Poor, poor Victoria.
What an almighty hassle it must be, being such a subject of public scrutiny every time you feel a little barfy in the middle of a music performance – and indeed, the sense of tension and unease is captured beautifully in this episode’s opening scene. Turns out Vic and Bert made babies!
Speaking of mums: we’re reminded again of just how insufferable so many of the old farts surrounding the poor queen are, including her mother. Way to remind your terrified kid that her cousin died in childbirth! Grade A parenting skills, right there. Such parental, very nurture, wow.
But it seems the queen mum isn’t the only person preoccupied with the (I suppose in these days very real) possibility that Victoria won’t survive the making of her very first prince or princess – some people are very unhappy with the prospect of Albert being named as regent to the little ‘un if Vicky kicks the bucket, but doesn’t it stand to reason that she’d pick the baby daddy? Come on, people.
There’s much to love about this episode: Staffordshire, puppies, Albert the expert marksman – heart, sigh – factories, and railways. It really goes to show just how much of a time of massive and turbulent technological change Victoria’s reign was.
It also goes to show just how much of a massive nerd Albert was. That little smile of his when Sir Robert Peel – whom I’m really starting to like, in no small part due to the warmth in Nigel Lindsay’s performance – takes him on his very first locomotive ride is absolutely precious.
Indeed, we feel a palpable tension here between Bert and Vicky, where of course he wants to be have some measure of influence and to be able to support ventures that are important to him, and of course she is aware that if she lets him go about making decisions of national importance willy-nilly, it could severely undermine her own authority – and as a monarch and a woman in the nineteenth century, this is a very legitimate concern.
But how cute was it getting to see Bert attempt to run alongside a locomotive to find out whether or not his wife finds trains as fun as he does. (Turns out she does! Trains are brilliant! Though admittedly, Vicky probably never had to deal with turning up on a standing-room-only 17:30 service to Birmingham New Street only to discover that somebody’s already in your pre-booked seat and you’d have to shove your way past a dozen tired commuters in order to evict them.)
Meanwhile, Miss Skerrett and Mr. Francatelli discover that their confectionery collaborations are even more brilliant than their respective individual work – and we get to witness the birth of the bombe surprise.
It should come as no surprise that I took great joy in their scenes together in this episode, in no small part due to the fact that any time there’s food onscreen, it’s what I’m paying the most attention to, and seeing the creation of some of the lavish puddings of the Victorian kitchen was an utter delight.