Alright, Lords and Ladies of Greater Bostonia – get ready for the ride of your lives, because I just rewatched all of Masterpiece’s Victoria in three days, and I am ready to spill. that. tea.
Season One, Episode One – King William IV has died. Eighteen-year-old Alexandrina Victoria, who has lived her life so far in the isolation of Kensington Palace, has inherited the throne.
And it's about to go down.
When we meet Victoria, she’s a willful, stubborn kid who still sleeps with her dolls and her puppy. She sneaks out of bed, she doesn’t know any of the people of society, and she is more than happy to go throw a wobbly at her mother and her mother’s comptroller,
professional mansplainer John Conroy. But Victoria is the Queen of England, and she’s not gonna let anyone tell her what to do – not even Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister at the time of her inheritance of the throne.
But even as she works to assert herself, Victoria begins to lean more and more on Lord Melbourne as she adjusts to the throne. Of course, this leads to folks gossiping about their young queen and the man once accused of ‘Criminal Conversation with a Married Woman.’ Oh myyyyyyy.
Downstairs in the palace, Victoria’s Governess, Baroness Lehzen, has taken over management of the servants and the house - and not everyone’s taking it well, especially not with the Butler, Penge. He objects to everything she does, from her Germanic heritage, to the gas lighting she tries to install, to her hire for junior dresser, Miss Skerrett. Basically, he's just plain cranky, and housekeeping hostilities mount. Meanwhile, Skerrett finds herself in a bit of a flirtation with the palace chef, Frankatelli, who just swears he’s seen her face before...
In Episode Two Victoria's Uncle Leopold shows up, apparently on some sort of a roadshow to try and marry off his nephews, Ernest and Albert. Too bad for Leo that Victoria’s met them, and is not impressed. They don’t smile, they don’t dance – they’re basically no fun, and who wants a no-singing-no-dancing Teuton ruining your groove?
As Victoria ducks this — and other less-than-enticing enticements — Lord M and she work to manage the country, and give each other more than a fair share of steamy looks along the way. As her suitors pile up, Lord M pulls away – and, of course, Victoria follows. In a scene that left this cynic truly misty-eyed and heart-sore, Victoria declares that Melbourne is “the only companion she could ever desire.” True to form, Melbourne gently puts her off, and she leaves with dignity – and a few tears.
With Lord Melbourne in Victoria’s rear-view, Mamá, Conroy and Uncle continue to bug her about future marriage prospects – princes are getting married off faster than real estate is sold in San Francisco, and here Victoria is taking her sweet time choosing a husband. Aggravated with their scheming, she finally gives up and pays off Conroy to leave the palace.
With Conroy out of the picture, her mother’s leverage lessens – and Uncle Leo knows just what to do. That night, as Victoria plays a rousing piano piece, we watch as two faceless men march into the palace. With the single most iconic mustache shot since Cannonball Run II, Albert has entered the picture.
Downstairs, Chef Frankatelli has figured out just where he’s seen Skerrett before – at a brothel. Despite her being just a laundry girl at the establishment of ill-repute, Skerrett begs him to keep it quiet. And when Chefie tries to win her over through friendship-pastry, she shuts him right down. Yowch!
We pick up Episode Three just where we left off two, with Albert and Victoria facing off over the keys of a piano. Surprisingly, for a man named Albert, this fellow has his smolder on lock – and Victoria is very clearly under his thrall. But while there is definitely an attraction, they both deny it, instead choosing to focus on how they are wildly different. He scoffs at her frivolity, while she chafes under his scrutiny.
So... you know they're gonna fall in love.
Sure enough, all it takes is one very heated waltz, before their sniping and bickering becomes an obvious cover for something more flirtatious. Victoria suddenly begins trying to impress Albie, first taking the entire Royal court to Windsor Palace to see the forest (OMG, Albert loves forests!) and then learning about the paintings in her collection (OMG, Albert loves paintings!). But their differences continue to get in the way, ruining friendly conversations and almost-kisses.
Finally, after some delicate intervening by Lord M, Victoria decides to propose to Albert. After a couple of false starts, she gets the words out and they – FINALLY! – kiss.
Downstairs, we find out more about the mystery behind Miss Skerrett – she’s swapped places with her cousin, Eliza, who has a child out of wedlock. By taking the job, she been able to move up in the world, and support the cousin and her child. But it seems like the palace wages aren’t enough – and cousin Eliza is getting frustrated with the situation.
Now that Victoria and Albert are engaged, Episode Four sees the complexities that come with marrying a queen. Albie needs a title and an allowance – both factors which Victoria doesn’t understand at all. Isn’t her money enough? Apparently not, and the xenophobic House of Lords is in charge of assigning his title and allowance. Eeeeyikes.
