As Victoria Season 3 begins, it is 1848. It causes all the players in Queen Victoria’s life to be moved around like pieces on Albert’s chessboard. And speaking of the Year of Revolution, this is the first Victoria season to debut in the United States first – fans in the United Kingdom have been left clutching their pearls that the series isn’t even scheduled yet for 2019.
After every Sunday night broadcast, I’ll share my episode recap and hope that you’ll weigh in on the night’s drama in the comments, below. Let’s get down to what’s so unsettling in Episode 1: Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears the Crown.
Victoria and Albert have added two new children to their royal brood, and a sixth is well on it’s way – and now that the oldest ones Victoria and Bertie can speak coherently, they’ve got a lot to say!
Their first scene stealer is when the nanny brings them – starched and pressed – for their daily visit with their parents for tea. Little Vicky has a curtsy for mummy but none for daddy. When he asks why no curtsy for him, she tells him it’s because he doesn’t rank (he’s not the sovereign – he’s just the hired thoroughbred put out to stud). He smiles at her snobbish grasp of the system. Little Vicky is an overachiever; Bertie, not so much. He displays the personality traits he was known for all his life: He’s a whiny brat.
A unique sibling rivalry is brewing. Little Vicky sees mummy’s crown sitting on her dressing table and asks to try it on. The Queen then encourages Bertie to try it on too, but he protests, “Crowns are for girls!” Victoria and Albert exchange looks that make me wonder if they are thinking it’s time to sit little Bertie down for The Talk, and explain to him where monarchs come from. One also gets the impression that both Bertie and Little Vicky are going to be very disappointed with this fact of life.
Might Victoria be getting tired of having all these babies, and in such rapid succession? Daisy Goodwin explores that question in this Season 3 preview interview.
FYI: As the tally of children rises (we know that Victoria and Albert had nine in all), I wondered how many direct descendants Queen Victoria actually has. From children to great great great great great grandchildren, the answer is 1,167! Both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are Victoria’s great great grandchildren (again with the kissing cousins!).
Big Sister Feodora
Victoria’s old, half-forgotten half-sister Feodora arrives unceremoniously into Season 3 by rowboat to the British shores. Princess Feodora of Leiningen (played by Kate Fleetwood, a Tony nominee for playing Lady Macbeth opposite Patrick Stewart) is escaping the mob uprisings within the German Confederacy. Even though she looked serene enough in the boat, as soon as she reaches Victoria in the Buckingham Palace drawing room, she throws herself on the floor in tears. Drama queen! She weaves her tale of the revolution’s woe to Victoria and Albert. Victoria isn’t so sure about taking in sister Feodora, but Albert insists.
When Feodora speaks to Victoria, she sounds a lot like her equally passive aggressive Mummy Dearest (who, by the way, is conveniently absent this episode). One wonders what her relationship is with mummy, and if it is any better than Victoria’s. She is meeting Albert and the kiddies for the first time and under extreme durress, so given that even freeloading poor relations like Albert’s can visit whenever they please, these sisters cannot be close. Victoria resents her big sister for up and leaving her on her own at Kensington when Feodora got married to a German prince.
Learn more about the real Princess Feodora of Leiningen.
Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston
We’ve got trouble. Right here in Thames City, with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Palmerston. Lord Palmerston looks to be the leading contender for the character we Victorians are going to most love to hate this season. He is immediately established as a cad. In Season 2, Prime Minister Peel referred to him, blaming him and Lord M for getting the country into an unwinnable situation in Afghanistan. Now, as Foreign Secretary, Palmerston stands on the floor of the House of Commons to congratulate the French mob for uprooting King Louis Philippe. He quotes Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” Brutus, the character who spoke those words, later assassinates Julius Caesar, which makes one wonder what this Lord might have in store for Queen Victoria.
But wouldn’t the elimination of the monarchy also eliminate his own aristocratic title and privilege in the same tide? Palmerston’s claims of having the full support of Prime Minister Russell (who seems to be submissively mute) draws laughs in the House of Commons.
When summoned to the palace by the Queen to answer for going rogue on the French mob congrats, Palmerston arrogantly struts in like he owns the place, twirling his cane like he’s on a vaudeville stage. He continually interjects and speaks for the hesitant Prime Minister at every opportunity, telling the the Queen that the public is tired of being ruled by despots, which gets on her (and Albert’s) last nerve.
