When I first started watching Victoria, I never imagined the show would make me cry. Historical dramas mean you know the eventual outcomes of so many situations and characters. And yet, I have cried countless times and all because of one particular relationship. Tonight, I cried again. I won’t waste any more time. Have your tissues ready and let’s begin.
Last week, a young boy broke into the palace and lived there for several days before being found. Albert is very worried because, while the boy was harmless, it could’ve been someone far more sinister. The Queen is tired of hearing her husband whine so she says, “If it bothers you so much, then stop complaining and do something about it.” This entails going over the running of the palace with Penge and Lehzen and learning about the “perks” the staff takes for themselves. It takes the entire episode, but Albert finally concludes the answer is to pay the staff more money.
Victoria has much more pressing concerns. First, England’s poor are starving and tradespeople, such as a silk weaver, are struggling to sell their wares because of cheaper imports underselling them. It’s suggested the Queen hold a ball and ask everyone to wear silk, thereby giving the silk weavers more business. Peel pushes back that it’s not wise to spend money on an extravagant event when the country is starving a la Marie Antoinette. But Victoria reminds him he is supposed to represent the people’s interest so why hasn’t he done a single thing to help them?
I like to think Lord M never would’ve been so complacent or so condescending when disagreeing with Her Majesty. The former Prime Minister is not doing well. His doctor suggests he get his affairs in order. Because he hasn’t been replying to Victoria’s letters, she sends Emma to check on him. While Emma can tell he’s ill, Lord M says to tell the Queen he is just lazy, which no one is going to believe. Victoria sends Lord M an invitation to the ball and worries about her dog, Dash, who is also ill.
Having learned nothing, Albert continues meeting with Peel on his own. The PM implores the Prince to change Victoria’s mind about the ball but Albert is too taken with the idea of getting to wear a crown for once. Husband and wife are going as a medieval king and queen. She’s even got him a special crown for the occasion, which looks an awful lot like a Burger King crown if you ask me. Parliament and the people are furious about the ball and Peel is utterly silent.
The event is beautiful and lovely except for the rioting crowd at the gates. Ernest and Harriet dance together and tease us with their perfect chemistry. Nothing has changed for Ernest or their situation so it’s hopeless to go on wishing. At the end of the evening, he tells Albert he is finished and ready to go home.
Lord M surprises the Queen at the ball and works hard to conceal his illness from her. They finally get their waltz together and it’s all wonderful right up until Lord M nearly faints. Emma steps in to save her friend’s dignity and tells the Queen that Albert was asking for her. It’s while looking for him that Victoria sees the crowd and realizes while the ball might help the silk weavers, it won’t help her other starving, poor subjects. The next day, amid harsh critics in the papers, she decides to distribute the leftover food to the poor.
Emma requests a leave of absence to visit her sister, but we all know she’s really going to attend to Lord M. He’s taking one last look at London by visiting Westminster, the old Parliament building. That’s where Albert runs into him and they have a frank and surprisingly emotional conversation. Peel has asked Albert to oversee the construction of a new Parliament building, and Lord M voices his approval. The ailing man believes he has left no impression on the country and confesses to Albert that he is not well.
Albert tells Victoria about their conversation and Lord M’s health, but tells her to do nothing because Lord M doesn’t want her to know. Thankfully, she goes to see her friend anyway. She has caught him before he leaves London and brings him a gift, a wind-up bird that sings Mozart. They say goodbye without really saying it. Victoria requests that when he returns, they go riding like they used to. He tells her she taught him more than she’ll ever know. Both of them are on the verge of crying. She hurries from the room.
When she arrives home, she finds Dash has passed away. The coupled grief is too much and she sobs into Albert’s arms. Later, she and Lehzen bury Dash and leave a plaque to his memory (which really exists). Lord M listens to the wind-up bird while slumped in his chair until the bird abruptly stops. I am a sobbing mess.
Victoria, speaking to Lord M a bit wistfully: “We cannot be as we were.”
Duchess of Buccleuch: “This whole rigamarole (the ball) is just an excuse for the prince to play a king.”
I haven’t been this depressed by a show since Clara Oswald and the Twelfth Doctor had to say goodbye.
Did anyone else find Albert’s “comforting” words at the end not comforting at all? He basically said, “Hey, you lost a dear friend and a dear companion all at once but it’s ok because things change, everything changes except us”??
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