In the Victoria episode “A Show of Unity,” the operative word in the title is “show.” What is sincere, and what is just for show? On the surface, Victoria and Albert look like The Great Love Story, the perfect couple with the perfect family. The pressure to project that appearance is both external and internal. What toll does that weight exact on them – and their children?
Then there is Lord and Lady Palmerston, who seem to have none of that pressure. They are comfortable with who they are and an open book about it. Both serial adulterers, they are physically unfaithful, but share an easy emotional intimacy; they are true to each other and on the same team.
The relationships of Albert & Victoria and Henry & Emily challenge our preconceived notions and remind us that despite appearances, no one ever knows what really goes on inside anyone else’s marriage.
Assassination Attempt #5
For Victoria, being shot at is nothing new. She’s a veteran at that. But this time her children Vicky and Bertie are with her in the carriage during the assassination attempt and she seems more traumatized than them.
Victoria is surprised that the shooter was Irish, but her dresser Abigail isn’t. Abigail explains that while the hunger for food has lessened after the famine, the hunger for independence has not.
Victoria seeks to remedy the situation with a road trip to Ireland to show the people their Queen cares about them. She’s never been there: “no monarch has since the Middle Ages,” she tells Albert, who’s against a visit, as is PM Russell. But the Queen says they are going, so that’s that, and Victoria expects that Lord Palmerston will host them at his castle in Sligoe, Ireland.
FYI: In 1849 William Hamilton fired a pistol at Victoria’s carriage as she rode down Constitution Hill, towards Buckingham Palace, with three of her children. Hamilton had been forced to leave Ireland because of the potato famine. He told police his gun was loaded with only powder. He was tired of poverty and unemployment and pulled the stunt to get into prison. He pled guilty and was sentenced to seven years hard labor at the Gibraltar penal colony. This was the third of three assassination attempts on the Queen that took place on Constitution Hill. Constitution Hill was also where, in 1850, Sir Robert Peel was thrown from his horse. He died of his injuries three days later.
Teacher from Hell
When Albert hired a tutor, Mr. Cane, from Cambridge, did he check to make sure this was one of the alums who voted for him, rather than against him? Asking for a friend.
At first, Mr. Cane seems OK. He’s using unconventional methods (like playing cards) to engage Bertie and it seems to be working, but it’s all sleight of hand. Little Vicky did hint at a red flag when she asked, first Feodora, then Brody, if they liked Mr. Cane. Had Feodora not been so resentful that she had to sing for her supper by babysitting, she might have responded with, “Why do you ask?” But she didn’t.
Feodora remains Vicky’s tutor, and given the way Vicky looked at her when Albert told her that, there’s something wrong there as well (beyond what we’re seeing, I think).
The Birds and the Bees
As the royal party arrives at Lord Pam’s Classiebawn Castle, we meet Lady Pam – Emily – who tends to her bees the way her brother, Lord M, tended to his rooks (minus the melancholy). In another Season 3 stunner, we find out Lord and Lady Pam have an open, non-monogamous marriage and they seem to be happy as clams about it. To quote Carly Simon, “They have no secrets.” These swingers would ask all house party guests to throw their room keys in a bowl, but as we know, no one locks their damn doors at these great houses, so it’s a moot point.
Lady Emily doesn’t keep any secrets from Victoria, either. She tells the Queen all about her husband’s wandering bootheels, and his hobby of “collecting”…other women. And how placing his boots outside the door brings all the girls to the yard. Lady Pam “has boots” too.
I’m thinking this hook-up technique could cause some confusion: If I were a landed gentry’s guest, I’d assume placing boots outside my door was the way to get my boots polished, not get my boots polished (ahem). Now that I think of it, this could make a great premise for a comedy of errors!
Who’s Your Daddy?
Albert notices that Lady Palmerston’s daughter (from her first marriage to the late Lord Cowper) looks just like Palmerston. He’s shocked to find out the reason for the resemblance.
