Here are the 21 essentials of Victoria Season 2, Episode 6: The Luxury of Conscience.
21. Uncle Leo Returns
We begin with Albert and little Vicky amusing the Queen with some organ music and dancing. This scene of domestic bliss is shattered when Uncle Leo, who has a knack for bad timing, walks in on them at the palace, unannounced and uninvited. He claims he was just being impulsive, wanting to see his family. Impulsive? The idea to take a trip from Belgium to London (in 1845) may be impulsive, but a week-long trek across the Continent (not to mention the English Channel) is not impulsive. There’s plenty of time (days) rattling around in a horse and buggy to think it out and turn around – or (at least) send a message of warning. Uncle Leo is not impulsive; he’s calculating.
But he brings with him a birthday gift for Albert, a painted portrait of himself (of course) in his Cap’n Crunch uniform. Albert is underwhelmed. Sadly the pre-historic pocket selfie is too small to use as a dart board. Maybe that’s why Leo chose that size. Albert immediately takes daughter Vicky out of the room. No doubt, the only reason Albert held his tongue was because Vicky was there.
Uncle Leo, demonstrating his firm grasp of the obvious, comments that Albert does not seems so happy to see him. Victoria rolls her eyes and says, “Ya think? After The Coburg Revelation?” (not saying more lest the household cavalry standing guard at the door hear her and sell it to the tabloids). Leo claims that everything he does, he does for the family (ie; his stable of marriageable chess pieces.) Victoria tells him that a real father would have just left it alone. Later, Leo sort of apologizes to Albert for what he said in Coburg. He just says maybe he shouldn’t have said it. Too late, Bud. What is said can never be unsaid.
20. Peel Fights to Repeal the Corn Law
The House is debating Peel’s proposed repeal of the Corn Laws but his Tories find the prospect less than aPeel-ing. They don’t want the party to end for the land-owning gentry who currently hold all the cards. Peel knows he cannot get it through without Wellington. Luckily, at a summit meeting where other party members walk out in protest, Wellington pledges his support.
Peel tells the Queen he knows it is right, but also knows it will mean the end of his career. Albert says, nope, it won’t be the end. He even predicts that when the Parliament is dedicated in five years, Peel will be the Prime Minister dedicating it. (Wrong again!)
Later Albert goes to Peel’s office to offer support, saying they are alike and offers a toast: “To the thin skinned; may we always be stout-hearted.” Then he sings Peel’s praises, and gives the kind of speech that is given on every single reality show right before the subject is eliminated. Sigh.
19. Always a Bridesmaid: Miss Coke Makes Sense of the Grooms
Alfred comes upon Miss Coke reading the Bible on a Wednesday and comments on the fact. She tells him she is reading about David and Jonathan; about how when Jonathan dies, David says he “loved him with a love surpassing women.” Ah, so that kiss she witnessed in Scotland (Episode 5) did sink in. Nice to hear a Bible verse to refute the “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” crowd. Alfred can’t stay to chat though. He’s got a dinner date with Drummond – a date that starts off with oysters and champagne and ends with regrets.
Drummond has news; he’s decided to call off the wedding with Florence. Alfred wants to know why when she’s the perfect wife for a man with prospects. Drummond says after Scotland, there’s no turning back, but is then confused by Alfred’s casual response to their love. Alfred insists Drummond needs a wife/beard to have a successful career in politics; why throw it all away because of one little indiscretion. An indiscretion? Insulted that Alfred would reduce what they mean to each other as just an indiscretion, Drummond gets up and walks out.
18. What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Ernie goes out to the gardens and comes upon Harriet staring at her reflection in the pond. They share easy jokes and are just about kiss when Uncle Leo interrupts them mid-pucker. Leo asks her to skedaddle, claiming he needs to discuss “Coburg Business” with his nephew.
