The title of the Season 2 finale is Comfort and Joy, though there wasn’t much of either! Our cast of characters had to go through a lot of tsuris to get to something better than gloomy, and the mood cues were coming from sad piano selections. This episode made me think that maybe the conflict between Albert and Victoria (on the topic of families, at least) is the different ways they look back on their miserable childhoods. He looks back on his with rose colored glasses, she with the wariness of someone who has what everyone else wants. At least Albert had his brother Ernie to break the quiet; Victoria had only dolls, and isolation – and Lehzen. That difference informs every family debate they have.
Rejoice in the essentials of Victoria Season 2, Episode 7: Comfort and Joy (the season finale that came too soon!).
19. Have Yourself a Perfect Little Christmas: Do You Believe in Magic?
Victoria is playing melancholy music at the piano. Albert compliments her but requests she play a carol instead, something more up tempo. Albert would have loved those dogs barking “Jingle Bells.” Yes, Christmastime is upon the house of Victoria, and Albert is practically manic with preparations and demands that this be The Best Christmas Ever, dammit! He is going to make sure his kids have a happy, picture-perfect Christmas, even if the attempt leaves a trasil of dead bodies upstairs and down! Overcompensate much? All of this stems from Albert’s one memory of his own picture-perfect Christmas, the last with his mother, when they were all together and happy – but that picture may have been photoshopped by time and memory.
In that holiday spirit (or in some other spirit), he invites Victoria’s Mummy Dearest to return from Coburg without informing Victoria. SURPRISE! Mummy wastes no time in mocking her daughter’s relationship with Lehzen by bringing a parrot to replace the dearly departed governess/mother substitute. Replaced by a parrot? That’s like Alfred calling his relationship with Drummond an indiscretion.
Uncle Leo adds to the atmosphere by turning up with Princess Gertrude von Mechlenburg von Schtum (who just happened to be in the neighborhood) to foist upon the unwilling Ernie. Bad news for Ernie, for Harriet, and also for Victoria, who will never get her security deposit on the palace back after Ernie’s fingernails leave scratches all along the floor as he is dragged to the altar. Little Vicky is the only one in the room who calls ’em as she sees ’em: When grandma (Mummy Dearest) asks Vicky if she remembers her, she says, “Yes, you’re the lady who always makes mummy cross.” Isn’t this a cozy scene?
18. Albert Can’t See the Forest For the Trees
Albert’s Christmaszilla plans demand that there will be trees everywhere. One for every member of the family and another hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room, all decorated with candles (one wonders how many fire fighters cringed at the thought of candles on trees!). Albert expects Penge to make all this magically appear on Christmas Eve. Yes, Penge the Grinch has been tasked with creating a magical holiday. Back downstairs, Penge complains that he doesn’t like foreign ways at Christmas (or ever!). He insists that having trees in the house decorated with ornaments just ain’t Christian. And a rum pa pum pum to you, too!
True History: Christmas cards. It was a widely circulated Christmas card with an illustrated scene of Victoria and Albert and their children around the tree that popularized what have now become annual holiday traditions.
17. Forbes List: Queen Victoria is Gifted a Child by an African King
A Captain Forbes brings Victoria a gift from King Ghezo of Dahomey in West Africa (present-day Benin). Victoria expects it to be a baby elephant. Instead it is a little girl, a princess who was the only member of her royal family not slaughtered (she too was destined for death until Captain Forbes suggested to the king this gift alternative). Captain Forbes first brought the princess Sarah to his home in Hampshire, where his wife took her into her heart, as her own, teaching her reading, writing and piano. Mrs. Forbes and the child have developed a strong bond. Mrs. Forbes does not want Sarah to leave, saying the queen has a nursery full of children, and she has none. But the Captain says it is his duty to bring Sarah to the queen because of his promise to King Ghezo.
When he arrives in the throne room for the audience, Victoria is glad to hear that the Captain’s dropping of her name spared Sarah’s life, but is stunned that she is being given this “gift.” She will not accept her as a gift, but because Sarah is royal, she thinks it only fitting that she be invited to stay. Mummy Dearest questioned whether it was wise to invite Sarah to stay, and that just may be what made Victoria determined on that count. The Duchess of Bucchleuch also thinks Victoria’s “losing her wits like her mad grandfather.” But Victoria is captivated by Sarah and wants her to know she is welcome and safe.
