'Victoria' Recap: Keep on Riding

Daniel Hautzinger
Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria. (ITV Plc)
Victoria waves goodbye to her first season. (ITV Plc)

It’s the finale of the first season of Victoria (which has been renewed for another season in the UK), and we have come full circle. In the first episode, Victoria eagerly used her new status as Queen to break free from the stifling influence of her mother and Sir John Conroy, but now that very title is threatening to lead to another period of imprisonment. In the late stages of her first pregnancy, Victoria is cooped up and bored, and everyone is continually advising her to rest and stay at the palace for the baby’s safety.

This rankles the Queen. Not only is she unable to attend to affairs of state or go for pleasurable walks, everyone seems more concerned about the child than about Victoria herself.  She complains to Lehzen that even the devoted Albert has eyes only for the baby. The servants, too, worry about the Queen’s health, fearing the loss of their jobs if Victoria dies and is replaced by a new monarch. Luckily for Francatelli, he has just been offered a job at his own establishment, and proposes that Skerrett leave the palace with him and marry him. Lehzen has assigned Mrs. Jenkins to find a wet nurse for Victoria, but Penge is irked by the parade of nursing women who come to the palace to be interviewed.

Another of the subsidiary love stories reignites as Ernest returns to England and resumes his pining for the Duchess of Sutherland. The ambitious Brodie, who has taken to spouting Shakespeare, finally gets a break and will be Ernest’s attendant. Nor is Ernest the only character to reappear: uncles Leopold and Cumberland are both back, and they are not too keen on each other. Leopold is in England to rejoice in the birth of a blood-related heir, while Cumberland hopes to take the throne in the case of a fatal delivery.

The villainous Duke of Cumberland. (PBS)The villainous Duke of Cumberland could not look more evil. (PBS) Cumberland’s villainy could not be more emphasized. Ominous music thunders every time he appears. He wears a perpetual scowl, with a hint of calculating evil simmering just beneath. The camera frames him in shadowy profile. All of this is for good reason: it seems Cumberland has a dastardly plan. We catch a glimpse of a suspicious young man in a disheveled back room, receiving a letter that advises him to wait for orders from Hanover, where Cumberland is king.

Despite everyone’s protestations, Victoria decides to leave the palace for a carriage ride through London. Something is obviously going to happen, what with all the foreboding verbal warnings, hints at some sort of scheme, and the anxious shots of Victoria through a crush of people. What is it?!? A man throwing violets at Victoria and offering to free her from “the German tyrant,” meaning her husband Albert. He is arrested and the Queen is rushed away unharmed.

Upon learning that the man has been writing letters to Victoria for weeks, and that the Baroness decided they were harmless, Albert furiously orders all correspondence to come to him rather than the Baroness. Poor Lehzen now believes she’s being displaced, and is fearful for her dear Victoria’s life. (The real Lehzen was indeed forced out of the palace by Albert, who disliked her.)

Albert and Victoria on a carriage ride. (ITV Plc)Victoria insists on taking carriage rides around London even though Albert fears an attack. (ITV Plc) But the Queen again waves away others’ worries and goes for another carriage ride. This time, there are gunshots fired at her instead of flowers. Victoria again emerges unscathed. The would-be assassin is the shady man we saw earlier with the letter, and suspicion immediately swings to Cumberland, given the man’s ostensible orders from Hanover, and Cumberland’s vague threats.

Cumberland receives a mafia-style reckoning when he goes to the Tory headquarters. Everyone there turns their back on him as he walks past former friends, eventually reaching Sir Robert Peel, who is at a desk facing away from the door. Peel dismisses Cumberland; whatever reputation the King of Hanover had is ruined.

But there is soon an exoneration of sorts. Edward Oxford, the nineteen-year old boy who shot at the Queen, seems to have acted alone and was mentally ill. He imagined a conspiratorial group and wrote letters to himself, and it is unclear whether his gun was even loaded. A jury arraigns him on a count of madness, punishing him with the asylum instead of hanging.

(Important side note: Dash is back! – if only for a second.)

Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria. (ITV Plc)Victoria needs more than a bonnet to protect her from assailants, but luckily she emerges from an attack unscathed. (ITV Plc) Albert is enraged that the man who put his wife’s life in danger has not been convicted for treason, and Victoria frets that she will never again be able to leave the palace in fear of her safety. But a conversation with Cumberland instills some courage. Her uncle condemns the jury’s handling of the situation, insinuating that he would have overruled them (he has already abolished the constitution in Hanover). Victoria decides that she will never be like him, and takes the high road. She accepts the jury’s decision, and even goes for another carriage ride to prove to her people that she is not afraid. She is now more popular than ever. (In reality, the assassination attempt dispelled any lingering public resentment amongst the public about Flora Hastings’s death and Victoria’s refusal to cave to Peel’s demand about ladies-in-waiting).

Albert finally accepts Victoria as “his queen,” instead of questioning her decisions, and Peel admires her handling of the situation: a new ally has been won, though he’s not quite Melbourne. Ernest and the Duchess flirt in her bedroom, and she gives him a lock of her hair. But he rises above his reputation as a philanderer and does not sleep with this married woman, for he truly loves her, even if he cannot be with her. Skerrett refuses to leave her steady gig at the palace to be with Francatelli, afraid that he would leave her or that she would fall back into poverty.

The other characters get happy endings as the episode wraps up. Leopold and Victoria share a sweet moment as she gobbles down sugary treats from a plate balanced on her swollen belly. She gives birth without complications (though she does have to scream at the men of state who are lurking outside her door to give her some privacy). Albert cedes the correspondence review to Lehzen. And the young heir receives the glorious name of Victoria.

Passport members can stream Victoria.Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria. (ITV Plc)Victoria reigns triumphant after the birth of her first child. The girl's name? Victoria. (ITV Plc)

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