Previously on Victoria: As revolution sweeps through Europe, everyone is increasingly concerned that such dangerous ideas could cross the Channel and make problems for Victoria. Though the queen insists her subjects are not a revolutionary people, the growing Chartist movement indicates otherwise – and an angry mob even makes it to the very gates of Buckingham Palace. Elsewhere, a bunch of new faces abound for the new season, including a nondescript new Prime Minister (Lord John Russell), a belligerent and manipulative new Foreign Secretary (Lord Palmerston), a new Mistress of the Robes (Sophie, Duchess of Monmouth) and a heretofore unmentioned German half-sister to the queen (Feodora). Need more? Our recap of "Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears the Crown" can help.
Victoria continues its Season 3 flirtation with darker subject matter as the Chartist rebellion grows more dangerous in London. Despite Victoria’s insistence that the movement means her no harm, no one else seems to agree with her, and the tumultuous times even bring previous Prime Minister Lord Wellington back into the public fray. After a secret cache of weapons is discovered during what appears to be a routine raid of the Chartist headquarters, Wellington, Palmerston, Albert and friends insist that Victoria must give the order for armed soldiers to be present during the group’s next big planned demonstration. The Chartists argue that they merely want to present their demands – known as The People’s Charter – to Parliament, but nearly everyone else is skeptical about this, especially since a big gang of angry people showed up with torches and rocks at the palace while Victoria was giving birth to Princess Louise.
To be fair, Victoria is trying to present this issue in a multifaceted way – it’s just not doing the best job of it. Skerrett’s friend Abigail has become our “Good Chartist” avatar, who insists that no one intends to overthrow the monarchy, even though it’s quite obvious that some do. (And say so!) Her manfriend Patrick agitates for more violent solutions to the problems of poverty – he even complains about Victoria giving birth to another royal baby while so many English children starve – but his feelings aren’t exactly presented with nuance or sympathy. The decision to have him turn out to be a government plant sent by Palmerston and Russell to hide weapons on the unsuspecting citizens group in order to convince the queen of their evil is shocking, but not necessarily from a plot perspective. (Palmerston is exactly that kind of guy.)
Instead, it feels like Victoria is admitting it doesn’t have the ability to really present both sides of this story, or any interest in truly depicting the darker aspects of this potential revolution in any real way. Forcing the queen to choose to let the people speak – even if she was afraid, even if she thought they might say something against her, even if in her heart she did want to suppress their voices with violence – that would have been the truly difficult choice, rather than having them all turn out to be generally good guys who just want a voice in representative government who got set up by evil government officials.
The show fares better when it digs into Victoria’s almost pathological need for public approval. Her reaction when she discovers that she may not be as popular with her subjects as she previously thought is almost heartbreaking in its sincerity, but also a little bit creepy. Clearly, to the queen, the sacrifice of her childhood – a life spend in isolation with her mother at Kensington – is mean to pay off in an adulthood of constant adulation and love from her people. “I want them to love me. I want them to love me. Otherwise, what is the point?,” Victoria intones mournfully to Skerrett at one point. Well, a lot of things, honestly. Surely Victoria, as educated as she was about the history of English law and monarchy, is well aware that her country has had plenty of rulers who weren’t exactly beloved. (One of them was even beheaded!) Yet her idea of queenship seems to be oddly transactional, as though popularity and adulation is something meant to be given to her in exchange for safe and productive lives.
It’s interesting, however, that Victoria also seems to view herself in violation of this unspoken agreement in some way. Her sudden rage at Albert over agreeing to decamp to the Isle of Wight feels as though she’s almost equally angry at herself for giving up on the idea that she and her subjects owe something to one another. When the Chartists proceed to present their petition to Parliament without incident, Victoria is furious that she wasn’t there to…what? Show support for their demands? Prove she was willing to listen to them? Show she wasn’t afraid of any potential violence?
Elsewhere, the queen’s new Mistress of the Robes appears to be fighting off male affection from every direction – except from her husband. Apparently, the Duke of Monmouth married Sophie for her middle class family wealth – as he is very fond of pointing out, they are only grocers – but not much in the way of affection. That’s okay though, since Sophie appears to be inspiring loyalty in everyone from Lord Palmerston himself to a random new footman named Joseph who has a crush on her. Despite the fact that it’s obvious her home life is miserable, we still haven’t seen much of Sophie’s POV as such, so it’s unclear precisely how she feels about either Palmerston’s bravado or Joseph’s quiet bulk. It seems likely our new young Duchess is destined for an unfortunate affair of the heart in some way, however – the only real question is with whom.
In other love news, Francatelli drops an ultimatum on Skerrett that they must marry immediately, because he just bought a hotel for them to open and is tired of waiting to make things legit between them. He doesn’t really ask her opinion on any of this and blatantly ignores the fact that his intended has been hesitant about leaving behind a life at the palace which she feels has meaning. Though, to be fair, I suppose we should consider that we don't know how long, precisely, Francatelli has been waiting, as a nebulous and still undetermined amount of time has passed between their engagement and their decision to depart palace life.
But, of course, because Francatelli is a man and this is the sort of story it is, Skerrett shows up to their surprise nuptials at the last moment, instead of telling her betrothed he's being a jerk and she's not going to commit the rest of her life to him until he learns more about communication. (The idea that men constantly get to dictate to women this way in stories like this is infuriating. Ugh.) But, the status quo is maintained for the moment simply because the two decide to keep their quickie wedding a secret. Skerrett wants to stay employed until she’s sure the queen is safe, whatever that means, and Francatelli’s suddenly fine with traipsing all over the country with his new bride, rather than opening the hotel he was so keen on twenty minutes ago. So, this will surely go well
What did you think of the latest episode of Victoria? Let’s discuss in the comments.