Harriet exits and Ernie asks Leo to take his bull to another china shop. Another reason Uncle Leo made this “impulsive” trip to Buck House? He wants to push Ernie to marry the pre-selected Princess Gertrude von Mecklenburg-Strelitz already. To Uncle Leo, marriage will always be an opportunistic power play; he trades his nieces and nephews like they’re baseball cards. But Ernie insists he will choose his own bride.
17. Rash Judgement
Ernie’s rash is gone, and he is given the go-ahead from his doctor to get married as long as he remains symptom-free. We’ve been watching dramas long enough to know what that means. And we also know the limited medical knowledge of the time meant the doctor had no idea it wasn’t gone at all; it was just resting. But Ernie now has a green light and wants to ask Harriet for her hand but they never seem to get more than mere moments alone before someone interrupts. Such is life in the gilded cage. And, as the saying goes, “he who hesitates is lost.”
Ernie finally makes a date to meet Harriet that evening, in their usual semi-secret meeting gallery spot, telling her he has a question to ask her. She is giddy, knowing what that means – and he is his own version of giddy himself, enthusiastically singing German beer hall songs while splashing about in the tub. But his joy quickly turns to ashes, or rather mercury powder, as he gets out of the tub and the ever-present Brody assists him with his towel; Brody notices Ernie has a rash on his back. It has returned. Actually (we know), it never left.
It is left to Brody to tell disappointed Harriet that the prince has a message for her: he is indisposed. Harriet left standing in the hallway not knowing what to think and looking a bit peeved.
16. What Goes Up, Must Come Down: Clash of the Titans between Albert and Lehzen
Back in the nursery, as Lehzen listens, Victoria is reading Sleeping Beauty to Vicky. She says she remembers Lehzen reading it to her when she was little. Into this scene walks Albert, who asks Lehzen why it is so cold in there (might it be the atmosphere between them). He admonishes her, saying he’s told her over and over to keep the windows closed because Vicky is delicate. Victoria calls him an old nanny goat, and says that she always had her windows open at Kensington (though that was because she wanted to jump out). Lehzen concurs about the benefit of fresh London smog, being preferable to the sewer smell indoors. These are the choices. Albert appears to be the outsider.
Vicky seems to be running a temperature and Victoria asks Lehzen if she should call the doctor. Lehzen advises no doctor, instead a ride in the park will do the trick. Lehzen is a big proponent of air and anything that Albert is against. Albert thinks Victoria should call for the doctor, but Lehzen keeps insisting it is nothing. Victoria sides with Lehzen. Albert stomps out.
15. Rebel With a Cause: Albert Goes Rogue
Back from the park, Vicky is getting warmer. Albert insists Vicky looks flushed, and the doctor should be called, but Lehzen insists it is just a healthy glow from the fresh air. Again, Victoria sides with Lehzen. Albert has had enough; he is off to Parliament to watch the Corn Law debate. Victoria is against it, but Albert counters that he’s not the monarch. She says he must know if he turns up people will think it is at her request. The argument is as much about Lehzen, and Albert’s (lack of) autonomy in general, as it is about Parliament. Albert goes anyway saying just like with their daughter’s health, he is right and Victoria is wrong. Might Albert mostly want to go because Victoria told him not to, and this was one place Lehzen could not overrule him? Maybe a little.
14. Yakkity Yak: Albert Was Warned Not to Listen in the Back
Like Icarus of Greek mythology, who was warned not to fly too close to the sun or his wings would melt, Albert didn’t listen. He flew into the public gallery in the House to watch the debate – and his melted wings dripped all over Robert Peel, below. The back benchers, led by George Bentinck, seize upon the prince’s presence and mock Peel for needing to summon a royal nursemaid – and in the process, mock the royals as well. Victoria was right. Albert retreats from the gallery like Cinderella when the clock strikes midnight. Outside in the fancy, wood paneled hallway, he punches a wall in frustration. Cindy never did that.
Drummond worries that Peel will become another Spencer Perceval (the prime minister who was shot in the Parliament), but Peel is confident that no one’s going to shoot him in the House.
