Of Balls, Bread, And Births: We Recap “Victoria” Season 2 Episode 2
It’s another double-episode week of Victoria and if you’re anything like me, you experienced a rollercoaster of emotions this week. From the grandeur of a ball to the poverty in London’s streets as well as the beginnings and endings of life, watching this week’s episode was something like a marathon and none of us were prepared (or maybe you were, if you’re watching all of Victoria with your GPB Passport access!). Let’s dive right in.
Bread, not Balls, Are What The People Need
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.
It’s Not Easy Being A Prince
The second hour also focuses on the circle of life, in both birth and death. The birth of the Prince of Wales provides peace of mind to the Royal household, but Victoria has even more difficulty bonding with her new baby than she did Princess Victoria, and finds herself restless with the loss of Dash. In a surprising turn by the Duchess of Buccleuch (and a scene where Diana Rigg, once again, steals the show!), Victoria begins to understand that she is not the only woman going through tumultuous emotions after the birth of a child (postpartum depression was not a recognized disorder in the 1840s) and the introduction of a new puppy, the Duchess’ idea, helps heal her wounds.
But Albert deals with terrible news of his own. His father, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, has died (in a rather, ahem, befitting way) and Albert must return to Coburg for the funeral. As distressed as he is about losing his father, Uncle Leopold chooses to reveal perhaps the biggest surprise of the night: the man lying in the coffin may not, in fact, be Albert’s real father, making him an illegitimate prince. Uncle Leopold reveals that he knew Albert’s mother, Princess Louise, intimately around the time of Albert’s conception. When Ernest attempts to comfort Albert as they cope with the death of their father, Albert in turn becomes intoxicated, unable to cope with the possibility his life may be a lie. But he keeps his fear a secret, choosing liquor and making a spectacle of himself instead of confronting the issue. I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when Albert headed back to England and back to Victoria, to a place and a person he can always call home.
It’s Time For Tweet Of The Week!
As for Tweet of the Week, our winner this week is Twitter user @stanbrown32 ! While it was moving to see Lord Melbourne and Albert finally find common ground with leaving a legacy behind (in Lord M’s case, it’s the construction of the new parliament building, which would become Westminster), it was also jarring to see that one of the historical landmarks and symbols of London was just being built in Victoria’s day. But stanbrown32 reminded us of this little tidbit:
Surprising, right? One of our political landmarks is actually older than the palace of Westminster, as well as Elizabeth Tower that holds Big Ben. Stanbrown32 has won a prize of a Season 2 Victoria Poster!
Tune in next week for a new episode of Victoria airing Sunday, January 28th at 9 p.m. Make sure to live-tweet with us by tagging @mygpb and using the hashtag #GPBLovesVictoriaPBS . Next week’s Tweet of the Week will win a Victoria audiobook, written by Daisy Goodwin!