He mansplains to Albert that “the British public is like a beautiful woman and I wish to glory in her smiles.” Yeah, whatever. Probably not the best analogy to use with Albert. He’s seen Palmerston’s kind of “glory” before. He knows it ends with a rash. And did you notice that when Palmerston said that, he was looking at the unhappily married Duchess Sophie, who looked away with a subtle little smile? Was that a moment there? More than one person has already mentioned that no woman is safe around him. Do they mean safe from his charms or is there something worse in his reputation? We don’t yet know.
FYI: Palmerston is played by Laurence Fox of Masterpiece Mystery’s Inspector Lewis. He comes from an acting family; his father James Fox played Lord Aysgarth, the broke aristo who flung his daughter at Cora’s brother (and himself at Cora’s mother) in Downton Abbey.
Learn more about the real Lord Palmerston.
The New King Louis Philippe
This first episode opens in France with the royals beating a hasty retreat, stuffing the silverware in their underwear, as revolution comes knocking at the palace doors. King Louis Philippe must disguise himself to escape. And the disguise is very good (he looks nothing like he did last season – and that’s because a new actor is playing him!). Before he escapes through a tunnel beneath the palace, he dispatches his courier to England with a letter for the Queen, bound with sealing wax, the last of his fancy stuff. It is a request for refuge. We’ve all come to expect that whenever a far-flung royal turns up at Buckingham Palace, they’ve got their manicured hand out, palm up, and ex-King LP is no different, except his hand looks like a laborer’s by the time he arrives.
A New Footman
— Official Victoria (@VictoriaSeries) January 8, 2019
Downstairs arrives a strapping new footman, Joseph Wells (played by David Burnett). Penge takes an immediate dislike to him, but then again, Penge takes an immediate dislike to everyone, so this may not mean anything. Penge says he is surprised Her Grace at Chatsworth House let a stud muffin such as him escape her insatiable clutches. Later, when Penge sees him eyeing Duchess Sophie a little too long, he warns him off, reminding him he’s not at Chatsworth anymore.
FYI: Chatsworth House was, and still is, home to the Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire, who have a long and notorious history of swinging from the chandeliers. Chatsworth’s notoriety continued into the 20th century. Two sons of the 10th Duke married women from other prominent families: the eldest married Kathleen Kennedy, sister of the future United States President, and another married Deborah Mitford, one of the infamous Mitford sisters. The house has been the location for numerous movies, most notably, it played the part of Pemberley, in the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice. The documentary Secrets of Chatsworth House reveals all and is streaming now on THIRTEEN.
FYI: The British press reported that after seeing what shirtless scything scenes did for the ratings of Poldark, ITV execs wanted something similar for Victoria, and actor David Burnett was cast to fill the bill. Since there is no tall grass at the palace, one supposes Footman Joseph will be dispatched to Green Park, across the way, to tame the weeds there.
Sophie, the Duchess of Monmouth
Emma is back at court and bearing piles of marron glace, which pleases Victoria, who (naturally) likes to have her friends about her – and loves her marron glace. And there is a new Mistress of the Robes, Sophie, the Duchess of Monmouth, who has replaced Harriet, who was last seen at the end of Season 2, sitting on the back steps of the palace with Prince Ernie, contemplating a workaround for their love (and his disease). Sophie has a passive aggressive hubby, the Duke of Monmouth, whose nasty behavior towards his wife is clearly noticed and disapproved of by those around them. He seems to have married her for her family money and resents her for it. Why did she marry him? She mentions that she had an ambitious mother who always wanted her to be a Duchess. Trading daughters for financial and class ladder gain seems to be a recurring theme in in both literature and history, does it not?
What in the World is Happening in 1848?
The rise of “The Mob”
It seems that all the royals and aristos fear The Mob. We heard reference to the mob so often this episode, that if “mob” was your drinking game word, you’ll be having a rough Monday morning at work. Despite all the talk of mobs, Victoria is confident in both her subjects and the English Channel moat, but Albert is worried and warns her that “Ideas can swim.” I grew up in New Jersey, so I know all about the mob, and while this may be a different mob, all mobs have one thing in common: Defy them and you swim with the fishes.
The French Revolution
This is no dinner theater production of Les Miz: the French Revolution is real and has sent King Louis Philippe packing across the channel to take refuge with his cousin Victoria in Old Blighty (where she still reigns supreme, but is beginning to worry).
Louis Philippe arrives sobbing and says he hopes he’s not dragging trouble in on the heels of his ragged shoes. Albert is against giving refuge to Louis Philippe. King LP’s dad lost his head to Madame la Guillotine. Albert’s dad also lost his life to a Madame of a different sort – so they’ve got that in common. Still, he fears nothing good will come of this, but Victoria insists. When word gets out that deposed French King is at Buck House, the rocks (from the mob) start flying.