True History: Sarah Forbes Bonetta (1843 – August 15, 1880). Sarah’s name was Aina before her parents were killed in inter-tribal warfare and she was sold into slavery at the age of five. After rescuing her from a fate as a human sacrifice, Captain Forbes re-named her Sarah Forbes Bonetta (his ship was the HMS Bonetta). She never actually lived with Queen Victoria but they had a close relationship for the rest of Sarah’s life. She married a wealthy African businessman and had three children; her eldest Victoria was goddaughter to the queen. Sarah died from tuberculosis at the age of 37, after which Victoria wrote, “Saw poor Victoria Davies, my black godchild, who learnt this morning of the death of her dear mother,” according to the Radio Times.
16. Come to Me My Little Emotional Support Peacock: No, Miss Coke is no Old Maid
More melancholy piano. This time from Harriet. Ernie watches from the hallway, causing Harriet to flee. She is still angry over the question he promised to ask but didn’t. Miss Coke comments to her aunt how sad it is that Ernie seems destined for the mail order princess. She thought Harriet and Ernie would get together; how sad it is to be a widow. The Duchess is having none of that. She thinks better a widow than an old maid. Old maid? What is Miss Coke, like, sixteen? Crickey!
The Duchess pushes her niece toward Alfred, but Miss Coke is hesitant because, Hello! But the pragmatic Duchess insists “men like him” make perfectly good husbands. Miss Coke reasons it cannot be because Alfred has already given his heart to another (Drummond). But the Duchess tells her she’s been reading too many novels, “men don’t give their hearts away, they merely lend them.” One could say that’s rather cynical, Duchess. True, but cynical. She actually sounds like she is of like mind with Uncle Leo, who has advised every single niece and nephew we know of to not marry for love, always arguing that it’s too much trouble. Better to marry for money or position, things that can be tallied on an abacus.
For his part, Alfred is still dressing all in black, wearing a black armband under his clothes, crying at the opera (with an assist from Miss Coke’s offered up hanky). How does one mourn a love that would be punishable by death (until 1861) were it publicly known? Alfred tells Miss Coke he could never have gotten through the last few months without her and her kindness; that she is “kinder than I deserve.” Why doesn’t he think he deserves kindness?
15. Diamonds Are Forever: Uncle Cumberland is Back and on a Treasure Hunt
The next contestant to turn up uninvited and unannounced is Uncle Cumberland, who was last seen making a quick exit in the prior season after basically everyone ghosted him, believing he had something to do with a certain assassination attempt on the queen. Uncle Leo sees Cumberland across a crowded opera house and says he wishes he had known he was going to be there. If he had, he would have worn his Order of the Golden Fleece because he knows how much Cumberland is jealous of the pretty necklace that came with the prize – and he is into jewelry.
After the performance, Cumberland shows up in the royal box, and Victoria is in for an even bigger shock than his mere arrival: we find out that he and the Duchess of Buccleuch are old friends. Has Victoria had an enemy spy in her midst this whole time? This was the very thing she worried about last season; that was the fear that caused the Bedchamber Crisis. But she doesn’t have time to think about that now. Right now she is fielding his demand that Victoria return his mother’s diamonds. In front of Victoria, Cumberland asks the Duchess if she remembers his mother’s diamond necklace – the very one Victoria is wearing. The Duchess looks uncomfortable. He wants them back (even though he never had them).
True History: The Order of the Golden Fleece is a European Order of Chivalry (no wonder cutthroat Cumberland had been overlooked for that one). It was first created in 1430, and the designation comes with a big, gold ornamental necklace that drapes from shoulder to shoulder. Among the many princes and kings given the honor are Victoria’s grandfather, King William IV, Prince Albert, Napoleon Bonaparte, and more recently, Queen Elizabeth II. Another honoree we know was the Duke of Wellington.
True History: The opera the royal party went to see, La Cenerentola, is based on the story of Cinderella, except there is a wicked stepfather instead of a wicked stepmother; the fairy godmother is replaced with a philosopher; and Cinderella is identified by a piece of jewelry – a bracelet – instead of a glass slipper.
