One thread to follow in this week’s Victoria episode is bait – or to use a more posh term: temptation. Who dangles it out of self-interest, and who nibbles it off the hook?
Feodora has been baiting Albert and Victoria ever since her rowboat landed, but this week Victoria baits back. The Duke of Monmouth dangles both money and his son William as bait in his effort to ensnare Sophie in his net.
And aren’t we all tempted by a luscious little carb? Time to put the kettle on, sit back with tea and a slice of Coburg Loaf and discuss Victoria Season 3, Episode 7, titled, “A Public Inconvenience.”
It’s All Greek to Me
This episode opens with a foreboding scene in a foreign land. Cut to the parliamentary chamber, and an outraged Lord Palmerston reports that a Jewish British subject named Don Pacifico has been attacked by an anti-Semitic mob in Greece, and the police took part.
The Queen, both sympathetic and distracted, tells Palmerston to (of course) do something in response. She should have been more specific. This blank check was too tempting for adrenaline junkie Palmerston.
Pam misrepresents Victoria’s blessing and uses it to launch a controversial naval blockade of Greece, upsetting Russia and France in the process, and leading England to the brink of war. Pam’s popularity plummets. The tabloids herald Pam’s downfall, and members of parliament turn their backs on him, just like they did to Uncle Cumberland after they thought he conspired to assassinate the Queen in the Season 1, Episode 7 finale (cut to the chase in my finale recap).
Who is the Third Wheel?
Victoria walks into a room and is visibly uncomfortable when she sees Albert enthusiastically sharing an inventor’s latest technology with Feodora. Feodora is always with Albert, agreeing with everything he says, making Victoria the third wheel in her own marriage.
Later, a condescending Feodora presumes to translate Albert’s thoughts to Victoria. It’s another last straw. Victoria tells Albert that Feodora has got to go. He responds by sitting Victoria in the naughty chair and telling her she’s being childish, and while he can tolerate that behavior in Bertie, he cannot in her.
The way Feodora wedges herself into Albert’s confidences allows him to avoid solving his marital issues. He and Victoria can barely get into a private discussion without Feo walking in. Feo has been baiting Albert, preying on his ego, and he has fallen hook, line and sinker for her codswallop.
Albert’s coldness has left Victoria bewildered, and that could be contributing to her melancholy as much as any post-partum depression. He’s also left many a Victorian yelling at their TV screens!
Albert has never missed the opportunity to miss an opportunity this season. The gaps between baby #7 and #8, and #8 and #9 were larger than the gaps between earlier babies, so it’s not a stretch for the drama to speculate that this was a strained time.
Victoria wanders in on Sophie practicing the harp at the palace. Her vulgar hubby doesn’t like music at their home. Victoria observes of Sophie’s knuckle dragger, “He’s not a man of taste,” which (I believe) is Victorian for, “he’s a schmuck.”
Sophie agrees and Victoria confides her sadness that she’s no longer Albert’s sole provider, his friend; now she is merely his wife. Feodora has stolen the smiles that used to be reserved for her. She then says, “Play it again, Sam Sophie.”
The Gilded Cage
I’m still trying to work out why Monmouth continually reminds Sophie that it was her fortune that saved his bacon. Is it purely sadistic? So, that if and when he takes it all away from her, she will feel the loss more keenly? Last week we learned that her granny was a servant. Her family went from servant class to aristocracy in less than two generations – and this duchess could go right back again, all at the whim of an evil man whose property she became the day she said, “I do.”
Monmouth’s control over Sophie is not his delusion. According to British law of the day, once a woman married, her legal identity was given over to her husband, as was any of her money and belongings. A gilded cage is still a cage.
Does Sophie’s Future Lie in Coins or a Necklace?
All it took to tempt Sophie was a little bit of kindness (and maybe some hot footman action). But now Monmouth knows about her affair and he will not be cuckolded by the hired help.
The Duke plays Penge like a cheap violin. He invites him over to Chateau Monmouth, plies him with alcohol, and tells him he believes his wife is sharing a fetish with the footman. Penge confirms his suspicions.
Monmouth offers Penge thirty pieces of silver to overcome his scruples and provide evidence of the affair. Silly Duke! You could have saved the money. Penge has no scruples. What will Monmouth do with the evidence? He’ll charge Joseph with interfering with his “property.”
Meanwhile, Footman Joe has got sunshine on a cloudy day; apparently there’s a poolhouse on the palace grounds where he and his girl Sophie now have their trysts. But he wants more than stolen moments. He suggests her sparkly necklace could finance their escape to America, where he’ll make his fortune panning for gold in California streams instead of aristocratic boudoirs.
