Best line of the night: ‘And so the torpid teuton wedges himself yet further into the sagging cleft of power.’ I just love this line so much that, I have no idea how, but somehow I am going to find a way to work it into conversation.
Again this week the Duke of Wellington is having trouble deciphering the fairer sex – and France is discovering, a couple hundred years too late, that when it came time for battle they should have nixed Napoleon and sent Josephine instead. Wellington commiserates with the Lord Chamberlain, who agrees, ‘women are queer cattle.’ Queer cattle? That’s quite the turn of phrase! Let’s just wedge ourselves into the sagging cleft of the ten essentials of Victoria, episode 6. Hopefully it shall be oh so diverting…
- Barf Bag: Victoria has got a Baby On Board
Lohlein is homesick and Victoria is just sick, period. At a private concert she launches into full on Linda Blair green pea soup mode. As soon as we see that queasy look wash across her face we know exactly what’s up (and so does every other woman in the Palace who can count). It only takes the doctor to confirm. In tears, Victoria must tell Albert, “pardon me for being impolite, but I’m pregnant.” Yes, the royal rabbit has died and terrified Victoria worries that she will be next. Thank you, Gretchen.
An announcement must be made to the privy counsel. For their ability to procreate successfully, the council gives the expectant couple a standing ovation (largely because there are no chairs in the council room), but immediately there’s a problem. Just like on Downton Abbey where every time one of the Crawley girls had sex it caused some kind of catastrophe that their parents had to find out about and help solve; Victoria’s sex life causes a full on Constitutional crisis. She wins.
Party of Poopers: The Tories, always the wet blankets, now have regency on the brain. All anyone can do is remind Victoria that she might die. You know how annoying it is for newlyweds to be constantly asked, “are you pregnant yet?” It’s kinda like that except the question is, “are you prepared to die yet?”
To make matters worse, with the happy news, Mummy Dearest shifts into high interference gear, force feeding Victoria a bilious-sounding concoction of brandy and cream for the nausea (which seems like it would make things worse, amirite?) Under Mummy Dearest’s orders, most food pregnant Victoria is allowed to eat are pretty disgusting. Brain soup, anyone? And most importantly, no laughing of any sort. Laughing is bad for baby – and the jury is out on smiling as well. And possibly breathing. This all sounds like a hold over from Sir John’s Kensington System.
Mummy also makes a point of reminding Victoria about poor Charlotte, whose death during childbirth made Victoria’s reign possible. Gee, thanks for reminding me of my biggest fear, mum. I feel so much better now. Please excuse me while I go put my head in the oven. Mummy insists that this baby is her work but Victoria doesn’t much like being treated like a broodmare. She vows that one day she will put Mummy in a leaky little row boat and push her out into the Atlantic. But for now she still roams the palace, terrorizing Victoria at will.
- Pregnant Pause
It is left to The Lord Chamberlain to remind the Queen she must appoint a Regent in case she dies in childbirth (no pressure). She has to keep reminding all miscellany that she’s not dead yet. If only everyone would stop reminding her about babies causing imminent death she’d be fine. The Regency answer is easy: Albert. Uh-oh. Playing swing this week, in the parts of Uncle Cumberland and Sir John, is the Duke of Wellington. The Privsters are not best pleased at Her Majesty’s choice of her hubby as Regent for their royal baby, should she die in childbirth, which is a possibility, remember. Wellington is looking for a puppet who can be managed and Albert ain’t it. Besides, he’s still Johnny Foreigner. They are desperate for an alternative. Why does this matter? Because they have to vote yay or nay on Victoria’s regency choice.
- I’m a Believer: Burnin’ Down the House
Albert insists to Victoria that she should be champion of change, and if she doesn’t want to be, he will. Victoria and Albert have a power struggle in their relationship that mirrors the power struggle in the country. He’s trying to grab the reigns of power, telling her what she should do. She thinks he is rather full of too much should. She decides what is the future!
By the same token she feels vulnerable and aside from death watch, worries he will feel revolted by her pregnant body. He assures her a love like theirs can burn down a city (causing Sir Robert to develop a fire service to go with his police force). They decide that when they are out in public they will reassure each other of their co-dependent love by doing the Carol Burnett ear tug. Softly, softly he is catching the monkey.
FYI: Ooh, ooh, ooh, baby, baby: With each pregnancy Victoria turned over more and more of her administrative duties to Albert. In some ways he was no different than Sir John or her Uncles, who all sought power by controlling Victoria. He came to the marriage with an agenda, to have lots of children to strategically marry into all the royal houses of Europe. Basically he’s running a royal baby mill.