14. Sin City: Uncle Leo Lectures Ernie on the Wages of Getting Caught (with Your Pants Down)
Nightmare Uncle Leo barges into Ernie’s room (even though Ernie protests he’s sleeping) and sees the mercury powder on the night stand. Leo knows what that means: Ernie has followed in his father’s footsteps (or something like that), and now he’s paying the wages of sin. Ernie says he’s oh so glad to be following in the family tradition, but Uncle Leo insists, “Not me! I always use precautions!” (Oh, now you tell me!)
It seems it’s only the getting caught out part that is a sin to Leo. But when Ernie says now he must understand why he cannot marry the princess (or anyone else), Leo says he sees no reason why Ernie cannot still marry Princess Gertrude. The reason, Leo, is that responsible Ernie doesn’t want to ruin her life and have deformed children. Leo counters with, what’s a little infection passed between consenting adults when there is so much political and financial gain to be had (by Leo) by the merger?
13. The Gift: Hello Dolly, You’ve Got a Friend
Victoria takes Sarah Christmas shopping and sees her looking at the dolls. She tells Sarah that when she was a little girl, her dolls were her only friends. Sarah picks out a doll for herself and Victoria wants her to know that she will always have a friend in her doll.
Sarah is unhappy at the palace. Victoria is kind and welcoming, but some others (like Mummy Dearest) not so much. She screams in fear when the dogs come bounding into the nursery (I would too!) though has found a friend in the parrot. She comes upon Victoria sobbing, and tells the queen that Mrs. Forbes told her it’s not good to cry. Sarah asks Victoria if she misses her mother (if only!). Victoria says she misses someone who was like a mother to her. Sarah understands because she misses Mrs. Forbes. Little Sarah understands her better than Albert does. Sarah tries to cheer her up by showing her how to make faces. There is a growing bond there, but not the same as with Mrs. Forbes. Sarah writes to Mrs. Forbes to say she is afraid of the dogs and the white rain (snow), and that she is being brave like she asked, but she hopes that soon she can be back in her kitchen, eating currant buns together.
12. Jewel Thief: Cumberland Makes His Move
As promised (or rather, threatened), Cumberland turns up at the palace, lawyers in tow, to repossess the necklace, claiming his mother’s will says it belongs to him. He condescendingly tells Victoria that her lack of education might mean she doesn’t understand legal documents. Victoria stands her ground, says she does know that possession is nine tenths of the law. He suggests that she might not like for their little dispute to become public (though if we recall, Lord M told Cumberland that the public would support Victoria over him). She tells him he is no longer welcome there and asks that he be escorted out. He wants to know what happens if he refuses to leave and she suggests he be entertained by the Duchess of Buccleuch. He goes.
11. Visible Means of Support: Albert Laughs at Victoria’s Concerns
To Victoria, what is worse than Cumberland’s presence is that Albert does not support her. Albert is seasonably cold towards Victoria, passive/aggressive even. She did what he wanted; she got rid of Lehzen, but his resentful attitude has not changed one bit. Is he angry that she even misses her? Can’t he at least let her have that?
Cumberland hates her because she stopped him from being King of England, and what is even worse is that Albert does not take her concerns seriously. He just laughs it off, saying she is exaggerating (again). Albert is being a jerk, dismissing Victoria’s concerns, laughing at the idea that the Duchess is friends with him, saying just a necklace, no biggie. But this is not merely about a necklace; this is about the man who spent years plotting her death. She wants to know, “aren’t you going to try and help me?”
Albert doesn’t seem to get that someone is not paranoid if people really are out to get them, and Victoria spent her entire childhood surrounded by people who plotted her demise to get her power – and the ONLY person she could depend on, the only one she knew for sure was on her side was Lehzen. And now she’s gone, and the person who demanded she go is still not satisfied. And now we finally open the Lehzen file: She tells him Lehzen would have agreed with her, but Albert is having none of that. Oh yeah, he says, Lehzen specialized in agreeing with her. Victoria shouts, “No, she understood me!”
