On this week’s Victoria episode, the hills are alive with the sound of bagpipes, which it can be argued, are not necessarily music, but rather (quite possibly) a violation of the Geneva Convention. Just putting that out there. Victoria and Albert go on yet another road trip as well. At this point, Victoria and Albert are on the road so much they should change their names to Hope & Crosby.
There’s no reason for you to go anywhere though. You can holiday right here with the 18 essentials of Victoria, Season 2, episode 5:”The King Over the Water”.
18. Target Practice: Queen Victoria Assassination Attempt #3 (but who’s counting?)
As Victoria and Albert ride down the Mall in their open carriage, she exclaims how lovely it is to be out and about. Jinx! Just then, someone steps out from the crowd and points a pistol at them. Albert quickly pushes Victoria out of harm’s way and Lord Alfred orders the carriage to take off. Alfred searches for the would-be assassin, but he has disappeared back into the crowd. Peel tells the royal couple the police could not find the suspect. Upon hearing this, Victoria wants to get right back on the horse (or rather, in the carriage) to draw the shooter out from the shadows so he he can be caught. In short, she is volunteering to be the ducky in an arcade game. We cannot tell if she is brave or delusional (though there may not be a difference). Albert is against it but Peel is all for it. Thankfully Albert has already thought three chess moves ahead, and offers Victoria a bullet-proof umbrella that he had designed just for such an occasion – and in her favorite color: purple! It is too bad that James Bond had not yet been invented because Albert could have designed all sorts of gadgets for him. And the decoy gambit works: the shooter tries again and is apprehended.
True History: Waxworks
Mr. Penge commented that Victoria’s are looking for fame, and he might be right. In fact, it was the fifteen minutes of fame (and seemingly cushy fate) of one of Victoria’s previous would-be assassins, Edward Oxford, that inspired this shooter, 17-year-old “Hunchback William Bean” (as the tabloids called him), to become the third of eight men who tried to assassinate Queen Victoria. Oxford had become a celebrity and even got a waxwork at Madame Tussaud’s, captioned “the Lunatic Edward Oxford.” Bean’s deformity meant he led a troubled life, and had recently been homeless, and according to written reports of the time,Oxford was living it up in prison. Bean hoped that by shooting the Queen he would be jailed alongside Oxford. This third assassination attempt in two years reportedly caused Prime Minister Peel to burst into tears when he spoke to the queen afterwards. It was after yet another assassination attempt, in 1882, that Victoria said, “It is worth being shot at to see how much one is loved.”
17. Black Widow: Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word
Ernie sees Harriet sitting alone sketching and offers his condolences. Why he didn’t give her his condolences last week when she came to the doorway of the music room as he played the piano, I don’t know. But whatever, he gives her his condolences now. Or tries to. She doesn’t want to hear it, saying “condolences” is an ugly word. In fact, she pretty much won’t talk to Ernie at all. She seethes with anger towards him and says he’s the last person in the world who could comfort her (well, yeah, naturally, if he “comforts” the way uncle Leo “comforts,” then one can understand). Rejected Ernie exits and Harriet takes it out on her pencil; self-destructive sketching ensues. But is her anger misplaced?
In other crossed-signal news: now that Francatelli is thawing towards Skerrett, she becomes chilly again. Ah yes, in the game of love, timing is everything.
16. Reading is Fundamental: Victoria returns to Waverley
Lehzen comes upon Victoria enjoying a good book; she was re-reading an old childhood favorite, Waverley, and she and Lehzen reminisce about how, when she was little, she loved Bonnie Prince Charlie and had begged Lehzen to take her to visit Scotland (where the book is partially set and where she thought she’d find the key to happiness). Then suddenly Victoria realizes, wait a minute, I’m a grown up now, and a queen on top of that, and I can do whatever I want! Feeling trapped in the palace, Victoria announces another road trip; this time to Scotland. Once again Lehzen is practically giddy at the prospect of travel only to be left behind, seemingly due to a cutting comment from Albert about abandoning her post – even though it was she and Victoria who spent so much of her young life dreaming they’d take this trip one day. Albert doesn’t care.
