Episode 2 of Victoria, Season 3 reminds us again of how strong a person Queen Victoria had to be. She was destined by birth to be handed something that everyone around her wanted for themselves. She was surrounded by an army of duplicitous, jealous people who wanted to control her. It is nothing short of remarkable that she survived.
This episode – “London Bridge is Falling Down” – adds postpartum depression to the mix. As Victoria told the Duke of Wellington at the beginning of Season 1, every day is a battle to prove herself. Now, with depression pushing her defenses down, her biggest battle may be between her inner strength and self-doubt (much of which is caused by those who seek to manipulate her).
When a Strong Woman Meets Self-Doubt – or Doubters
Sing out, Louise
This episode begins where the last on ended: Victoria in labor. Actually, about 32 percent of Victoria episodes begin and end with Victoria in labor (OK, maybe I made that up). Feodora runs into the bed chamber and tells her not to scream. Bad advice. I say labor is the perfect time to scream the house down. Amiright?
Afterwards, Little Vicky pronounces Thing #6 pretty for an infant – “better than the last one.” Does the last one have a name, Vicky? This one is baby Louise, named for Albert’s mother. Feodora is clearly disappointed it wasn’t named for her.
Victoria Has Confidence in Her People
Victoria has barely recovered from childbirth when Wellington, Russell and Pam arrive with their own big news: they have intel that Chartists are planning to deliver petitions to Parliament. They insist that means trouble and want cavalry and artillery to prevent Chartists from crossing Waterloo Bridge. Victoria thinks that’s ridiculous; she’s spoken to a Chartist and they are peaceful. Let the mansplaining commence. She refuses to buy it. She will not sign an order to bring military force down on a peaceful demonstration.
FYI: A brick really was thrown through the palace window, but Victoria was correct, it was wrapped in a French flag, meant as a protest of King Louis Philippe’s presence.
Confusion Among the Chartists
When the Chartist leader calls for an end to rioting, Patrick, who had only been observing, suddenly calls for violent insurrection. When a stunned Abigail questions him, he tries to convince her (with a kiss) that it’s all for her. She falls for it.
Patrick is the Old Bill’s mole in their movement and he’s set them up. Because Victoria refused to mobilize the troops, there is a convenient raid on Chartist headquarters – and just like that, crates of rifles are found. This new “evidence” is brought to Victoria, who reluctantly signs the mobilization order. Albert wants the family to evacuate to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.
Victoria Loses Confidence
Victoria opens up to Skerrett, saying Abigail was wrong, that the Chartists did mean to harm her and now she is in the predicament of setting troops against her people. She asks Skerrett why have they forsaken her for Lord Palmerston, channeling her inner Anna Scott, “After all, I’m just a Queen, standing in front of a crowd, asking them to love her.” (Notting Hill, anyone?)
There is nothing Skerrett can say to ease Her Majesty’s worries, but when Victoria speaks of her accession and how the love of the people she had is now gone, did anyone else think to themselves, “Yo Vicky, remember the Lady Flora debacle? The start was rocky too, but you got past it.”
Maybe Victoria should think of the relationship between her and her subjects like a marriage; it’s got its rough patches. Some days you want to rip Albert’s head off; other days, you’re making more babies.
Palmerston’s rifle planting gambit didn’t just stitch up the Chartists, it hurt Victoria. Deeply. She thought those guns were meant for her and that shakes her to the core. She wanders the palace on a sleepless night and sits on the floor next to the throne, as if she no longer feels worthy of it.
Opportunities to Seize or Squander
Horror Story a la Francaise
Ex-King Louis Philippe is the house guest from hell. Last week, instead of quoting Karl Marx, Albert should have been quoting Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Unfortunately, this is taking place 80 years before Ms. Angelou’s birth so Victoria and Albert didn’t see this coming.
When ex-King LP showed up on Victoria’s doorstep with the tears and the shmatas and (what seemed like) newfound self-awareness of what he’d squandered, she gave him shelter – and at great cost to her own crown. In return he terrorized little Vicky and Bertie (though part of me wonders if it wasn’t Fedora who put him up to it).
When Albert bounded into the music room to confront Louis Philippe, Emma was so startled she could have beheaded the ex-King with the scherenschnitte scissors right then and there! Wouldn’t that have been a turnabout? But instead of showing any remorse, Louis Philippe unapologetically tells Albert his kids need to know that life isn’t always a cabaret. To which Albert replies, don’t let the screen door hit you in the arse, old chum.
When ex-King LP says goodbye to Victoria, she asks him if he regrets leaving France. In a moment of humanity, he sees she’s worried that departing for Osborne House makes her a coward, like him. No, Victoria is anything but a coward.
Out of kindness, Victoria asks Uncle Leo to lend him the country house Claremont (see History Tidbits), which is better than Louis Philippe’s other option, the Chicken Ranch.