- Oldies but (Not So) Goodies: The royal couple gets a mixed greeting from Staffordshire’s mixed nuts
Albert has been doing his homework. When he’s not sleeping with Victoria he’s sleeping with the almanac. Now it’s time for her to either get him on Jeopardy or introduce him to the nation. Victoria and Albert take a road trip into ‘the dark heart of the Tory shires’ (AKA, the red states) where their hosts prove that age is an attitude – and plenty of attitude they’ve got. Their host is snooty Sir Piers Giffard and his equally snooty old bat who think nothing of mocking their Sovereign at the dinner table, in front of other guests, with snide remarks and affected laughter at their expense.
Sir Piers is a proper olde English gentleman, though not too much a gentleman to slurp his wine. His ancestors came over with William the Conqueror and he’s got the paintings to prove it. To him the Hanovers (i.e.; the Queen and her family) are merely the huddled masses and he’s yearning to breathe free of them.
Everybody’s Doin’ the Locomotion…except Sir Piers who is one of those proudly holding back the tide of progress. No railroad for him. He also dismisses Albert’s interest in visiting local ceramics factories as being pedestrian and of the people (saying people like it was some communicable disease) because, of course, he ain’t people! He’s a glimmering glowing star in the Tory Shire firmament. He has no need for the little people, except when he wants to speak on their behalf, using them to make his argument that the railroad would be disruptive to their way of life. They prefer being stuck in an out-of-the-way corner of the country with no options and no way to get anywhere. He who owns land knows best.
Son of a Gun: Forget about factories and railroads, a more gentlemanly activity is planned: Shooting birds, something Sir Piers is quite sure he will best knuckle-dragger Albert at. Funnily enough, Albert’s unorthodox from the hip shooting style shows up the old aristos. He’s got birds dropping from the sky left and right and those aristos no likey.
At the shoot Sir Robert Peel turns up to make the scene. He lives in the neighborhood and was attracted by the sound of gunfire. Peel tries his best at making small talk with the Queen but is lacking the social skills required. Just laughing is a painful experience and he’s not even pregnant (that we know of). It’s so bad, the Peel family crest is pictures of wallflowers, an empty dance card and a bottle of Binaca. But, he’s a rising star in the Tory party. Those old school Tories want Peel to fight Albert’s regency tooth and nail, all except for Lord Giffard who mainly just wants him to stop hogging the port. Giffards does hold Wellington over Peel’s head though, as a threat to his Prime Ministerial prospects, to make him follow the party’s anti-Albert line. But Peel is not convinced. He has found a kindred spirit in forward thinking, fellow socially awkward Albert.
- Such a kidder, that butler
The Giffards and their friends are so openly dismissive of their Queen and her consort, even their Evil Butler thinks he can get in on the act. He attempts to sabotage Albert, to make him look the fool by instructing greenhorn Lohlein on the ‘proper kit’ he’ll need to go shooting – which is really entirely the wrong kit (i.e.; clown pants). Evil Butler also short-sheeted his bed and would have put a bag of flaming manure on the front porch, rung the bell and ran away, but he’d already been given a stern warning to stay away from the sheep, after a previous unrelated incident. Luckily, Mrs. Jenkins doesn’t miss a trick and she was on the case. She will not allow this to stand. She explains to Lohlein that he’s been had. When butler next appears it’s handbags at dawn, and Lohlein backhands the smirk right off his face. Evil Butler is now cringing. Like all bullies, he’s a coward.
FYI: The Big Chillington
The Giffard family really did descend from a knight who came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. There is no actual evidence that Queen Victoria ever visited Chillington Hall (the family home for 800 years), however Sir John Giffard spent thirty years in the court of King Henry VIII, and survived, though he likely would have ended up with his head on a spike had he been as dismissive to Henry as he was to Victoria!
- The Mummy Returns
With Victoria away, Mummy Dearest can only prey on Harriet, who has been assigned the unenviable task of keeping her company. Harriet is still missing Prince Ernie. Always knowing the right place to stick the knife, Mummy reminds her it’s never nice being left behind. But they maybe find a common meeting ground when Mummy mentions that Harriet has children like she has Victoria. When Victoria returns from her trip, there’s been an about face in Mummy’s prenatal instructions. She now says baby will tell Victoria what it wants. Did Harriet intervene and give Mummy advice?
