Previously on Victoria: Victoria came to the throne and stumbled around quite a lot, trying to shake off the influence of her weak-willed mother and the horrible Sir John Conroy. She began leaning heavily on her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, even to the point of forcing the government to retain him as PM when his ministry was crumbling.
So, if last week was ‘everyone run around saying again and again how unstable and crazy Victoria is so you can force a regency’, this week is ‘everyone run around saying again and again how important it is that Victoria get married RIGHT NOW.’ Because that’s seriously the entire episode. Scene after scene after scene of people saying exactly that.
Apparently the question of Victoria’s marriage is so important her uncle, Leopold, takes time off from being King of the Belgians to come over and discuss it with her, and push her cousin, Albert, as a suitable mate. (Fun facts! Leopold was married to Princess Charlotte, the only legitimate child of George IV. Had she not died horribly in childbirth, Leopold’s life would have been quite different, and so would Victoria’s. In fact, Victoria may very well have never existed. Also, Leopold was her mother’s brother.)
Cumberland, meanwhile, has just abandoned the whole idea of being regent, seemingly overnight and with no explanation whatsoever, so he can push his own suitor: Prince George of Cambridge (no, not that one). (Fun facts! Prince George was two months older than Victoria, outlived her by three years, married an actress, was a respected soldier and supported the career of one Douglas Haig.)
Even the servants are getting in on the action, placing bets on who the lucky guy’ll be. Spoiler alert: Francatelli’s going to win.
Victoria now has all these people harping at her to choose a husband already, because someone needs to control her. And those are precisely the wrong words to use to a young woman only just escaping a man’s control. She’s not interested in Albert or George (and George sure doesn’t seem interested in her). She decides she wants Melbourne, of course, and helps herself to her lady-in-waiting’s carriage so she can go rushing off to his country place, interrupt his afternoon of rook whispering, and propose to him. Melbourne, for his part, manages to conceal just how weirded out he is by this child’s obsession with him, and lets her down easily. Well, as easily as one can.
Victoria takes this one rejection and runs with it, as so many teens do, deciding she’ll be just like Elizabeth I and never marry. She even dresses as Elizabeth for a costume ball, because subtlety is definitely not her strong suit. When Melbourne hears of this plan, he basically says, ‘Yeah, poor idea. You’ll get over this.’ And she does, as we know. Though Melbourne doesn’t really help when he sends a mixed message in the form of orchids, which her lady-in-waiting throws herself all over. ‘Oh, he reopened the greenhouses just for you! Orchids are soooo hard to grow! He totally luuuurves you!’ Thanks, lady.
Victoria does find one way to distract herself from heartbreak: finally kicking Conroy the hell out. She grants him an Irish title and an annual pension of £1000 on the condition he gets lost. And finally, the Duchess of Kent gets to be a little interesting, as the full force of that betrayal and of her fear play out on her face when she hears the news. But, at least it means she and Victoria can start patching things up, though in reality, Victoria and her mother were fairly estranged for years, and it was Albert who brought them back together.
The poor and even the emerging middle classes might have a voice! You can see why the upper classes kind of freaked out over that.
In the midst of all this we get to see some of the Chartist Movement gathering strength. Of course, it’s dealt with in such a a shallow, dismissive manner you kind of wonder why they bothered including it at all. Melbourne gives Victoria such a brief rundown of what they want even Cliff’s Notes is begging for a little depth, there. But heaven forbid we should get any sort of historical context for anything that’s happening, because that might detract from the vital work of FINDING VICTORIA A HUSBAND!!! OMG, WHO WILL SHE MARRY? Which is stupid, because we already know how that bit of the story goes, so there’s no tension in any of that. The Chartists actually had very reasonable requests, including gaining the vote for all men over 21, not just landowners (baby steps, you know), a secret ballot, equal size electoral districts, eliminating property qualifications to become an MP, and paying MPs a salary. Those last two are notable, because they would actually make it possible for people who were not wealthy landowners a chance to sit in Parliament. The poor and even the emerging middle classes might have a voice! My heavens! You can see why the upper classes kind of freaked out over that.
The show built in an opportunity to delve into this a little bit: Mrs Jenkins, the dresser, has a nephew who’s part of the movement. He’s arrested and sentenced to a traitor’s death, and although she’s sad about that, she completely dismisses him and his beliefs, saying he’s basically a bad boy and deserves some sort of punishment. I totally buy that she’d be a firm monarchist and conservative, but it seems odd to introduce this particular connection and then not do anything at all with it. Except give Victoria a chance to be all benevolent and commute the sentences of the men under arrest, so they won’t be hanged, drawn and quartered after all. Strangely, she is utterly unaware that, as queen, she has the power to do this, until Lord M points it out to her. Somebody please give this girl a Ruling 101 book, or something.
Oh, and in matters I simply can’t bring myself to care about, even a little, Miss Jenkins’s assistant maybe wasn’t a prostitute, just worked in the laundry for some fancy brothel. Does anyone care about this storyline yet?
But back to the important things: VICTORIA NEEDS A HUSBAND!!! And Leopold is giving this one his all (hey, I just realised that Baron Stockmar has been completely written out of this drama. Why? He was immensely important! He was at least as close an advisor as Melbourne, and he predated Melbourne too. And he had a pretty big hand in making the Albert match happen, and helped Victoria out a lot over the years, even after Melbourne faded away.). Leopold’s gone ahead and invited Albert and his brother, Ernst, over, which is really poor manners, but presumably Victoria will let it slide. Because when Albert shows up, she takes one look at him and her face says, ‘Oh, hello, you’ve gotten hot since I last saw you!’
What do you think, guys, will this one go the distance? Because I still like the looks of George Cambridge, honestly.