If I was a gambler, I’d bet on which scene in this episode got most of you all choked up. I’m guessing it was that scene outside the Plaza Palace: Lord M was getting into a yellow carriage and Victoria was across the street getting signatures on a petition to save the Chartists, when she spotted him and, well, you know the rest. Was that it? Methinks it was. Sigh. Light the corners of your mind with a used candle and let’s review the twelve essentials of Victoria, Episode 4…
(If you missed it, you can stream it now on thirteen.org.) And don’t forget to join us Mondays at 12:30 PM for more Victoria on THIRTEEN’s Facebook Live!
- Wedding Belle Blues
Little known fact: the painful attempt at morning after conversation between newly minted fiancés Victoria and Albert was the inspiration for root canal. I haven’t actually double-sourced that, but I’m pretty sure it’s true. Eager to avoid witnessing the awkwardness, Ernie calls Lady in Waiting, the Duchess of Sutherland away on a shrub-related emergency, where he admits to the Duchess that he’s actually jealous of his brother; that he might like to get married himself but all the best women are already taken (at least, for the next hour). As their chaperones disappear, Victoria and Albert sneak a passionate kiss behind an unusually placed shower curtain in the folly. I think that may be the first time I’ve ever seen a curtain in a folly, but it sure did come in handy. And…ice broken.
When Albert mentions having to be away for six weeks to tie things up back at the family home he’ll have to give up to be her subject and second banana, Victoria says, “I wish I were an ordinary woman.” That’s a nice sentiment, Vicky, but speaking as an ordinary woman, mmm, no you don’t. Just sayin’. Back on track, as they walk along Victoria ducks behind a tree (despite the fact that her big skirt is twice as wide as the trunk) to avoid being spotted by mummy dearest lest she spoil their pre-wedded bliss by saying, ‘told you so!’ That will have to wait till later when mummy says it with her usual smirk. And not for nothing, but what do you think the odds are that Ernie and the Duchess did a little (shall we say) hedge trimming behind those shrubs? I’d say the odds are pretty good. After all, they are Aristocrats.
- Goin’ to the Chapel of Cha-Ching
After their garden romps, Albert refuses to kiss and tell to Ernie. Enter interfering Uncle Leo who has heard the happy news and wants to congratulate his soon-to-be flush nephew and take charge of all the financials. He assures Albert that Victoria is impressionable and can be molded to his views. Leo forgets how that worked out for Sir John, so be forewarned: little Vicky may have other ideas on that topic! For now though, it’s time to talk money. The first blush of love is the best time to settle requests for title, allowance, and kickbacks to money grubbing relatives. Genuine Albert’s only care is keeping Victoria happy. Leo brushes that off, advising him that all he has to do is keep his other women out of sight. Now back to important things: Money. It turns out the House of Coburg is a gold digger conglomerate and Uncle Leo, as its consigliere, has a pretty lucrative rent-a-consort sideline going. Jolly old England is his ATM.
- Uncle of the Groomzilla: The Divine Lord M hears the (un)happy news.
Victoria summons Lord M to tell him about her engagement, even before she tells mummy. He tries to hide his hurt, searching for words of congratulation, but has to turn away as they are quickly interrupted by the ever-hovering Uncle Leo (who must have been waiting for Melbourne’s arrival to rub his nose in it). Leo wastes no time getting down to business, demanding an allowance for Albert to match the one he received from his ‘Poor Dear Charlotte’. Ah yes, Lord M recalls that, like a pig at the trough, it’s 20 years since Poor Dear Charlotte died and he’s still collecting that 50K a year (that’s over 5 million pounds a year, or 6.3 million American dollars, in 2017 money). Victoria looked surprised at this revelation, while Lord M looks amused by her innocent, “Why does Albert need it? Why can’t we live on love (and my dime)?” – and Uncle Leo’s semi-panicked reaction to it.
It’s common knowledge that Uncle Leo’s £50k a year is underwriting an ‘actress’ (which in that time period was pretty much the same as a hooker). OK, so now we know why he’s hanging around Buck House instead of going back to Belgium. But there is nothing untoward. He’s a regular Mother Teresa. Later when Albert questions him about whether it’s time to put all that ‘charity work’ behind him, he’s all like, What? And give up show business?
