Time for another bejeweled peek into the world of Masterpiece’s Victoria, everybody! Although PBS ran the first two episodes of the series as one long, two-hour block on Sunday, we’ve divided them up here. Today we’re looking at the second half, which aired as the episode “Ladies in Waiting” in the UK.
Right off the bat, we’ve got a daytime tiara as Victoria rides in a carriage to a reception. (Shudder!) This is the same tiara that Victoria wore at the coronation ball in the previous episode. It doesn’t appear to be based on any jewel from Victoria’s actual collection.
And then there is an extremely weird editing mistake. When the carriage arrives at its destination, Lord Melbourne appears to help Victoria disembark. But she’s wearing her coronation jewels — the Diamond Diadem and Queen Charlotte’s Necklace — not the tiara and Garter sash! What in the world happened here?
Back inside, Victoria is back in the first tiara, although she’s ditched the Garter sash, and she’s wearing a completely different dress from either of the first two. (Seriously, what a weird error.) She notes that Melbourne seems distracted.
Lord M tells her about the anti-slavery bill before the House of Commons (which means that the episode takes place in the spring of 1839), and she wants to intervene to help. Melbourne actually quotes the famous “consult, encourage, and warn” role of the monarch set out by Walter Bagehot — which means that Lord M is a time traveler, because Bagehot’s book wasn’t published until 1865!
Meanwhile, tensions continue between Victoria and the Conroy/Kent faction. Conroy wants the Duchess of Kent, who wears one of her big tiara-esque combs here, to get a new title: Queen Mother. Victoria notes that her mother’s current title belonged to “dear Papa” and thinks she should keep it.
Victoria is back in the Imperial State Crown to sit for George Hayter’s coronation portrait. (It was painted in 1838, the year before the Bedchamber Crisis.)
As Hayter paints, Victoria gossips about Lord M with Ladies Portman and Sutherland (who are wearing brooches, praise the lord!). Harriet talks about the chance that Melbourne will have to stand down if the anti-slavery bill doesn’t pass.
Victoria gets on the brooch bandwagon, too — she wears a lovely gold and amethyst brooch as she waits nervously for Lord M to return after the vote. He comes back and it’s bad news: the bill passed, but only by five votes, so he’ll have to stand down.
Distraught by Lord M’s resignation, Victoria goes running out in the rain. Only one unlikely person is able to console her: the Duchess of Kent, who is still in her giant Daytime Tiara hair comb.
But Victoria’s still upset, and she locks herself in her room. Everybody’s worried, but Lady Portman is especially bejeweled in her concern. They send for Lord M.
Lord M writes and suggests that Victoria ask the Duke of Wellington, the old hero of Waterloo, to form a Tory government. She obliges, and he comes to the palace. But he says he’s too old to serve as PM again, and she should sent for Robert Peel. She does not like what she hears.
Victoria has sent for Lord M, and she’s peeved that he hasn’t shown up. Lady Portman, forehead pendant firmly in place, explains that Lord M is waiting for Victoria to speak with Peel.
The Duchess of Kent bustles in, tiara-esque comb and all, and tells Victoria not to worry, because she and Sir John have a plan to deal with the government brouhaha. Victoria tells her to forget it. (All that parental rain bonding was for naught!) If Lord M won’t come to her, she’ll go to his house.
Lord M is extremely surprised by Victoria’s visit, and he’s in such disarray that we get a scandalous hint of the Melbourne collarbones. (Given Melbourne’s real-life proclivities, Victoria’s lucky that collarbones are all she walked in on.) He tells her that she needs to suck it up and deal with Robert Peel. Oh, and that she’s going to have to give up Emma Portland and Harriet Sutherland, because they’re married to Whig politicians. Victoria recoils. Cue the start of the Bedchamber Crisis!
Boris und Natasha Cumberland plot cartoonishly. He tries, throughout the entire episode, to convince everyone that Victoria is going mad, just like his father, George III. If she’s mentally incapable of reigning, he thinks he might get to be regent. (In real life, zero percent of this happened. He was already reigning away in Hanover, plotting to get his mother’s jewels back.)
Meanwhile, Victoria is examining portraits made for new coins. These are the faces of ladies trying to convince her that she doesn’t look like she has too many chins on currency.
Robert Peel walks in during the middle of the coinage debate and gives the wrong answer when Victoria asks what he thinks of the portrait. Their private meeting goes, well, extremely poorly. He asks her to replace two of her ladies, so that she doesn’t appear to favor one party over the other. She refuses. End of. (This really happened.)
By keeping the Whig wives in her household, Peel believes Victoria is demonstrating partiality toward Melbourne’s party. Without her implicit confidence in the Tories, Peel refuses to form a government. Emma and Harriet try to convince her to replace one of them, but it’s a no go.
Things are just Not Great at the palace. Lord M tries to make Victoria see sense over Peel and her ladies, but she will not have it. Also: the entire palace is infested with rats. Hooray!
For Victoria’s birthday (which, if this is set in 1839, was her twentieth), her family, her ladies, and the members of the palace staff gather for a birthday party. Melbourne sends her a telescope (to help her see things more clearly, naturally).
The Duchess of Kent has gone for the full floral tiara-slash-comb to give her daughter a copy of King Lear, with the line about the thankless child underlined in red. Subtle! (Believe it or not, this really happened on Victoria’s birthday in 1838. Victoire was COLD AS ICE.)
And then, because this party couldn’t get any worse, the palace rats pop out from the cake like Debbie Reynolds in Singin’ in the Rain. RATS. On her CAKE. For some reason, everyone is surprised when Victoria loses her ever-loving mind.
Lehzen wears a brooch as the rat subplot is mercifully resolved.
Victoria is back in the daytime tiara from the first scene (actually, this is probably footage from the first scene!) as she heads for the unveiling of her coronation portrait. (We get a side view of this tiara in the upcoming scene, and it doesn’t enhance the piece; it looks extremely inexpensive, unfortunately.)
She’s also wearing the comically oversized Garter star and sash as she tries fruitlessly to pull the drape off of the painting. Lord M comes to the rescue, and casually mentions that he’ll stay on as Prime Minister. Victoria is excessively pleased.
Everyone celebrates Lord M’s return back at the palace. Emma Portman wears a very interesting necklace.
But then Melbourne is reminded that Victoria must marry soon, and it’s right back to brooding.