Oh, wow, powers that be, THANKS for finally giving us our new Victoria episodes! Only MONTHS later than the US got them! Seriously, what gives with that?
Eh, ok. So, it’s 1848 which, for those not really into mid-19th century political history, was kind of a big year. We’re talking revolutions that affected more than 50 countries. Not such a good one for European monarchies, particularly that of France, where King Louis-Philippe found himself kicked unceremoniously off the throne, forcing him to flee to exile. I only particularly mention this because it’s part of the episode.
So, this episode is basically all about introductions: we’re introduced to the new characters, and to the new dramas. This is what we’re working with:
Sophie, Duchess of Monmouth: The queen’s new lady-in-waiting. She’s nouveau riche, apparently, a fact that we’re bashed over the head with frequently. She claims that her mother always wanted her to be a duchess, and yet that mother clearly did not get Sophie the training necessary to fulfil that very role, because Sophie herself admits to being super clueless, and her asshole husband never squanders an opportunity to point out even the most minor of faux pas. Actually, he seems to be just making some mistakes up, because he hates her and only married her for money, I guess. Sophie seems nice, and Victoria likes her. She’s basically here as the audience stand in, so other characters can make cringe-inducing exposition statements to her.
Louis-Philippe: Onetime King of France, cousin to Louis XVI, forced to flee in the February Revolution. He rushes to England and begs to be taken in, and Victoria does so, willingly. The show makes it seem like he’s come alone, but in reality he came with his family, and the sight of these bedraggled French royals arriving at the Palace was apparently a very formative memory for young Princess Victoria.
Princess Victoria (‘Vicky’) and Prince Albert Edward (‘Bertie’): Not new characters, but finally getting some lines. Vicky’s kind of a show offy little brat, and a good student, which her brother was not. Bertie gets sulky when compared to his sister and throws a wobbler while performing a play for Louis-Philippe, declaring he doesn’t want to be the king (in the play, but you get the idea). Hang in there, Bertie! You’ll be a fantastic king! You might not have had your sister’s intellect (and man, did his father NEVER let him forget it), but your skills and talents actually served you extraordinarily well as monarch and I don’t think you quite get the credit you deserve for the job you did in that role.
Lord Palmerston: The foreign secretary. He puts on a big show of being one of the people (I mean, he bets on a bare knuckle boxing match in the park and everything!) but clearly doesn’t care about anyone. Victoria loathes him, and rightly so, it seems. The man seems like a reptile.
Princess Feodora of Leningin: Victoria’s half-sister (her mother’s daughter by her first marriage). She arrives unannounced, and everyone just stupidly stands around in confusion when Penge announces that Victoria’s sister is there. It’s like none of them can fathom whom he’s talking about. Come on, show, it’s not like Victoria was swimming in siblings. They’d have picked up on who he was talking about fairly quickly! Also, the show makes it seem like the sisters haven’t been in touch in years, even though they had a very close and warm relationship and wrote each other quite frequently. The show wants us to think there’s all this tension between them–Feo seems to resent Victoria for having this awesome life in England while Feo lives in a draughty German castle which she’s been forced to flee from thanks to all the revolutionary upheaval. And Victoria seems to be a bit bitter about the fact that Feo went and got married years and years ago, leaving Victoria to face the Kensington System all alone. Feo wavers between woe-is-me and passive aggression, plays chess with Albert, calls Victoria short, and shows up to dinner in a rather inappropriate gown. Fun times.
Abigail: A young Chartist who does embroidery for the queen.
Well, there are all these revolutions, you see. Victoria, pregnant with her sixth child (hi, prenatal Louise!) is a little distracted but doubts this conflagration will cross the Channel.
Albert is less sure about that. And because he’s a method ruler, he heads out into the real world for a bit to find out how the poors live and get a better grip on what some of those agitating for change in Britain are facing. He’s shocked to find 14 people living in one room and brings his report back to Victoria. He also calls Palmerston out on not having a clue what’s happening out there. Not that Palmerston seems to care.
For Victoria, the revolutions have mostly just created a housekeeping hassle
For Victoria, these revolutions have mostly just created a housekeeping hassle. She now has two unexpected royal guests on her hands, with no idea how long they might be staying (in Louis-Philippe’s case, the answer would end up being: until death). She doesn’t seem to mind having L-P around, but Feodora clearly rubs her wrong.
Outside the Palace, the Chartists are agitating. And they’re various levels of aggressive. There’s Abigail, who’s brought to the Palace by Skerritt and launched at the Queen, which would definitely have got her fired, but this is TV so Victoria just asks Abigail if she actually wants to see Victoria beheaded. Abigail swears she doesn’t, she loves the queen, she just wants to see the average man get a fair shake. And maybe the average woman, someday.
But others in her movement are far less passive, and they end up leading a mob to the Palace one night. Despite being stopped at the gates on the other side of the courtyard, one of them manages to throw a rock or something through the very window Victoria is standing in front of. Didn’t something just like this happen last season? Or something? This feels really familiar. Also, is Joe DiMaggio in that crowd? That’s a hell of an arm!
The shock sends Victoria into labour and puts the kibosh on Albert’s plan to pack the whole family off to Osborne House, like that would have been so much safer. Better to go to Windsor, really, at least that’s an actual fortress.
Oh, and belowstairs Francatelli is getting pretty eager to get married to Skerritt and buy a hotel that’s for sale. But Skerritt’s really conflicted about leaving because she feels that every time she does Victoria’s hair she’s playing her own role in history. It’s not that she likes the independence of having her own role separate from his or anything, it’s really that she likes dressing Victoria up. Eh, fair enough, not every female character needs to be some feminist icon.
So, that’s where we stand. Victoria’s birthing her baby, Palmerston’s rubbing his hands gleefully over the chaos on the Continent, Skerritt’s all conflicted and Louis-Philippe and Feodora are in a sort of social and political limbo.
And now we’ll see how it all plays out.