Wow. I kind of feel like a theme of this episode was ‘husbands can be controlling jerks. Non-husbands, on the other hand, can be great (or, at least, ok) guys!’
The court is still cooling its heels on the Isle of Wight, which suits exactly nobody besides Albert and Feo, though for different reasons.
For Albert, this place is his own little kingdom. He’s built it and decorated it and now gets to embark on educational experiments with his kids.
For those interested in the fact-or-fiction aspect of this show, yes, Albert really was VERY involved in the education of his children. His goals–to make them useful, well-rounded people–were laudable, but the methodology was rather problematic. See, it seems he viewed the kids more as test subjects (and the girls as liberal Trojan horses, bringing progressive ideas to backwards European nations through marriage) than as actual people with varying abilities and interests.
Albert viewed his children more as test subjects than as actual people with varying abilities and interests
Bertie, especially, suffered under Albert’s regime, which we get to see this episode. Albert can’t get over the fact that Bertie just doesn’t learn the way Vicky does (the show seems to suggest that Bertie had dyslexia, or some other learning disability), and he makes constant mention of it right in front of Bertie. Lord, Albert.
This bullying really rankles Victoria, who’s also irritated by the fact she’s stuck on an island instead of in London, where things are happening. Palmerston has welcomed a monarchy-hating Hungarian politician named Kossuth to London with almost literal open arms. Victoria and Albert are so furious they immediately summon Palmerston and the PM to Osborne to explain themselves.
The quick jaunt to Osborne gives Palmerston the opportunity to ooze up to Sophie, who is as furious with her husband for his treatment of their son as Victoria is with hers. Her rage makes her receptive to his reptilian advances, but when Palmerston tries to sneak into her bedroom late at night (uninvited, I must mention), he stumbles instead on Feo, who swapped bedrooms with Sophie because Sophie has the better view.
Lucky Feo, this is just the sort of fumble she needed. See, Palmerston knows it’s 100% safe for Feo to go home, and he makes sure she knows he knows she’s up to something. That something, at the moment, appears to be playing Victoria and Albert off of each other. She sidles up to Victoria, all sisterly and supportive, then runs off to Albert and suggests Victoria might be going insane. What a great houseguest! She makes it clear to Palmerston she won’t tell anyone about his nighttime antics if he keeps quiet about her home being safe, so she can stay in England.
If that wasn’t enough to scare Palmerston off, then a stern talking-to by one of the other ladies-in-waiting does. The woman (Lady Portman), who knows from very personal experience what Palmerston is like, tells him to lay off Sophie, because what she needs he can’t offer. He agrees, and dumps Sophie a little harshly. When she (rightly) looks as if she’s been slapped, he softens and tells her he’s really no good for her.
Sophie runs off in tears and Joseph, the new footman, comforts her. They bond. Later, Joseph is fired for taking a dip in the sea instead of going to church, and she steps in and makes Penge rehire him.
In other domestic news: Francatelli went ahead and handed in his notice. He immediately starts putting pressure on Skerrett to do likewise, although it seems odd and kind of stupid of them to do that here, when they’ll have to go through the hassle of making their own way home. Why not quit while they’re in London? Skerrett is still reluctant to give up the job, and strangely, her husband whining about how she has to work during her working hours or at least be available to work does not immediately persuade her. But she eventually, comes clean to Victoria and tells her it’s time to move on.
Victoria’s face, at that point, is basically, ‘Oh, yes, this is what I need right now.’ She wants to go back to London, but Albert sniffs that she only wants to return because she misses the adulation of her subjects. Which is a really shitty thing for him to say, really. She’s the queen, and at a time of immense political unrest, she’s laying low in a giant Italianate mansion on an island, reading books and watching her kids enact mock battles from the Continental wars. And constantly telling Albert to stop being such a shit to their son all the time.
Victoria has a talk with Palmerston and asks him to lay out his argument for letting Kossuth stay in the country (a move which, I might point out, has not been well received by the Austro-Hungarian Emperor). Palmerston tells her that Kossuth is really popular and if she tries to shut him down, she’ll look despotic. And despotism has already riled so many nations on the Continent. He suggests she just let the man have his say, and then be on his way.
Victoria agrees, to Albert’s fury. Their simmering rage with each other comes to a head over dinner one night. She calls him out on being an ass to Bertie yet again and he sniffs that she doesn’t deserve respect. That gets him a glass of wine to the face in front of everyone (an incident that apparently actually happened at some point in their marriage).
The queen decides she’s done with this holiday and announces her intention to return to London. Albert can stay, if he wishes, but she feels she has work to do. He sulkily accompanies her, but once they’re back at Buckingham Palace he locks himself in his room. Ahh, the ultimate show of adolescent petulance. Honestly, you two, you rule over one of the largest and most powerful empires in the world. Get your shit together.