Previously on Victoria: All the grownups got bored trying to boot Victoria off the throne, so they decided to get her married instead. Uncle Leopold came over from Belgium to disapprove and glower and to invite his nephews, Albert and Ernst, over without actually checking with his hostess. Being King comes with privileges, I guess, but totally ignoring basic manners shouldn’t be one of them. Victoria’s resisting all this marriage talk, however, because she’s decided she’s in love with Melbourne, and apparently he’s in love with her too, or something of that sort, but he turns down her proposal anyway because: history.
So, Daisy Goodwin, who’s writing this, apparently writes slightly highbrow romance-y novels that I might be tempted to pick up if a) the names of her characters weren’t so laughably absurd (the main character of one novel, a Consuelo Vanderbilt knockoff, is called Cora Cash, for God’s sake) and b) this episode didn’t indicate she’s a terrible writer of romance. At no point during this hour did I believe that Victoria and Albert would become one of history’s great love stories. In fact, the whole thing unfolded in such a by-the-book, trope-heavy manner, I almost felt like Goodwin was ticking off boxes as she went. ‘Let’s see: hate-hate relationship at the outset? Check. Sudden, random breathless moment in a crowded room? Check. Dishevelled romping in the countryside? Check. Fight for no real reason? Check. Realisation that they were fighting because they were really in luuuurve? Check.
That’s basically this episode in a nutshell. Victoria and Albert are not particularly charmed by one another, to begin with. Victoria thinks he’s an uptight prig (fair) and he thinks she’s an empty-headed idiot (also fair). He likes old masters and she likes cards. However shall they come together? Why, through the magic of Schubert and the waltz. And through Leopold constantly wandering into rooms and basically saying, ‘Hey, you smiled at Albert once yesterday! Propose, girl!’ Which just seems incredibly tone-deaf. Were you not in the same room the rest of us were in, Leopold?
[cryout-pullquote align=”right” textalign=”left” width=”33%”]Victoria and Albert are not particularly charmed by one another. Victoria thinks he’s an uptight prig (fair) and he thinks she’s an empty-headed idiot (also fair).[/cryout-pullquote]
Victoria seems far more taken with Albert’s brother, Ernst, who’s way more fun and laid back, and also a little bit of a charming man-whore. (He’s played by David Oakes, who has turned up randomly in so many shows I’ve recapped on this site I feel like he should be some kind of patron saint or something. Even if, in half those roles, he was playing really terrible people. He’s totally fun here, though!) Ernst, too, is fairly committed to this marriage taking place and tells Victoria, very sincerely, that his brother is worth ten of him.
And it does seem like Albert’s decent. He’s concerned about the plight of the poor (and very concerned about Melbourne’s lack of concern, or even knowledge of the problem), has great respect for innovation and advances like the penny post, kindly compliments his aunt’s paintings, and has great respect for art and forests. He does not have respect or time for frivolity (no cards, but music’s fine) or Victoria’s tendency to feed her dog at the table and then use it to passive-aggressively make comments about him while he’s in the room.
And then there’s Melbourne, just kind of lurking about, sulking a bit. Heavens, man, you had your chance. Let her go!
As I mentioned, a Schubert duet starts to unthaw the pair, and Victoria declares an evening of dancing, requesting a white muslin dress and then, apparently, wearing something completely different. Continuity is for losers! She waltzes with Albert, who’s apparently such a good dancer he can make women fall in love with him just by doing that. He stops at one point and tells Victoria that the flowers she’s wearing remind him of his Tragically Dead Mother. Victoria offers him one of the blossoms and he tears open his shirt right there on the dance floor so he can stash the flower next to his heart. Oh, please. How Byronian of him. Or maybe he’s just been hit hard by the German Romanticism movement.
Victoria’s all a-flutter and decides to take him to Windsor (on a Wednesday!) so he can experience the forests there. And, of course, she also summons Melbourne there for dinner, because he has NOTHING ELSE TO DO what with running the country with a shaky government and all. He comes, which does not please Albert who, like everyone else, thinks Melbourne has way too much influence over Victoria. The two bicker about it, after chasing each other oh-so-romantically through the woods (oooh, her hair comes down!) and fixing her dog’s injured paw.
Victoria stomps off and pouts. For some bizarre reason, Leopold thinks this is a great time to once again pressure her to propose to Albert. Victoria pouts some more and says she doesn’t want to, because she’s not sure he’ll say yes. Yeah, apparently they’ve magically fallen in love, somewhere in there.
But: history. She proposes, and he accepts. And he smiles! Which he never does!
Oh, belowstairs bullshit: Albert’s valet hates England and keeps complaining about it in German to Lehzen. Penge lets him do it for a while, then reveals that he’s fluent in German. *shrug*.
Miss Skerrett is not Eliza Skerrett at all. Some other woman (her sister, I guess? Or a friend?) is the real Eliza, but she got knocked up and kept the kid and so couldn’t become the queen’s hairdresser. She trained FakeEliza to take her place, but now she’s pressuring her for more money. FakeEliza can’t come up with it, so RealEliza tells her to just go steal some things. Yes, that’s an excellent solution. FakeEliza nearly does, but then Victoria fixes the whole matter by just giving her a bunch of lace collars because she has soooooo many. FakeEliza gives them to RealEliza to sell.