From teenage queen to mother dearest. We met our dear Victoria on the day she ascended to the English throne. Now, as we close out season one of the gorgeous Victoria, the young monarch gives birth to the next generation — but not without a lot of complaining first. Like, a lot.
You can’t really blame her, though. Victoria can’t do any of her favorite things, like horseback riding or dancing, and pretty much every person that runs into her reminds her that women die during childbirth all the time. Can’t people just say something like, “Congrats! How exciting! What’s the theme for your gender reveal party?” and move on? YEESH. Needless to say, Victoria is freaked out by this entire thing.
In fact, the only person in all of Buckingham Palace who knows that her queen is a strong lady who can handle childbirth just fine is Mrs. Jenkins. After that whole Chartist debacle, Mrs. Jenkins has proved to be a low-key badass. In Downton Abbey terms, she’s got the job of an O’Brien, the leadership skills and respect of a Mrs. Hughes, but deep down is totally a Mrs. Patmore. Throughout all of “Young England,” Mrs. Jenkins is telling everyone, most especially an unhinged Penge, that Victoria will be fine and everyone should shut their traps about it. When Lehzen loses it — she’s spent years ensuring the queen’s safety, and now has no control over what happens — Mrs. Jenkins takes a softer approach and reminds her how strong Victoria is. Jenkins also spends the episode trying to find a wet nurse because there is no way in hell Victoria is doing that. (She’s a queen, not a cow.) Jenkins is downright giddy to be handed such a task: She grew up on a farm and knows “how to spot a good milker.” Anyway, Jenkins, in a surprise turn of events, has turned out to be the best of the downstairs crew.
The rest of them are kind of a mess. Most especially Skerrett. When Chef Francatelli gets offered his own establishment — his very own kitchen — he asks Skerrett to join him on his new adventure. They could be happy together! Skerrett is tempted, but one quick conversation with the real Skerrett, who reminds her that trusting a man’s promise of love is how she got into her current situation, has Our Skerrett rethinking the proposition. She turns Francatelli down, and when she discovers he’s left the palace for good, she weeps. She’s crying over both a lost chance at love AND the end of those free desserts. Obviously.
Speaking of lost loves, if you thought the little flirtation between Ernest and Harriet was over with that handkerchief good-bye, you were wrong. Ernest is back for the birth and things escalate between him and the duchess. First, piano playing, then kissing in the dark after a confession of love, finally … she gives him a lock of her hair and they part ways. Yeah, it’s kind of a letdown, but you know what? Not everyone is as lucky as Victoria and Albert. Ernest is quick to remind his judgemental brother of that fact.
Back downstairs: The long-simmering loathing between Penge and Lehzen finally comes to a head. When Penge catches Lehzen laughing about some of the crazies who are writing to Victoria to confess their love and/or hatred, he is incensed. She should be taking the queen’s safety more seriously. He’s especially turned off when he hears about Captain Childers, a man who writes weekly to offer to rescue Victoria from her German captor. He’s harmless, Lehzen tells Penge.
Well, Lehzen is wrong. When Victoria and her ladies go for a little drive around the park, they get stuck behind an overturned cart (#RoyalTrafficJam). While waiting, Victoria is hit by a flying bouquet of violets. Who is the mysterious admirer? The very same Captain Childers from the letters, and he doesn’t want to take no for an answer. He’s arrested before he gets too close, but everyone involved is shaken up. When Penge hears about the incident, he immediately informs Albert that Lehzen has been keeping information, like this man’s obsession with the queen, to herself. Albert finds the news alarming, and he takes Lehzen to task.
Victoria’s safety consumes Albert — and the Childers incident is only the beginning. His main concern is the return of the dreaded Cumberland, Victoria’s uncle and the King of Hanover. In case you forgot this guy is a bad dude, his arrival is marked by ominous music and some nice closeups of that scar on his face. As Victoria’s uncle, he’s next in line for the throne should anything unfortunate happen to both Victoria and her child during the birth. Super cool guy, right?
When Cumberland finally comes to greet the royal family, he isn’t any less threatening. This show could really use a good villain, but man, Cumberland is just a cartoon. He is so overtly nefarious that it is obvious he has nothing to do with the real danger Victoria finds herself in, no matter how hard the show tries to make you think he does.
Victoria goes out for another ride in the park, this time with Albert. A young man pushes his way to the front of the crowd. We’ve seen this man multiple times throughout “Young England.” He’s up to no good. You know he’s a creeper because he gets mysterious letters that say things like “await instructions from Hanover,” and uses a mannequin with a big ol’ poofy dress on it for target practice. Now, with the queen in his sights, he pulls out his gun and fires twice. Albert pulls Victoria down into the carriage, and while both are unharmed, Victoria is so shaken up that Albert has to carry her back into the palace.
Of course, once the police find that note with the word “Hanover” in it, everyone comes to the conclusion that Cumberland has something to do with the assassination attempt. It’s just too obvious, though. As the investigation goes along, it becomes clear that this man is mentally ill and the letter from Hanover was simply a letter he wrote to himself.
It is very likely that the man will be found “not of sound mind” and avoid a treason charge. People are understandably upset. Victoria fears that if the man isn’t punished, she’ll be forced to live the life of a prisoner once again, trapped in her own palace, just like her childhood in Kensington. Even worse: Her child will suffer the same fate. Albert pledges to keep her safe, always, but Victoria wants more than safety. She wants her freedom.
Victoria doesn’t necessarily need another visit from Cumberland at the moment, but it does turn out to be surprisingly effective in helping her come to grips with her fears. Cumberland remarks that if this type of violence happened in Hanover, the man would already be dead, regardless of if there were actually bullets in his gun. It’s in this moment that Victoria realizes something very important: She may have made mistakes, and will probably make more, but she knows for sure that she is a better monarch than her uncle could ever be. Boy, bye.
This empowerment fuels Victoria’s response when Robert Peel swings by to report that the man did indeed get sent to an insane asylum instead of sent to death. Albert thinks it’s ludicrous, but Victoria disagrees. She swore to uphold the constitution of this country, and if a jury of Englishmen came to this verdict, they must support it. To show their belief in the English justice system, Victoria and Albert go for one more carriage ride. They are met with rousing applause and absolutely no gunfire. Albert is moved by his wife’s ability to put her people first. So moved, in fact, that he genuflects for his queen.
That settles that. All that’s left is for Victoria to push out that little royal nugget. Before she does, can we just discuss what might be my favorite scene of the entire season? Victoria sits, snacking on candy, when her Uncle Leopold comes to sit next to her. He talks about how strong Victoria is and how she and Albert remind him so much of what he had with his wife. Before he gets too emotional, Victoria passes him a piece of candy, and the two sit there, munching on sweets and holding hands. It is simple, quiet, and so lovely. I hope Leopold sticks around for season two.
Oh, right, THE BABY. Victoria gives birth to a perfectly healthy baby girl. Albert, so mumbly and romantic, thinks they should name their daughter Victoria, after a great queen. GET IT? All of England rejoices. Victoria really rejoices because now she can again go horseback riding or dancing or maybe both at once. She’s a queen, she can do what she wants!