- King Me
Victoria’s engagement tour moves on to The Privy Council, a tough crowd. The Duke of Wellington objects to the match because Uncle Leo became Roman Catholic to become King of Belgium. What assurance do they have that Albert is a Protestant? And not only that, they are tired of footing the bill for all the welfare Kings of Europe. Lord M gives Victoria an out, should she want to take it. Albert is German and this won’t be popular with her subjects even though, hello, they are first cousins so if he is so is she. It is left to Lord M to explain ‘Public opinion is not known for its logic.’ Don’t we know that! Regardless, the Tories will try to use this to slap Lord M around for a while. She wants to know why he cannot make Albert King consort, but he reasons that if kings can be made, they can be unmade and that’s a can of worms best left unopened.
- That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be
Everything was all lovey dovey until the engagement was announced, now suddenly there are mistresses flying in every direction and it’s giving poor Victoria a case of the cold feet. From Lord M to Emma Portman to mummy dearest, everyone sews doubts in her.
It seems she was the last person in the commonwealth to find out this was an accepted part of the marriage deal. As Victoria lies in the bath being basted like a brisket while reading Albert’s latest dispatch, she frets he won’t be happy with his lot. Lehzen insists he should be and warns Victoria that if a man has too much money he’ll be inclined to do…charity work.
Lehzen has the same sad resignation this week that Lord M had last week; that they’ve been replaced in Victoria’s affections which, as Lord M assures her, is as it should be.
- Money Makes the World Go ‘Round: I Want You To Want Me.
For Bert and Ernie it’s back to Schloss Sweet Schloss where Daddy greets him, proud as punch that his son’s stud services have gone to the highest bidder. Papa Coburg expects that supplying the richest woman in the world a husband should offer him some perks, and he’s not talking about candle ends. He won’t beg, but if a new Schloss roof happens to fall off the back of a truck he wouldn’t say no – and a stable of mistresses wouldn’t go amiss either. The reaction of Albert’s father upon his return, makes one wonder if fortune hunter Robert Crawley got the same welcome home from his own proud papa, Lord Grantham, when he returned to Downton and announced that he had successfully bagged wealthy heiress Cora Levinson.
- Pet Peeve: Albert learns you can’t always get what you want.
Albert and his entourage return for the wedding and very quickly there’s trouble in paradise. Albert asked Santa for a title, a pile of cash, and a pony, but all he got was a lump of coal. The House of Lords refuse to give him a title or a handout as big as Uncle Leo’s, but Victoria does make him a Knight of the Garter, because she can. Albert, however, is not so sure this is such a great deal and would like to trade it for what’s behind door #2, a seat in House of Lords. Not even Victoria has voting rights in the House of Lords. He also wants to make sure Lord M didn’t get a garter from Victoria first. They bicker. Bert frets to Ernie that he cannot be like Dash (OK, so now he’s jealous of Dash? Does Dash have to give him the same pep talk he got from Lord M last week, about getting out of his way?) And speaking of Dash, after his injury last week, he appears in only one scene, his leg still bandaged. Sad face emoji.
- The Aristocrats: Planning a wedding when the bride is a queen.
Lord Chamberlain begins planning The Big Wedding. There’s no real precedent to follow since the last Queen to marry was Mary Tudor, a Catholic (perish the thought), but if he’s planning anything half as elaborate as his bow to the Queen, it shall be rather fancy. Victoria wants something small though, a medium-sized cathedral with a carriage ride through the streets to wave at the throngs, and a breakfast to follow, full English, hold the beans. She may not want a big reception with dancing (What’s that when you can have a ball any night of the week?), but Lord Chamberlain does tell a mildly horrified Victoria that royal weddings are traditionally held in the evenings so courtiers can tuck the newlywed couple into bed. Um, yeah thanks, Lord Tevya, but one thinks that’s one tradition we’ll (no pun intended) put to bed.
Victoria does relay Albert’s insistence that her bridesmaids have unblemished reputations (i.e.: none of Ernie’s nunnery girls!) This causes mild panic in Lord Chamberlain and a snort from Lord M because protocol dictates the bridesmaids must come from among the aristocracy and those aristos are a rather randy bunch (coincidentally, Those Randy Aristos was the title of one of Mickey Rooney’s lesser known Andy Hardy films). Albert may want pure as the driven snow, but what he’ll find in the British aristocracy is slush. The task falls to the Lord Chamberlain to put out a casting call for aristocratic virgins. Now people giggle behind his back in all the best clubs.
