These double-headers are going to be the death of me on Sunday nights, but here we are: a recap of episodes 3 & 4. There was quite a bit going on, from goodbyes to new babies to drunken antics, and we’re going to cover as much as possible, but I do have to point out that it’s beginning to feel like they’re diverging more and more each episode from actual history.
Anyway, let’s start at the beginning: Victoria is lobbied by spitalfield silk weavers who are being boxed out of the market by cheap, foreign versions. She decides the answer is to throw a fancy dress ball for which all the guests wear costumes made of spitalfield silk in the hopes that queen and court wearing it will make it fashionable and boost sales. It works, but the optics are bad in the face of the public mood and Victoria is accused of looking like Marie Antoinette by Sir Robert Peel (to her face, in his defense) and “callous inhumanity” by a MP.
But don’t worry, none of that got in the way of a good party theme: the Middle Ages. Frankly, I had flashbacks to Season One’s Tudor ball, but who am I to judge? Albert and Victoria dress as a Medieval king and queen, prompting Ernest to remark that his brother has the legs of a Plantagenet and another courtier to speculate that it was really the German prince wanting to play king. The latter is actually a pretty decent burn and I respect it.
In the background of the preparation, Lord Melbourne has fallen ill and learns that he’s dying. He isn’t responding to Victoria’s letters so she sends Emma Portman, who is apparently in love with him, to visit. First, we are all in love with Lord Melbourne in the context of this show, so get over yourself, Emma. Second, am I just forgetting this from last season? Quite possibly. Anywho, she’s in love, and before the end of the episode takes a leave of absence from court so that she can be near him…without an invitation. Cool.
Lord M does make it to the fancy dress ball, but in the middle of a waltz with Victoria he nearly collapses and is only saved by the intervention of Emma, who sends the Queen to find Albert so as to help him save face. A few days later, Albert bumps into Lord M at Westminster Hall where the latter man is gazing up at the roof bemoaning why he never built anything. You were the Prime Minister, Albert reminds him. Lord M waves it off – “Any damned fool can be Prime Minister.” His general morbid and philosophical demeanor is enough to prove to tip off Albert he is dying. And though Albert swears he won’t tell Victoria, he does because that’s just WHO ALBERT IS. (The worst. Albert is the worst.)
And FYI, the actual roof of Westminster Hall is the cover photo on this site.
Victoria buys Lord M a gift of mechanically singing birds (at least I think that’s what that was? For the grand total of 10 seconds it played on the screen it was hugely annoying) and basically says goodbye forever. Both know that she knows, but she won’t admit and he doesn’t want to talk about it. They know that eventually word will come that he is on his deathbed, but she will be heavily pregnant and unable to go to him. So, this is it, a pretend conversation about all the things they will do when he returns to London, like the good ole’ days. Naturally it’s devastating and I might have actually cried, but that’s neither here nor there.
AND IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH, when Victoria returns home she finds her beloved dog, Dash, stretched out on the rug by the fire dead. That is actually not okay. I don’t have the mental strength at this hour to address the presence of a dead dog on my television right now, but just comfort yourselves with knowing that the real Dash is a huge canine celebrity. He has his own Wikipedia page and was captured in oil portraiture twice, which basically means he’s twice as awesome as me. And probably you, too.
Anyway, Episode 4 now. Victoria has a difficult labor, but successfully delivers a second child – a boy! Royals, as we know, love those. Frankly, I’m just relieved we didn’t have to watch several episodes of Victoria complaining about being pregnant again. The baby is here, but Victoria is suffering from postpartum depression. (Well, she is “low” per 19th century parlance). We’re going to the fact check of these eps in a second, but I’ll go ahead and just note that there’s some truth to this plotline from the actual Victoria.
On the heels of this, Albert learns that his father is dead. He returns to Coburg alone to attend the funeral, only to be told on the night of his arrival by Uncle Leopold that he once had an affair with his mother and is secretly his father. Albert, naturally, doesn’t take this well. He gets wasted with Ernest at some sort of bierpalast and because he is him, his idea of being drunk is to create a pyramid of glasses, break them and then get confused as to whether he feels he is surrounded by elves or pixies. Pro tip, if you are sensing mythical creatures then drunk you are not.
Anyway, there is more to this episode as Albert and Victoria battle their existential crisis and depression, respectively, but that pretty much captures the plot. Let’s move on to the macro fact check:
- Dash actually died at the end of 1840, not the end of 1841 when this is ostensibly meant to occur based on the birth date of Victoria’s actual son (the future Edward VII). As such, his death would have happened right around Vicky’s birth.
- Albert’s father died in 1844 and was thus still alive for a few years after the birth of his grandson. And when he *did* die, Albert didn’t attend the funeral – not because he disliked him, but because unlike what is depicted on this show, these people weren’t turning up in other countries for the occasional long weekend.
- The real Lord Melbourne didn’t die until 1848…if for no other reason than he was actually still Prime Minister until about three months before the birth of Victoria’s son. As such, he had about seven years of retirement, during which time he was still in touch with Victoria, though it would eventually fade not out of a lack of affection, but because it was considered inappropriate for her to be talking to a politician who wasn’t her PM (and a member of the opposition).
- I obviously cannot say with certainty that Leopold wasn’t Albert’s father. What I can say is that this story is not prompted on any actual evidence. In other words, it’s an improbable story told to a man who would never have been at that place during that time. Solid.
And with that, I leave you until next time. You can catch up on the first two episodes here.