‘We are not amused.’ Finally she says it! This is the phrase Victoria is most known for, and haven’t we been waiting for her to say it all season long? A great storyteller like Daisy Goodwin must know that, so naturally she waited until the last episode for Victoria to deliver. (No pun intended!) It’s just like the Rockettes; they know everyone goes to Radio City expecting that fabulous high kick line, so they don’t put it at the beginning of the show. They build to it and deliver it at the climax. Victoria goes out kicking too. Color us amused. Here’s something else you may find amusing – the Thirteen essentials of Victoria Season 1, Episode 7…
Roses are red, Violets are tossed. Ignore one troll too many and Penge will squeal to Albert till you feel the cost
When Victoria needs assurance, it is Lehzen who is always there for her, unconditionally. Lehzen still sees her. Just her. But the air in the palace crackles with resentment between Albert and Lehzen. She bursts in on intimate moments, and sniffs and glares at Albert whenever they brush past each other. He’d like her gone, and might Penge have presently given him just the one-way ticket he’s been looking for?
Lehzen handles all of Victoria’s private correspondence. She giggles at trolls and ignores stalkers professing love, not understanding the dangers they pose to the Queen. That is all fine and dandy until one day Victoria is out for her usual afternoon drive and her open carriage gets stalled behind an overturned tractor trailer on the turnpike. Out of the crowd gathering around her steps Victoria’s stalker, nutty Captain Childers. (He was such a nice farmer the last time we saw him!) He thinks he can save Victoria the way he thought he could save Lady Edith and her baby. He tosses her a bouquet and apologizes for approaching Her Majesty, but he wants her to know he is a super hero who can save her, not from road obstruction, but from German sausage destruction. He is dragged away feet first and tossed in the Thames, never to be heard from again. So much for saying it with flowers. Victoria is shaken, but not stirred enough to blame it on Lehzen. Others, not so much.
Sealed With a Kiss: When Penge had expressed outrage over Lehzen tossing stalker letters in her circular file, Lehzen gave him a word of warning; she knows he was Sir John’s creature and has never accepted that there’s a new sheriff in town, but it’s about time he did. Seeing an opportunity, Penge goes running to his preferred German tyrant, Albert, with an out-of-earshot story about Lehzen and the Queen’s safety. The extent of Penge’s care for Victoria’s welfare extends no further than where it intersects with his own employment, but Albert doesn’t know that. (Or maybe he does but just views Penge’s complaints as a convenient end to an inconvenient bedchamber interloper.) Lehzen, on the other hand, is Victoria’s surrogate mother and lives to serve her. When Albert calls her in to question her about Captain Childers she dismisses him, saying Victoria knew all about it and didn’t find him a threat. When Albert demands that all future correspondence now go directly to Her Majesty, she dares respond to His Royal Highness with, “is that the Queen’s wish?” Snap! But he snaps back and orders Penge to bring all mail to him in future.
FYI: The Mall: Do you find it disconcerting whenever they show the Buckingham Palace exteriors because it looks so different from what we are accustomed to seeing? I do and I looked into it. It turns out that the Mall (which the way Brits pronounce it rhymes with Al, not all) started out as just a tree lined path, the way we see it on Victoria. But as part of a redevelopment program in the early 20th Century, it was re-imagined as a place for major National ceremonies, a half mile long, with Buckingham Palace on one end and the arch leading to Trafalgar Square on the other. As part of the same redevelopment the facade for Buckingham Palace was reconstructed into what we see today, and the Victoria Memorial was created and installed right out front. If you ever visit London (and you should), The Mall is closed to vehicular traffic on Sundays, so you can just stroll right on up the middle of the boulevard like you’re one of Queen Elizabeth’s show ponies!
- Goodnight Nurse
Victoria doesn’t want to be like mummy, who wants a medal for the burden of not (immediately) turning baby Vicky over to nannies. She directs Lehzen to find a wet nurse, but wet nurses are outside Lehzen’s wheelhouse. She needs assistance and gets it from Jenkins. Mrs. Jenkins’ help wanted advert brings all the nurses to the yard. And though she seems to employ rather the same vetting technique Roger Ailes used to select Fox News anchors, she does manage to find a suitable candidate for the royal bundle of joy.