England’s Chartist Movement
We first heard about the Chartists in Season 1 when, thanks to a tip from Victoria’s BDF (Best Dresser Forever) Skerrett, Victoria granted clemency to Newport Chartists who were set to be hanged, drawn and quartered for High Treason (see my Episode 2 recap) Of course in the year of revolution, the Chartists are planning more protests. Victoria again turns to Skerrett as her link to the world outside her gilded cage.
She asks Skerrett point blank: Do the Chartists want to kill me and my children? Skerrett assures her that they don’t, that they are regular working people and offers to swipe right and introduce her to one, the woman who monograms and numbers Her Majesty’s disposable underwear. Victoria grasps Skerrett’s hand in relief. When Skerrett brings Chartist Abigail by for an audience, Victoria seems equal parts relieved at Abigail’s assurance that the Chartist quarrel is with the politicians, not with her, and amused by Abilgail’s enthusiastic delivery (she seems to find it an entertaining breach of protocol). The relationship between Victoria and Skerrett is similar to that of Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary and Anna. Skerrett is right that by doing the Queen’s hair and clothes, she is part of history.
As for the Chartists, there is an internal debate between the peaceful revolutionaries and the ones who want to burn down the house – like Mr. Cuffay. On the peaceful side is the Queen’s new friend Abigail, who is bothered by those fellow Chartists who want to march on the palace and bust the Queen’s windows.
That wild card Palmerston suggests that the Old Bill (the police) eliminate the Chartists by manufacturing evidence against them. And just like that, the new recruit Patrick Fitzgerald turns up at a Chartist meeting and, wait, did he just plant evidence (a case of rifles) while no one was looking? It all sounds like a recipe for something to go boom!
Karl Marx for the Masses
Albert has taken to reading the writings of (and quoting) Karl Marx. He views the Chartist protests as an indication that there needs to be change. When Victoria reminds him he doesn’t understand how ordinary people live anymore than she does, Albert takes the challenge. With Lord Alfred riding shotgun and dodging chamber pots dumped out of windows, Albert visits Dickensian London slums and is horrified at the squalid, overcrowded conditions. When Albert describes to Alfred what he saw inside one hovel, Alfred replies, “The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate.”
Albert retorts that God has nothing to do with it and I’m glad Alfred then quickly agrees with him because otherwise we couldn’t like him anymore.
FYI: Lord Alfred was quoting “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” an Anglican hymn written in 1848. This verse, a justification of the class system, eventually became controversial and is now left out when the hymn is sung.
FYI: Marx’s Communist Manifesto was published in February 1848. He had visited the Chartists in England in 1845. Exiled from Germany, he lived first in Manchester and in 1849 moved to London where he lived for the rest of his life. In my own little version of Finding Your Roots (Season 5 airs on Tuesdays!), a cousin who has spent years researching our family tree discovered that we are related to Karl Marx (and Barbra Streisand!) via a 19th century rabbi who had three sons, one of which married into Marx’s bloodline, one into Streisand’s bloodline, and one into our bloodline. So we’re cousins – just like those royals!
Francatelli and Skerrett
Something’s cooking on set today… 🤔
— Official Victoria (@VictoriaSeries) October 3, 2018
Francatelli and Skerrett are still engaged…but she’s keeping him waiting. She doesn’t want to leave the palace in disgrace – actually, she doesn’t want to leave the palace at all. Mr. Francatelli pushes to set a wedding date (and for them to buy a hotel to run) but Mrs. Skerrett balks. She says the Queen needs her. He says the Queen only employs her; that he is the one who needs her. She says the Queen made her and who would she be without her? He says she needs more confidence. Yes, they’ll have love, but Skerrett also loves being part of history, and why would she want to trade making daily history with the most powerful person on the planet for working in a pokey little side street B&B in a London slum?? She’s not sure that’s a great trade off. Uh-oh. Can these two little luv bugs ever make this work?
FYI: Francatelli’s idea to buy the 7 Dials Hotel sounds like a good idea in theory, but in the 19th century, Seven Dials was a notorious slum in (the now tony) Covent Garden and this is a huge gamble with their savings. It didn’t look so bad in this episode though (not like the street where Albert and Alfred visited, and not like it looked in Season 1 when Francatelli risked disease to go there and save Skerrett’s cousin and her baby). Maybe Francatelli and Skerrett could be the equivalent of gentrifying yuppies ruining the neighborhood for artists.
