Albert is very, very busy with the Great Exhibition. It’s not entirely clear what he’s doing, but whatever it is, it’s consuming most of his time and energy. He’s so exhausted he ends up passing out in his study late at night, and young Bertie skips ahead about ten years and thinks his father’s gone and died on them.
He hasn’t; it’s fine. But the press still hates the Exhibition even though they don’t have anything to judge it on yet. Palmerston shrugs that the Brits hate anything that calls itself ‘great’ because that’s just unseemly, you know. Seems they’re not too keen on those who call themselves ’emperors’ either, as there’s considerable backlash when Palmerston comes out publicly in support of Napoleon III, who’s recently made himself the Emperor of the French. (‘Can one do that? Just name oneself emperor?’ Victoria wonders, ignoring the fact that the last guy who had that same title did basically just that. There’s precedent.)
That new emperor is a juicy marital plum that Feo just can’t resist, once Palmerston puts it in her head that Napoleon III might be a good match for her charming daughter. Young Adelheid is being mooted as a partner for some minor German princeling by Albert, though Bertie, deep in the throes of his first crush, seems to have some views on that.
Albert is not so swamped with the Exhibition that he can’t take some time out to try and work out young Princess Vicky’s matrimonial future. He has Prince Frederick, the heir to the Prussian throne in mind for her. Now, remember, this girl is only about 11 years old and Frederick was 19, which is a bit creepy on a number of levels. But yes, historically accurate. They were engaged when she was only 15 years old. Lucky for them it worked out, in a sense. They genuinely loved each other, but it turns out the Prussian court was not a good fit for Vicky. But that’s a story for another season.
Palmerston’s support of Napoleon puts him at odds with the government, which holds a vote of no confidence and forces him to resign. His wife, who’s come to town for the Exhibition, is unruffled by all this, because she knows it just frees him up to become PM soon. But not being foreign secretary anymore means he won’t be able to help Feo arrange a marriage between Heidi and Napoleon, which bothers her far more than it bothers him. Although, since Bertie went ahead and proposed to her daughter, I guess she kind of has him to fall back on.
Victoria, while trying to support her husband in his various plans, is also pretty concerned about Sophie. Turns out Sophie isn’t just any lady-in-waiting, she’s Mistress of the Robes, which basically made her chief lady-in-waiting. It was a hugely important ceremonial role at the court, so it’s not as if she can simply disappear and nobody’s going to notice.
The Duke has put the story about that she’s unwell, but Victoria thinks that’s a bit bunk and sends Abigail to make inquiries. Abigail finds out that Sophie’s being held in a locked room at her London home. When Victoria finds out, she sends for the Duke and makes it clear that Sophie will be present for the opening of the Great Exhibition.
The Exhibition opens and, as we all know, it’s a huge success. While there, Sophie gets a chance to steal away to talk to Joseph, which seems both incredibly risky and incredibly stupid, considering how on top of her her husband is just now. Joseph once again urges her to run away with him, asking her to meet him at the train station the next day.
Do any of us really think this is going to happen? I don’t. Both Victoria and Lady Portman have private chats with her that basically amount to: ‘Look, we all know what you’re doing here, and we’re not going to go into specifics, but for your own sake, stop. Remember your son.’
The last we see is Joseph standing at the train station, waiting. We don’t know if Sophie goes, but my money’s on not going. Especially since Victoria has made staying more palatable by offering her a home separate from the Duke. Like that’s not going to cause tons of gossip.
Albert finds out about Feo’s plans to try and marry her daughter to Napoleon and he is livid. Now, now that she’s done something that interferes with his life and plans, he decides she’s a no-good troublemaker and she needs to go. Albert, you make it so hard to like you sometimes.
Now that her husband agrees with her that Feo is a nut who can just f-off right back to her tiny German duchy, Victoria can be magnanimous. She runs after her rather put-out sister and extends an olive branch, since the are family and all. But I don’t quite know if Feo’s having it. For those interested, Heidi would go on to marry the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein in 1856. Their eldest daughter went on to marry Vicky and Frederick’s eldest son, the future Kaiser Wilhelm.
So, there it is: Feo is gone, Sophie is dithering, Bertie is heartbroken, Palmerston is on his way to be PM, and Albert is collapsing at his wife’s feet, no doubt from exhaustion from all that Exhibitioning. And we could be anxious about that, but: history. We know he lives another decade.