Season 2 opens with a two-hour double episode – “A Soldier’s Daughter”and “The Green-Eyed Monster.” Here we go with the 21 essentials of Victoria Season 2, Episode 1…
Essentials to Victoria Season 2 Premiere
21. Back to the Battlefield
We open this episode with scenes of the frozen hellscape of war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Victoria is fighting a battle of her own. She is, as the British say, being wrapped up in cotton wool – in her case, quite literally since having her baby. She is being treated like an invalid, pushed around the palace in a wheelchair, which turns out to be dicier than one would expect, and after nearly going splat down the stairs she’s had enough and decides to return to using her own two feet. Having escaped from the confines of her wheelchair and minders she comes upon a meeting, a makeshift war council that includes Albert and Prime Minister Peel. Albert had just told Peel there was no reason to trouble the Queen with what they were discussing. Is that concern for her fragility or a power grab? Surprised by the sudden reappearance of free range Victoria, Albert jumps in her way like he was trying to block her jump shot. The Knicks could use him. Peel and the others seem hesitant to tell her what’s going on. She is suspicious but they insist they’re just having a friendly conversation about sewers.
Excited to be free again, she wants to go horseback riding (or anything) for some fresh air, but she’s told by Peel and his new assistant, Mr. Drummond, she cannot go out in public yet. She must be ‘churched’ first. Well, isn’t that special? Churching is a ritual cleansing (like a mikvah, only public). This is the first I’d heard about it, and from Victoria’s reaction, it was the first she had as well, and she was not having it and told Drummond so. Then Albert cocked his eyebrow and we next see her kneeling before the Archbishop being impatiently purified, incensed at the very idea that she was expected to submit to it.
One thing that struck me this week was the dichotomy within Prince Albert: He is so forward thinking about technology, and is all about the future, but when it comes to the place of his wife, he seems to want her to remain barefoot and pregnant. Does he have these ideas about the roles of all women, or just the one woman who stands in the way of his total world domination?
20. Upstairs, Downstairs
There’s a new chef in town, Mr. Craddock, and he’s a lot less tasty than Mr. Francatelli. He’s bad and bad tempered; he threatens to slice and dice a kitchen maid whose only crime was to take stale bread out of the larder to feed Dash the dog (wait, the Queen feeds her best friend Dash stale bread??) It is so bad, Mr. Penge has to take time away from his loafing to peel Craddock’s fingers off the red button. Crisis over. Mr. Craddock then wipes the sweat from his brow with his hand, and proceeds to use that same hand to continue chopping the dinner. (Euww!)
19. Dress You Up
Mrs. Jenkins is gone as well. The story goes that her sister died and she moved back home to care for the clutch of motherless children left behind (but I’m wondering if the actress just asked for a raise). Anywho, this leaves an opening for Miss Skerrett, who replaces her as Chief Dresser, becoming ‘Mrs.’ Skerrett in the process; a Sadie without actually getting married. And who should replace Miss Skerrett? Mr. Penge has a candidate, his niece, but Lehzen insists they do not need another Penge in the Palace. Instead they hire Miss Cleary from County Cork, a secret Catholic, and another Chiswick Institute alum (like Miss Skerrett was supposed to have been). Hmmm…will that bring Mrs. Skerrett’s secret identity to light?
18. Ballroom Blitz
A carriage full of Coburgs arrive to find a bickering Victoria and Albert. The first thing out of yenta Uncle Leo’s mouth? He enthuses to Victoria about how great it is that she now has a baby to distract her from having the wacky idea that she might actually be the most powerful woman (or man) in the world, and (of course) about how great it is that Albert will help (ie; rule) in her stead. Also in the carriage, Albert’s dad, Duke WhatsHisFace of NowhereThatMatters (looking for a hand out from his daughter-in-law’s purse), and Prince Ernie (who we like.) And Bert & Ernie’s dog, because why should Dash have all the fun?
