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.
Below stairs, the servants adjust to 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.
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.