True History: Waverley (1814) is considered to be the first historical novel. It was written by Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott (author of Ivanhoe), but first published anonymously. It takes place in the Scottish Highlands during the Jacobite rebellions. The Jacobites advocated and fought for years to restore the Stuart line of monarchs to the throne (that must be why Victoria mentioned that she has some Stuart blood). The main protagonist is Bonnie Prince Charlie, grandson of King James II, who hoped to be restored to the throne as Charles III. Thirty years earlier his father had led an unsuccessful attempt to regain the crown as well. It is also about the disappearing culture of the Highlanders. And in a six degrees of separation coincidence, Sir Walter Scott’s lawyer was also the agent for the Duke of Buccleuch.
15. Toto, We’re Not in France Anymore: a Visit to Scotland
The royal party is welcomed to Blair Atholl castle in the Highlands, though initially the reality of Scotland doesn’t live up to the Waverley fantasy. For starters, bagpipes follow them everywhere they go. And if that weren’t bad enough, their host, the Duke of Atholl, has a dreary sense of occasion. On the plus side however, at Victoria’s disposal are the Atholl Highlanders, the Duke’s personal army of soldiers in kilts, who can fight any foe – except a stiff breeze. They will be guarding Her Majesty’s person, unless the weather forecast calls for wind gusts; then she’s on her own. If Albert thought the British army helmets were impractical, what does he think of a fighting force in skirts?
And it gets worse. Making an unwelcome reappearance on the Duke’s dinner menu is Cock-a-leekie soup, the dish that got Her Majesty’s last cook canned (though no word on whether anyone found a Corleone-style chicken head in their bowl this time). Dinner is followed by a bad poetry slam featuring Dr. William Beattie. Victoria smiles through clenched teeth at his reading of The Heliotrope, (a long form poem so dull, I couldn’t even see writing a True History summary of it). Right about now, even Albert is longing for the bacchanalia of the French royal court. Then, as luck would have it, Beattie pauses his over-acting to inhale and Albert starts applauding wildly like it was the end (we think) to shut him up. Well played, Al. Well played. When it’s time to say nighty-night, Victoria and Albert discover the Duke has ordered his Highlanders to guard the queen’s bedroom door. Tough to get busy with a platoon at the keyhole, but they manage.
While all this is going on, the servants are out back having all the fun at a Ceilidh. They’ve got fiddlers instead of bagpipes, and they are whooping it up reeling and laughing – including Skerrett, who is hauled onto the dance floor by a hunky Highlander who is not about to let her shyness deter him.
True History: Cock-a-leekie Soup is a traditional Scottish chicken soup with prunes that supposedly goes great with Haggis. One supposes that in cold and flu season it couldn’t hurt to have an extra chicken soup in the arsenal. Here’s a recipe from the BBC.
True History: Dr. William Beattie, author of The Heliotrope, was a Scottish writer and physician who really got around. The son of a builder, he married “a woman of fortune” and travelled in rarefied circles. Pre-Victoria he attended her Uncle, King William IV, and the Princess Royal at Hampton Court Palace; and King Louis Philippe of France (he happened to be in Paris when there was an assassination attempt). He was also an intimate of Lady Byron (no word on whether Beattie was as “mad, bad and dangerous to know” as her husband though). When he died at the age of 82 he supposedly left behind an autobiography, but it’s never been published. And in an interesting twist, his letters are held at the New York Public Library!
True History: Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) is a Scottish or Irish celebration that features Gaelic folk music and dancing, including the traditional reels, The Gay Gordons and Dashing White Sergeant (all three of which made appearances at the Blair Atholl ceilidhs – literally).
True History: Blair Castle, the filming location for the Scottish trip, is actually the traditional home of the Duke of Atholl in real life, too. Of all the castles and grand locations used for filming these period dramas, this may be the first time the location used was the real family seat of the aristocrat being depicted. And the Duke of Atholl commands the only legal private army in Europe, the Atholl Highlanders.
14. Go Fish: The Royal Entourage Goes Fishing
It’s vacation day #2 and Victoria and Albert are awakened by beastly bagpipes. When they emerge from their bedroom, the Duke is waiting right outside the door. He has a full day of riveting entertainment planned, inspecting factories and such. Tempting though it may have been, Victoria turns down her host’s offer, saying she and Albert would rather see the countryside. OK, activate plan B: fly fishing on the River Garry. Standing on the bank, Victoria sees carefree peasant girls across the river, skipping rocks and laughing and looks at them like she longs to be one of them.
Surveying the bucolic scene, Miss Coke sighs in Lord Alfred’s direction and asks the rhetorical question, “Isn’t the scenery sublime?” He sighs right back and agrees that, yes, it is heavenly – though the scenery Alfred was referring to when he answered was Drummond casting his rod (literally).