- I Wanna Be Free: Who puts the ape in apricot?
If she only had the nerve, and she does; Victoria does not allow the Captain Childers episode to deter her. But on one of Victoria’s regular afternoon drives in Green Park, another man pushes through the crowd and this time he’s not tossing violets; he fires a fires a gun. He is Edward Oxford and he’s been practicing shooting at queen-shaped targets. He has already let the maid overhear him read from a letter she’d just delivered to him, written by what sounded like a co-conspirators from the Young England society, “do nothing until you receive instructions from Hanover.” He is also cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. We know he is crazy because he doesn’t stop smiling, even when being tackled to the ground at the hands of bystanders or interrogated by the police.
Easy does it: Oxford is charged with treason. If convicted he’ll be hanged, drawn and quartered, but right from the get go things don’t add up. It turns out his co-conspirators were just characters from the book Mr. Midshipman Easy. The novel was his Catcher in the Rye. Under questioning he’s asked if those instructions from Hanover were coming from a royal personage in Hanover. Oxford is non-committal, but it turned out the Young England Society was nothing but a fantasy in his head, and the cops searching for evidence cannot find any bullets at the scene. It seems the prosecution will fall apart. Victoria fears (rightfully so) that if Oxford is acquitted she will be forever a prisoner in the palace – and so will her children. She spent her childhood held captive and she doesn’t want to go back there. In the end, Oxford is not convicted of treason. Instead he is detained at Bedlam at Her Majesty’s pleasure (even though, truly, her pleasure would be for a harsher punishment). Albert is incensed and so is Victoria, but she reminds him that she took the Coronation Oath to uphold the laws of the land and uphold them she will. She accepts the verdict and goes out for a ride to show she is not afraid. Sir Robert seconds that emotion. What makes a Queen out of a slave? Courage!
FYI: Mr. Midshipman Easy was a novel by Frederick Marryat, published in 1836, about the adventures of a spoiled boy who joins the Navy. He’d grown up in a home with an eccentric father who espoused radical political views rejecting the idea of private property. Easy came to adopt those same views but later, when tragic opportunity arises, he changes his mind and becomes a wealthy gentleman at others’ expense.
FYI: Edward Oxford was the first of eight people who tried to assassinate Queen Victoria over her long reign. After his arrest, family and friends told authorities that there was a history of mental problems in his family, citing that even as a child he was prone to ‘inappropriate smiling’. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and spent the next 27 years committed to ‘lunatic asylums’ where he learned to play the violin and speak three languages. He was eventually released on the condition he leave for an overseas Colony of Empire, and told if he ever returned to England he’d be locked up for life. He changed his name and spent the rest of his life in (ironically) Melbourne, Australia where he married a widow with two kids and lived in anonymity until the tabloids came knocking years later. Even his new family had no idea who he was. While the Young England Society Edward Oxford claimed to belong to did not exist, a Young England political party formed later among Tory aristocrats. And the lunatic asylum he was committed to, the Bethlem Royal Hospital, was nicknamed ‘Bedlam’ and was the origin of the word.
- Promise, Promises: Miss Skerrett says no to the dress…
There’s good news and bad news on the Francatelli front. The good news: White’s Club has offered him his own restaurant and he wants to take Miss Skerrett (AKA Nancy) with him. The bad news: he proposes to Nancy with the skeptical face but she isn’t so sure he can offer her anything better than what’s on offer at the palace (i.e., her job). While she debates whether to take the deal or go for what’s behind door number two, she delivers a basket of Francatelli’s treats to her friend Original Miss Skerrett with this (potentially) good news. Cue the rain on her parade. Original Miss Skerrett is not having it. She is all through with promises. Promises left her with nothing but a little bundle of joy. Her advice to Nancy? Don’t trust him; he’s a man. Stick with your job and your independence (and keep sending me those checks).