Uncle Leo starts playing matchmaker, yapping about the new little Princess’ marriage potential (barter-wise) and who they can fix her up with for maximum political advantage. He wants to marry her off to Prussia. Victoria insists that her Princess will have her own ideas. Condescending Uncle Leo agrees that, yes, young girls sometimes have ideas, but that’s why they need a man to ‘splain to them otherwise. Duke Albert’s Dad only makes things worse when he brags that Albert’s stud services are top notch, among the finest in Europe, and she’ll be up the duff again in no time. He guarantees a son before Christmas. Victoria shuts them down, saying that her people need a Queen, not a brood mare before stomping off. And as if we needed any more indication that he’s an old busybody, Uncle Leo retreats to the drawing room and attends to his needlework.
17. I Want You Back
Her Majesty is fed up with Craddock’s (shall we say disgusting?) cuisine and wants Mr. Francatelli back – or rather, she demands the return of that guy who cooked for her before. Lehzen tasks Mrs. Skerrett with running to fetch him. Skerrett tries to defer but Lehzen is having none of it, and when she encounters Francatelli, neither is he. He is bitter and not at all happy to see her. He won’t even look at her. Miss (now Mrs.) Skerrett tries to explain she did go to find him That Day, but she was too late; to which he replies that yes, she was. And we are left to wonder, if she knew where he was all along, why did she wait to go see him?
Anyway, he won’t come back, not even if they offer him five times his salary (fat chance of that with thrifty Albert in charge anyway). He’s happy at the Reform Club, thank you very much. So Lord Alfred offers to help his Queen. How? He has his brother get Francatelli patriotically fired, so he is left with no choice. He makes it clear he would not have come back otherwise, causing Mrs. Skerrett runs off in tears.
True History: Charles Elme Francatelli was Queen Victoria’s chief cook from March 1840 – March 1842. In real life he didn’t leave and then go back, but he was the manager of the Reform Club, a famous private gentleman’s club, later in life (from 1854 – 1861). Historically the Reform club had an entirely male membership, but was among the first gentleman’s club to admit women (though not until 1981). Today both Prince Charles and Camilla are honorary members. As for Mr. Francatelli, he went on to become the first best-selling cook book author. A few of his books, including A Plain Cookery Boom for the Working Classes and The Modern Cook have been reprinted in recent years and can be found on Amazon.
16. Who Runs the World? Girls!
Victoria gets back to work. She sits rearranging her proverbial sock drawer awaiting the delivery of her daily Red Boxes from the Prime Minister, but they do not arrive. It turns out Albert has already done them, and left her his Cliff Notes on what was in them. Harumpf! Then Albert says he’s off out to inspect his regiment and she’s says hang on, let me get ready, and when Albert protests she says, “It may be your regiment, Albert, but it is my army.” Mic drop.
Watching the liberty drills, Albert tells Victoria he has ideas for new uniform designs that are more practical, but Victoria says, “dismissed!” She is perfectly happy for her soldiers to go into battle wearing their splendid Easter bonnets.
15. Me and My Shadows
Victoria is having a hard time bonding with her baby and no wonder, with everything being done for her. When anyone does hand her the baby, she looks downright awkward having to hold her. Harriet and Emma look concerned. As she watches the baby sleeping in her cot, Victoria asks Harriett if she liked her babies right away. Harriett assures her that that comes later – and with that she is off, rotating out of the Ladies in Waiting line-up for now, in favor of a Tory lady.
True History: Harriet Elizabeth Georgiana Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland (great, great aunt of Princess Diana), served four different stints as Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria. Her grandmother was the famous Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (played by Keira Knightley in the movie named for her). She was one of the most influential women of her time, a political hostess best known for championing the anti-slavery movement in the US. In real life it is unlikely that she and Prince Ernie had a fling of any kind. And she had 11 children! This poses the question, who was taking care of Harriet’s 11 babies while she was working at the palace??
14. Toxic Avenger: The Duchess of BuccleuchWith Harriett leaving, there is a new Mistress of the Robes, the flamboyant yet dour Duchess of Buccleuch (flamboyant, yet dour, is a tough combination to pull off, but the great actress Dame Diana Rigg manages). This is not the Duchess’ first Ladies-in-Waiting rodeo. Previously she served Queen Adelaide, but left Court to become a professional wet blanket. Now with the Tories back, so is she. And she has opinions. On everything. She shuts down Victoria’s book club discussion with the swift declaration that in her day, no unmarried girls would be allowed to read novels (which can lead to dancing); and she takes a tiki torch to the casting of Othello. Apparently she would have preferred Al Jolson. The Duchess arrives at Court with her niece in tow, the Honorable Miss Wilhelmina Coke, no doubt looking for an advantageous marriage for her, though she seems to (quickly) take a shine to the least advantageous bachelor around.