Servants and Gents
One wonders if Victoria and Albert have ever noticed that whenever Penge enters the room with a message, it’s always bad news. Brody is back too – but where else would he go? Let’s hope he gets a story this season.
Lord Alfred is back, but what happened to Miss Coke? At the end of last season they got engaged. The off-season was enough time for Victoria and Albert to have two and a half more kids. In all that time, did Alfred and Wilhemina get hitched? Will she be back? Or has he found another Drummond?
My Top 8
We Are Not Amused Moments
8. So Long Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight. The children put on a show for ex-King Louis Philippe, but are more Our Gang comedy than Von Trapp Family. When Bertie, playing a King, gets frustrated and throws a tantrum and his crown on the floor, it reminds us of when Lady Edith tossed her tiara after Sir Anthony jilted her. He exclaims, “I don’t want to be the stupid king!” as Victoria and Albert sit there non-plussed.
Albert thinks the boy needs to control himself, Victoria thinks he’s just passionate – and Feodora sees an little fissure between the two to exploit. Interesting to note: When Bertie has his meltdown and runs from the stage, he runs to the arms of Duchess Sophie instead of his mum Victoria which, history now tells us, was their relationship in a nutshell.
7. Sister Act? That moment when Feodora commiserates with King LP’s plight, saying, “at least I have my dear sister,” and puts her hand on Victoria’s shoulder, causing Victoria to look down at it as if she expected her flesh to sizzle from the contact. I also loved the exchange between them when Feodora was trying to get Victoria to spring for a new wardrobe and Victoria cheerily suggests some Skerrett-embellished hand me downs, instead of a trip to the couturier. Our little Queen obeys the Girl Scout laws: A Girl Scout is thrifty. Feodora is not amused.
6. Show off. When I heard Victoria liken Palmerston to PT Barnum, I wondered how she had heard of the American showman. It turns out that they had met. In 1844, when PT Barnum brought Tom Thumb on a tour of England, they had two audiences with Victoria and Albert, and those amusing events are well documented by American History Magazine.
5. Grrr. Victoria’s dog has something to say: When Feodora “accidentally” enters the royal bedroom, interrupting a private conversation between Victoria and Albert, Isla growls. Like dearly departed Dash, this pup is a good judge of character. So Victorians, will Isla bite Feodora, or will Feodora bite Isla? Any predictions?
4. The Unmentionables. When Abigail turned in a batch of newly embroidered underwear, we saw they were numbered. When I was in third grade, I sat next to a girl who had the days of the week embroidered on her underwear. I know this because whenever we had to write the day of the week on our paper for an assignment, she would pull up her skirt to check her underwear. There are people who now collect Victoria’s undergarments, which can sell at auction for thousands of dollars! The reason for numbering system is a mystery, even to historians. One could say it’s Victoria’s Secret…(rimshot!)
3. Straighten Up and Fly Right. What would British journalist and commentator Alastair Bruce think about Lord Palmerston’s posture? When a fed-up Victoria offers Palmerston her permission to withdraw, he backs up a few steps then arrogantly turns his back on the Queen and saunters out. Henry VIII would have had him beheaded for that. When the Prime Minister exits and catches up to “Pam,” he finds him lounging on the floor in the gallery. Say what? No one else in the palace even dares lean back in their chair, and this bounder is on the floor leaning against the wall like he’s on a bean bag in a college dorm. Yep, he’s trouble alright.
2. Special Delivery. When a Chartist’s rock flies through the palace window, breaking both the glass and the pregnant Victoria’s water, we are left with “To Be Continued” on the screen. WHAT???? Of all the times to NOT have a double episode premiere! Usually a Masterpiece season premieres two episodes back to back; this time, we are left with a cliffhanger. Does Baby #6 arrive all right? I mean, historically, we know Victoria had nine, but still… We await next week’s episode – and not only for the baby; after all the talk of The Mob, I wonder if Lord Paulie of Walnuts will arrive, too.
1. How I Spent My Summer Vacation. When I visited the Victoria set last summer, they were filming the scene when footman Joseph comes into Skerrett’s dresser’s room for help with his wig. It was fun to see how it turned out in this Season premiere episode!
What do you think about it all, Victorians? Join the conversation in the comments below! On Twitter you can follow THIRTEEN at @THIRTEENWNET and me at @E20Launderette – tweet your thoughts with the hashtag #VictoraPBS. On Instagram, find THIRTEEN at @THIRTEENWNET and me at @GothamTomato and also use the hashtag #VictoriaPBS.