In a scheme to assist the Spitalfields silk weavers from going out of business (besides the nobility, who can afford it in 1840s England?), Victoria acts on the suggestion to hold a fancy dress ball (the 2018 version would be an upscale cosplay party) at Buckingham Palace with the intent for all of her guests to have costumes created using Spitalfields silks and keep the sale of luxury goods for British weavers, instead of purchasing inferior, cheaper French silks. While many members of court are excited, Sir Robert Peel warns Victoria that this will not go over well with her people who are starving and needing to find other ways to make a living beyond their meager wages. This includes those who work at Buckingham Palace and is exemplified further by the thief from last week. His reveal as Edward Jones ties him to the real-life historical figure who did go poking around Buckingham Palace to steal items in order to sell. But the real entrepreneurial activities go to Eliza Skerritt, Mrs. Skerritt’s sister (aka. Nancy, who works as the Queen’s chief dresser), who sells private stories from inside Buckingham Palace that Nancy told her in confidence in exchange for money.
Nevertheless, the ball is thrown and to the excitement of Ernest and Victoria, both Harriet and Lord Melbourne consent to attend. As Victoria badgers Lord Melbourne, dressed as Dante, to explain his absence from court life, Albert finally has a turn wearing the crown in his costume of Edward III (Victoria is dressed as his Queen consort, Philippa of Hainault. There’s a medieval theme tonight, complete with Ernest as Robin Hood). But as Ernest points out, the crown grows heavy on Albert’s head as rioters gather outside the Palace gates, begging for food. It isn’t until after the ball is complete and Victoria has spent 64,000 pounds on her gown alone (This is over $8 million in US dollars today!) does she decide to send the leftovers of the lavish buffet to the poor.
For all the glitz and glamour of the ball, the first hour ended on the most depressing note of the series so far. Lord Melbourne’s concealment of his illness finally led Albert to tell Victoria just how sick her Lord M really was, and the last visit she paid to Brocket Hall was one of the most bittersweet scenes in the show so far. His last moments, with the music box Victoria offered as a present playing in the background, signals an end to one of the most important people in her life. Unfortunately, that isn’t the only loss for Victoria as soon after the ball, she finds her beloved Dash dead of old age, thus robbing her of two of her closest comforts in the span of a single episode.