'Victoria' Season 1: 'Young England' Recap

Victoria's carriage ride look is too cute. (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)
Victoria's carriage ride look is too cute. (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)

Previously on Victoria: The queen discovers – to absolutely no one’s surprise – that she’s pregnant. Everyone’s thrilled, although Victoria’s less than thrilled with the fact that everyone thinks her pregnancy should incapacitate her. She must name a regent, in case she should die herself, but a battle with Parliament looms when she picks Albert. Or at least it does until Sir Robert Peel – who’s now basically BFFs with Albert – decides to back the queen’s choice. Meanwhile, Albert very much wants the crown to embrace technology, particularly locomotives. (No, seriously, Albert is obsessed with trains.)  Victoria, for her part, finally allows Albert to have some input in governing, and puts him in charge of her “industry-related” stack of government paperwork.

This week is the Season 1 finale of Victoria. As with all good period dramas, it feels as though the season has positively flown by. (In case you were worried, the series will return for second season, and production is already under way.) And as finales go, it’s a pretty great one. This episode has a little bit of everything – romance, intrigue, childbirth, tension, and a happy ending. Even the squabbling servants end up making up. It’s a nice note to wrap the season up on. 

It’s About That Time. Victoria, now hugely pregnant, is really ready for this whole pregnancy thing to be over. She can’t go riding, can’t have dancing, can’t really do anything except go out for drives in her carriage every day. And with the constant arrival of presents and people in advance of the birth, she’s just getting more and more stressed and anxious about what might happen. Her generally attitude would probably be helped if everyone around her could possibly stop Princess Charlotte and how tragic and awful her fate was. That’s probably not helping. At least Lehzen is doing her best to buck up the queen’s spirits.

Here’s hoping that the show ultimately decides to not follow the particular bit of history that says Lehzen is quietly dismissed from the queen’s service shortly after Victoria’s child is born. Their relationship is so great – and honestly Victoria doesn’t have nearly enough close female friendships in her life.)

Crazy People Love Victoria. Victoria’s been regularly getting letters from a man named Captain Childers, whose convinced she’s being held captive by her German husband and wants to free her. Childers even manages to confront the queen while she’s out on a carriage ride, throwing a posy of violets to her and offering to “save” her right then and there. He’s dragged off by some guards, but Albert’s not pleased when he finds out that Lehzen’s been throwing out all his crazy letters without telling anyone. He decides that he needs to see all the queen’s correspondence going forward, because Albert has exactly two settings: “ignore” and “overreact”.  He also isn’t a fan of her doing things like, say, leaving the building again, because he’s convinced the next time someone won’t just throw flowers at her.

Victoria is, unsurprisingly, not a fan of this plan. She doesn’t want to be a prisoner in her own home. Nor does she want her subjects to think her weak and fearful. And despite Albert’s concern for the baby and its wellbeing, her interests matter too. “What about what I need?”, she asks forlornly, reminding us all of the sad fact that Victoria’s pregnancy has left her increasingly isolated and removed from her own life. It’s actually great that the show keeps emphasizing this point. Pregnancy was a continued struggle for Victoria – she didn’t enjoy it, and she resented that it kept her away from her throne and her duty so often. As a woman who clearly considers herself a queen first, it’s a good thing that this conflict hasn’t been swept under the rug after a single episode.

Lots of carriage riding this week! (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)
Lots of carriage riding this week! (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)

The Duke of Cumberland Really Wasn’t This Shady.  The Duke of Cumberland, who is also King of Hanover, returns to England to be present for Victoria’s confinement. Even though pretty much everyone hates him, he’s still the heir presumptive, at least until the queen can manage to give birth to one of her own. Unfortunately, he’s so shady and creepy, that literally everyone assumes he’s plotting to kill his own niece for a shot at the crown. And he doesn’t help his own cause by doing things like making veiled threats against her safety. You’d think a guy that was a king in his own right would be smarter than this.

Furthermore, this is…shall we say a fictitious view of history on the part of Victoria.  Cumberland probably wasn’t anyone’s favorite person, but he didn’t exactly plot against his niece, either. Back in the first episode, we saw him scheme to gaslight Victoria so that he could have her declared mad and unfit. That didn’t happen in real life. While Victoria did face multiple assassination attempts over the course of her life, none of them came from anyone connected to her uncle. And though there were rumors of a Cumberland plot to alter the line of succession to skip Victoria, Cumberland vociferously denied them in front of Parliament. And even if, for some insane reason, he did plot against his niece, there’s no way he would have ever been dumb enough to threaten her so blatantly in front of her mother, huband and the King of Belgium like he was some kind of Scooby Doo villain.