13. Lost and Found or Hide and Seek? Vicky and Al Disappear, Then Try to Stay That Way
When the fishing time is over, Victoria and Albert want to ride back to base camp on their own. Lord Atholl frets that there is no side saddle for her but Victoria says no side saddle is required; she’s had three kids already. The jig is up. The Duke is worried but Albert assures him that he has a good sense of direction. Famous last words. The Duke pretends to think it’s a capital idea, then quietly orders his soldiers to not lose sight of them – so they lose sight of them. Victoria and Albert trot ahead and promptly give the entourage the slip.
They are quite thrilled to be all alone, then the Scottish mist rolls in and they get lost (though Albert won’t admit it). Typical male, he won’t stop to ask for directions. Though, in his defense, they are so lost there isn’t anyone around to ask anyway. As they continue to wander aimlessly, they come to a river and Albert thinks it only logical to cross it, since they crossed a river on their way there, so they should cross back, never thinking that all rivers look alike, so this could easily be a completely different river. But whatever. The more lost they get, the more Victoria’s hair falls down. By the time they encounter any locals who can help them, she looks like any other maid out for a ride.
12. Gotta Dance: Drummond, Harriet, Alfred and Miss Coke talk about Men and Women
On the way to Scotland Miss Coke congratulates Drummond on his impending nuptials. It turns out she grew up with his fiancé, Florence. He looks less enthusiastic about the wedding than she does but, under questioning, does admit Florence is “quite amiable,” which gets him a teasing from Ernie. It is only alone with Alfred that Drummond frets about going back to London and his intended. He’d rather stay in magical Scotland with Alfred. It seems that when they are away (like when they were in France, too), they are free to be he and he. Back in London he’s got a Bridezilla on his hands, who has expectations he’ll never be able to meet. While he does care for her, he can never love her.
Left behind in their carriage as the menfolk’s search for the queen begins, Miss Coke tells Harriet she hopes Lord Alfred and Mr. Drummond don’t get lost, too. Harriet says not to worry, Alfred is resourceful (and throws her eyebrows into it). Hmmm… does she know? (I’m now throwing my eyebrows into it). It turns out Harriet grew up with him. They shared a dance master. Again, hmmm…could this be some weird kind of quadrangle about to kick off? Miss Coke then admits to Harriet that she is not a good judge of men (ya think?). Currently bitter Harriet chimes in with “who is?” Amen sister.
11. How the Other Half Lives: An Evening Off the Grid
Victoria and Albert finally come upon a little farm house and knock on the door asking for help. The elderly man tells them they better come in. The only way they’re getting back to Blair Atholl tonight is in a coffin. I don’t know about you, but if I’d heard that line from a stranger answering the door, I would have taken my chances outside in the elements. But entitled Victoria walks right in, bold as brass, and sits by the fire without being invited. The old man (sarcastically) asks her to make herself at home. Albert explains she means no offense, she has just been stressed out since they were separated from their party. The inhabitants do not recognize their queen, and instead treat her and Albert as they would any other couple.
They share their dinner, a fish cooked on the fire and eaten without utensils. Victoria and Albert don’t miss a beat; they tuck right in. Their hosts note that they don’t seem to be from around these parts, and they say no, they’re from London, that they had to take some time away from their work. And when Mr. Crofter asks, “What is it you do?” incredulous Victoria answers with a question, “What is it we do?” This response made Mrs. Crofter look a bit peeved; she just handed Vicky a dish towel, and walked over to the sink, expecting Victoria to follow. She washed, Victoria dried. After a very long, awkward pause, Albert said he had a factory. Victoria corrected him, saying it was her factory; he just helped with the paperwork.
11.1. Better Than The Heliotrope Part 2
After dinner Mrs. Crofter teaches Victoria how to darn a sock and she is very proud of her handiwork, deemed marvelous by Albert. He in turn enjoys stoking the fire, a task usually performed by the lowliest servant in the palace. The Crofters offer their guests their own bed for the night while they bunk in with the horses. THAT, ladies and gentleman, is some hospitality! But before they turn in they all have a drink and a toast, “Slanchava!” (to your good health).