Was this bad advice? Was it sincerity or simply jealousy that her friend is moving onward and upward while she sits in her hovel waiting for care packages? We don’t know. But we do know that as a result, rejected Francatelli has gone, walking out into the London snow and disappearing into the crowds without so much as a goodbye, leaving Miss Nancy Skerrett crying — and right there is your season 1 cliff hanger, kids!
FYI: What’s Cooking?: What are we to make of this kitchen cliff hanger? The real Chef Charles Elme Francatelli worked for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace for less than two years. The real Miss Skerrett (Marianne) worked for Victoria for over 25 years – but then, as we’ve discussed in a previous recap, the character Miss Skerrett is not much like the real person. She is actually a fictional character given the name of a real person – so we have no clues as to what might happen next season. In case we never see Francatelli at the palace again, we should note that he left quite a legacy behind. He was a culinary star before he joined the royal household and an even bigger one after he left – and you can still find his best-selling cook books in print.
FYI: Not your average Hooters: White’s Club is the oldest and most exclusive gentleman’s club in London, established in 1693 in St. James, Westminster and exists to this day. It’s where Prince Charles held his stag night before marrying Diana Spencer. (Women are not permitted inside the club though, so it’s doubtful Camilla jumped out of the cake.)
- Monarch Butterfly: Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better
Nominee for the Cartoon Villain Hall Of Fame, Uncle Cumberland, slithers back to court, for baby death watch. He is now King of Hanover, but why be King of Nothing Little Hanover when you could be King of Grand Olde England – if only something unfortunate would/could happen to the little lady in your path? Mrs. Cumberland did not accompany him on this trip. She remained at home sticking pins in her Victoria 123 doll. Heir Presumptive Cumberland is practically drooling in anticipation of Victoria’s imminent demise. Sir Robert warns clueless Albert that Cumberland is next in that all important line to the throne and may want to jump said line, so watch out.
Cumberland turns up at the palace for an audience, where everyone is obviously so happy to see him (she said sarcastically). He brags about the size of the crowds welcoming him back. They were the biggest ever. Huge! Uncle Leo dismisses such braggadocio as London rabble being easily procured. Undeterred, he dares mention to Victoria the much mentioned unmentionable, what might happen if she dies in childbirth. Can any of these people give Victoria a moments peace without reminding her of Dead Charlotte? Uncle Leo comes to her aid and reminds Cumberland that no one wanted him as regent anyway, so run along. It’s interesting to note that Victoria doesn’t give Cumberland permission to approach. She leaves him awkwardly twisting across the room. Sensing it’s time to exit, Cumberland oozes across the floor and out the door trailing an ominous warning behind him. His niece should take care; it would be unfortunate if anything happened to her. This causes Albert to change his facial expression.
- Upstairs, Downstairs
Cumberland’s arrival inspires Mr. Penge, ever the optimist, to forecast all sorts of baby-related doom to his captive servant’s table audience, causing Mrs. Jenkins to nervously whittle her apple down to nothing and smash her tea saucer before shouting that the Queen is a young healthy woman and there is no reason to fear. But Penge insists they dig bomb shelters and stock up on canned goods and toilet paper just in case.
- Mud is the name, Regicide is the game
After the Oxford incident, the Tories at the club go all Mean Girls on Cumberland, turning their backs as he walks through, and he is incensed he’s gotten the cut direct (a public snubbing) from his old buddies. He can’t imagine why. Seriously? The Tories may not have been Team Albert, or even Team Victoria when it came to it, but at the end of the day it is just as Lord M said, the thing that would cause them all to rally behind their Queen was the thought of having her replaced by Cumberland.
Uncle Cumberland ponders how anyone could think he’d ever want to hurt a hair on his niece’s little head, forgetting the fact that everyone knows he’s spent the last twenty years trying to do just that, seeking Tory support to yank the throne out from under her. Now he doth protest too much. Sir Robert notes how the timing of the attacks and his visit is a little too coincidental. Cumberland claims that childbirth dangerous business and who can blame an heir presumptive for wanting to be in the room where it happens when it all goes pear shaped? Peel tells him, we’ve got this; no need to worry your pretty little head about it. Buh-bye.
