Well, we had no Sir Robert Peel, no children and no Buckingham Palace to fuss over. Instead, Victoria decides a Scottish holiday is in order because she’s always wanted to visit and, well, no one can stop her now. The decision comes on the heels of an assassination attempt, or at the very least a show of one, when a man points an unloaded pistol at the couple as they’re driving home.
Thus, respite is in order and this time in the Highlands. Victoria is charmed by tartan and bagpipes, while Albert is less so. Both are bored by the entertainment and feel stifled by their host, who has planned a full itinerary and has guards posted outside in their bedroom. After being offered a military review, Victoria instead requests riding out so that they might instead see a bit of the countryside. They end up fishing in a stream, but when it’s time to go home, Albert says he has an “excellent” sense of direction and they’d both prefer to ride off alone.
Naturally, they get lost. Now, I spent most of these scenes waiting for Balmoral to pop up like magic, but no. Instead, they happen upon a small cottage in the middle of nowhere where a kindly, elderly couple offer up their hearth, supper and bed. Albert is tickled by the simple food and Victoria even learns to darn socks. What a treat, indeed. Quite the taste of the ordinary life and all that.
Back at their hosts house, he and the Queen’s servants are frantic, searching the countryside and wondering at one point they’re going to have to inform the Prime Minister. But never fear, found they are, though we don’t know how except to assume the soldiers happened upon the cottage in just the same way. The elderly couple are charmed they hosted their queen and the woman offers a parting gift that will allow Victoria to keep practicing her darning – I’ll admit, I didn’t catch what it was and I don’t sew, so…
Anyway, in the background of all of this, Harriett is mourning the death of her husband. When Ernest tries to comfort her and she rebuffs him, we learn that she blames herself for his death, believing it happened because he sensed her infidelity. Well, it was a hunting accident, so your guess is as good as mine as to how that worked itself out. Did he commit suicide? Did he…lose the will to hunt all of a sudden? Je ne sais pas.
And finally, I ignored the servants’ plot as I do.
So, fact check: First and foremost, no, Victoria and Albert never got lost in the countryside – at least not that we know of. They did, however, fall in love in Scotland. They first visited in 1842, however this episode appears to be based on their 1844 trip since it features Blair Castle where the real Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed. On that particular holiday, their eldest daughter, Vicky, joined them.
What it did capture, however, was why the couple came to love the country so much – their ability to better-adopt the norms of a middle-class lifestyle. They could live much more simply, with somewhat more privacy in a great deal more comfort. Eventually, of course, they would purchase and renovate Balmoral and begin making annual long-term treks to it, a tradition which is still carried out in a slightly altered fashion by the Queen and her family today.
As for next week, it looks we’re going to see the royal nursery showdown between Albert and Baroness Lehzen. In the meantime, you can catch up on last week here.