In bed, Victoria tells Albert that when she was a child, having to sleep with her mother, she would think of being queen, sure it meant freedom. She then ponders what would happen if they are never found, though confesses it’s not worth thinking about. He sees how happy she’s been this evening and that cannot be a bad thing.
10. Walkin’ the Floor Over You: The Queen Is Missing in Action
Meanwhile back at the ranch, poor Lord Atholl is aging rapidly. He is upset at the thought that he will go down in history as the guy responsible for losing the queen. In his defense though, Victoria is so tiny it was inevitable that she would get lost eventually. And Scotland is a big place. It would have actually been more embarrassing if she had gotten lost down behind the sofa cushions.
Everyone is on edge. Drummond feels they should inform the prime minister right away but is persuaded by Alfred to take the Scarlett O’Hara approach (ie; think about it tomorrow). The Duke’s Highlanders form a search party to comb the woods and fields – all night long, while everyone else sits up worrying. It’s too bad Albert is lost. If he were sitting there waiting with everyone else, he would have invented the milk carton.
9. No Sense and No Sensibility: The Duchess of Bucchleuch Steps on Toes
The Duchess of Bucchleuch rails at the incompetents who misplaced Her Majesty and insists that it never would have happened had she been there because she would have threatened to put the little queen over her knee for a spanking to make her behave, and now she and Albert are both (probably) at the bottom of a glen with broken necks. (Not helping!) This causes Harriet, whose husband was just found with his neck broken, to get up and stomp out.
Ernie follows her out of the room and tries to tell her he knows everything will be OK. She asks how he can know that, and he says that he’s an optimist. She counters by saying nope, you’re deluded (I say there’s not much difference). But Harriet finally opens the Sutherland Death File: she says she thought she could go back to her husband and everything would be the same as before. I’m not sure why she’s saying this because technically she never left her husband in the first place; she was just at the palace serving the queen. She doesn’t exactly say it, but she hints her husband rode out with a horse that he knew hadn’t been broken in, on purpose, because he knew about her and Ernie – making it suicide by broken heart and bucking bronco. Thus, she killed her husband, and Ernie was her accomplice, and she is not falling for the charming smile this time around. This is kind of like when Matthew insisted he and Lady Mary were forever doomed because they killed Lavinia.
8. If I knew You Were Coming I’d Have Baked an Oat Cake
The next morning, Albert and Victoria awaken peacefully, to then hear voices outside. They look out the window to see the Highlanders coming over the hill. Albert has a plan (doesn’t he always?). They’ll pull the blankets over their heads and hide under the covers until the soldiers leave and they can be adopted by the Crofters and stay there forever. Nice thought, but then they hear the soldiers manhandling the Crofters (we never even learned their names), so they jumped out of bed to save them. But the soldiers don’t recognize their queen either and demand, “Who are you?” She stands a little straighter and answers, “Victoria,” and with that soldiers all snap to attention, giving away that she’s not just any old Victoria, but THE Victoria. Mrs. Crofter commiserates about how sorry she is that Victoria had to be found, and gives her a lovely parting gift: the sock darner (an ironic gift for a queen who never wore a pair of stockings more than once). Victoria and Albert thank the Crofters for the lovely time, saying they don’t want to leave.
Meanwhile, for the rest of their lives, Mr. and Mrs. Crofter will tell a story that becomes a family legend, about that time when Al and Vicky Coburg dropped by for tea — and no one will ever believe them!!!
7. Crisis Averted: Victoria and Albert Return to a Hero’s Welcome
A Highlander gallops back to the castle on horseback to bring the good news: Victoria and Albert are safe! Relieved Alfred and Drummond throw their arms around each other. At this point, they are looking for any excuse to throw their arms around each other. Victoria is found? Peace treaty is signed? Lunch is served? Doesn’t matter. They are (officially/unofficially) the cute couple of the moment. But how long can that last? Soon it will be back to London and reality where this love cannot speak its name.
Albert and Victoria follow in a carriage and arrive to a standing ovation. They feign relief to be back but Ernie can see that Albert is not so happy to be found. Later that evening, Victoria and the Duke are up on the castle roof, taking in the view, and have a conversation about duty. The Duke mentions how a monarch always puts their country’s needs ahead of their own in a way that makes one wonder if he thinks she needs to hear it. But he then says he’s glad Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites didn’t succeed, and Victoria is his queen.
