Wedding bells are ringing, people! The countdown to the union of Victoria and Albert is on. “An Ordinary Woman” picks up the morning after that downright swoon-y proposal, and both parties involved are glowing. So much so, in fact, that Ernest picks up on the glowing-ness and feigns an interest in some shrubs to give our two lovebirds some alone time. “Shrubs are my specialty,” Harriet tells Ernest, as they wander off, because Harriet is a professional lady-in-waiting, and also that should be on a T-shirt.
Victoria and Albert need all the alone time they can get for kissing and such because he’s headed back home to Coburg for six weeks, until the wedding. There is so much to be done, too: Victoria has to pick a dress (she goes with white, starting the trend), choose which of her weirdo uncles will give her away, and figure out how to preserve her fiancé’s ever-dwindling masculinity in the face of marrying the most powerful woman on the planet. And you thought picking the perfect color scheme was tough!
Yes, it seems Albert’s side of the family is very preoccupied with what the prince will get out of this whole deal. Apparently, marrying someone who lives in a palace and has an infinite supply of handkerchiefs is not enough. Here’s my question: What does Victoria get out of this thing? Sure, she’s marrying her One True Love, but she’s also signing up for a lifetime of ’stache rash. Maybe Albert should think less about his financial independence and more about showing some gratitude.
At least initially, Albert seems content to be a good husband. Once his uncle and father get ahold of him, though, he does have some newfound requests. Albert would like a title that gets him a seat in the House of Lords, he would like the ability to choose his own household, and he wants some sweet, sweet English money. When King Leopold married Princess Charlotte, he was granted 50,000 pounds a year — an allowance he’s still receiving, even after Charlotte’s death 20 years ago. This, compounded by the fact that Leopold is spending his money on his actress mistress, he’s German, and he’s rumored to be Catholic makes the sell to Parliament extremely difficult.
Ignoring the hilarious notion that Parliament gets to approve of the queen’s husband, none of this goes very well for Prince Albert. Thanks to Parliament, Albert will receive no title and only 30,000 pounds a year as his husband allowance, or whatever you want to call it. (Only 30,000 pounds! Poor thing.) Victoria sends him the news. Their letters to one another may contain some unbridled 19th-century heat — he is her “dearest angel,” her image fills his whole soul, etc. — but Albert still winds up very disappointed.
Some of the disappointment is understandable. Albert takes this decision as a sign that the English people as a whole don’t like him, which is admittedly heavy stuff. But Albert should be careful about wearing his unhappiness on his sleeve — it’s really starting to bug Victoria. She can’t understand why Albert would want for anything when he’s married to the queen of England. “I have enough for both of us,” she tells Lord M and King Leopold. So when she begins to hear about all the money the men around her — including her father! — have spent on their mistresses, Victoria draws her own conclusions.
Victoria’s head would really explode if she knew about Ernest’s wedding present to his little brother. Ernest thinks Albert needs a little more “experience” with women before he takes to the bed of the queen … so to a house of ill repute they go! Albert is appalled, but Ernest tells him to think of it as a “university of love.” A university, you say? Albert can get down with that. He’s such a nerd! He’s also a pretty decent dude, it seems. When he’s alone with his, erm, instructor, instead of getting a physical demonstration, he asks for a paper and pen. He wants an old-fashioned lesson, and he’s taking notes. On second thought, Victoria might actually be into this.
Inappropriate field trip aside, I really enjoy how much time Victoria has dedicated to Albert and Ernest’s close relationship. Before they return to England for the wedding, the brothers share an emotional scene in which they talk about their mother. She ran away with her husband’s equerry, was banished from court, and died from cancer when the boys were very young. (I know, so much untapped drama, right?) Anyway, they get all heartfelt and discuss how important they are to one another. Albert rarely gets choked up, but here with Ernest, the dude actually cries!
When the boys return to Buckingham Palace, things aren’t exactly easy for Albert and Victoria. He’s still hurting from his lack of money and title, and he gets a little mouthy when Victoria has Lord M introduce Albert to his new private secretary — a.k.a. Lord M’s old private secretary! So Victoria sends her fiancé to bed, which is my favorite thing ever. Your man is acting like a child? SEND HIM TO BED.
The tension doesn’t ease Victoria’s fears about Albert getting a mistress. Thanks to Lord M, who really is being The Best throughout this whole ordeal (which must be very hard for him and his aching heart), Victoria confronts Albert directly on the matter. You guys, it is so sweet! Albert is out in the gardens practicing his sexy fencing moves, and when Victoria even mentions a mistress, he seems genuinely confused and hurt. Victoria is the only woman he loves and ever will love. He just wants something of his own and a chance to do something good. So, all is well between them again. Victoria promises she’s marrying Albert as “an ordinary woman,” which is impossible, but sure. She is going to love, honor, and obey her husband. The last item on that list gives pause, but it is of the times, perhaps. They are simply promising one another that their marriage will be a partnership. It’s very a nice sentiment and will probably be tested in the not-so-distant future.
And thus, the big day arrives. Victoria looks amazing, naturally, and everyone in the chapel agrees that Albert is foine. There are vows, a very sexy ring exchange, cake, tossing the bouquet, and general merriment. Albert even smiles! What a day.
Before the newlyweds can go off and practice some of those “lessons” Albert learned back in Germany, Victoria has one final item on her to do list. She summons her dear Lord M to meet alone. Do I even have to tell you how romantic and heartbreaking and lovely this moment is? It’s Victoria saying good-bye to Lord M on her wedding day. I mean, how could it be anything less? Victoria reminds Lord M of the time he said that when she gives away her heart “it will be without reservation.” Well, he was almost right. “Almost” because she’ll never forget her feelings for him. They hold hands, look wistfully at one another, and say what feels like very final good-byes. Lord M has plans to return to Brocket Hall, and Victoria skips down the hallway toward marital bliss. Bury me amongst the gardenias, people, because I am DEAD.
While Victoria and Albert end their wedding day happily in bed, the downstairs crew is not so fortunate. I actually enjoyed both downstairs story lines in “An Ordinary Woman,” for a change. The first deals with a Sad Skerrett realizing all that’s she’s given up by taking Real Skerrett’s life at the palace. That Very Cute German Valet (Basil Eidenbenz) tries to console her best he can. More of this cute person, please.
More important than Skerrett representing for sad people at weddings, though, Penge gets his very own love story straight out of The Notebook. Honestly, when his long-lost German dresser love Hilde told him she never got the letters he sent to her for a year, I half expected him to yell, “It wasn’t over. It still isn’t over!” while rain poured from the ceiling of Buckingham Palace. That doesn’t happen, but it was still some nice character development. Do I love Penge now? Possibly.