Upon the death of King William IV, his 18-year-old niece, Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent, inherits the throne as Queen, and finds herself tested by new responsibilities and conflicted loyalties.
As Lord Melbourne's popularity in the House wanes, the Tories eagerly await triumph, while Victoria's uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, sees a chance to prey on her vulnerability and establish a co-regency.
King Leopold suggests Victoria consider Prince Albert as a suitable consort, which results in her being surrounded by suitors, though her determination to rule alone leaves her uncle suspicious of her closeness to Melbourne.
Prince Albert arrives in England for the first time and he and Victoria take an instant dislike to one another in an awkward first meeting. However, their disdain passes and an attraction grows - to Melbourne's dismay.
Melbourne warns Victoria that Parliament will not be happy to see her marry a German prince, a prediction that proves accurate when the Privy Council refuse to grant Albert a royal title prompting worries for both Victoria and Albert.
Feeling he needs a greater role in public affairs, Albert becomes involved in the anti-slavery movement. Skerrett faces a dilemma when she realises that the only man who can save her cousin is the one she trusts least.
A pregnant Victoria declares that in the event of her death Albert will become head of state, outraging members of the Tory party who fear a German prince holding sway over the nation and so they plan to disrupt his visit to the North.
A heavily pregnant Victoria defies the advice of her mother and husband, refusing to be confined to the palace. However, when she does venture out the crowds pose a danger as a deranged onlooker attempts to assassinate her.