22 February 2017

Jewels on Film: VICTORIA (Episode 6, "The Engine of Change")


Time for another venture into the world of PBS's royal soap opera, Victoria! This week is all about trains, babies, and contingency plans...





We begin with a bejeweled Victoria listening to a concert with Albert at her side. She's wearing the smallest of the tiaras presented by the production, plus a pair of earrings and a small bib-style necklace. The necklace especially looks off for the era.



The jewels aren't the only thing that's off. Victoria has to flee the room to be sick. The Duchess of Kent, who is wearing a little diamond and pearl tiara with a rather jejeune ribbon around her neck, looks sort of both concerned and interested.



Harriet Sutherland, who is also decked out in evening jewels, fans nervously.



You all know what's going on. The Queen, who returns quickly to the musicale, is expecting a visit from the stork. All that trampolining for naught!



Victoria is slightly less than pleased when the doctor confirms her pregnancy. Cheer up, Victoria -- you're going to give birth to an Empress of Germany! (Or don't cheer up, given the ensuing result of Kaiser Wilhelm II...)



Albert is extremely excited to announce the pregnancy, but Victoria mostly just looks vacant. She is, at least, wearing the production's itty-bitty Albert Brooch for the important occasion.



And she's also wearing another important real-life replica. That's the Sapphire Coronet placed at the back of her hair. This is a little anachronistic; the coronet wasn't made until 1842, and this scene takes place in 1840. But it's pretty close, so I won't be mad. (If the placement looks a little weird, it's based directly on a famous Winterhalter portrait of Victoria.)



This is Albert's face when he realizes that the Duchess of Kent is giving Victoria brandy and cream to drink. Albert, who is all about the! most! modern! thing!, is pretty wary of old-timey Coburg remedies.



When Albert heads off in a huff, the Duchess gets one of the best lines of the episode: "Your nurse is a virgin, your husband is a man, and your doctor is a fool!" She proceeds to offer Victoria some advice -- and since Victoire Kent gave birth to three children who lived to adulthood, I initially thought she'd be just about the best source around. But her advice? "Eat only organ meat for dinner." HARD PASS.

Victoire continues to be helpful by reminding her daughter that Princess Charlotte's death following childbirth is the only reason that she's queen at all. Okay, go to your room, Victoire.



Then the Lord Chamberlain stops by to chat about an equally cheery subject: regency! He wants to know who will act as regent if Victoria dies in childbirth but her baby lives. Parliament has to approve, so he wants to get the nomination process rolling. Guess who Victoria wants to select? Parliament's going to love it.



The Tories grouse about the prospect of Albert as regent. Wellington calls him a "torpid Teuton," which is a great Victorian zinger. Wellington would rather have Uncle Cumberland come back from Hanover to be regent, which is laughable.



Ah, every young couple's greatest dreams: your mother-in-law, lurking around in ghoulish black at the foot of your bed, warning that laughter will hurt your baby.



Victoria decides they need a little holiday. They'll go to the north of England, where Albert can indulge his mania for progress and trains, and she can show off the country's potential future regent to the Tories. Harriet Sutherland plays travel agent and lays out their itinerary. Victoria wants a small party -- the Duchess of Kent is NOT invited.



Their host in Staffordshire is Sir Piers Giffard, who is apparently fictional and definitely a snob.



Over dinner, Sir Piers reminds everyone that his family has been in England since the days of the Norman conquest.



Lady Beatrice finds her husband's jokes about the newness of the House of Hanover completely hilarious.



And here's a look at Victoria's jewels. Albert, meanwhile, is nerding out about the local ceramics factories. Sir Piers is not interested. He likes hunting. Albert doesn't hunt.



The compromise? A shooting party.



Such fun for the ladies, who get to sit around and watch the men shoot. Even queens didn't get to have any fun in the nineteenth century. Things get even more thrilling for Victoria when the Giffards' neighbor, Robert Peel, pops over for an appearance. At lunch, Peel, Piers, and Albert chat about railways. Peel and Albert have a similarly positive view of the railroad. Common ground!

(Where the heck is Melbourne? Does he know he's still Prime Minister until 1841???)



Peel mentions that he's got a locomotive over at his place and invites everyone for a visit. The next morning, Victoria asks Albert to decline, but, fed up with her criticisms of his conversational skills, he goes anyway. Albert is in Machine Nerd Paradise.



While Albert and Peel develop a bromance on board the train, Victoria corners Sir Piers on the matter of the regency. He weasels out of the conversation.



Back in London, Harriet has been left to babysit the Duchess of Kent. She's distracted, though, by missing Ernst. It's too bad they've conjured up this fictional romance as Harriet's main storyline. She was a fascinating figure in the British anti-slavery movement, and she and Albert could be doing some serious organizing together.



Albert comes back all smudged from his train journey, and he and Victoria have it out. She wears a nice, era-appropriate pendant necklace for their fight.



Victoria gets over the tiff and decides she needs to try this train business for herself. She drags Lehzen over to Peel's house so she can hop on. (Queen Victoria's real first journey on a train was well publicized -- it happened in 1842 in Windsor, not during a random visit to Robert Peel's house.)

Robert Peel's train is pretty slow; Albert's able to run alongside and even ask whether she's enjoying herself. The answer is YES.



By the time they head back to London, they've made up nicely.



Peel goes back to the Tories and endorses the plan to make Albert regent. Wellington is aghast, but Peel likes Albert now -- and, even more important, he thinks he may be politically useful.



Peel goes to see Victoria, who has a sort of reverse-coronet situation going on with her hair. He tells her that the Tories support any plan to make Albert regent. She's pleased, but tells him that she's "far too busy to die."



We end this (rather uneventful) episode with another look at the mini-Albert Brooch as Victoria and Albert work together side by side.


The final episode of this season will air a week from Sunday on PBS! We'll have a bejeweled recap ready to go on Monday, March 6.