Albert relays the news to Victoria, who’s already hip to the Palmerston’s lifestyle, and is taking it in stride.
Could you handle a relationship like Lord and Lady Palmerston’s, Victorians? I know I couldn’t, but as Captain Crunch said, “Whatever floats your boat.”
One has to wonder how different the aristocratic landscape would have been had DNA testing been available hundreds of years ago. Will we see the day when Lord Palmerston’s collection turns up on Antiques Roadshow?
FYI: Lady Palmerston – Emily Lamb (Lord M’s sister) – was Lord Palmerston’s long-time mistress, and after she was widowed, she married Palmerston. At the time it was thought that Palmerston was the father of the daughter from her first marriage (it was also thought that one of her three sons may have been fathered by a Corsican diplomat). Emily’s own mother had numerous affairs, and thus her paternity was in question as well (it’s enough to make Henry Louis Gates, Jr.s’ head explode).
It was Palmerston’s relationship with Emily that changed him from a Tory to a Whig. They were in their fifties before they married, and their marriage required the approval of the Queen, which she gave. Emily was an active society hostess known for her kindness. Despite the many affairs between them, it was noted by Lord Shaftesbury, that the Palmerston’s relationship was like “a perpetual courtship.”
This Little Piggy
Inviting the Duke of Monmouth on the Ireland trip (or, quite frankly, anywhere) was not a great idea, although Her Majesty did it with the best of intentions. She thought it would cheer up glum Sophie. Wrong.
At dinner, Emma brings up the topic of philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s offensive views on women, including that they lack intelligence by design. Monmouth agrees with Schopenhauer. He claims all anyone has to do is look at his wife to see she is a dim bulb (oblivious to how close he just came to being castrated on the dining room floor by Footman Joseph’s pinking shears).
Emma accuses Monmouth of being ungallant (an insult one really must find a way to work into conversation more often). Lord Pam backs her up, calling him a bore, a boor or a boar. Unclear on which, Monmouth makes a scene imitating a snorting boar. The Queen is not amused. No one is. This is why one should not discuss politics, religion or misogynistic German philosophers in polite company.
As Sophie heads up the stairs to bed, which she can only be dreading given that Monmouth will be there, she passes Footman Joseph, who offers her a fresh candle and the reassurance that, if she listens, she can hear the ocean’s waves.
Beach Blanket Bingo
Early the next morning, Sophie takes a walk on the beach and finds the skinny dipper Joseph half-dressed post-dip. They share their dreams: she, about her son who is trapped at Harrow; he, that his son (whenever he has one) will go to Eton. He tells her they are alike; be they footman or Duchess, neither has power.
She demands a kiss. He says, “I can’t give you anything but love, baby.” She still wants the kiss. They share a kiss (and more!) on the beach. Risky business that (and not just because of all that sand).
Lord Pam, sitting by the window in his Morticia Addams chair, sees their post-coital return to the garden even though they try (in vain) to make it look like they weren’t together. Amateurs. Lord Pam warns Sophie that her choice might be a step too far. Monmouth sees this intimate little conversation and jumps to the wrong conclusion, which might have been a good thing because, among these randy aristocrats, bonking a Lord is de rigueur; bonking the footman, not so much. That could get him fired and her banished from the Garden of Eden.
Love and Marriage, Go Together Like a Horse and Carriage
Victoria compares this Ireland trip unfavorably to the Scotland trip, when she and Albert were so happy. Actually, if she thinks about it, Scotland was their only happy journey. Albert hated the French court, and Victoria hated being squirreled away at Osbourne, so Ireland isn’t really that bad, comparatively. What’s changed is not the travel; it’s the gulf between them that they cannot seem to traverse. He blames it on having six kids. She reasons they have servants galore, so the kids aren’t much of a burden. He replies haltingly, like he’s defusing an explosive device, that it’s not a stretch for him; only for her.
