria/

  4. Wonderful serie prince Albert should be played by david oakes wrong casting

  5. Really enjoyed reading this article. My husband and I love Osborne House too….’Victoria’ was the best period drama I’ve ever watched and I loved David Oakes as Ernst. Thank you!

  6. Loved this production and all the actors in it.

  7. I agree with David Oakes about the Victoria editing. Loved Victoria and bought the DVD but was disappointed on some of the scenes that were edited out. Should have deleted some of the dessert scenes with Francatelli and Skerret. Thought the casting was right on and David Oakes played the charming Prince Ernest perfectly.