We begin exactly where we left off in the last episode: Prince Albert and his brother, Prince Ernst, have arrived in England. This is Victoria’s “oh, crap, he got cute” face.
Thanks to all of your comments on last week’s recap, I kept expecting Albert to start singing “Purple Rain.” THANKS A LOT, GUYS.
We get a quick glimpse of Victoria’s hair jewelry as she hands off Dash, who has been barking like crazy at the Coburg princes.
The Duchess of Kent, who looks like she’s in mourning for Sir John Conroy, calls Albert and Ernst “fine Coburg specimens” — which is especially disturbing when you remember that she’s their aunt. (Prince Albert’s father, Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was a brother of both the Duchess of Kent and King Leopold I of Belgium. The Coburg family was large and VERY intertwined. Albert’s stepmother, Marie, was also his father’s niece, which — ugh.)
Also, those of you who watch lots of royal-related TV will probably recognize David Oakes, the actor who plays Ernst. He was the ill-fated Duke of Clarence in The White Queen.
Harriet Sutherland, who is very bejeweled, clearly agrees with the “fine specimen” assessment, at least where Ernst was concerned. (In real life, people commented that Ernst looked remarkably unwell during this 1839 visit. They were right. He had, uh, a social disease.)
After everyone retires for bed, Victoria and Lehzen (who has really upped her choker game) discuss Albert. Victoria doesn’t like that Albert was so condescending to her. Lehzen calls him “a younger son from nowhere.” Victoria thinks he should smile more.
The next day, Victoria and the gang are looking over proof sheets for new postage stamps. They’re actually discussing the very first adhesive postage stamp in Britain, the Penny Black, which did feature a profile portrait of Victoria. It was made available to the general public in 1840.
Victoria, who is wearing a fashionable ferronnière, is a little amused and disturbed that people will have to lick her face before sending a letter. Her observation cracks up everyone in the room, except for — you guessed it! — Albert. He really was a killjoy.
The next scene, though, where Albert sees and sympathizes with an impoverished little girl selling matches in London, illustrates a major reason that his seriousness was ultimately an asset. His progressive thinking helped the development of reforms throughout Britain. (The scene couldn’t have really happened, though — Albert’s 1839 visit to see Victoria actually took place entirely at Windsor Castle.)
That evening, Victoria manages to disgust Albert by a) feeding Dash bits of food from the table at dinner, b) not properly appreciating the paintings of the Old Masters, and c) playing cards. She’s wearing a nice brooch and necklace, though!
Things improve considerably, though, after Ernst asks Victoria and Albert to play a Schubert duet. And then Albert, being Albert, ruins it a little by telling her that she plays well — but she should really practice much more often. Victoria reminds him that her free time is limited, because she does this little thing called reigning. Oh, Albert.
But the next day, Victoria is practicing scales in the palace. (And wearing a rather Victorian-looking carved brooch while doing so.) Somebody’s smitten. Uncle Leopold comes in to remind Victoria that, because she’s the monarch, she has to propose to Albert. No pressure, Vic.
While Victoria and Albert are out walking in the gardens, they happen upon the Duchess of Kent, who is casually painting in her giant haircomb tiara. (As one does.) Victoria is a little unnerved at how well they get along.
Albert tells Victoria that her mother deserves a little kindness. Victoria tells him to butt out. He guilts her by reminding her that his mother is dead. Oops.
I’ve been skipping over the below-stairs storylines in these recaps, mostly because I’ve found them awfully boring. But here we get a good look at a brooch that Victoria wore in an earlier episode, because her dresser’s assistant is thinking about stealing it. She ends up pocketing a diamond hairpin (but later puts it back). Angela Kelly would be APPALLED.
Victoria holds a small dance for the Coburg princes — but Lord Melbourne is still sending her gardenias from the greenhouses at Brocket Hall.
He just can’t seem to leave well enough alone.
Lord M and Emma Portman watch Victoria dancing with Prince Ernst. Emma likes Ernst, but she finds Albert unappealingly stiff. Lord M calls him “a clockwork prince” and then smiles smugly at his own joke.
Victoria is wearing a different little tiara in this dancing scene. Like the other tiara we’ve seen, it doesn’t appear to be a replica of any jewel that Victoria actually owned.
Ernst plays matchmaker again by calling for a waltz, so that Victoria and Albert can get a little closer. It’s all very romantically and dramatically filmed, of course.
All that whirling about also gives us a chance to see the jeweled pins in the back of Victoria’s hair.
And then things get a LITTLE weird. Albert likes the way that Victoria’s gardenia (courtesy Lord M) smells. It, uh, reminds him of his mother. Victoria offers to give it to him — and Albert pulls a knife out of his boot, cuts a big opening in his shirt, right over his heart, and slips the flower in. SOMEONE has been reading WAY too much Goethe.
Victoria, who was also a Weird Romantic, is kind of into it?
Melbourne’s complete lack of expression in response is excellent. He’s taking a mental vacation to a tropical island.
Victoria wakes up in love. Albert likes trees and paintings, so she wants everyone to go to Windsor. (In real life, the entire visit took place there.) A be-brooched Lehzen, who did NOT get along with Albert, is a little confused by it all.
We get jewels from Ladies Portman and Sutherland en route.
Victoria wears a little pearly tiara-esque haircomb for a quick tutorial on the grand paintings in the collection — you know, just because she’s interested, not because ANYONE else is.
All of the men, even Albert, Ernst, and Leopold, wear the glitzy Windsor Uniform to dinner. A version of this is still worn today — you’ll occasionally see the male members of the royal family wearing a dark blue jacket with a red collar and cuffs while at Windsor. Victoria asks if Albert likes the uniform; he just says that the gold braid is heavy. Wah-waaaah.
The Duchess of Kent’s newer, bigger clothing budget has apparently helped her to upgrade her tiara. This looks a bit like the Girls of Great Britain and Ireland to me (although that would be very anachronistic, as that tiara wasn’t made until the 1890s).
Victoria is back in her coronation ball tiara, with a large diamond comb set in the back of her hair. She’s pretty excited to show off all of her new art knowledge to Albert.
A slightly better view of the tiara. This is Victoria’s face when Albert asks her if she would rather that paintings be flattering or truthful.
The next day, Victoria and Albert go for a walk in the woods that could have been ripped from the pages of a German Romantic novel. Things go well until Dash gets caught in a trap and breaks his leg. And then that somehow turns into an argument about Melbourne’s influence on her. He storms off, leaving her to handle her poor injured dog all by herself, which seems less than gallant!
Everyone heads back to London, and Albert decides he just wants to go home. (History interjection: in real life, Victoria proposed to Albert at Windsor three days after he arrived. ANYWAY.) Uncle Leopold tells Victoria that she’d better get to proposing. She’s worried Albert will say no.
Am I the only one wondering who in the world is in charge of Belgium while Leopold’s off playing matchmaker?
While Victoria dithers, Albert and Ernst go to tour parliament with Melbourne. Albert’s pretty intrigued when Lord M reveals that Victoria doesn’t always listen to his advice — and that his time as prime minister will end sooner rather than later. (In just under two years, to be precise!)
Victoria rustles up more of those Freudian gardenias, calls Albert in, and proposes.
Albert says yes and immediately starts smiling and cracking jokes. Who knew that a marriage proposal was the key to unlocking his personality?!?