'Victoria' Season 1: The Queen's Husband' Recap

Victoria and Albert out on a stroll. (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)
Victoria and Albert out on a stroll. (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)

Previously, on Victoria: Victoria and Albert tell everyone about their engagement. The queen faces off with her ministers and Parliament itself about what Albert’s title might be, and how much of an allowance he’ll be allowed. The amount ends up being less than he wants, and Albert frets that he’ll be dependent on Victoria for everything. Despite several setbacks, including everyone in the queen’s life explaining to her that aristocratic men tend to have mistresses after they’re married, Victoria and Albert’s wedding takes place. Victoria and Lord Melbourne say a rather heartfelt and heartbreaking goodbye, as he decides to go run the government from Brocket Hall. We’ll miss you, Lord M!

This week’s episode is much slower than last week’s, which is probably natural, after all that romantic excitement. 

Married Life Seems to Suit Victoria. Albert, Not So Much. Victoria and Albert return from their brief honeymoon, and all seems well with the royal couple. They’re certainly getting along well, if their romantic life is anything to go by. The episode opens with the happy couple in bed together – getting interrupted by Lehzen, in fact – and we see at several other points that the physical aspect of the relationship is something they both very much enjoy.

Victoria seems to settle pretty easily back into the role queen, albeit a married one now. She’s got meetings to attend and correspondence to read and orders to sign. Albert, however, is at something of a loose end. He’s not king, after all, so he doesn’t have any royal duties to perform. He can’t get involved with much of Victoria’s official duties. And he doesn’t even have a real position, as such. He’s pretty much just bored. The queen spends most of the episode fighting to see Albert acknowledged by the British aristocracy. She even executes a very clever plan to see that he’s allowed to be the person to escort her in to state dinners, despite the fact that one of her (apparently many) uncles is supposed to do so, according to the rules of precedent. Victoria’s really rather proud of herself for having pulled all of this off so neatly, but Albert feels that it’s a victory for Victoria, not for him.

The maturation of Victoria over these five episodes has been rather fantastic to watch. It’s hard to imagine the girl who came to the throne in “Doll 123” handling her uncle and the expectations of the aristocracy so easily. She’s calmer, more measured, and more sure of herself. She’s comfortable with asserting herself in order to get what she wants. In short, she’s really learning to be a queen. Which may be part of what makes Albert’s nonstop moping so hard to take. 

Francatelli is a Pretty Much a Stalker. The character of Charles Francatelli is based on a real person, who was actually Queen Victoria’s pastry chef. He was, as such things went back then, very famous, and was probably the first person to achieve what we’d call celebrity chef status.  The real Francatelli only served Victoria for two years, and doesn’t seem as though he had much in common with this particular onscreen version. The same can be said for the real Miss Skerrett, who shares a surname and a job with the Victoria character, but not much else. (The real life Marianne Skerrett was indeed the queen’s dresser, but she didn’t have a secret past or a stolen identity. In fact, she was quite well bred.)

It probably goes without saying that these two people, in real life, did not have a romantic connection. Nor were they involved with any of the adventures  you see on the show. And perhaps Victoria, in this instance, might have wanted to hew a little more closely to the truth. Because the Francatelli/Skerrett storyline is just a dreadful one. I’m all in favor of bending history to serve a good story (and will never be over Lord Melbourne and Victoria as a thing now), but it’s got to be something worth watching. Victoria and Lord M may or may not have been historically accurate but they were great television together. Skerrett and Francatelli make me want to fast forward.

Also, Francatelli just comes off as a pushy jerk at least 80% of the time. He manages to do something nice this week, yes, but his action is completely selfishly motivated.  Skerrett gets word that there’s a dangerous outbreak of fever down in the slum area where her sister/friend/cousin “Eliza” and the as-yet-unexplained illegitimate child live. Skerrett’s very worried about them, especially after Mrs. Jenkins mentions that it’s probably Indian cholera and everyone will die. Skerrett tries to sneak into the Seven Dials slum area but gets stopped by the guards who are trying to stop the spread of contagion. Francatelli offers to sneak in for her, because obviously as a royal chef he knows plenty about espionage. He does so by bribing a kid to lead the guards off, and delivers a note to whoever that woman is. Also, apparently he pays to have her moved to completely new lodgings in a totally different neighborhood? What? How did he pull that off in something like 36 hours tops? He’s not that rich.

Skerrett tries to thank him for his generosity, but Francatelli basically admits that he only did it for her, because he is just obsessed with her for reasons that I still legit do not understand. In return for his kindness, he wants to know who she is. Skerrett tells him that her real name is Nancy, instead of legitimately just running away from him screaming. For real, girl, he is about two seconds from going all Silence of the Lambs on you. Instead, he leaves her an “N” made from sugar on her pillow. Skerrett seems to think it’s charming. (Why??) Ugh, I hate this story. 