FYI: Scherenschnitte literally means “paper cuts” in German. The art of paper cutting originated in China in the fourth century. In the 16th century it arrived in Germany and Switzerland. Before photography, cutting Scherenschnitte silhouettes was a popular type of portrait sitting.
Race to the Altar
Francatelli has an extra spring in his step. He tells Skerrett he just bought them the 7 Dials Hotel (the owner was having a There Goes the Neighborhood sale) and got a marriage license and set the wedding date: tomorrow! Talk about Le Bombe Surprise (remember his dessert?)! She reminds him she’ll have to resign from her position, but Chef Groomzilla dismisses her concerns.
We wondered if she’d turn up at the church or leave him hanging (like at the end of Season 1). But she turns up! Interesting to note his reaction when she vowed to “obey” him. He liked that part the best. They are keeping their marriage a secret for now. Skerrett wants to wait until she knows the Queen is safe. One thinks that, given how much Skerrett sees and how much Victoria confides in her, she knows just how low Victoria really is, and isn’t sharing that even with Francatelli. But this marriage is an opportunity, once squandered, but now redeemed.
Might Feodora Be the Evil Step Sister?
Feodora slinks around the palace, eyeing the Queen’s jewelry (and husband). For a second there, when she tried on Victoria’s diamond necklace, did you think she was going steal it and leave Skerrett holding the bag? I did.
She and Victoria have a disagreement over Lord Pam, and all the pent up resentments start tumbling out, causing a big blow up. She’s manipulative, using crocodile tears and pretense of returning home to Leiningen (as if!) to get Albert to extend her welcome, and to say something to Victoria that makes her apologize.
She tells Victoria she can trust her (making Victoria second guess her Spidey Sense). But behind her back, Feodora drops hints to Albert that Victoria is cray-cray, just like her grandfather. Is there anyone who wants to get at Victoria who hasn’t tried that one? And did you notice Feodora volunteer to Albert that Victoria was in the garden “with Palmerston” when she (and we) clearly saw he had left. So far, Albert isn’t listening and repeatedly defends Victoria. But will Feodora be like a constant drip of water, wearing away on a stone? When she assures Albert that the two of them can take care of poor Victoria together, I’m thinking, nope. Trust her? I don’t think so!
FYI: Daisy Goodwin Spills Some Tea. When Feodora gazed longingly at the portrait of King George in the last episode, we didn’t know the full story of that relationship. In a Masterpiece podcast, series creator Daisy Goodwin fills us in. Feodora’s exit from Kensington Palace was not entirely voluntary; the 16-year-old had a dalliance with King George IV, who (then a widower) thought they should get hitched so she could pop out an heir to the throne for him. But Mummy Dearest and Sir John didn’t like that little sister Victoria (then Drina) would be eclipsed by whatever spawn resulted from that union. So, Feodora was swiftly matched with a German prince and shipped off. Mummy Dearest plotted against one daughter in favor of another. It seems that that would not encourage sisterly relationship, and then there has to be the resentment that had things been different, Feodora would have become queen. There’s a lot of baggage to unpack between these two sisters!
Another side to Lord Pam?
Lord Palmerston is a Rubik’s Cube of a man. He is so flippant it is hard to know what he takes seriously. But Palmerston’s Sir Galahad routine with Sophie allows Victoria to see another side of him; or at least enough of something she might be able to work with. Or, at least, tolerate. Then he plays the ‘M’ card: He quotes his brother-in-law, Lord M – just when we know that Victoria has to be pining for the reassurance of Lord M’s advice the most. It’s hard to know whether he was being a player right there (using Lord M to get his way), or did he truly mean it? What do you think, Victorians?
Gender and Class Divides
Sophie’s Choice was Made for Her
On Downton Abbey we saw an aristocrat (Lord Grantham) marry for money (Ca-ching Cora), and the union turn out to be a loving one. But Sophie has seen the other side of that coin toss with her husband Monmouth.
Every syllable Monmouth speaks to her seethes with loathing. He is clearly trying to keep her away from their son, William, who pines for his mummy and recoils when his father enters the room. Monmouth repeatedly dismisses her as being from the “grocer class,” and his son will be a Duke. It seems pretty obvious poor Sophie was just a brood mare with a pile of cash.
When Sophie’s carriage is attacked by a mob, Palmerston jumps into action to save the day and escorts her back to the Palace. Given her troubled marriage, will she fall for a man (like Palmerston) offering her any little bit of kindness? And will she be able to get her son away from his horrible father?
Albert goes to inspect the troops Wellington is putting into place to protect Parliament and the Palace against the Chartists. He is moved when he sees a child in rags, squatting down to rummage through garbage in the gutter, we assume, for something to eat. Cut to Bertie on the fine palace carpet, feeding the dog Isla petit fours from the good china. This was a great juxtaposition, and we’re looking forward to seeing what Albert does with these scenes he finds disturbing.