Victoria wants no diamonds….on her head, as she walks down the aisle. Around her neck is another thing entirely. It seems what she doesn’t want is the symbolism of the crown. She wants to wed Albert as woman, not a queen. Lord M also had his own place in the ceremony, carrying a big sword and trying to hold it together.
FYI: Say Yes to the Dress: In real life, it was actually Lord M who had the idea for Victoria to wear a white dress. She had told him she did not want to get married in the heavy robes she wore for her coronation, and he suggested she wear white. Victoria agreed thinking it would also make her more visible to the public as she rode to and from the ceremony in her carriage. It was a controversial choice, but it set a trend that carries through to this day. The blue sapphire brooch she wore was a wedding gift from Albert. Victoria’s dress, as well as the coat Albert wore are on exhibit at Kensington Palace. (One wonders what Victoria would have thought about that location, given how unhappy she was growing up there.) Interesting to note that Victoria’s great, great granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth, continues that tradition of wearing bright, solid colors so she can easily be spotted by her subjects at her public walkabouts, and she still wears Victoria’s sapphire brooch.
FYI: Uncle Mame: The Duke of Sussex was Victoria’s favorite uncle and walked her down the aisle – and he had taken to wearing a skull cap. He was a patron of the arts as well as the East End’s Jewish Hospital and Orphan Asylum (which is now a charity called Norwood and Queen Elizabeth II is a current patron). The Duke married twice but neither of the marriages were approved by the Sovereign, so under the Royal Marriages Act they were not legal. His first marriage produced two children before being annulled, but because the marriage was unapproved, thus illegal, his two children were considered to be born on the wrong side of the blanket. Due to this technicality, he had no legal heirs and his title became extinct upon his death. His son caused a scandal by going to court, to try and prove that he was legitimate and the rightful heir to the title, but no dice. T’was not to be. RIP Dukedom of Sussex.
- Who wrote the Cliff Notes of love?
Shunning the usual stag night, Bert and Ernie instead go on an educational field trip to visit The Real Housewives of Coburg nunnery, where Ernie turns in his frequent flyer miles to hire Bert a tutor. Ernie insists to Bert that spending an hour with Gretchen will make bride Victoria a happy camper, “and don’t worry about me, I’ll be in the next bedroom with everyone else doing…charity work.” Once alone, Gretchen tells Bert she is very proficient and Albert says, “OK, cool, tell me what you know.” He is not interested in action; only education. He wants to take notes. Notes? A little pervy but she thinks it’s sweet. On their wedding night, Victoria is a bit confused as to why Albert keeps turning away to pull up his sleeve and look at something written on his wrist, but she reasons that this must be yet something else Lehzen forgot to tell her about men.
Did this really happen? Did Gretchen write a tell-all book and let the world know about this and that’s how we know? We are not sure, and we are also not sure if Victoria ever sent Gretchen a thank you note, but we do know that upon her death one of the items Queen Victoria requested she be buried with was a plaster cast of Albert’s left hand. Make of that what you will.
- Candle in the Wind: Penge does have an old flame.
As, one by one, the servants step up for their weekly candle allowance, Footman Brody has the temerity to say, “Please sir, I want some more,” going on to explain that he wants to study, to so he can advance in his servant career, possibly to something a little less gruel-ing. But on this day Candle Master Penge is not feeling benevolent and this is offensive to his ear. How dare young Brody have a dream when his own had been so cruelly dashed? Penge simply smacks Brody with a soup ladle and says, you’ll get one stubby little candle end, and you’ll like it, and that’ll teach you to try and better yourself! Harumph!
As we suspected last week, Penge does have a lovelorn history that possibly accounts for his bitter demeanor. It’s the Dowager Duchess’ dresser who broke his heart and turned him into a drunken candle hoarder by not responding to all the love letters he sent her so many years ago. When said Dresser turned up for the big wedding and Penge asked why she never wrote back, she claimed she never got the letters and would like to read them. Causing him to dig them out of storage and read them himself. But wait, if he sent the letters, why does he still have them? We’re confused. Were those his rough drafts or were they sent back ‘return to sender’? Ah yes, remember last week we learned that before the postage stamp, letters went COD and were often refused, so it wouldn’t be a stretch that letters arriving for a servant might be refused by, oh, maybe one of those money grubbing Coburgs who didn’t want to advance her a penny. Was this another case of two lives ruined by misdirected mail?