True History: The Duchess’ full name was, Charlotte Anne Montagu Douglas Scott, Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry. Quite a mouthful. She succeeded The Duchess of Sutherland as Mistress of the Robes, working for Queen Victoria from 1841 to 1846, though having been born in 1811, in real life she was much younger than she was depicted on the show, and she and Victoria became lifelong friends with each becoming a godmother to the other’s daughters. Her appointment helped Victoria reconcile the Bedchamber Crisis (which we saw flare up in Season 1 when she refused to dismiss her Whig ladies and replace them with Folger’s Crystals – or Tory ladies).
13. Palace Intruder
There is a stowaway in the Palace. An enterprising young lad jumped the wall and has been squatting in the Palace (in what looks like plain sight under the stairs)…and he has a bit of a thing for Victoria’s underwear. Lots of items have gone missing but Penge doesn’t want the guards notified lest it reflect badly on him. His presence has made poor new Miss Cleary think there’s a ghost at work. When discovered, he runs upstairs to the main corridors where smacks into the Duchess of Buccleuch and, thinking on his feet, compliments her on her fine lace collar. That was the cliffhanger, so we won’t know until next week whether she adopts him or turns him to a pillar of salt with one icy stare. Stay tuned…
12. Mending Fences
While fencing, Albert complains to Ernie about the little woman, and his big brother gives him a good talking to, causing Albert to comment that he’ll make a good husband one day (conveniently forgetting his history of ‘charity work’ at every nunnery in the tri-state area.) As history revealed, Prince Ernie was anything but a good husband. Ernie is in no hurry to return to Coburg because it seems Uncle Leo wants him to get married, and my guess is it ain’t to Lady Marmalade.
At the christening, Harriett is in attendance and she and Ernie reconnect, sharing a laugh over tipsy cake. Then she introduces him to her husband and Ernie’s face falls. Would her hubby have heard about their relationship? Hmmm…I wonder. When Ernie tells the Duke how much his wife is missed at the Palace, he says, ‘My wife is an ornament wherever she is,’ which sounds like a passive aggressive insult that initially presents as a compliment, does it not?
True History: In real life Prince Ernie made a rather lousy husband! Encouraged by his father to do ‘charity work’, i.e.; visit those nunneries, he contracted venereal disease by his early twenties and, since there were no treatments, had it for the rest of his life. He married Princess Alexendrine; he (openly) had many affairs as well as three illegitimate children and for a time, had two of his mistresses living with him and his wife (who turned a blind eye to it all).
11. One Tin Soldier Rides Away
In the midst of an argument, Albert lets slip to Victoria about the troubles in Afghanistan. Troops will have to retreat through the freezing Khyber Pass, often single file. It is a recipe for disaster, and a recipe the enemy follows to a T. It’s the first she’s heard of it, but he tells her there’s no reason to worry her pretty little head. Now she keeps asking for news from Afghanistan, and keeps being told there’s no news, or that they are waiting for word (which seems to be coming by Pony Express). Not getting any answers, and not trusting Albert and Peel at the moment, Victoria asks the Duke of Wellington. He, at least, is straight with her. He gives her the bad news she needs so she can be prepared. And when the worst does happen, she understands what is needed. At every turn, where Albert and Peel disagree, the Duke of Wellington tells her (and them all) that her instincts are spot on. It seems Victoria has the instincts of an officer, and a war hero at that – except perhaps on the subject of the splendid hats.
Of the 4,000 troops that started the retreat through the Khyber Pass, only one lone soldier survived, a Captain Brydon. Victoria asks to see him right away. He haltingly tells of the trauma, about the stroke of luck that a frozen magazine in his hat saved him, about his survivor’s guilt, and about how his friend was singing God Save the Queen as he met his end. When he can barely speak another word, a moved Victoria approaches him and presses her handkerchief into his hand, telling him how brave he is. He tells her how her pictures do not do her justice. It is a real connection between monarch and subject.
