So now that Victoria’s safely married off, it’s time for Europe’s attention to turn to the other young queen regnant: Isabella of Spain. ‘Let’s find her a husband,’ shout the male throneholders of Europe, collectively.
In corner A is the French king, Louis Philippe, who’s looking for a royal spouse for his youngest son, Antoine, because Louis is worried Antoine might actually have to work for a living otherwise. Heaven forbid!
In corner B is (you guessed it!) Uncle Leopold, who has a nephew or something that he’s shoving forward. Leopold is poor in tact but definitely rich in single nephews, eh? Also: fun fact! Leopold’s wife was Louis Philippe’s eldest daughter!
The British are NOT ok with their traditional enemy, France, allying so closely with the mighty Spanish empire. Victoria thinks she should just write Louis Phlippe a note, monarch to monarch, urging him to abandon this match. It’s adorable that she actually thinks that’ll work.
Peel turns to Albert and asks him to convince her not to write that letter, because it might then seem like they’re trying to stack the decks in favour of Uncle Leopold’s groom. Albert’s still in a funk, post ‘I’m your uncle/father’, so he’s not too interested in doing much here. He does kind of mention leaving off the letter, but Victoria just seizes on that and decides it’d be better to just go to France in person and ask Louis Philippe not to go through with this. Hey, whatever gets you a free trip to France, I guess!
Off they all go, with the Duchess of Buccleuch in tow. She, of course, is a total English stereotype this episode. She hates the French! She hates France! She doesn’t understand the food and just wants some tea and toast! Which they have but don’t seem to understand what she’s asking for (I amuse myself by pretending that the footman she’s yelling at totally understands what she wants but is just messing with her and feigning ignorance.).
Also along on this trip are Lord Alfred, a member of the royal household, and Mr Drummond, who works for Peel. These two pretty, pretty boys have been having a…thing. Kind of. They’re flirting all over the place, but then Lord Alfred learned that Drummond’s engaged, so he pouts halfway to France, but then loosens up and, actually, these two start to become a bit fun.
In France, the French are total stereotypes as well. They’re invaders of personal space! They kiss on both cheeks! They wear makeup and are snotty! They have amazing food and elaborate rituals for eating it!
Victoria decides she’s going to have a bit of fun here and asks Skerrett to score her some cosmetics so she can ‘enhance herself’ a la francaise.
Albert, being Albert, HATES France and all the Frenchiness therein. He clearly thinks all the women are whores and the guys are gross and is shocked when he sees his wife with (some extremely modest, I must say) rouge on her. He tells her how much he hates it, as they get ready for bed, and she’s like, ‘I don’t even know what to do with you anymore. WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?’
Oh, and Ernest is there as well, because David Oakes is now a regular cast member and they just need to keep inserting him. I’m not complaining, mind, because Ernest is much more fun than Albert and I’m enjoying seeing David Oakes as someone other than a crazed, violent, rapist, so I’m all for it.
While Victoria tries to get a reluctant Louis Philippe to talk marriage treaties, Albert pouts and talks about how fake it all is and how much he just wants some nature. He’s out-Walden-ing Thoreau at this point, which is surprising for someone as into technology as Albert is. Is that not also a sort of artifice?
He finally finds his happy place in a freezing cold but idyllic woodland lake, after stomping away from a lovely looking garden party. He dives in, and Drummond and Alfred are only too eager to strip to their birthday suits and follow. Ernest takes a dip as well, though he keeps most of his clothes on. Prince Antoine just kind of rolls his eyes at these crazy English and Germans, with their love of bathing in cold water. What can I say, Antoine, they breed ’em seriously tough in Germany and Britain! If you don’t like swimming in cold water, you’re not swimming at all!
Victoria and a few ladies wander by and get an eyeful, which just amuses Victoria. She decides to have a little fun with Albert, though, so when he gets back to their room later she pretends for all of ten seconds to be really angry with him. But then she starts smiling and laughing and Albert, who apparently had that rod up his bum dissolved by the water, gets playful and the two of them clearly have a bit of holiday sex before Albert finally opens up to her about Leopold’s confession. Victoria couldn’t care a jot who Albert’s father is or was, so Albert relaxes and agrees to try and help her out with Louis Philippe, who’s been refusing to discuss the Spanish matter.
That evening, Victoria brings up the subject, and Albert jumps in and employs a really strange and confusing metaphor using a bunch of grapes that basically boils down to: how about neither of us go for the little queen, eh? That way Britain doesn’t get mad at France, France doesn’t get mad at Britain, and some minor princeling or grand duke from Whereveristan can marry this girl. No war! Win-win!
Louis Philippe agrees. The English people go home. And then hear that Antoine has got engaged to Isabella after all. The French are liars, you know. But cheer up, Victoria: Antoine didn’t marry Isabella of Spain after all. He married her little sister, tried to grab the Spanish throne years later, lost, and had to content himself with seeing his daughter, Mercedes, become Queen of Spain after marrying her first cousin, Isabella’s son, who became the king. And there’s your marital history for the day, folks!