He picks this intimate pillow talk moment to tell Victoria that he thinks the babies have made her cray-cray and Feodora agrees with him. Say what? You’re discussing me (and my sanity) with Feodora? Albert, talking about your wife behind her back, is as bad as leaving your boots outside the door – especially on a topic he knows is a sore subject for her.
Victoria mentions that she caught him rolling his eyes at her and when he excuses it by saying she wasn’t supposed to see it, Victoria asks the $64,000 question: “When did we start doing things we don’t want the other to see?”
Back in London, Monmouth sees Sophie looking a little bit too happy reminiscing with a bit of sand from Ireland’s shoreline. He goes storming into The Club, drunk (possibly, hard to tell), and loudly accuses Lord Pam of “rogering” his wife as the other members of the club look on and barely shrug. Oh, another one? Yawn.
Monmouth insists he will not be mocked (too late) and threatens retribution. After Monmouth is through with his hissy fit, PM Russell asks Lord Pam if Pam he if he was sure he hadn’t added Sophie to his collection. Nope, he answers honestly. Russell looks like he’d just lost a bet to someone.
FYI: Rogering. Yes, it means exactly what you think it means.
Does Feodora Know What Happened to Cinderella’s StepSisters?
Feodora doesn’t like being left behind while Vicky and Al go off galavanting to Ireland. She doesn’t like tutoring the kids and she doesn’t like the kids, period. We fear she will turn the children to gingerbread while they are gone.
She introduces Bertie and Vicky to wine at breakfast (to make them easier to subdue?) and lets visitors know she’s open for bribery. “Excuse me, Reverend, you’d like to be the Dean of somewhere-or-other? A pearl necklace would do nicely. Thank you. Next!”
It appears there is no emoluments clause for the Queen’s half sister.
Once it’s revealed that Bertie was being tortured by the tutor under her watch, it seems the proverbial jig is close to being up for Feodora. Palmerston already had her number. But now Victoria knows of her duplicitousness with Albert as well – and Victoria and Palmerston are getting closer; might he share some intel that’s hastens Feodora’s exit?
Feodora once again threatens to play her card, the only one she’s holding. Oh, that old story? Lord Pam informs her they are quids (a.k.a. even Steven) and that she should leave before someone drops a house on her.
Feodora has been playing this game of chess, forgetting that the Queen can move in any direction. The pawn (Feodora) cannot.
FYI: In loco parentis is Latin for “in place of the parent,” meaning, the person who has legal responsibility for the child. Also, (not so coincidentally), loco, in English, means train, and in Spanish means crazy. And Feodora is one crazy train.
Maybe because Skerrett and Victoria started out together as very young women, Skerrett never seemed too bowled over by the Queen. That allowed them to have conversations that helped Victoria stay grounded and informed. Victoria clearly misses the companionship of her dearly departed Skerrett. Her relationship with replacement Abigail seems to frustrate her.
Now on the inside of the palace, the once bold Abigail is less so. Then again, it could be that continually (mistakenly) being called Skerrett freaks her out a little (or a lot). She is more hesitant to speak her mind, but Victoria depends on that man-on-the-street (as it were) reporting that she once got from Skerrett.
With some prodding, our Chartist Superhero saves the day, yet again. She warns Victoria that she is right to be worried about Bertie, leading Victoria to catch the tutor in the act of abusing her screaming son. How did Feodora not hear this while they were away?
Where Are the Huddled Masses?
On their small tour through Ireland, Albert is not convinced by the thin crowds of Irish cheering their welcome. From Palmerston’s estate, he goes out on his own – as he did in the London slums – and finds empty villages. All the tenants are gone. Has Lord Pam been playing three card monty with the locals? Albert confronts Lord Pam about the ghost towns. Pam explains the residents went New York, voluntarily – in fact, he paid for their passage – and they’re happy there. They’ve all become pen pals. Albert doubts this.