True History: The Family Jewels. As I wrote in the Season 1 recaps, Cumberland had numerous legal tangles with Victoria, including claiming that the family jewels, AKA Charlotte’s diamonds (which were inherited by Victoria), should actually belong to him. When Victoria would not turn them over, he took her to arbitration, but one of the members of the arbitration board mysteriously died the night before the decision was to be announced. Cumberland wanted another arbitration, but Victoria refused to permit it and took to wearing Charlotte’s diamonds at every public opportunity just to rub it in his face. Go Vicky!
10. Having a Ball
Victoria and Albert and entourage head downstairs for the Servants Ball. Ernie snubs Princess Gertrude to dance with Miss Cleary instead, although that was a show for Harriet. Uncle Leo advises him to think of Coburg; Gertrude is rich enough to fix the castle roof with shekels left over for his amusements. He tells Leo flat out that he has no interest in amusements anymore. He’s all shagged out after a prolonged squawk and everything he wants is right there in that room (ie; Harriet). And with that, he exits.
Elsewhere at the danceteria, Mummy Dearest asks Victoria if she remembers the servants balls at Kensington (one should hope not). All Victoria remembers is being sent upstairs away from the fun. Mummy asks, “Don’t you have any happy memories of Kensington?” Victoria’s answer is to walk away. Across the room, Miss Coke makes Alfred polka against his will and gets a laugh out of him.
9. What Good is Sitting Alone in Your Room?
Ernie leaves the ball and a hooded figure follows him. It’s Harriet. She makes a pit stop to shed her clothes and let down her hair, then enters his room in her (Victorian) undies. Yowza. After a very brief preamble in the hay, Ernie steps on the brakes – and steps in it. Unable to tell her the truth of why he really cannot go any further, he instead says that he now realizes he was only interested in forbidden fruit, and now that she’s here, he finds her less appealing. What? She flees.
Uncle Leo finds her sitting in the hallway sobbing, still in her undies, and asks if his nephew is the reason and says she isn’t the only woman he’d reduced to tears that evening. Fed up Princess Gertrude is going back to the unpronounceable Duchy from whence she came. Then Leo asks the burning (and itchy) question: Has Ernie told you of his condition? In that moment, was Leo being nice, comforting her as only he can? Or was he trying to scare her away from Ernie for good? What say you, Victorians?
Now that Harriet knows, she goes to Ernie the next day. She knows everything but wants to be with him regardless. He tells her they are star crossed and cannot be. She says that being by his side is all she wants anyway. They sit side by side on the garden steps in the snow. He puts his arm around her to keep her warm.
8. Man From U.N.C.L.E: Skerrett Gets a Letter from a Lawyer
Francatelli is in the Christmas spirit, too. He gives Mrs. Skerrett a kiss but she playfully pulls away, saying not in the palace; she is a respectable woman. Better at a seedy motel down the Mall. He had always hoped Mrs. Francatelli would be respectable, but she throws water on that “Mrs.” idea saying she’s a Mrs. already because she is married to her job. He is momentarily stunned, but puts on a smile before backing away.
Mail call and Mrs. Skerrett gets a letter from a lawyer. She meets with him and finds out she’s inherited property from an uncle she didn’t know she had, in South Carolina. They’ve been looking for her but she’s been hard to find given that she changed identities with her cousin, who is off the grid. And lucky that she is or she gladly would have pretended to be Nancy and taken said property. OK, so how much is the property worth? He cannot say for sure, market conditions fluctuate, but he estimates £10k, and he can sell said property for her to realize the cash. She is excited until she finds out that “property” is 20 human beings – slaves, including an eight-year-old girl “with no blemishes.” When she gets back to the palace she gives Francatelli the news, leaving out the slave part. He wants to use her newfound fortune to go into business.
FYI: £10k in 1845 would be worth £1,170,000 in 2018 money (or $1,634,000 in American dollars).
7. Ill-Gotten Gains: Mrs. Skerrett Sets Her Uncle’s Slaves Free
At first Skerrett is stunned by the whole notion of what she’s inherited, and then as she gets to know little Sarah, that “property” becomes real. She decides that instead of selling the slaves, she will free them. Mr. Lawyer tries to explain how much money she’s giving away and asks, “Is there no man who can give you advice?” This knucklehead sounds like the loan officer I encountered when I applied for my first mortgage, who tried to talk me out of home buying by saying, “You young girls are too independent.” Mm-hmm. Mrs. Skerrett reacted much like I did. She lets him know she has a fully functioning brain that works just fine without a man to tell it what to think, thank you very much.