6. An Officer and a Gentleman: Skerrett Gets Jiggy with it
Mrs. Skerrett lets her hair down and has a little summer romance, or something like that. When plucked from wallflowerdom by her gentleman officer at her first Ceilidh she was a reluctant reeler, but she quickly went native. And while they waited for the queen to be found, Mrs. Skerrett and her handsome suitor share a moment: a flask of whisky…and a kiss. Now though, before they part, he wants to know if they can keep in touch, she turns him down kinda flat. He asks if she’s got someone else and she responds, “something like that.” Does that mean Francatelli, or is it just an “I have to wash my hair” excuse?
5. Some Enchanted Evening: Victoria Returns to Her Role
Her Majesty, Queen Victoria is back, hair up in a respectable bun, playing the part of a queen doing her duty, declaring some perfectly dull evening splendid – while screaming on the inside. Alfred and Drummond have the right idea. They do not even cross the threshold of the ballroom, instead they ditch the royal party to join the servants’ nightly hootenanny, where it looks perfectly ordinary for them to dance around in circles holding hands. What they don’t know is that Miss Coke is shadowing them; first to the dance (where she laughs to see them reeling), then to the garden, where she stands outside the gates and sees them kissing. Uh oh! The next day though, she gives nothing away. It’s as if she’s seen nothing at all. She simply asks if they’d like to take bagpipe lessons. Did what she saw even register? Thus far Miss Coke who, it seems, never got out much before she came to court, has been perfectly oblivious to the fact that she’s a third wheel. But what does she think could possibly explain the intimate moment she witnessed between Alfred and Drummond? Might she be such a cockeyed optimist she thinks they were giving each other bagpipe lessons….without the bagpipes? Did she learn nothing from her imaginary romance with Ernie? Or is she playing it cool until she mentions to her friend Bridezilla Florence that her fiance has a boyfriend?
4. Tears for Fears: Lehzen Worries She’s Being Pushed Out of Victoria’s Life
Returning to the nursery, Victoria greets the kids and exclaims to Lehzen that Scotland was just what they’d imagined. Then wet blanket Albert has to add (to Lehzen) that the kids look thin, and her face drops. Later, Lehzen gives Victoria her old sketch book, the one she had gifted to her when she was ten, and as they start to look through Victoria’s old sketches and reminisce, Lehzen starts sobbing. She doesn’t say it, but the tension with Albert is getting to her; she feels she is losing Victoria who, for all intents and purposes, is her own little girl. Victoria wraps her arms around Lehzen and assures her that neither of them are going anywhere (which probably means someone is going somewhere).
3. Like Deja Vu All Over Again: Skerrett and Prince Ernie Get Unexpected Welcomes
When she gets home, Skerrett gets a friendly welcome from Mr. Francatelli who hears her singing a Scottish song to herself and joins in. He asks about the trip and whether she reeled. She fibs and says she has no rhythm. They actually share a smile. They’re over the hump – unless some Highlander soldier turns up at Buck House looking for her.
And there is a thaw upstairs too; as Ernie and Harriet stand side-by-side staring into the fire, she makes a move. She takes his hand. Subtle and sweet, but given Ernie’s condition, where can this possibly go?
2. Freedom Is Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose: Victoria and Albert Play House
Back at the palace, Albert stokes the fire all on his own like a big boy – or a servant – and has fun doing it. He can’t stop thinking about the Crofters and neither can Victoria. She later has a heart to heart with Harriet and tells her that for a moment there they were free. Of course, the reality is we are, none of us, free. We all have to do jobs we don’t want to do to pay the bills, and on much more humble abodes than Buckingham Palace. All in all, not a bad gig you’ve got, Your Madge. Don’t knock it.
But one supposes it’s all relative. As she returns to her private quarters from the opening of Parliament, Victoria leaves a trail of regalia as she goes; tossing her robes and sash on the floor, and her crown on the side table. Don’t we all have those kind of days where you just come home after a hard day and toss your crown on the side table? Yeah, we can relate. But tonight Victoria is letting her hair down; she is just Vicky Coburg again, like she was at the Crofters. She orders a special dinner for Albert and herself; nothing fancy, just raw fish that Albert cooks over the fire like a caveman. They have a carpet picnic, just the two of them in their room, eating with their fingers, darning socks, and stoking fires. Bliss.
1. Keeping score
If you are keeping score at home, after five Victoria episodes we have a tie: Babies – 3 and Assassination Attempts – 3. Will we break the tie next week? Who will win the season? Stay tuned…