True History: Lord George Bentinck: The man who called out Peel for bringing in a royal nursemaid was Lord William George Frederick Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck (referred to as “George” because all the males in his family were named William), racehorse owner and notorious gambler, is best known for his part in unseating Sir Robert Peel over the Corn Laws. Before he stood to speak against Peel, he had not said a single word in Parliament in 18 years. They were unsuccessful in preventing the repeal of the Corn Laws, but were successful in repealing Peel (ie; forcing him to resign).
13. What Are They Feeding the Little Princess?
Lehzen asks Penge to tell the kitchen that Vicky will be having bread and milk for supper. He asks her, “not pickled herring and sauerkraut?” (Albert’s choice for Vicky). To which we ask, are these the only menu choices available? Poor Princess. Apparently food is a battlefield as well. Odd that the wealthy five-year-old is getting only bread and milk for dinner? Whatevs. Lehzen dishes to Penge that the prince has odd ideas about kiddie meals, but that she and Victoria are in agreement about Vicky’s food. Penge warns Lehzen that it’s not a good idea to come between husband and wife. She just rolls her eyes and says, “pffft!”
12. The Good Ship Lollipop: Boat Trip
Francatelli’s thaw is pretty much complete. In fact, one could say he’s melted completely. When he is not watching Mrs. Skerrett from afar as he puffs on his corncob pipe, he is smiling at her across the servants dining table. Even Brody has noticed and taken to waxing Shakespearean about it. He compares them to Romeo and Juliet which, as one recalls, did not end well for the couple in question. Francatelli finally makes a move and asks Skerrett out on a date. They share a romantic afternoon off, in the park, in a row boat; she enjoys the view of him doing all the work, and he says a woman like her should spend her life lounging about with an endless supply of strawberry tarts. When they get back to dry land and sit on the grass for their picnic, he pulls out a metal lock box, containing two artistically placed strawberry tarts. She laughs and invites him to share the shade of her parasol and a kiss. Hello!
11. Wellington has a Beef: His Tories Will Not Behave
Wellington rails against that bounder George Bentinck and the Tories (Bounder Bentinck and the Tories would have been a great name for a 60’s British Invasion-era band). The Duke fears his stupid party would rather be out of power for years than support the best leader they’ve ever had: Sir Robert Peel. Furthermore, he says if they were soldiers under his command he would have him spanked for insubordination. Wellington warns Victoria that this Corn Law fight will be the end of Peel. She thinks Wellington is just being pessimistic, but Sir Duke schools her; you don’t win as many battles as he has by underestimating the enemy.
10. Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered: An Ultimatum for Victoria
After being called out in Parliament, Albert returns to the palace on a tear. He wants to know if Victoria has sent for the doctor yet. She wants to know where he’s been. Albert is not messing around any longer. He finally gives Victoria an ultimatum to call the doctor or else. Lehzen rolls her eyes. Victoria hesitates and asks Lehzen to call for Sir James. Lehzen looks momentarily peeved, but curtsies and carries Vicky out of the room. Albert slams the door after her and lays into Victoria, yelling that Lehzen has bewitched her; that it was Lehzen who came between Victoria and her mother; that she indulged her and her willfulness (wait, willfulness? He sounds like all Victoria’s uncles). Victoria deems that hateful and demands he take it back, that Lehzen was the only thing that helped her survive her childhood with her sanity. He dismisses her, claiming she exaggerates. They are never going to agree on the topic of mothers. Albert has had enough and issues an ultimatum: It’s her or me.