The Little Prince
While all the men questioning her judgement causes Victoria to suffer a lapse in confidence, seeing a woman in charge (and having a domineering sister) has the same effect on Bertie. Victoria finds him hiding from his destiny, under a table. She leads a sweet conversation to help him make peace with the fact that he will be King – and a great one.
After this episode, I’m thinking there should be a Victoria spin-off: Abigail Turner, Victorian Detective, in which our heroine solves crimes by day while organizing panty drawers by night.
After the raid, the Chartist leader asks, where did these working men get the money for 500 rifles? And we ask, why didn’t anyone notice all those crates of guns out back before this? Abigail thinks poor Patrick has been wrongfully accused and goes to the police station only to meet his arrogant undercover alter ego, Inspector Doubly, who pretends he’s never seen her before.
Little does he know that the woman he kissed and dismissed has friends in high places. Abigail runs to Skerrett and Victoria to relay what she’s uncovered. Victoria is now skeptical. Abigail kisses Her Majesty’s hem, and says the words that are magic to Victoria, especially right now: Abigail believes in her, even when she isn’t believing in herself. She knows the Queen wants the best for her people.
Albert doesn’t buy it though, accusing Victoria of delaying their trip to safety in Osborne on the words of a seamstress. Was that a class dig or a gender dig? There is another sort of battle going on within Albert. He insists they still go.
As the Royal convoy is heading out of Dodge with a reluctant Victoria and Wellington’s troops are amassing at the bridge, Victoria calls time out. Not so fast Lord Pam. Her Madge is having second thoughts – or rather summoning the strength to trust her first thoughts, that the Chartists mean to be peaceful. She rescinds the order, Wellington has his troops to stand down, and the convoy of Chartists cross Waterloo Bridge to head for Parliament. Victoria and Abigail save the day. Who runs the world? Girls! (Just don’t tell Bertie.)
Once at the Osborne retreat, Albert quietly asks Victoria to come into his bath to see the new painting he has hanging there, Omphale and Hercules. He put it in just that spot so he can lie in the bath and think of Victoria. That’s rather kinky for Albert, is it not? Maybe, despite his protests, he did pick up something from King Louis Philippe’s fleshy art collection after all.
Before they can get in the tub together, Feodora interrupts with news: The Chartists delivered their petition peacefully. Victoria (and Abigail) were right – and the Queen is enraged. She should have stayed in London. She regrets taking the wrong advice instead of listening to Her Royal Gut.
What is Victoria thinking in this week’s parting shot, as she looks out across the big water towards the British mainland? Does that water represent the gulf between her and her people? Her and her husband? Her and her sister? Her own internal conflict? Truly, all could apply.
FYI: Prince Albert bought Hercules and Queen Omphale, the fresco on plaster painting by Joseph Anton Von Gegenbaur, in 1844, and it remains in Prince Albert’s bathroom at Osborne House (learn more about the house in History Tidbits). It depicts the Greek mythological figures of the Queen and Hercules, her sex slave. Hmmm, Albert, you are a dark horse, aren’t you?
My Top 7
We Are Not Amused Moments
7. Goin’ to the Chapel of Love: That moment during Francatelli and Skerrett’s wedding ceremony when the preacher said their full names and we learn that all this time we could have been calling them Chuck & Nancy!
6. Like Déjà vu all over again: When everyone entered that lobby at Osborne House, did you feel that you’d seen it before? I swear I’ve seen it in a movie but cannot remember which. Did you recognize it? Please tell me where we’ve seen it before!
5. Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close up: When the character Norma Desmond said the immortal words, “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces,” she could have been speaking about actress Kate Fleetwood (Feodora), who plays her face the way Itzhak Perlman plays his fiddle: Like a maestro!
4. Footman: As the Prime Minister’s carriage pulls up to the palace, with Palmerston in tow, casually slouched back with his foot up on the seat in front of him, we see how brilliantly the actor Laurence Fox amplifies Pam’s devil-may-care personality in every choice he makes.
3. Little Vicky’s “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” moment: The little princess thinks girls rule, boys drool – and Bertie agrees (anything to get out of the gig). Sorry, Vicky, Cinderella had glass slippers but you have a glass ceiling. But it could be worse; you could be that last baby whose name you can’t remember.
2. Shake Your Tail Feathers: Duke of Wellington stood there at Waterloo Bridge atop his trusty steed and commanded the Cavalry to stand down to let the Chartists pass. He wears those lovely white plumes on his hat like an aristocratic debutant being presented at court. It’s got to be difficult to look tough while wearing a duck’s arse on your head, but he pulled it off seamlessly.
1. The Cutting Room Floor: Something else spilled in creator Daisy Goodwin’s podcast; she mentioned a throwaway line that was cut out of Episode 1, which had explained where Wilhemina was. The line simply said she and Lord Alfred did get married, and she is in the country with their baby, Victoria’s godson. I hope we’ll see her later this season.
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. Watch episodes for two weeks after broadcast, and continue streaming on demand with the member benefit THIRTEEN Passport.