You Sunk My Battleship
Victoria admonishes Lord Pam for misrepresenting her by claiming she supports a blockade of Greece, where Albert’s cousins rule. He reminds her that family are not always friends. You’re preaching to the choir there, Pammy boy!
Victoria pivots to ask him how to deal with an enemy when force is not an option. He offers some great advice (we know he knew it was about Feo). Find a way to turn your enemy into your ally – or, as my grandmother used to say, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” This sets Victoria to try and beat her master manipulator sister at her own game. In this battle of wits, Victoria now has the advantage in that Feodora doesn’t think Victoria has any (wits). Victoria launches a stealth attack while sketching with Feo, offering her a bribe (she’s speaking Feo’s language!) What does Feo want? To bring her daughter Adelheide to court. Bait dangled and taken.
Abigail employs the same strategy Pam advises, downstairs. She is on to the fact that Joseph’s job is at risk. She can’t stand Penge, but to distract his attention from Joseph, she smiles at him and he smiles back, even though his heart is two sizes too small.
The Dream Job
Albert wants to transform the annual exhibition put on by The Royal Society of Arts & Commerce into an international spectacular – one worthy of PT Barnum.
But vision is both a blessing and a curse. Albert and his collaborator, the inventor Mr. Cole, cannot solve the problem of logistics, and it seems everyone is against this grand idea, including the tabloids and politicians who whip public opinion into a frenzy against it.
Meanwhile, Victoria calls on the Duke of Wellington for advice on Palmerston’s blockade debacle, but Wellington is half-way out the door: He is retiring as Commander-in-Chief. Oy. Bad timing. Victoria and the Duke always respected each other as soldiers, and in a season of great losses for Victoria, this is another blow.
Victoria turns to Lady Emma, that great drawing room tactician, for advice. She counsels that most men can be easily distracted by shiny objects. Victoria, hoping to save Albert from a project likely to fail, tempts him with Wellington’s soon to be available position of Commander-in-Chief. But Albert turns it down to continue tilting at the windmills of his Great Exhibition.
When Albert looks to Feodora for validation of his decision, she says, “Silly rabbit, exhibitions are for kids! Commander-in-Chief vill look better on your CV – and just sink of all the svag.”
Not what he was hoping for. The combination of toil and controversy is taking a toll on him. He’s exhaustipated.
Palmerston Rides Again
Artful Dodger that he is, Palmerston turns opinions in Parliament around with a rousing speech:
“As the Roman, in days of old, held himself free from indignity, when he could say, civis romanus sum, so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him from injustice and wrong.”
The Brits like being compared to the Roman Empire. Pam saves his reputation and yesterday’s tabloids are lining bird cages.
FYI: The Don Pacifico Affair. Don Pacifico was born on Gibraltar, a tiny peninsula attached to Spain, which Britain began governing in 1717. Pacifico, a British subject, was former British Counsel General to Greece and leader of the Jewish community in Athens when 300-400 rioters broke in and destroyed his house and beat him, along with his wife and children. In 1847 he appealed to British authorities seeking justice. The rioters were likely angry at someone else entirely but took it out on him, and Lord Palmerston only used the incident as an excuse to settle other scores, which led to an infamous incident of gunboat diplomacy. In a four- night debate in Parliament, Palmerston gave a five-hour speech that would become famous. Pam’s gunboat diplomacy policy was rebuked by the House of Lords, but vindicated by the House of Commons. Learn more.
A Little Less Conversation
Remember back in the very first episode of Season 1, when Lehzen thought it unsuitable for young Victoria to meet Lord M unchaperoned, because he’d been accused of “criminal conversation?” Emma brings up that scandal of Lord M and Caroline Norton, using it as a cautionary tale to warn Sophie to stop in the name of love: both she and Joseph could get burned by their affair.
Given what we know about these randy aristos (and their mobs of children born on the wrong side of the blanket), it’s surprising that adultery was actually criminal. But whether it’s prosecuted or not, seems entirely up to the man. Sigh.
Once they’re found out, Footman Joe assures Sophie that there’s no way her hubby will do anything rash. Monmouth won’t want the news to get out because he’ll look the pitiable fool. Joseph lets it slip that he knows this from experience because the Duke of Chatsworth paid him off to… Wait, back up. What??
Sophie is not Joseph’s first duchess. The Duke of Chatsworth paid him to vamoose. (Is this why Penge was suspicious of Joseph from the get go?) Distraught, Sophie runs off, but not before a lurking Penge observes her with Joe. When she is lured away from the palace and back home with the news that son William is waiting, Monmouth springs his trap. He has doctors ready to have her committed for lunacy. She is dragged off against her will, but not before she spits in Monmouth’s face.