Poor Ernest just cannot catch a break.  (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)
Poor Ernest just cannot catch a break.  (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)

Ernest Gets a Storyline for About Five Minutes. Elsewhere in the palace, it would appear that Prince Ernest has caught feelings for one of Victoria’s ladies, Harriet the Duchess of Sutherland. This isn’t too surprising, probably, given that the two of them were constantly thrown together “chaperoning” Albert and Victoria during their courtship, and obliged to find reasons to wander off together so the royal couple could be alone. They’ve probably spent a lot of time together. And they’re very flirty. The only problem with all of this is that the Duchess is very married.

As a result of this flirtation, Albert tells his brother that he has to go back to Coburg. He’s very sad, because they’re dependent on each other, but I guess the threat of scandal is just too great. Ernest is depressed, and so am I, since I still like him better than Albert and at least he has a personality.  They shoehorn in an awkward moment where the Duchess acts as though she didn’t have any feelings for him herself, only to dramatically and completely obviously drop her handkerchief for him to find. Poor Ernest. You could probably just always go play cards offscreen someplace with Lord M.

Victoria Doesn’t Want to Get Pregnant. Literally everyone keeps telling Victoria and Albert that they should have some children as soon as possible, like immediately.  Albert’s pretty down with this idea, because he’s trying to fill the gaping hole inside himself that apparently comes from growing up in a broken home. For her part, Victoria doesn’t seem that thrilled about the prospect of children. She’s nervous, having heard all of her life about what happened to Princess Charlotte. (She died in childbirth, coincidentally causing the succession crisis that lead to Victoria on the throne.) And what’s more, she seems to want to decide for herself when to start a family. Which is, to be blunt, not right now.

She turns to Lehzen, her unmarried former governess, for advice. This is a really bad idea, as clearly this woman has no idea what she’s talking about. But she tells Victoria that she can prevent pregnancy by jumping up and down after sex. At the end of the episode, Albert catches her doing this. She insists that she wants to have a family with him…but she doesn’t want children just yet. But rather than discuss this with her in any realistic way, Albert just says that if she doesn’t want to be pregnant. then the only way to prevent that is abstinence. And then he basically seduces her back to bed, since we’ve already seen that the one thing that’s not proving to be a problem in their marriage is their sex life. That’s at least historically accurate – the real Victora and Albert did find each other irresistible in that way.

I’m sure that Victoria’s status as a queen would probably have prevented them from any sort of access to even the most dubious methods of contraception, so this is probably the way that scene would have actually gone down. But I kind of resent everyone treating Victoria like she’s crazy or asking for the moon by not wanting to be pregnant instantly, either. Anyway, the royal couple kisses and heads back to bed, so who wants to put odds on Victoria turning out to be pregnant next week?

Victoria and Albert look pretty regal.  (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)
Victoria and Albert look pretty regal.  (Photo: Courtesy of ITV Plc)

Albert’s Big Moment. As part of Albert’s plan to find himself a purpose and hobby beyond just being Victoria’s husband, he gets involved with the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society. They’re working to abolish slavery in America, and Albert’s volunteered to speak to their meeting. (They originally wanted Victoria, but as queen she can’t be seen to take a side. Even if she agrees with them.) Albert throws himself into his speech and though he’s incredibly nervous about it, it’s a smash hit. Even Sir Robert Peel, notorious Tory, is moved by it. It looks as though Albert has finally found a project of his own – at least to some degree, I doubt he can suddenly become a full time abolitionist himself. So maybe that means he’ll finally stop moaning about how his diamond shoes are too tight.

To be fair, it’s understandable that Albert might feel bored and lonely in his new life. After all, he’s only really got Victoria now that he’s sent his brother back home. Everyone wants to feel useful, and as if they have a purpose in life. But Albert’s constant moping about having nothing to do now that he’s married the Queen of England is a bit much. Nothing but go to lavish dinners, play the piano and let people wait on him hand and foot while the poor folks he was so desperately interested in two weeks ago die of fever in the slums? Maybe suck it up a little bit? It comes off more as whining than anything else, and Albert doesn’t need any more help being unlikeable. 

Albert was much more appealing when he did have something to be interested in and/or passionate about that was not Victoria, so here’s hoping Albert can find a bunch of additional anti-slavery society meetings to speak at, as soon as possible.

This week’s episode was quieter than last week’s, with storylines that generally felt simpler and smaller in scale. That’s a good thing, I think, since not every episode can feature royal weddings and a heartbreaking love triangle. What are we in for next week? We'll have to wait and see.