- Face it: We start to see an Albert/Lehzen divide
It seems Lehzen has a face that can curdle mayonnaise. Albert and Francatelli are of the same mind; they want rid of her. Albert tries to prevent her from coming on the Toryshire road trip, saying she’s needed at the palace, but he was overruled. Lehzen is sounding board and shoulder; she and Victoria share inside jokes and affectionate nicknames. When Albert’s droning on about railways makes her want to barf, Lehzen is there with a protective umbrella shield. She thinks of everything and always has, like the mum she (essentially) is.
FYI: In real life, like Sir John and Mummy Dearest before him, Prince Albert really did want Victoria to get rid of Lehzen, but she would not. Pretty much no one in the palace liked Lehzen except Victoria, but hers was the opinion that counted. Growing up, Lehzen had been her protector and only ally; the only adult in her life who didn’t want to gain anything through her. In private, Victoria called Lehzen ‘mother’. But she was a cause of friction between Victoria and Albert, and eventually something would give (I won’t say what because it might be a spoiler). But for now she’s here, get used to it.
- Some Kind of Wonderful: Francatelli and Skerrett court with an assist from chocolate
Miss Skerrett and Chef Francatelli have moved past the awkward ‘are you stalking me?’ phase and onto the courtship phase. She is now his official taste tester/dessert muse. It is a mating dance. This dance is observed with nostalgic curiosity by Penge. He recognizes this dance. It’s the one he danced so long ago with the lost and found (and now, apparently, lost again) Hilde the dresser, of the misplaced love letters. Master Brodie, however, does not look on this mating dance with a similar undiluted pleasure. No, Brodie has a crush on Miss Skerrett and is rather jealous of Francatelli. This leads to Brodie confronting Francatelli about all the treats he’s making while the Queen is out of town, causing Penge to give him a smack upside the head for his trouble. No, Francatelli’s queen is right there, thank you very much.
FYI: La Bamba: Did Chef Francatelli really invent La Bombe Surprise?
It seems that since Victoria aired in the UK, this has been the burning question. La Bombe Surprise was invented in London, it was an iced pudding (what we’d call custard ice cream), shaped in a mold. While Mr. Francatelli did not invent it, he was known for inventing some of the most spectacular versions of it. One of them, Victoria Pudding, was pictured on the cover of his best-selling recipe book, The Royal Confectioner, published in 1864. La Bombe Surprise’s American cousin, Baked Alaska, was invented at Delmonico’s in New York City in 1867. Interesting to note that Francatelli might not have had the best opinion of Prince Albert; while he created many recipes named after Victoria, he only created one named after Albert; a sauce that was heavy on the horseradish.
- Whoop, There It Is: The Bromance of Albert and Sir Robert Peel
Albert finds himself strangely drawn to Sir Robert Peel who is trying, in his own awkward way, to be a charmer like Lord M. It turns out they are both futurists. It’s kind of odd to want to represent the future while also representing a system of monarchy and inherited power a thousand years old (that some would say was antiquated even then), but hey, we’ll give them points for trying.
- Choo Choo Charlie: Albert’s Magnificent Obsession with Peel’s Lionel Train
>Albert sneaks off to take a joy ride on Sir Robert’s train, against Victoria’s wishes. In her hormonal state Victoria seems to think Albert is cheating on her with Peel. We think this is silly, of course, until that moment when Albert stands on the bow of the speeding train, safe in Peel’s arms and exclaims, “I’m flying, Sir Robert! I’m flying!” There actually might be something for Victoria to worry about there, which would be a scandal of titanic proportions, but as long as he keeps getting Victoria pregnant, no one will suspect. Our lips are sealed.
In the meantime, Albert and Peel got in some good bonding time and put all their cards on the table. But they are going to need a lot of cooperation from the Tories to make the train run. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. For her part, at first Victoria was all ‘how dare you?’ over Albert disobeying her, but then she had a think and decided to take a ride on Peel’s flying machine herself and is charmed by the experience, creating a new aerobic exercise for Albert in the process.
In the end, Peel finds his feet and his voice. He stands up and forcefully commands his Tory party to accept and support their Queen’s choice of Regent. Wellington meets this Waterloo, and handles it with aplomb. He doesn’t want Peel to send back a postcard from the future. He goes with the flow. What did we learn from this? Albert is more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap Parliament in a single bound. Up in the sky, it’s Super Consort!
Yes, the world is on the move, Sir Piers. Keep calm and keep up. Oh snap! There it is.
HELLO!: But hey, forget about the railroad, forget about the new technology and commerce and travel; let’s not bury the lede here: Francatelli and Skerrett just invented chocolate covered cookies! Now that is some technology that truly changed the world!
What about you, Victorians? What is the technology (or relationship) in this episode that most surprised or interested you? Join the conversation below or Tweet using the hashtag #VictoriaPBS.