Previously on Victoria: The very young Queen Victoria came to the throne and started, basically, acting like the teenager she is. Unfortunately, she’s a teenager with quite a lot of power and influence, which is not really a good thing. Unable to trust her own mother (and especially her mother’s right-hand man, John Conroy) Victoria leaned heavily on her prime minister, Lord Melbourne.
Now we get to experience one of the more ridiculous and maddening incidents of Victoria’s reign: the Bedchamber Crisis!
Here’s the situation: Melbourne’s ministry must come to an end. He doesn’t have enough support in the house to remain in power, so now it’s the Tories’ turn to run the country for a while. He breaks the news to Victoria, who predictably freaks out. But she’s somewhat appeased when she’s told that the Duke of Wellington should be PM now. She’s known him most of her life, so she’s ok with that.
But Wellington’s not. He’s not interested in being PM, because he thinks he’s too old for that nonsense now. He recommends Sir Robert Peel for the job. Apparently Melbourne predicted this, but really stupidly didn’t warn Victoria this might happen.
Victoria pouts and refuses to send for Peel, which means he can’t officially form a government. So now everyone’s in a standoff, waiting for a teenage girl to finish her tantrum. When she finally, begrudgingly invites him to Buckingham House to kiss hands, he has the audacity to suggest she replace one or two of her ladies-in-waiting (the ones married to Whig ministers) with more Tory-friendly ladies. Victoria immediately digs in her heels and throws another wobbler. Then she borrows one of her ladies’ carriages and goes running to Melbourne’s house to whine about having to make accommodations for anything at all and change is such a hassle and waaaaah!
Peel still hasn’t been invited to form a government. The country is seriously without anybody at the helm because a boneheaded child can’t seem to wrap her head around how very, very bad this is, or understand that she can’t always get her way. Melbourne tries to explain all of this to her, but she can’t seem to absorb the idea that she doesn’t get to do whatever the hell she wants, all the time. Jesus, Victoria, even Simba had learned this lesson by your age, and he wasn’t exactly the brightest.
It’s so clear that Melbourne is struggling not to slap some sense into this girl it’s actually a little bit funny. It wasn’t actually funny in real life, though. It was an actual crisis. The country had no government. The crown was seen as favouring one political party over the other, which is a no-no. And the show is making it seem like Victoria planned this strategically, so Peel would have no choice but to give up the fight and let Melbourne resume the prime ministership. I’m not sure I give her that much credit.
I don’t really agree with how this is being portrayed on the show. The show makes it seem like this is the extended pout of a spoiled child who’s not getting her way. I think in reality it was much more complicated than that. Victoria had only very recently been freed from the control of Conroy, who was an incredibly terrible person who imposed a system on her that saw her bullied and emotionally abused for pretty much her entire childhood. And now here come a bunch of other men lecturing her and ordering her about and telling her what to do. They inadvertently tapped into a place of deep trauma in her. It’s no wonder she dug in her heels, really. She was a pretty steely, stubborn woman who was determined not to be under any man’s thumb ever again. It’s just unfortunate she couldn’t separate her own needs from that of her country.
All of this behaviour is just fuelling the ‘Victoria is unstable and needs replacing’ fire. We get to hear about it again and again and again, just in case we missed it the first eight times! Conroy’s now throwing in with Cumberland, who’s moving towards a co-regency with Victoria’s mother. The Duchess, for her part, doesn’t seem to know if she really wants any of this. She insists she only wants to help her daughter, but then Victoria points out that her mother failed to help her or protect her when she really needed it. The Duchess retaliates in a fairly petty manner, but gifting Victoria a copy of King Lear on her birthday. And just in case the symbolism of that escaped her daughter, the Duchess underlined the bit about how terrible it is to have an ungrateful child. The Duchess is a bitch.
Belowstairs (sigh) the installation of gas lighting has unearthed a bunch of rats. We learned this last week in a scene that is, bizarrely, in this episode as well. Even more bizarrely, it’s a scene where that horrible chief steward, Penge, tells Lehzen why there are rats about, as if this is news to her, even though earlier in the episode he told her…why there are rats about. That’s a few counts of sloppy editing (also, Penge’s little footman stooge is playing with one of the rats in the background during one of those scenes. That is a city rat! Those things are vicious! It’s not a kitten, you idiot! Also, that’s disgusting!)
Penge is allowed to bring in a ratcatcher, from whom he will be getting a kickback. Whatever. The guy is clearly terrible at his job, because the world’s ballsiest rats get all the way to the throne room and run around on Victoria’s birthday cake while the room is filled with people. Did nobody notice those rats coming in? And climbing onto the cake they were all gathered around? The sight of rats about the size of her dog decorating her cake makes Victoria start screaming her head off, which seems to be about the most reasonable thing she does all episode.
Also: the palace chef, Francatelli, figures out that the new hairdresser, Miss Skerrett, used to be a prostitute. Or something like that. I guess we’re supposed to be shocked by that, but honestly:
Man, I hope we move away from this unnecessary, made-up belowstairs bullshit when Albert shows up. Which is next week! Yay!