It’s time for the Great Exhibition! Albert is in charge, and along with his crony, Mr Cole (for some reason played as an American, even though Cole was born in Bath), are determined to make it the Biggest. Thing. Ever. And to hell with the cost. The very British board charged with putting this thing on are basically, ‘mumble mumble *expense* mumble mumble *failure*’ and the press freaks out about how Hyde Park will be ruined, the nation beggared, and trees felled. It’s all enough to put Albert into quite the pout.
Victoria, concerned that her husband might actually have to deal with some flack here (not that it’s the first time he’s had to tackle that), hatches a plot with the retiring Duke of Wellington to make Albert head of the armed forces. This is patently ludicrous, because although Albert is an excellent administrator, he’s not actually a military man. At all. It seems like it’s the one thing he didn’t do.
Albert’s not interested in the job anyway, because he has the Great Exhibition to plan, you know. But that’s not going so well. Nobody can come up with a design for a building that can be constructed quickly enough, cheaply enough, or big enough for this event. And the newspapers are raking him over the coals almost as much as they are Palmerston, who’s ordered a military blockade of Athens because of the harassment of a single British citizen. If that seems like an overreaction, it is, and it’s mostly to make a show of strength to the Russians. That’s about as deeply as the show’s willing to go into this rather insane event.
Anyway, all this bad press gets Albert in a bit of a funk, so when Feo excitedly urges him to take on the military job, he just gives up on the Exhibition and decides to take it. But not before he takes a ridiculous emo walk in the pouring rain.
Victoria has, in the interim, reconsidered her position and has decided that Albert should dedicate himself to the Great Exhibition after all, because it’ll be a sort of monument to him and his awesomeness. I really wish some of that awesomeness had been on show this season, instead of endless nastiness, insults, and gaslighting. She chases him through the gardens and tells him she was totally wrong to try and give him the army job. She was so, so wrong, and Albert was so, so right! And now all is right again with their marriage. Yeah, really, it felt about that organic. And yes, I am disgusted that Albert’s terrible behaviour of late is given a pass.
Victoria’s been making peace left and right. At the urging of Palmerston, she extends an olive branch to her sister (takes a few tries before Feo actually takes it. The two bond over their mutual loathing of their mother, who seems to have disappeared completely.) Victoria agrees to grant Feo a favour, and Feo asks that her daughter, Adelheide, be allowed to come to England. Victoria agrees and the girl arrives. Bertie seems a little smitten.
Work on the Exhibition moves forward, thanks to the help of Joseph Paxton. Paxton, an extremely innovative gardener, suggests building a giant prefab building of glass and iron, which can be put up and taken down quickly and built around the trees everyone’s so worried about losing. The Exhibition is saved!
And Albert learns to just ignore the bad press, just as Palmerston does. And just as it does with Palmerston, the press finds something else to worry about soon enough.
Meanwhile, the Duke of Monmouth enlists Penge’s help in spying on his wife, who’s trysting with Joseph in some summerhouse-type building on the Palace grounds.
Joseph wants the two of them to run away to California, where he’s sure to strike it rich in the gold fields. He’d need to, because Sophie would have nothing if she left her husband: all her money is his now. Not that it matters, because we all know there’s no way Sophie would leave her son.
Sophie finally starts to realise her husband knows what’s up, but when she tells Joseph, he basically just shrugs. And then he tells her the Duke will be too embarrassed by this whole thing to make a big deal out of it and will probably just pay Joseph off to keep quiet. Just like the “Duke of Chatsworth” did.
Ugh, that was a clanger of a line on a number of levels. First off, the Duke of Chatsworth? No. No, no, no. There is no Duke of Chatsworth. It’s the Duke of Devonshire. Chatsworth is one of his country houses. I wouldn’t be quite so annoyed by this if it weren’t for the fact that the family Joseph used to work for is referred to numerous times as the Cavendishes, so they obviously mean the Duke of Devonshire. They’re not just making up a title for the show, as they did with the Monmoths (kinda).
Also: the Duke of Devonshire at this time was rather famously called “the bachelor duke” for obvious reasons. So there was no duchess for Joseph to sleep with.
(Fun fact, though: he was Paxton’s employer. Paxton first built one of these massive iron-and-glass buildings at Chatsworth. It was one of the greenhouses, and was so ruinously expensive to heat it was finally demolished in the 1920s.)
But also: this clues Sophie in to the fact that Joseph collects duchesses, if you will. He swears he loves her, that the Duchess of Devonshire was just a fling, and that he really wants to be with Sophie. Sure, ok.
Conflicted, Sophie goes home to greet her son, who’s back from school. But she, instead, is greeted by a pair of doctors whom have been called in by her husband to certify his wife as insane. Sophie is carted off, screaming. Sadly, this was totally something Victorian husbands could do. Easily.
So, going into the last episode, we’ve got Sophie locked up, Victoria and Albert once again in lockstep, and the Great Exhibition ready to rock. I’d say we’ll see how this all goes, except, you know: history. Full of spoilers.