Time for another glimpse into the soapy royal world of Victoria! Before you dig in to our recap of the eighth episode of the season, “The Luxury of Conscience,” you can catch up on previous recaps here!
Victoria, Albert, and Vicky are enjoying some family time when they’re suddenly interrupted by Albert’s favorite person, Uncle/Father Leopold. Victoria, who wears a brooch at the neck of her gown and a glittering hair comb, is shocked to see him.
Leopold offers Albert a belated birthday present: a miniature portrait to go along with the one of his mother. This one either features Leopold or Mr. Bean. Jury’s still out. Anyway, Albert storms off, and Victoria lets Leopold know that Albert’s told her everything about his paternal revelations.
Over at the Houses of Parliament, Peel’s getting lambasted by other MPs about the Corn Laws. He goes to the palace to tell Vic and Al that he’s going to repeal the laws, which artificially elevated the price of grain products in the UK to protect industries from foreign competition. He tells them that a repeal is going to be unpopular with many in his party. (It was.) His only hope: the support of the Duke of Wellington over in the House of Lords. (This storyline puts us around the end of 1845.)
Peel’s right about the unpopularity of the repeal plan. He presides over a contentious cabinet meeting, with Lord Stanley (then the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies) loudly voicing his opposition. Several minsters walk out of the meeting. But the Duke of Wellington signals his approval of the repeal.
Meanwhile, back at the palace, Victoria (who wears a cameo pinned to her bodice) and Lehzen argue with Albert over whether the windows in the nursery should be left open.
And Ernst (who still has syphilis) and Harriet (who is still in mourning) canoodle in the gardens — until they’re interrupted by Uncle Leopold.
Peel presents his repeal plan in parliament, and the room gets very testy. Members of his own party call on their fellow Tories to resist Peel’s “betrayal.” Victoria and Albert aren’t worried, though — Albert even says that he believes Peel will still be PM in five years’ time. (Spoiler: he wasn’t.) Albert even returns a few scenes later to cheer him on.
Lord Alfred catches Fictional Wilhelmina reading the Bible — more specifically, the story of the love between David and Jonathan. Ahem.
But Lord Alfred has to run, because he has a dinner date with Drummond, who has decided to break off his engagement. Lord Alfred thinks that’s a silly decision, because every successful politician needs a wife — no matter what happened between them in Scotland.
The next day, Victoria notices that Vicky’s not feeling well, but Lehzen doesn’t think it’s time to send for the doctor. They decide to take the princess for a drive in the fresh air instead.
Meanwhile, Albert indulges his mad botanist tendencies, until Uncle/Father Leopold drops in. He wants to apologize for saying the things he did in Coburg. Albert’s having none of it.
Charlotte Buccleuch reads Drummond’s engagement announcement in the newspaper. She approves of a future politician marrying a rich woman.
We’ve got brooches all around as everyone discusses the match. Harriet appears to be in half-mourning, and look — I see a baby ferronniere emerging!
Ernst is on a marital mission of his own. He stops by his doctor again, who tells him that the mercury treatment has worked. As long as his symptoms don’t show up again, he should feel free to propose to any woman he likes. Ernst is clearly pleased. (I won’t get into the silliness of this storyline again. Ugh.)
Wellington stops by for tea with Victoria, who is frustrated about the fracturing Tory party. Since she can’t intervene politically, she asks him to advocate on her behalf, urging the party to get in line behind Peel and the repeal plan. He gently tells her that Peel’s going to be brought down, no matter the outcome of the repeal, and there isn’t much he can do about it.
Albert reads to Vicky, who is still under the weather. He’s worried that she has a fever, but Lehzen insists it’s a “healthy glow” from being outside. Victoria sides with her old governess, much to Albert’s dismay.
Victoria is equally dismayed when Albert announces that he’s going to parliament to listen to the repeal debates. She’s worried that people will perceive Albert’s presence on Peel’s side as a statement of her own political beliefs. We get a good view of her carved brooch as she fumes. Albert goes anyway, and the other MPs point him out in the gallery. Not good.
When Albert gets home, Vicky is even more feverish, and he’s ticked. Lehzen still doesn’t want to send for a doctor. Victoria finally decides to side with her husband on this one, but when Lehzen takes Vicky out of the room, the two of them fight bitterly over Lehzen, parliament, and just about everything else. Albert delivers an ultimatum: either Lehzen goes, or he does.
The doctor explains that poor little Vicky is quite ill indeed, and he won’t say whether being in a chilly room could have affected her health. All they can do is wait and hope that the fever breaks. Victoria is distraught.
Fresh off his syphilis check-up, Ernst grabs Harriet and smooches her, right there in the middle of the palace. Okay. Uncle Leopold, whose only job in this episode is interrupting people, catches them. As Harriet flees, Leopold tells Ernst that he really should marry Princess Gertrude von Mecklenburg-Strelitz. (Fictional.) Fat chance, says Ernst.
Later in the episode, Ernst is all geared up to propose to Harriet — and then his rash returns. So much for that.
Harriet, who has thrown off her widow’s weeds for the occasion, is left very confused.
And in the nursery, Vicky isn’t getting any better. Victoria and Albert set aside their differences at her bedside. Thankfully, after much agonized waiting, the princess’s fever breaks. (Princess Vicky really did suffer a serious illness in 1842, after which Lehzen was dismissed. The show fails to depict another scapegoat in the matter: the doctor, who initially gave an incorrect diagnosis.)
Drummond finds Peel burning the midnight oil in his office. He cautions him to be careful amid all of the political turmoil, asking him to remember Spencer Perceval. (He was the only British prime minster ever to have been assassinated. It happened in 1812 in the lobby of the House of Commons.) That’s some pretty heavy-handed foreshadowing coming from Drummond, show.
Things are going well for Drummond. Alfred invites him to a do-over of their dinner date, and then the repeal of the Corn Laws passes. But then, disaster strikes. A disgruntled man tries to assassinate Peel, but Drummond jumps in front of the bullet and dies.
This really did happen — sort of. A deranged man named Daniel M’Naghten shot Drummond in January 1843 after mistaking him for Peel. He died five days later.
Victoria and Albert share the good news about Vicky’s recovery with Peel and Wellington, who inform them about the passage of the repeal bill — and the death of Drummond. Wellington tells Victoria that the man who shot Drummond was a farmer who thought the repeal bill would be the end of his livelihood. (This is a fictional touch. The man who murdered the real Edward Drummond was a Scottish woodworker, and the incident was totally unrelated to the repeal of the Corn Laws.)
Charlotte is the one who shares the news with Alfred. She reveals that she knew what Drummond and Alfred meant to each other.
Peel visits Victoria to let her know that he’ll soon be offering his resignation. (His resignation took place in July 1846, more than three years after Drummond’s death.)
Another member of the circle is on the way out, too. Victoria reluctantly tells Lehzen that it’s time for her to go back to Germany. (As I said above, this happened in 1842.)
We finally get a glimpse of Drummond’s fiancee at his funeral.
Wilhelmina comforts Lord Alfred on their way out of the service.
Lehzen heads out of the palace for good.
And we get one more interruption from Uncle/Father/Grandpapa Leopold — this time, with a pony. (Who in the world is running Belgium?!?)