FYI: Criminal Conversation. This was a phrase for adultery used in court, similar to “alienation of affection” (the “conversation” bit being the old euphemism for intercourse). The legal liability was abolished in England and Wales 1857 but lasted in Ireland until 1981 (and still exists in parts of the U.S.!) As a side note, there was a criminal conversation case brought against Victoria’s Uncle Cumberland, and the plaintiff, Lord Grosvenor, won £10k in damages.
FYI: Caroline Norton. She made history, not as a fallen woman, but as a reformer. Norton was close friends with Lord Melbourne and after she left her abusive husband, he accused her of adultery with Lord Melbourne. It went to trial, but a jury threw the case out. Regardless, Caroline lost her position in society, her money, and access to her children. She became a campaigner for women’s rights in marriage, helping to pass three major pieces of legislation that granted women some rights.
Diane Atkinson, author The Criminal Conversation of Mrs. Norton, wrote, “Today Caroline Norton’s name and work are not widely known, but every time a mother is granted custody of her children, or is successful in her application for financial support, Caroline’s struggle with her dreadful husband and her eventual success should be saluted.” Learn more about Ms. Norton.
Heidi, Heidi, Ho
Now that Adelheide is at court, Feodora’s mission is to find her a find, catch her a catch. She’s not going to settle for Bertie, who appeared smitten with Heidi at first sight. She even employs Lord Palmerston in her matchmaking endeavors – quite the risky gambit, given his “collecting” hobby.
Climate Change in the Royal Bedroom?
The final nail in the coffin for the Great Exhibition might have been Lord Pam’s intelligence report, which claimed that anarchists everywhere are lining up to attend Albert’s international showcase. Might these intelligence sources be the same knuckleheads who warned that the peaceful Chartist petition was going to be armageddon incarnate?
Victoria won’t hear it. She sticks to her guns (a la Wellington), shows Lord Pam she can give a rousing speech as well, and stands by her man and his vision. Albert is ever the cockeyed optimist who trusts in the best in mankind (except where his wife is concerned).
What really rescues Albert’s dream of the Great Exhibition is the arrival of a towering, amiable architect. He’ll base the engineering in his design on the ribbed leaves of the Victoria Water Lily. Yahtzee! That’s it! A giant greenhouse to house the nations in Hyde Park. It is full steam ahead for The Great Exhibition 1851. Read more about the exhibition and the Victoria Water Lily in our History Tidbits.
Reunited and It Feels So Good
Despite everything that’s transpired between Victoria and Albert this season, Victoria still has his best interests at heart, while fawning Feodora only acts in her own interests. Did Albert finally get the memo?
Yet this still feels like a melancholy victory for Victoria, who tells Albert she accepts their changed, loveless relationship, quoting Bonnie Raitt, “I can’t make you love me, if you don’t.”
This seems to jolt Albert into a moment of clarity. He insists he does still love her, and he demonstrates this with a youthful, teasing romp of old that leads to them bouncing into bed. It seems our long, national nightmare is over. Hallelujah! Let the countdown to baby #8 commence!
The Top 9 We Are Not Amused Moments:
9. The subtle smile on Prime Minister Russell’s face when Victoria (strongly) refuses to take Lord Pam’s advice about cancelling the Great Exhibition. For the long-suffering, poker-faced Russell, that’s carefree giddiness.
8. “If you want steam, get Cole.” Prince Henny made a joke. Reportedly, Albert actually said this in real life.
7. When Feodora (referring to her daughter) sarcastically says to Victoria, “I don’t suppose you remember her name,” causing Victoria to immediately pull out her iPhone to google “Princess Feodora + daughter.”
6. The novelists vs. politicians debate. Albert: “Novelists are writing fiction; politicians are telling lies.” Palmerston: “The similarity is the people will believe any story if it’s told well enough.” Check and mate. Sadly true.
5. Wellington’s quick read of Victoria’s distraction gambit for Albert. Busted!
4. Little Vicky’s, “Oh Papa, it’s a conservatory. It’s what it’s designed for,” the 19th-century version of “Duh!”
3. When Victoria and Feodora find common ground in resenting their mother. Mummy Dearest has been absent all season, but history shows she was present at Prince Arthur’s christening.
2. “Stick to your guns, Ma’am. When you get to my age, you realize there’s no point getting sentimental about endings.” The Duke of Wellington’s parting words of wisdom to Victoria (and to the rest of us as well.)
1. “I married a dreamer, not a soldier.” Sigh. Victoria + Albert = 4 Evah!
There is just the finale ahead of us! 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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