Previously on Victoria: After a fair bit of wrangling, Victoria and Albert got married.
Victoria and Albert get to enjoy a whole two days’ honeymoon before it’s back to business. Well, back to business for her, anyway. All Albert gets to do is wander around the palace, examining the dust and occasionally blot her signature. Joy! It takes about .00003 seconds for him to become bored out of his mind. But at least the sex is good, so there’s that.
So good, in fact, that Victoria is not eager for any wee ones to come along and spoil the fun. She turns to Lehzen for advice on birth control, which would make sense if Lehzen weren’t a lifelong spinster. Come on, Victoria, it’s not like you don’t have other ladies you’re close to who are actually married that you can ask. Lehzen gives predictably terrible advice that sees the queen hopping up and down on the furniture post-lovin’. Albert catches her at it one night and is basically like, ‘WTF are you doing? Is this some strange English thing?’ Victoria explains herself, and Albert explains to her that the only way to actually avoid pregnancy is abstinence. Does she want that? No, she definitely does not. And that’s how these two ended up with nine children (it sure as hell wasn’t because Victoria liked or actually wanted them).
Domestically, then, things are ok, but officially, they kind of suck. Victoria throws a dinner party, and on the way in she talks a big game about Albert taking precedence over her uncle, the Duke of Sussex, but as soon as Sussex actually shows his face, she gives in right away and lets him escort her into the dining room, leaving Albert trailing behind with his aunt. He’s not happy about this, and Victoria realises she screwed up (mostly because Albert won’t have sex with her that night), so she sets about trying to fix it, and in the process, shows she’s finally starting to get the hang of political maneuvering.
Victoria finds out that Sussex married a commoner in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act, and that even though everyone knows about this wife, she’s not officially recognised. In return for Sussex giving way to Albert in precedence, she agrees to welcome his wife to court and makes her Duchess of Inverness. Sussex takes the deal.
Albert, meanwhile, finds a cause: the abolition of slavery. The British abolition society really wants Victoria to speak at their big meeting, which will welcome such luminaries as Sir Robert Peel. Victoria totally supports their cause, but gently tells the men that, as monarch, she really can’t be seen to take a side here. But Albert can! He agrees to not only attend, but to give a speech. His new secretary, Anson (formerly in the employ of Melbourne), gives Albert a lot of help with said speech, translating it from the original German, editing it down, and coaching him during practices. He also provides some sage political advice (essentially: extend an olive branch to Peel. The queen’s still sulky about him, but he’ll be PM someday soon and you all need to be friends with him). His help wins him Albert’s respect.
Unfortunately, Albert does not have a lot of respect for his brother’s antics. Ernst is still hanging about, both because he’s reluctant to part with his brother and because he’s getting veeeeery close to the Duchess of Sutherland, one of Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting. Albert notices this flirtation and eventually, gently, tells his brother it’s time for him to go back to Coburg. Ernst departs, with one last really heartbreaking look, while Albert’s like, ‘well, that’s a shame, but I’ve got my wife now!’ which seems a little heartless to me, honestly. You can love multiple people at a time, Albert.
Albert heads off to the abolition society meeting and gives the speech, which is received with a lot of applause. He and Peel make nice, and it looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Or, at least, a functional working relationship.
Belowstairs, word comes through that there’s cholera in Seven Dials, which is where Miss Skerrett’s cousin and little girl live. Miss S tries to go visit them but is turned away by the policemen because the area’s basically under quarantine. Francatelli figures out she went there (bizarrely telling her that ‘a chef’s nose can smell out all sorts of things,’ which…what? Could he smell slum on her? That’s kind of gross.) He tells her he knows of ways to get past the police, so she gives him some money to pass on to her cousin. He slips into Seven Dials and not only passes along the money, he also arranges for Skerrett’s cousin and the kid to move elsewhere, at his expense. Aww, that’s sweet. Skerrett is appropriately grateful. And he admits he has a thing for her, like that wasn’t totally obvious.