Meanwhile, Albie has to head home to prepare for his move. In a mistaken attempt at a bachelor party, darling Ernest takes Albert to a high-end brothel in Coburg. In probably the most singularly adorable turn of events on this show, Albie joins the woman in her room... only to request that she explain sex verbally, while he takes notes…. And I’m just going out on a limb here, but I assume that this explains the nine children Albie and Victoria would go on to have.
Back in London, Albie’s allowance is decided – and decidedly low. And... and the House has refused him peerage (aka a title), which gives him no power or influence. Understandably, Albie is frustrated at this marginalization. After a spat, Victoria promises to work on it, like the boss that she is.
The wedding is lovely, though as simple as a monarch can make it – her white lace gown and flower crown would go on to influence generations of brides to come – though less so the sash and scepter. They have a small reception with family and close friends before they depart for a brief honeymoon in the countryside.
Albert’s frustration with the House of Lord's dissing him doesn’t go away by Episode Five, and it’s compounded by Victoria’s preoccupation with work upon their return from their honeymoon. When the opportunity to give a speech before a gathering of abolitionists comes up, Albert jumps at the chance. His speech goes beautifully, and at the conference he meets Robert Peel – the candidate for Tory PM that Victoria just can’t warm up to.
And, as any man cranky with his wife would do, Albie decides to be Peel's bff.
While Albie integrates himself into London society, Victoria fights for a bigger allowance and a title. Through some truly impressive socio-political finagling, she greases the right wheels, and gets them on the proper road to change his status.
Meanwhile, Albie’s brother, Ernest, has decided to stay on in London – if only for his growing attraction to the married Harriet, Duchess of Sutherland. Their flirtation starts as fun and light until Ernest realizes that he, professional playboy, might just be in love with Harriet. And, despite the fact that literally every woman born is a sucker for 'a rake with a heart of gold,' she rejects him when he confesses this. Heartbroken, Ernest takes his leave of the palace.
Downstairs, Skerrett receives word that a fever is going through the town – targeting the area that her cousin Eliza and her child live in. She slips out of the castle to visit them, and discovers that it is under quarantine. In a fit of helpfulness, Frankatelli offers to get Skerrett’s money to them – when she asks what he wants in return, he says only to know her true name. My heart. </3
Episode Six finds Victoria getting sick at a concert, taking to bed while the doctor comes to examine her. Sure enough, she’s pregnant – and while Albie is delighted, Victoria can only think about her aunt who died in childbirth.
And it seems like that’s all anyone can think about. From her Mamá, fluttering about her with bizarre homeopathic concoctions (milk and brandy) and outdated instructions (laughing is bad for the baby), to the House of Lords who demand that she appoint a regent. And while she wants to appoint Albie, general opinion on him is low. Frustrated by all the hovering sycophants and detractors, Victoria and Albie take off to Cumberland, hoping to grow closer to the Tory’s in that territory – which includes Robert Peel.
After a few disagreements and spats with Albie, and one train ride that has them acting like actual children, Albie manages to sway Victoria's opinion of Peel, and she agrees to give him a further chance. With this newfound alliance, Peel convinces the Tory’s to accept Albie as regent back in London.
Meanwhile, downstairs, Frankatelli continues to court Nancy, preparing a fancy dinner for them on the royal china while the Queen is in Cumberland.
The final episode of the season, Episode Seven sees Victoria approaching her due date. And even though she is young and healthy, all possible succession members flock back to the city, from Uncle Leo and Ernest to the devious King of Hanover. As the day draws near, the tensions both upstairs and downstairs grow that Victoria comes out of the birth healthy.
As the palace prepares for the child, we see that somewhere in London, a young man seems to be preparing for an assassination. He receives letters telling him to wait for word from Hanover, and practices his aim on a flour sack dummy. And, one day, when Victoria ventures out of the palace on a ride with Albie, the boy's work comes to pass – he takes a shot at the pregnant Victoria, even as Albert pulls her out of the way (#hero). The young man is jailed, but sent to an asylum after it’s found that his guns weren’t loaded.
After the boy is convicted, Victoria gives birth to her first child, Victoria (Jr.? Does royalty do Juniors?). We leave her and Albie playing with their daughter.
While Albie and Victoria struggle with assassins and childbirth, Ernest has returned to struggle with his unrequited love for Harriet. And while she continues to refuse his advances, she does grant him two things – a lock of her hair and a kiss, both taken in a positively hypnotizing scene that takes place in the dead of night.
Downstairs, we find out that Chef Frankatelli has gotten a job offer to run a restaurant in London. Excited about the prospect of his own place, he asks Nancy to leave with him… as his wife. *cue my unintelligable shrieking* BUT! She rebuffs him, and we’re left with a sad walk through the misty streets of London as he leaves the palace staff.
Coming soon is the full recap of season 2, so stay tuned. And of course, watch the Season 3 premiere of Victoria Sunday night at 9 pm on WGBH 2. In the meantime, check out a preview: