The palace may have rejected gas lights in the first episode of Victoria, but now it’s barreling ahead into the future, naysayers be damned. Albert advocates for railroads and industry, Francatelli and Skerrett innovate in the kitchen, Lohlein stands up to conservative servants, and Victoria ignores old-fashioned medical advice about pregnancy.
That’s right, jumping up and down after sex somehow didn’t prevent conception. Instead, Victoria has been suffering from bouts of “biliousness” and “indisposition” (ah, the English art of indirection − an art Albert has yet to learn, as we will see). Victoria is understandably nervous about the pregnancy, for the maternal mortality rate at that time was around 50 deaths per thousand births, if not higher. In case she perishes during the birth, she must name a regent to rule in her stead until her heir comes of age. She chooses Albert, but Parliament must ratify her decision, and the Tories are fuming about the prospect of a German on the throne. (No matter that Victoria has German ancestry.)
Meanwhile, the Duchess of Kent has been offering Victoria some stellar pearls of wisdom to cope with the pregnancy: drink cream and brandy, no laughing, let Albert take over everything and rule for her. But Victoria, as usual, will not be told what to do. She refuses to be “trussed up in bed all day;” it’s “hardly my style.”
So she embarks on a trip with Albert to the North. Unsurprisingly, she leaves the Duchess behind at Buckingham Palace. The royal party stays at a country estate in Staffordshire, owned by the conservative Giffords. Everyone goes out for a nice little hunting party, with the women enjoying tea in plush chairs and the men shooting guns instead of hunting the old-fashioned way, because Albert is all for technology and the future.
While Albert shows off his marksmanship, who ambles over but Sir Robert Peel, the leader of the Tories. He has an estate nearby, with a newfangled locomotive and some railroad tracks on it that he invites the party to see. Albert eagerly accepts, embarrassing Victoria. Not only did he show enthusiasm (gasp!), he was a bit too buddy-buddy with Peel, a political rival whom Victoria secretly calls “the frog.” Gifford similarly chastises Peel for his abandonment of conservatism and his overtures toward Albert.
Albert, sharing the same stubborn streak as Victoria, sneaks out of bed the next morning to check out Peel’s locomotive in defiance of the Queen's express wish. He is enchanted by industry, and believes Victoria should wholeheartedly support it. He also desires some real power, and views technology as an area in which he can have it.
While Albert is gallivanting about, the Giffords’ butler is attempting to humiliate him by taking advantage of his valet Lohlein’s ignorance of English custom. Lohlein realizes this with Mrs. Jenkins’ help, and slaps the butler in retaliation.
Back at Buckingham Palace, Francatelli is experimenting with new dishes. Skerrett displays an unusual knack for combining ingredients, and suggests that Francatelli try putting some hot chocolate on ice cream. He thus invents a magic chocolate shell, “bombe surprise,” and serves it to Skerrett at an elaborate table setting in the palace proper while the Queen is gone − talk about wining and dining.
Albert and Peel take an exhilarating ride on the locomotive, standing up in front like the trailblazers they are and dirtying their fine clothes with soot. They decide they like each other, since they both despise dissimulation and are champions of progress. Victoria is initially furious at Albert for disobeying her, but then decides to try out the locomotive herself. Surprise! She loves it!
Back in London, Peel announces he will support his new pal Albert as regent, and forces the Tories to fall in line behind him. Victoria lets Albert look over any affairs of state concerning industry, thus granting him the power for which he yearned. She also decides to buck antiquated medical advice concerning her diet and indulges her craving for bacon and peas. Everyone is happy, except for grumpy old Wellington.
One final, pressing question: Where’s Dash? He’s entirely absent from this episode. I guess he’ll be replaced by a baby soon, so we’ll have something else around that's cute. Good thing too, what with these gray-haired, bewhiskered Tories everywhere.