9. You Give Me Fever: Vicky’s Health Teeters on the Edge
Sir James arrives (the same doctor who attended Lady Flora in Season 1) and tells Victoria that Vicky has congestion in the lungs, which is cause for concern. He doesn’t want to be alarmist, but if the fever doesn’t break, little Vicky will be beyond peaches. Almost as bad, he’s already seen Prince Albert, who wanted to know if the illness could have been caused by Lehzen constantly smirking at his lack of authority and opening the nursery windows. Victoria fears the answer, because the wrong one means the end of Lehzen. Sir James said he told Albert that he could not say for sure. Victoria breaks down sobbing. Harriet tries to comfort her, saying that illness in children isn’t that bad, not understanding that some of those sobs are for Lehzen. It’s a mess. She took Vicky out to the park, and now Albert blames Lehzen and thinks Lehzen is coming between them. Harriet shrugs and looks like she’s thinking, well….yeeeah, kinda sorta…but she commiserates with Victoria that it can be difficult to hold two people in your heart at the same time (and she should know!)
A bedside vigil begins; the entire royal entourage waits all night for the royal fever to break, even Uncle Leo who is (no doubt) upset he might lose this marriageable asset (who he’s probably already fixed up with Prince Spaghetti or some other random inbred cousin). Albert assures Victoria that Vicky is strong like her. Victoria sees his hand, injured from punching that wall, and asks what happened; he says that’s what he got for not listening to her (I hope someone is marking this date in history!). She says they’ve both been stubborn. At dawn Sir James sees that Vicky’s fever has broken. She’s safe, but Lehzen isn’t.
8. The Wedding Marches On: Drummond Announces his Engagement
The Duchess reads the announcement of Drummond’s engagement to Florence out loud from the newspaper. Meaningful looks exchanged all around. “And the bride is rich! Perfect for a future Prime Minister, wouldn’t you say so, Alfred?” Everyone takes turns looking at Alfred and smiling into their laps. Alfred agrees. While Drummond had fled their dinner broken hearted, Alfred seems more accepting of their lot. When Victoria walks in the room to Ernie playing the “Wedding March” (again), and hears the news, she says wishes mazel tov to Drummond, though adds she wouldn’t have thought he was the “marrying kind.” Yeah, they all know.
True History: The Wedding March
Why all the comments about the “Wedding March”? Wedding March in C Major was written by Felix Mendelssohn in 1842, and first used at a wedding in 1847. But it didn’t become popular at weddings until Victoria, the Princess Royal, chose it to use at her own wedding in 1858.
7. Alfred Tries to Make Things Right with Drummond
“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” – with a palace messenger waiting, Alfred writes a letter with voiceover narration. Sigh. Writing a letter with voiceover narration is always the precursor to something bad happening (why don’t these people know that?). It’s a note of apology to Drummond. He’s been thinking about their last attempt at dining out and feels they should reschedule their date if only because it would be a shame not to taste the oysters at Chiro’s. He’ll be waiting there at their table. When Drummond receives the letter he smiles.
That evening, Lord Alfred sits with anticipation at the table, not knowing his love has been waylaid by an assassin’s bullet, a scene made even sadder by us knowing he’ll have no right to mourn Drummond as his partner.
6. Shot to the Heart: Drummond Pays the Ultimate Price
Peel’s honor is insulted by Bentinck’s claims that he’s selling out his party to bask in the glory of royal favor. He thinks about to challenging Bentinck to a duel. We have two words for you Peel: Alexander Hamilton! Thankfully Drummond is there to say, whoa Nellie! A duel will get you nowhere (but the Tony Awards). Peel tells Drummond he sounds just like his old lady, Lady Peel, who also tells him he’s too hasty. He adds, just wait till you get married; Florence will keep you in order as well. Drummond looks thrilled (she said sarcastically).
PM Peel stands on the floor of Parliament and gives an impassioned speech for the workers who cannot vote, but deserve affordable food and justice. The vote is called, the doors are barred, and the ayes have it: The Corn Laws are repealed by a vote of 327 to 229. Peel is cheered as they leaves Parliament but there is one in the crowd who is not happy; he pulls a long pistol and tells Peel to prepare to meet his maker. Drummond shoves Peel out of the way and gets shot in the chest for his trouble. Peel screams for Drummond to speak to him, but he’s gone.
