With brick-hurling demonstrators protesting Victoria’s housing of the deposed French monarch Louis Philippe at the palace, it might seem a bit crass to name Victoria’s newest daughter, her sixth child, Louise. But the girl’s name honors not Louis Philippe, but Albert’s mother. Here’s hoping that matriarch is more noble than Louis Philippe: while the protestors march against their queen because of him, he sits in the cellar gambling and drinking, enjoying himself thoroughly thanks to Victoria’s kind hospitality. When Sophie, Victoria’s new Mistress of the Robes, sees her husband Monmouth playing cards with Louis Philippe, she chastises him – and he responds with an incommensurate amount of scorn.
Despite the riotous protest, which was directed at Louis Philippe, most of the Chartists are peaceful, although a very few of them are itching to turn to violence. But the government receives intelligence that when the Chartists gather to deliver their petition of grievances to Parliament they could become unruly. Given that warning, Victoria is advised by the commander of the army, the Duke of Wellington, to mobilize troops on the day of the demonstration – just in case. Foreign Secretary Palmerston and Prime Minister Russell firmly agree. Victoria just as firmly asserts that the Chartists would not riot. She refuses to order the deployment of troops.
A police raid of the Chartists’ headquarters proves Victoria wrong: hundreds of rifles are discovered. Reluctantly, she signs the order to mobilize the army.
London is restless and on edge, as Sophie discovers when her carriage is accosted by a small mob. Luckily, the flirtatious Palmerston is driving by, and uses his popularity with the working folk to dismiss the mob. He escorts Sophie back to the palace, where Victoria, in spite of her dislike of him, thanks him and asks for his reading of the public temperature in this time of unrest. Invoking his brother-in-law and Victoria’s beloved mentor Lord Melbourne, he advises Victoria to retreat to safety outside London. Albert has been begging for the same thing, but Victoria must first recover enough from giving birth to travel.
Regardless of whether or not she is in danger, Victoria is having a rough time at the palace. She quarrels with her half-sister Feodora (Albert reassures Feodora with that all-too-common sexist refrain that Victoria can be “volatile,” especially after birth). Louis Philippe frightens Victoria’s children with tales of the beheading of monarchs. Her son Bertie, who is next in line for the throne, doesn’t want to be king. And Victoria herself is devastated by the possibility that her own subjects would rise up against her.
So she decides to leave for the newly constructed Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight. Louis Philippe will also leave London, ideally taking some of the popular antagonism with him. Victoria grants him a country estate as a refuge. The queen also apologizes to Feodora, and asks her to come to Osborne with the rest of the royal family. Feodora is delighted.
Sophie makes one last trip through the streets to say goodbye to her son before leaving for Osborne with the queen, and is given a protective guard in the form of Joseph, the new footman who has taken an interest in her. At her home, her husband Monmouth is once again cruel to her, accusing her of coddling their son; he’s glad that she will be spending some time away from him. Joseph observes it all.
Joseph may not be able to indulge his romantic interest, but another set of servants can. Francatelli has finally bought a hotel – the owner was spooked by the Chartists and offered it at a discount. But Francatelli made the decision without consulting his fiancée Skerrett, who is still not sure she’s ready to leave the queen’s employ. Francatelli is ready to start their new life; he tells Skerrett to meet him at church at 3:00 to be married. And, lo and behold, she arrives on schedule, bringing Brodie along as a witness.
As the happily married couple returns to the palace, Abigail, the Chartist who does embroidery for the palace and spoke to Victoria about the Chartists’ intentions, stops Skerrett and begs to see the queen. After the police raided the Chartist office, Abigail went looking for one of the men they arrested, an Irishman she had grown fond of. When she goes to the jail to visit, she runs into him – on the wrong side of the bars. He pretends he doesn’t know her; he’s an English police inspector. Abigail realizes the Chartists had been infiltrated – perhaps the rifles were a plant?
Victoria hears all this and begins to second-guess her order to mobilize the troops. But Albert doesn’t believe Abigail and insists that the royal family leave for Osborne House as planned. As their carriage rolls away, the Chartists begin their march to Parliament and the troops deploy with orders to prevent them from crossing the Thames.
Before Victoria has left London – before the Chartists have reached the Thames – before something terrible has happened between the army and the demonstrators – Victoria makes a decision. The Chartists should be allowed to present their petition. The army must stand down. As usual, the men around her – Albert, Wellington, Palmerston, Russell – disagree. But Victoria outlines the case that the Chartists were framed, insinuating that a certain malicious politician – looking at you, Palmerston – might have tried to forestall their demonstration. And off to Osborne she goes.
Having reached that sanctuary, Victoria receives a note from Wellington. The Chartists delivered their petition without incident. They did not have violent intentions.
Victoria is furious. She should never have left London.