Now, when Cumberland has an audience with Victoria and tries to approach her, the palace guard reaches to draw his sword. The jig is truly up. As Uncle Cumberland begins to tell her how he’d handle things, Victoria has her Norma Rae moment, an epiphany, when she realizes who she is. She has grown into that crown she once thought would be too big for her. The Queen tells her slimy uncle that no matter her faults, ‘I am a better Monarch than you could ever be!’ She drops the mic and waddles out of the throne room, leaving Cumberland in her pixie dust.
FYI: Diamonds are a King’s Best Friend, not!: You could write an entire mini-series on the evil doings of the Duke of Cumberland – now the King of Hanover. Among the many serious accusations that swirled around him were that he murdered his valet (There was actually some evidence he did.), and fathered a son by his sister, Princess Sophia. Sophia insisted that no woman should ever be left alone with him. Before Victoria ascended to the throne there were rumors that Cumberland planned to murder her so he could have the throne for himself. His brother, King William IV, was so worried he tried to pack him off to Hanover to keep him away from Victoria. He wanted to marry his first cousin, but she was already (unhappily) married. She decided to leave her husband, but then her husband conveniently died so there was no need for a divorce after all. Rumors were she’d poisoned him. Politically, Cumberland was an extreme Tory, and once he inherited Hanover’s throne, he dissolved Parliament and suspended the constitution. One wonders if that might have been his plan for England as well.
Cumberland had numerous legal tangles with Victoria. He even claimed that the family jewels, AKA Charlotte’s diamonds (which were inherited by Victoria), should actually belong to him. When Victoria would not turn them over, he took her to arbitration, but one of the members of the arbitration board mysteriously died the night before the decision was to be announced. Cumberland wanted another arbitration, but Victoria refused to permit it and took to wearing Charlotte’s diamonds at every public opportunity just to rub it in his face. Go Vicky!
- Flirt Alert!: Bert & Ernie (& Harriet), together again!
Like the proverbial bad penny, Ernie returns. He’s working for the USO now and has come to rally the troops. He’s also on a mission to return the Duchess of Sutherland’s dropped hanky. Upon seeing him, shocked Emma lifts her skirts and sprints away in terror lest she be tainted by the impending scandal.
Ernie’s been back in Coburg writing sad songs because sad songs say so much, and now it’s time to croon. He and Harriet make beautiful music together. The Duchess admits to her feelings, that despite what she said when they parted months ago, it was more than a harmless flirtation for her too. However she doesn’t know what to think. Ernie doesn’t think, he just feels, but Harriet is married and doesn’t have the luxury of feeling. Not even for a quickie, he asks? Nope. Not even. Via Brody, Ernie makes a booty call by proxy and visits the Duchess in her boudoir where she awaits him half dressed. Only six layers instead of the normal twelve. Pretty racy, actually. At his request she lets her hair down and they share a passionate kiss. When he asked her if she’d give him the favor he asked for in the letter, I know all you readers with dirty minds thought he meant something else, didn’t you? Admit it, you did. We’re all like Albert in that way. Turns out all he wanted was a love knot. Well, he wanted more than that but he settled for the love knot. Theirs is the story of a hanky lost and found, and a love found and lost.
Busted: Sadly all Ernie’s best laid plans come unglued when someone saw him coming out of the Harriet’s room and tattled to Albert (I bet it was Penge.) and Albert called him out. Interesting that Albert assumes the worst of the two most loyal people to him and Victoria: Ernie (to him) and Lehzen (to Victoria). He’s a bit of a scold, that Albert. While the real Prince Ernie was not so charming, on this day it was Ernie’s turn to take the moral high ground. There was no funny business with Harriet, except for a wonky coiffure. He assures Albert that he could have had it all, but out of love, all he took from the Duchess was a lock of her hair as a talisman – which is just as well because how would the Duchess have explained to her husband how she got the venereal disease (that the real Ernie was known to have)?