FYI: Lord Palmerston’s Irish estate. Lord Palmerston commissioned the building of Classiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore, County Sligoe, Ireland, though it wasn’t fully completed until after his death. Despite what Lord Pam tells Albert in Episode 5, Albert’s suspicions were correct. Palmerston was essentially an absentee slumlord, and his record during the Great Famine was horrific. In 1847, in an effort to make his estate more profitable, two-thousand of his tenants were evicted and sent to Canada in nine ships.
According to the officials who received them, they arrived “half naked and destitute,” sick and unprepared for a Canadian winter. Some of their graves can be seen at the old quarantine station, which is now a museum near Quebec. Classiebawn Castle was eventually inherited by Lord Louis Mountbatten (Queen Victoria’s great grandson) and became his favorite holiday retreat. It was off the coast of Mullaghmore, in 1979, that he was killed by the IRA.
Victoria Comes to Dublin in Peace
The biggest test for Victoria on her Ireland tour is her visit to Dublin. Thanks to a word of advice from Lady Pam (that was equal to the advice Lord M always gave), and her own natural sense of diplomacy, Victoria charms the Cardinal and those assembled with a heartfelt speech about religious harmony, love, peace and soul – and an apology for taking so long to visit. We know, historically, that wasn’t the end of the Troubles, but it was a nice moment here.
FYI: It is estimated that more than one million people died in the potato famine before Queen Victoria made an 11-day visit to Ireland in August 1849. At this point there was still famine, though the Whig government had declared it over and stopped relief efforts. Deaths from starvation and cholera were common and the workhouses were full. Even so, Victoria was welcomed, writing in her diary, “The enthusiasm and excitement shown by the Irish people was extreme. We feel so deeply touched at the affectionate loyalty of the poor Irish.”
In later years, after subsequent visits, she cooled toward Ireland, feeling the citizens were “ungrateful and disloyal.”
After the experience with Teacher Dearest, Albert blames himself and thanks God they’ll have no more children to ruin. Oops, forgot to knock wood. Victoria tells him she’s knocked up with bambino #7.
Albert is less than enthusiastic. His unenthusiastic “congratulations” was almost as painful as childbirth itself, which must be why for baby #7, history tells us that Victoria will have Dr. Snow administer anesthesia for the first time. Gloriana! Hallenlujah!
The 8 Top We Are
Not Amused Moments
8. That bit of offense Lord Pam took when Victoria suggested he keeps his wife “squirreled away” in Ireland.
7. Albert’s pearl-clutching when he put 2 + 2 together and realizes Emily’s daughter (by her first marriage) is Lord Pam’s daughter. Given Albert’s family history, his father’s penchant for nunneries and his uncle Leo’s charity work (as well as the confusion as to which is his uncle and which is his father), it’s shocking that Albert still finds this shocking.
6. When Feodora tries to get her charges – Vicky and Bertie – drunk at breakfast.
5. When Bertie proudly showing off his card trick gave me a vision of him abdicating the throne to perform in Vegas.
4. I have never heard the insult “ungallant” used in conversation and more’s the pity. Your assignment this week, Victorians, is to work this insult into your repertoire, and report back the reaction you get.
3. That “Seriously, dude?” look Lord Alfred gave Albert, on the stairs, when he remarked that they were amongst barbarians.
2. The moment that didn’t arise: Why, in all the time Victoria and Lady Emily were chatting, did they never discuss Victoria’s dear Lord M, Emily’s brother? Any thoughts out there?
1. The candor of Lady Pam, when she tells Victoria – with regard to the extracurricular activities that bring her satisfaction – “there is honey and then there is honey.”
Hello! Sometimes when there is a phantom character it is a letdown to finally meet them. Not in this case. We want more Lady Emily!
What do you think about it all, Victorians? Join the conversation in my recap – posted every Sunday evening after the broadcast – in the comments, below! Please share this recap with your fellow Victoria fans! Also, see our History Tidbits to learn the truth of some of some of the characters, places and issues that are featured in Victoria.
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