More Familiar Faces Return. Prince Ernest is also back in England. And though he too is ostensibly in town for the whole “birth of an heir” thing, he’s also using his time wisely, and chatting up the Duchess of Sutherland again.  Ernest and Harriet are kind of sweet together, but there’s no obvious forward path for this storyline, since she’s very married. (And Albert’s very averse to his brother causing scandal.) But when Ernest does the right thing – confessing his feelings, kissing her and only asking for a lock of hair in return, rather than an affair – it still kind of feels like growth.

Another German relative getting rehabilitated a bit this week is King Leopold, who, like literally everyone else, is back in England for Victoria’s impending confinement. And, wow, he’s so much better as a person when he’s not trying to market any of his relatives in marriage like they were animals at a market. It turns out that Leopold is actually kind of an awesome person? The scene where he sits with Victoria and they share candy while he tells her about Charlotte – and not about how she died in childbirth and how awful that was, but about who she was as a person – is perhaps one of the best moments in the entire first season of the show.

The First Real Attempt on Victoria’s Life. Since Albert realizes that his attempt to keep Victoria indoors is doomed to failure, he decides to go along with her on her next ride out in the carriage. And of course, a man with a gun who’s been creeping around the fringes of this episode in random scenes practicing shooting, fights his way throught he crowd to take a shot at the queen. Albert, alert for danger, spots the weapon in time and pulls Victoria to the floor of the carriage. The man whose name, it will turn out, is Edward Oxford, is wrestled to the ground by a veritable crowd of onlookers. Meanwhile, Albert carries Victoria back into the palace, where everyone is badly shaken. This whole scene is weirdly romantic considering that someone maybe could have died during it. (And that's maybe the first time I've really felt like that about a Victoria and Albert scene, so perhaps I am coming around, finally!) 

The queen, of course, is fine, and so is the baby.  Even though Oxford is connected to the Young England Society, and Cumberland does his best to make himself look guilty of treason, it is generally accepted that he acted alone and with an unloaded gun. All of this leads to him being declared insane at trial and sent to an asylum, rather than hanged.

The real Queen Victoria survived seven assassination attempts over the course of her reign. Whew.

This bonnet is so popular this week.  (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)
This bonnet is so popular this week.  (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)

This Week, in As The Downstairs Turns. Francatelli and Skerrett continue their flirtation, but things suddenly take a turn for the serious when he tells her that he’s been offered his own establishment. He wants her to come with him, and share in his success. (What exactly she’s going to be doing, I’m not sure.) Nancy/Fake Eliza seems pretty excited about this possibility – so excited, she and Francatelli almost kiss about it. And I guess in some ways running off and having an adventure with a handsome man who’s obsessed with you would be more personally exciting than doing hair for a living, even if that hair did belong to the Queen of England.

However, once Nancy talks to her friend Real!Eliza, she starts to have some doubts. The real Eliza wants to know why Nancy would give up her freedom – her own money, her prestigious job and her ability to make her own choices for herself – for some man. And Nancy…doesn’t really have an answer for that. Especially when Real!Eliza uses her own situation as evidence that men and their promises really can’t be trusted. Look what happened to her, after all. This is – quite rightly probably – enough to plant doubt in Skerrett’s mind. And back at the palace, she turns down Francatelli’s offer, stressing that her position in the queen’s household can offer her more than being with him ever could.  She seems to regret this decision fairly quickly, but before she can apologize or change her mind, she discovers that Francatelli is already gone. Yup, he left without even saying goodbye, and Skerrett is heartbroken. Hearts mend, I say. Way to dodge a bullet, girl.

All’s Well That Ends Well. After all this, it’s finally time for the queen to have her baby. You probably guessed that this was where this episode was going to end. Victoria groans and should and generally looks like she wants to punch everyone she’s ever met in the face. After a lot of yelling, the queen finally gives birth with Albert, Lehzen and her mother at her side. But mere feet away, a gaggle of old men also watch, all half-expecting her to die soon. Even if we didn’t like Victoria – which we clearly all do – we’d be mostly rooting for her to make it just to spite these grotesque ghouls who have no sense of decorum.

But, of course Victoria powers through like a trooper. “Did you really think I’d let Cumberland be King?” she asks Albert afterward. No, actually. Not at all. The queen’s child is a girl, a daughter they decide to also name Victoria. The season ends with a shot of the happy family curled together in the royal bed, looking blissful. It’s a sweet, heartwarming ending for the couple. And one I think many of us might have never thought they’d earn. While in my heart of hearts I may always be a Melbourne and Victoria shipper, Victoria deserves credit for steadily working to build the queen and Prince Albert’s relationship into something believable and compelling. I may not necessarily believe how the show got these two characters together, but the partnership between them is fascinating, and charming all at once. Thank goodness.

What is in store for everyone in Season 2? Who can say? What would you like to see? Let’s discuss. We’ve got a few months to fill, after all.