Skerrett tells Francatelli what she’s done and hopes he’s not disappointed. He wants to know if she’ll give the right answer to another question: will she take him to have and to hold from this day forward? They know they will be dismissed if anyone finds out, but they are willing to take the chance. (Little do they know, Penge is within earshot as they say this.) We hope their upstairs bosses will be as happy for them as they are for Alfred and Miss Coke!
6. Railroaded: Penge’s Retirement Gets Derailed
Mr. Penge announces that he has been accepted to buy stock in the Leeds and Thirsk Railway Company. He says things are changing, opportunities abound, and there’s a sucker born every minute. This stock market thing is his ticket out. By this time next year he’ll be living in his own home. He may have started life as a Hall Boy, but he plans to end his days as a gentleman, a gentleman like Lord Grantham, who lost all his wife’s money on another railway stock. And Penge already sits on his arse like a gentleman, so it should be an easy transition.
In the end he becomes one of many during that period who are ruined by Railway Fever, though it is hard to tell as he returns to his usual spot reading the newspaper, and all is as it ever was. He tells Skerrett of his misfortune and she tells him about what her inherited property consisted of and how she let it go. Penge is shocked and says every human being deserves the right to make their own decisions (which is surprising coming from him, given what he said just a few episodes ago about the Irish.) “We may be servants but we are not slaves.”
True History: Railway Fever. Also called Railway Mania, railway fever was a market melt up in the 1840’s caused by speculators pouring money into a flurry of newly formed railway companies, at increasingly inflated values, causing market collapse. It reached its height in 1846 when there were 272 Acts of Parliament passed to form new companies that proposed to build over 9,500 miles of railway routes. About one-third of the railways were never built, some because of lack of financing, some because they were bought out before they could get started, and some because they were fraudulent to begin with. Many families of modest means had sunk their entire savings into new companies during the mania and, like Penge, lost everything when those companies collapsed.
5. Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: A Remembrance of Drummond
Miss Coke has a present for Alfred. She explains that a while back, Florence had asked if she wanted a lock of Drummond’s hair. She accepted the lock of hair put it into a locket whose inscription reads, “Surpassing the love of women.” And now that a few months have passed, she hands it to Alfred and walks away. He calls after her. He has to ask her something: would she make him the happiest of men? She asks, “Are you sure?” (and so do we, quite frankly), but he lets his lips do the talking, telling her, “There’s more than one kind of love.”
So how do we unpack this, Victorians, knowing what we know? Miss Coke knows of his love for Drummond, and even celebrated that love with the hair locket; she accepts him and understands him. In this era, the kind and amiable Miss Coke would be the best he could hope for.
FYI: Victorian hair jewelry. Hair jewelry had been around for hundreds of years, but did not become a fad (and cottage industry) until the Victorian era. After Albert died, Victoria often wore a locket of his hair around her neck.
4. The Way We Weren’t: Ernie Rocks Albert’s World with an Entirely Different Memory of That Christmas
Ernie has very different memories of that perfect long ago Christmas Eve, and is kind of resentful about it. He reminds Albert that that was the night that their Mama was forced to leave. She was only putting on a brave (tearful) face for her kids, knowing that as soon as they were asleep dreaming of sugarplums, their father would be kicking her to the curb. Everything Albert has remembered about his only happy childhood Christmas has been a lie, that what he wants for his children is a farce. He asks Albert if he wants his children to remember miserable people pretending. Albert says he wants his children to be whole.
3. Ice, Ice, Baby: Albert almost Dies While Skating It Out
Sarah overhears overhears Victoria and Albert arguing about her. She goes missing and Victoria goes looking for her after Mummy Dearest says she may be out in the snow. Not knowing she’s only curled up in the Amber Drawing Room, Victoria goes looking down by the pond, calling her name, and finds Albert out on the ice, anger skating (after Ernie’s revelation) until he falls through, getting him docked by the East German judge. Victoria panics as she tries to save him, but he’s trapped under the ice. We can see him under the ice, trying to find his way out. It’s seems like there’s no escape. It’s terrifying, until we remember he’s got some years to go. And then he pops back up through the broken ice and Victoria helps him out. Crisis averted.
When she gets back to the palace, Victoria finds Sarah with Skerrett, playing with lace for her doll. Her doll’s name is Aina. Skerrett asks if that is her (Sarah’s) name in her home country. It is. Victoria asks Sarah if Aina (the doll) is missing Capt. Forbes; Sarah answers for her that she is missing Mrs. Forbes. Victoria asks if Aina would like to see the Forbes, and stay with them. She would. The Forbes come to get Sarah. Victoria tells them she will continue to support her, but realizes Sarah was missing them and would be happier there. Mrs. Forbes thanks her. And Victoria sends her new Lehzen parrot along with her.
Albert and Ernie reconcile and Ernie finally admits to his illness and what it means: he can never marry the woman he loves and have children because of it. Albert wants to know why he hadn’t told him before and Ernie says it’s because he was ashamed. He breaks down.
2. Ring a Ding Ding: Christmas Arrives
Christmas Eve arrives and as the bell rings, everyone rushes into the wonderland. There are presents all around. Alfred slips a ring on Miss Coke’s finger as her aunt sits grinning in the corner and the queen congratulates them. A huge hunk of meat is served. And for desert? Cumberland barges in to say goodbye, interrupting the Christmas Eve dinner to tell Victoria he has decided to vamoose without the diamonds after all; he doesn’t need them, and she should consider the necklace a Christmas gift.
Why the change of heart? Turns out while we were doubting the Duchess for her closeness to Cumberland, it seems she might have been a double agent. Or, at least, blabbermouth enough to spill all the beans needed to chase Cumberland up a tree: When he’s in town, he stays in an apartment in St. James’ Palace, owned by the Crown, and he wouldn’t want to lose access to those (free) digs and have to stay at the Holiday Inn, now would he? In the spirit of the season, Victoria invites her former murder plotter to sit in and join the party. Mummy Dearest tells Victoria that she wants her to know she always tried to do her best. Victoria’s response? “Maybe you did.” And Albert reconciles with Uncle Leo. It’s like up is down and we don’t know where we are anymore.
True History: St. James’ Palace is the oldest royal palace in England, commissioned by King Henry VIII and built in the Tudor style. It is where Victoria and Albert’s wedding was held. It was a primary residence for the monarch until Buckingham Palace was established as such. In more recent times, Prince Charles lived there with Wills and Harry until he moved next door to Clarence House. In 2015, the British Monarchy started renting out two apartments in St. James’ Palace to the public, for the first time, to help pay for needed renovations. If you’ve got at £20,000 a month to spare, your neighbors would be Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, who also have apartments in the palace.
1. For Auld Lang SyneAfter dinner, in a quiet moment alone, Victoria reminisces how she always dreaded Christmas as a child, how she would always be sent away from the celebrations, alone, until Lehzen showed up with a big box of candy, and they’d spend Christmas Eve together. Albert finally admits he knows how much she misses her, but that they are no longer children. And adding (oddly), “Duchess says, every time a scheming uncle gives up his claims to your jewels, an angel gets his wings.” Victoria exclaims, “Atta boy Clarence! Merry Christmas my angel!” For a moment all is magically perfect — and perfect it shall remain until a Sunday night in January 2019 when it all kicks off again.
What Did You Think?
Questions to ponder in the off-season: Will Ernie and Harriet make a go of it? We know that, historically, they were married to others, but might they go rogue here and live the life the fans want them too? (Hey, it could happen!) Will Skerrett and Francatelli’s romance last until we get back? And will they get dismissed when the news gets out? (Not for nothing, but this is not a great cliff hanger for the actors. If they ask for a raise, the producers have the perfect out; their romance was discovered and they were fired from the palace!) Will Alfred and Miss Coke marry off-screen or will they wait till we get back to see it? And lastly, how many more children will Victoria have before we see her again?
What did you think about the finale, Victorians, and what questions will you be thinking about until next season?
Join the conversation in the comments below or tweet using the hashtag #VictoriaPBS. You can stream Victoria Season 2, Episode 7: Comfort and Joy now. THIRTEEN members can watch the entire Season 2 with THIRTEEN Passport.