FYI: Wax Works: Re-selling used candles was considered a perk for palace employees. It began with William Fortnum, cofounder of Fortnum & Mason, who started out as a footman for Queen Anne in the early 1700’s. Because the royals wanted fresh candles every night, the enterprising Mr. Fortnum began reselling the half-used wax, openly advertising them as candle ends from Buckingham Palace. Not only was a retail institution born, so was a perquisite for royal employees. But apparently Prince Albert put an end to all that when he began running the royal households and instituted a strict (some might say cheap) economy that even required servants to provide their own scrub brushes. And that economy wasn’t only for downstairs; upstairs guests at the palaces were limited to just two candles a night for their rooms, and one Equerry wrote later that he was surprised to find the lavatories at Windsor Castle stocked with newspaper! Interesting to note: 12,000 handmade candles were burned in the filming of Victoria, making one exhausted British candle maker very happy.
- It’s Too Late, Baby: Miss Skerrett dreams a dream of times gone by.
All this royal wedding giddiness triggers sad reflection in Miss Skerrett. Bert and Ernie’s valet, Heir Lohlein, finds her in the boot room, sobbing about all the things she’ll never have. Her life might have gone another way, but then her friend met the Trumpet Major and seventy-six trombones later, she now has her life (at the Palace) while her friend raises ‘our little girl’. Our little girl. Again, this leaves us with the question, whose baby is it anyway? Still, as she reverts back to her regular semi-jaded Pollyanna self, she reasons that at least she’s better off than she was at the nunnery. Ooops! Why the carelessness in letting that slip all of a sudden? Did she just assume she could vent to Lohlein because (she assumed) he doesn’t understand English, not knowing that one of the few English words he does know (thanks to boss Prince Ernie) is nunnery? Did she not realize that Ernie pays his employees in nunnery gift cards? Whatever the answer, Lohlein assures her she’s safe there – Ernie will be leaving soon.
- If I knew you were wedding I’d have baked a cake.
Meanwhile, Chef Mr. Francatelli is an artist and art cannot be rushed. The six-week lead time to lift off will be a tight squeeze for making the wedding cake of the century for Vicky and Bert’s wedding. Much like most of Victoria’s uncles, it will be a tall fruitcake with white icing, (hold the rats). Mr. Francatelli continues to drop more hints to Miss Skerrett about another life with him. Odd since they couldn’t know each other too well, given that all their exchanges have to do with him asking her questions she won’t answer. Maybe because of his knowledge of her previous vocation he feels she is proficient, and that’s good enough for him – but not her. She still swats all his hints back across the net.
FYI: The real Mr. Francatelli was a celebrity chef and best-selling cookbook author of the Victorian era, renowned for his blending of French and Italian cuisine. He only worked at the palace for two years and wasn’t happy there, likely because of Vicky and Albert’s preference for plain English food. Not much fun for adventurous gourmet Francatelli. Given the Prince’s propensity toward being an early adapter, after Francatelli left, Bert and Vicky took their dinner served on trays, on the couch, starring at the wall where, in a hundred years or so, there would be a TV installed.
- See Ya Hubbell: Victoria and Lord M say goodbye to all that.
Before she goes off on her honeymoon, Victoria summons Lord M. She has something to say, “Your girl is lovely, Lord M”, which confuses him for a minute but he decides to go with it. She reminds him of his advice to her about giving her heart with no reservation, and wants him to know he was almost right. Almost? Yes, her heart is Albert’s but there is a part that will always be (secretly) reserved for him. She wants him to know she will never forget. She doesn’t have to say what. They know. They will always have their misty watercolor memories.
Everything here, all the history, the longing, the what-ifs, is in what’s not said. They don’t have to say it, we can feel it. Lord M offers the bride one last chaste kiss, then turns as she walks away. When he turns back for one last look he sees Victoria excitedly sprinting toward her new love, or her ban the bomb petition (same diff), as the music swells. Sigh. Where are Marvin and Barbra when you need them? Yeah, OK, it may not be exactly historically correct, but who cares! Best ever scene in this episode: This one.
Do you agree with my Best Ever assessment? If not, what’s your favorite? Join the conversation below or Tweet using the hashtag #VictoriaPBS.
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