- To be, or not to be? Enough with the questions already
Meanwhile, what about Brody? Could working for Prince Ernie be his big break? Could it lead to a new job?New horizons? A date with Gretchen? Who knows? But while Penge insists that too much Shakespeare can be a dangerous thing, we think Brody should stick with it. After all, to thine ownself be true. Then again, ‘Have you been at the gin?’ just might become my new go-to replacement for ‘are you nuts?’ (something I find myself saying more and more often these days).
- It’s Showtime!: Ooh, ooh, ooh, baby, baby
Victoria frets that she’s become nothing but a means to an end, a vessel, invisible but for the cargo she contains. Albert is not so sympathetic, but Lehzen assures her otherwise. She’s also worried that all the baby gifts she is receiving are tempting fate. It doesn’t help that seeing a Queen waddling about the place makes visiting Uncle Leo all misty remembering his Poor Dear Charlotte. Victoria could probably do without him telling her how much she reminds him so much of Poor Dear Charlotte, you know, the one who died. ‘Have I ever mentioned my wife who died in childbirth?’ Sigh. Though they did share a moment there on the settee.
Victoria goes into labor and it’s time to meet her biggest fear. To make things even more stressful, right outside the royal bedchamber is an SRO crowd who get a bird’s eye view of the royal hoo-ha every time someone throws the doors open. One wonders how much scalpers charged for those tickets. When the doors swing open, Victoria screams for Albert and for her mama (who is thrilled to be summoned instead of sent away). It’s time to grab hand and push, but wait, forget about all that! There’s nobody to catch the baby! What is the doctor doing? Shouldn’t he be down at the business end? I’ve watched Call the Midwife since episode one so I’m kind of an expert on childbirth. That’s how I know there needs to be a catcher so that one push too many doesn’t make the baby fly across the room – otherwise she may as well give birth in the back of a cab. Sister Evangelina would not be pleased with this situation.
All’s well that ends well: Set down your worries. Mother and baby came through unscathed. And it’s a girl! – named Victoria (not Elizabeth) after a great Queen (take that Lady Flora)!
- De-liver de-letter de-sooner de-better
And just like that, the mail delivery to Lehzen resumes, no longer haphazardly tossed, now delivered neatly, on a silver tray tied up with a purple ribbon, and a respectful bow from Penge. What caused this change of heart? Was Albert feeling magnanimous after the birth of the new Princess, or did Victoria make the demand of him? Either way, Lehzen lives to fight another day.
- Isn’t She Lovely
The final scene with Victoria and Albert and their newborn princess was very reminiscent of Downton Abbey’s Season 3 finale when Mary and Matthew enjoyed those precious moments with their newborn baby George – and you know what happened next: SPLAT! At least we know (historically) that there are many years and eight more kids before Albert meets his own splat. So that’s something.
- Imagine That!
I don’t know about you, but aside from being entertaining, Victoria (like so many of the series on PBS), made me curious about all the real life characters and events depicted – as well as the Victorian era itself – which led me to lots of googling! The whole series has been an entertaining mix of the historical with a re-imagining of the unknowable aspects of the lives of these real people. A very satisfying series to watch. As for the real Victoria, imagine what life must have been like for her, especially as a child. In a way she was like a more modern day child star; she had a unique kind of intense fame which gave her a power that she could not have fully understood. Yet despite all this power she had no independence until she turned 18. She was surrounded by opportunists who wanted what she had, or wanted to use her to get what they wanted, and had no way to defend herself. Were it not for the stroke of luck of Lord M coming into her life, she might have ended up holding up a 7-11!
We are amused: Now that the season is over, if you haven’t already, do yourselves a favor and read Daisy Goodwin’s novel Victoria, on which the series is based. And fear not Victorians, this may be the end, but Season 2 of #VictoriaPBS is already in production. Recently Daisy Goodwin tweeted a picture of the cast at a table read for one of next season’s scripts, proving that you can’t keep a good Queen down!
Who were your favorite characters from this season of Victoria? Your favorite story line? Your favorite scene? Join the conversation below or Tweet using the hashtag #VictoriaPBS.