5. Who Knew the Duchess of Buccleuch was a PFLAG Mom?
Peel and Wellington go to palace with the sad news of Drummond’s death. Peel is in pieces. Wellington is a soldier. Victoria and Albert greet them first with their own good news (Vicky will recover), then Albert asks, why the grey faces? Is it the bill? When told the bill has passed, Albert exclaims, “It’s a great day!” Wrong again. Peel can’t speak, so Wellington explains that Drummond stopped a bullet meant for Peel. He was shot by a farmer who thought the repeal bill would ruin him. Peel must excuse himself to go inform Drummond’s mother and Florence.
The news is sent to the Duchess of Buccleuch in the music room via a letter on a silver tray. She brings Lord Alfred to the drawing room under false pretenses. She says she hopes he’s feeling strong because the news she has for him will be hard to bear. She hands him the letter, coaches him to breathe and offers him a shot of whatever it is she’s carrying around in the flask she stealthily keeps hidden in her décolletage. She says, “I’m old but not blind. I know what he meant to you.” She then she suggests he go to his room to compose himself, and reminds him that at the funeral it will be Drummond’s mother and fiancé who get to be the official loved ones (but we’ll know different.)
True History: In real life Lord Alfred Paget, the sixth son of the Marquess of Anglesey, married Cecilia Wyndham, co-heiress of Cromer Hall. They had 14 children; the first, a daughter, was named Victoria (they also had a son they named Albert Victoria). Alfred served Queen Victoria in various positions until 1874, and was also a Liberal member of the House of Commons from 1837 till 1865. It has been written that the relationship depicted in the series Victoria was unlikely – but we shall always believe in fairy tales.
4. The Drummond Funeral Blues: Let the Mourners Come
Soon to be ex-Prime Minister Peel and Lord Alfred bring out the coffin at Drummond’s funeral. When Miss Coke introduces Florence to Lord Alfred, Florence unknowingly meets the love of her fiancé’s life. She tells Alfred how her Edward talked about him all the time. Choked up, Alfred said they shared some bad habits; he wanted to say Drummond was “my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest,” but couldn’t. Both Florence and Alfred thought love would last forever, but they were wrong. Miss Coke offers support, and a hanky, never letting go of Alfred’s arm.
True History: In 1843, Edward Drummond, personal secretary to four Prime Ministers, including Robert Peel, was shot by Daniel M’Naghten. At first Drummond’s wound was not thought to be serious; he walked away from the scene and the bullet was removed. But complications set in and he died five days later. One theory is that he died from the leeches and bloodletting treatment, not the gunshot itself. His assassin, M’Naghten, was a delusional man and it is believed that he thought he was shooting Robert Peel. That’s not known for sure because after claiming in court that the Tories were following and persecuting him, he refused to say anything else about the shooting. At trial he was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent the rest of his life in asylums, dying in 1865.
When he was arrested he had in his possession a bank deposit receipt for £750 (the 2018 equivalent of £70,000) which could not have come from his wood turning business. A theory suggests he was a “political activist who was financed to assassinate the prime minister and who subsequently feigned insanity.” The trial and its result inspired Parliament to pass the M’Naghten Rule, a new legal test for criminal sanity.
3. Heaven Can Wait: Peel Decides Parliament is for the Byrds and Resigns
Prime Minister Peel comes to the palace to inform the queen that he’s going to resign. After Drummond’s death he has lost the heart for the fight. Victoria tells him she’ll be sorry to see him go (how’s that for a turnabout from where they started?) He says he will miss her too, but that they both know no one is indispensable. She gets a faraway look as she hears yet another bell toll for Lehzen. On his way out Peel runs into Albert and tells him he’s leaving for the last time; to everything there is a season under heaven. Little did he know that over a hundred years in the future, Lord M’s Rooks would turn that phrase into a hit song at least as popular as the “Wedding March.”
2. Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls, It Tolls for Lehzen: Victoria Realizes Lehzen Must Go
“I’ve noticed the Prince doesn’t always respect your authority.” DOH! Lehzen makes the mistake we’ve all made at one time or another: when a friend complains about their husband or boyfriend, and we commiserate and share our own doubts, too much. The friend changes their tune and your friendship is never the same because you are now the person who doesn’t approve of their choices. Yeah, we can see this coming a mile away.
Lehzen had said that after Victoria pondered forbidding Albert from going to Parliament to witness the debate. Now Victoria has her own internal debate, and a tough task. For the sake of her marriage she has to fire her Lehzen. She tries a Vulcan mind meld, saying she feels selfish keeping her in England, away from her family in Hanover. Lehzen shoots back that she’s been gone 20 years and barely remembers them and doubts they’d recognize her.
Lehzen realizes the end is nigh and spares Victoria from having to say the words. She says she never wanted Victoria to have to choose, she thought of going when she first got married but convinced herself she was still needed. Her loyalty was always only to Victoria, not Conroy, or her uncles or anyone else. Victoria tells her that Albert loves her and she doesn’t need to protect her from him. Lehzen says she believes Albert is trying to control her, but Victoria tells her that it is because she’s never been married that she thinks of marriage is a battle and a zero sum game. She and her husband have their differences, but are on the same side. After all those years in Kensington, poor Lehzen could never change her battle stance. Because of that she was destined to butt heads with Albert (or anyone else Victoria married). Now, she offers to go, but before Lehzen does, Victoria wants her to know, “for many years you were everything to me.” She throws her arms around Lehzen and they reminisce one last time, and as they embrace, Lehzen says goodbye to Drina.
1. The Goodbye Girl: Lehzen Exits Stage Left While Uncle Leo Fights to Stay
The only person who comes to see Lehzen off is Penge, who gives her a going away gift. She tells him she will miss him (another turnabout!) After the carriage pulls away she opens it; it’s a bottle of Madeira, stolen from the palace cellars, no doubt. She just smiles.
As Lehzen is unceremoniously driven away, Victoria watches from the nursery window before joining Alfred with the children. It’s a happy little Norman Rockwell scene – then Uncle Leo walks in bringing mini-pony named Herbert. What better way to buy his way back into their affection than with a pony. He tells Victoria he will do anything for his family; lie, trade them away in marriage, even sleep with his brother’s wife, if need be. Yeah, a real family man (if that family is the Addams Family).
True History: Baroness Johanna Lehzen entered the household of Victoria’s parents, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, in 1819 and became Victoria’s governess in 1824. The Tories never liked her because of what they perceived as her German influence on the future monarch. When Victoria became queen in 1837, Lehzen served as a sort of unofficial private secretary, enjoying apartments adjacent to Victoria’s, but the queen’s marriage to Prince Albert in 1840 led to significant changes in the royal household. Albert and Lehzen detested each other, and after the royal princess Vicky had an illness in 1841, Lehzen was quietly dismissed. Her close relationship with the queen came to an end, although the two continued to write letters to each other; weekly, at first, then at Lehzen’s request, only monthly.
Lehzen spent her last years in Hanover, living on a generous pension from Victoria, where her walls were covered with pictures of the queen. After Lehzen died in 1870, Victoria ordered a memorial erected to her. Historian K. D. Reynolds writes that Lehzen was a major influence on Victoria’s character, in particular giving her the strength of will to survive her troubled childhood and life as a young queen. After Lehzen’s death, Queen Victoria spoke of her gratitude for their relationship, but also said, “after I came to the throne she got to be rather trying, and especially so after my marriage. This was not from any evil intention, only from a mistaken idea of duty and affection for me.”
What Did You Think?
What do you think about it all, Victorians? Join the conversation in the comments below or tweet using the hashtag #VictoriaPBS. You can stream Victoria Season 2, Episode 6: The Luxury of Conscience now. THIRTEEN members can watch the entire Season 2 with THIRTEEN Passport.