True History: The 1842 Massacre of Elphinstone’s army: The British Army, under the command of General Sir William Elphinstone, lost 4,500 troops and about 12,000 support civilians as they retreated. They died from exposure, frostbite, starvation, and the seven-day massacre by Afghan tribesman. A veteran of the Napoleanic wars and a commander at the Battle of Waterloo, General Elphinstone was, by this point, elderly and incompetent. Part of Captain Brydon’s skull was sheared off and he survived because he had stuffed a magazine into his hat to fight the cold. He became known as the only survivor, but there were also 115 others who were captured, held as hostages and released later.
11. 10. Don’t Give Up the Ship
As bad timing would have it, the ceremony commissioning the new military ship HMS Trafalger quickly follows the Afghanistan massacre. Because of this recent defeat, both Albert and Peel are against Victoria attending the launch. They say it would be celebrating defeat, that she should lay low instead. But Wellington agrees with Little Vicky, that it is important she go. At first Albert refused to attend the ceremony. He was too busy pouting, but interestingly enough, a few words from Lehzen changed his mind, and he arrived just in time to see Victoria give a rousing speech.
9. Dead Rabbit Alert!
Victoria was just starting to get back to normal when suddenly her corsets don’t fit. Uh-oh. At first she dismisses it, but then the symptoms are undeniable. Baby #2 is on the way. Due to the propriety of the time, she cannot just come out and say she is pregnant; instead she has to give hints about her ‘interesting condition’ like she’s playing Charades. Then again, even more than 100 years later, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo couldn’t say it either, even in pretend life. Peel gets the hint though and gets all biblical, saying, ‘In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.’ Yeah, just what Victoria needs to hear right now. And we’re not even sure how it happened when Victoria and Albert can’t even have a moment alone without her entourage interrupting them. Albert is all about cuddling his little daughter, cooing about her blue eyes. When Victoria said, “All babies have blue eyes”, did it remind you of that scene with Rhett Butler and his little Bonnie Blue in Gone With the Wind?
True History:Victoria’s second child, Albert, Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII), was born almost exactly a year after his sister, Princess Victoria.
8. She Blinded Me with Science
This week we got to geek out over the appearance of Charles Babbage and Lady Ada Lovelace, inventors of modern computing. As a futurist, Albert is excited by the possibilities of their work, and Victoria is a bit jealous of his enthusiasm. But I’m thinking it was Lord M (Melbourne) letting slip (at the Scientist’s Ball) that Lady Lovelace was Lord Byron’s daughter, that set off Victoria’s suspicions, right? She likely worried that the daughter would be like the father. Or was it that Lady Lovelace and Albert share inside jokes about math that go over Victoria’s head? Lord M tells Victoria that jealously is tedious (and math jokes aren’t?)
When Albert misses one of Victoria’s dinner parties because he says he must attend the annual dinner of the Statistical Society (what fun!) it all kicks off. Unfortunately, the computing machine had not advanced as far as texting, so instead poor Brodie had to run back and forth between the Palace and the Statistical Society ferrying messages. It seemed like the last one from Albert, asking Victoria if her request for his return was a command, and announced out loud (instead of whispered like the others), was intended to embarrass her. Why else would he have stood there and announced it out loud if Albert hadn’t asked him to?
True History: The Statistical Society of London was founded in 1834. Charles Babbage was a founding member, though it’s first female member was Florence Nightingale (in 1858), not Lady Lovelace.
8.1. Genius Bar
After being assured by Lord M that she had nothing to fear but fear itself, Victoria eventually went to see the steam punk looking contraption (imagine schlepping that computing machine around). She found out that she and Lady Lovelace have a lot in common, navigating professional waters as women and mothers and sometimes thinking life would be easier as men.
True History: Blue Stocking. Lord M referred to Lady Lovelace’s mother as a ‘a blue stocking,’ which means an intellectual woman. Originally the term referred to intellectuals of either sex, but in the 18th century the term came to describe female intellectuals. You can read more about Lady Lovelace in my Victoria preview. There is a quote from Lady Lovelace that was rather prescient: “That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal, as time will show.” She was right!
7. Brokeback Palace
Speaking of flirtation; call me kooky but was there a little spark between Lord Alfred and the newly arrived Mr. Drummond (who Alfred thought was ‘well-equipped’)? I think there was. There might have even been a few lingering gazes too. Amiright? Let’s see how this unfolds!
True History: Edward Drummond was a British civil servant, and a personal secretary to several Prime Ministers, including the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel. In real life he was born in 1792, so he is depicted as younger on the show than he was at this point in history.
Prince Ernie has a new admirer in the very young and innocent Miss Coke – who clearly has no idea she is punching way above her weight. Ernie has frequent flyer miles at every brothel this side of Vladivostok (and Penicillin won’t be invented for at least another 90 years!) If she’s not careful she find herself up the duff without a paddle.
5. Lord M’s Counsel
There is only one place Victoria can go for the advice and comfort she needs: Brockett Hall. Lord M is the Carson to her Lady Mary. She makes sure Albert, still jealous of Lord M, knows where she’s gone, by giving the intel to the Duchess of Buccleuch, who in turn looks frustrated that Albert doesn’t want to know. She is just bursting to dish to someone (anyone), so she tells fellow yenta Uncle Leo. At Brockett Hall, Victoria and Lord M have a heart to heart in his orchid house as Lady Portman and Lord Alfred stand outside looking concerned. In fact, all the supporting characters take turns looking concerned in the Season 2 premiere. Victoria worries about Albert’s motives in wanting more children; does he just want her out of the way so he can rule? And why is he flirting with Lady Lovelace?
Victoria utters the words we’ve heard in the series previews: that to be a queen, she must rule, but to be a wife, she must submit. Lord M tells her that while Albert is her husband, she is the queen. That’s why he was against making him King Consort; he did not want her overshadowed. And to her fear that she doesn’t have the education those clever mathematicians do, he assures her that what she has are great instincts, and that knowledge is not wisdom (true that, some of the dumbest people I’ve ever met were in Mensa). And he notes that when men go looking for flirtation they don’t go looking for mathematics.
4. Bloody Hell
Hang on, what was with Lord M and the leeches? We see him being bled to cure headaches and weakness on his left side (would that have been a mini-stroke?) Is it serious? Don’t they know how I worry? As a stoic, Lord M is not letting Victoria know about his health, or we would (no doubt) have seen her in full on panic, much like our own. Maybe he would have shared the info if Uncle Leo hadn’t threatened to set the dogs on him.
3. Regrets, I’ve Had a Few
At the science soiree, once again Uncle Leo sticks his beak in and warns Lord M away from Victoria. Once again, Melbourne does the noble thing and steps away, back to Brockett Hall and his demanding orchids. When Victoria writes to him, inviting him to visit London, he sends his regrets and writes back in a way that seems to be letting let her go, assuring her that Albert is her support. Was it the warning from Uncle Leo, or the leeches? Though I suppose it’s a moot point; they are one and the same.
2. How Do You Solve a Problem like Victoria
Uncle Leo learns from the servant grapevine that Victoria is pregnant. That must be what he went to speak to her about when he found out she was at Brockett Hall. As soon as Albert returns, he let’s him know (I have to say, it’s kind of rotten to not let Victoria tell him herself). Albert wonders why he was the last to know. Uncle Leo advises mathematical Albert that Victoria is not a problem to be solved. While we’re not sure Uncle Leo is the best source of advice, we’ll give him this one. Next it’s Ernie’s turn to chime in, joining Albert on the piano and using it as a metaphor for finding the lost harmony in his marriage.
1. I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine
Victoria sits in the palace gardens’ folly, the place where she and Albert shared that memorable kiss before they were married, and as he walks up, she asks if he remembers. He does. She finally shares her fears with him. He tells her he is not trying to confine her. She refers to pregnancy and children as the shadow side of their marriage, and explains that she wants to remain his wife as well as a mother. He assures her she had him at hello, and she will be his beloved always. Always.
Another bit of notable magic in the opening of Season 2 (created by CGI): When guests arrive at Buckingham Palace for the evening science soiree, we’re treated to a shot of London as it would have been in the 1840’s, before all the tall buildings were in place, giving us a clear view all the way down to St Paul’s Cathedral. Simply stunning, and if you love beautiful London, that was a lovely treat!
What do you think about it all, Victorians? Join the conversation in the comments below or tweet using the hashtag #VictoriaPBS.