Victoria Season 1 Episode 4 Recap: Nice Day For A White Wedding

Photo: Courtesy of PBS.
Even if you don't know anything about Victoria and Albert's wedding, we have all seen its effects: She is, after all, the woman who made white bridal gowns all the rage. That's why it was surprising that this episode of Victoria was not about the pomp and circumstance of their big day, as much as it was about the politics leading up to it. That's actually pretty refreshing. This isn't a fairy tale, but a story of the very real complications of a marriage between a powerful woman and a mostly powerless man with a lot of opinions.

It's a good thing they kiss so well. In that first makeout scene, even as Albert's complaining that he's the one who has to say goodbye to his childhood home instead of her, their breathless passion makes up for so much.

"I wish I were an ordinary woman," Victoria tells him, and she probably believes as much during those early blissful moments. As Skerrett reminded us last week, though, the married life of an ordinary woman was not exactly a romantic thing, and from what we've learned about V's personality, she's not exactly planning on laying back and popping out kids while he takes over the throne.

It doesn't take long for those complications to rear their head. First, there's the matter of Albert being basically broke. "I do not wish to ask you for money each time I need to buy you a handkerchief," he says, basically asking her for money for all his future handkerchief purchases at once. But before that can become a troublesome conversation, they get to play the much more titillating game of kissing in secret, and slowly rolling out their engagement announcement, leaving the poor Duchess of Kent for last.

I've never fully bought into the less-is-more school of sexiness, but Albert may have made a believer of me with his goodbye to Victoria. "Imagine I am kissing you here on your neck and how often I will kiss you when I return," he whispers in her ear.

Ahem. Allow me a minute to get the blood flow back to my brain.

If this were just about Albert getting an allowance, that wouldn't be such an issue. What it's really about, however, is his family's desire for a piece of the pie, or "crumbs from the table." Leopold — who went through all this when he married Princess Charlotte, the late heir to the throne — and Albert's father, the Duke of Coburg, pressure him to angle for a big allowance and a title. They also assume he'll be the de facto king, influencing his wife's every decision.

On the English side, Victoria faces yet another paradox in the push and pull of the parliamentary system. Whom she marries is her decision, though she also needs the approval of the privy council. When the Duke of Wellington raises the possibility that Albert may be Catholic like his uncle, she marches right back out of the room. These are the very same old men who've been hoping she'd get herself a husband to control her. Haven't they learned anything about her personality? This queen stands her ground when it comes to her personal life.

Remember that reliable, helpful Lord Melbourne we fell in love with? He's turned into an unhelpful weakling when it comes to helping his friend's future husband. I see through you, Lord M. Perhaps Leopold's actress friend is one reason parliament doesn't want to give Albert the allowance he's requested, but does the prime minister really have to insinuate that Albert will do the same? "That usually comes later, ma'am." That's some Real Housewives-style "friendship." Baroness Lehzen has some of the same poison, mentioning Prince Ernest's womanizing ways. Then her ladies in waiting pile on to this disillusionment with talk of "children on the wrong side of the blanket."

That's the last straw for Victoria, who, inspired by her friends' smutty talk, decides her wedding dress will be virginal white. And there we have it — a tradition is born.

V has nothing to worry about, anyway. He's too scarred by the memory of his unfaithful mother to stray. Even during his sort-of bachelor party in a whore house, Albert remains faithful. Instead, he takes his brother's advice to treat the place like a university of love, most literally, and gets Gretchen to teach him in the least fun way possible while he takes notes. (Why does she happen to have pen and paper in her room?)

At last, it's time for the real wedding planning, which includes the corniest joke of the evening:

"Prince Albert is very concerned the girls should come from families of unblemished reputation."

"But your attendants must come from the aristocracy, ma'am."

Hardy-har-har. There's talk of trimming the bridesmaid list down to four, but in the end, according to history, she had 12 maids who weren't all from perfectly pious families.

Here are some more royal wedding tidbits: The props department failed to give us a better glimpse of the cake Francatelli works on for six weeks to perfect, so go here if you'd like to see illustrations of the real thing, which reportedly weighed 300 lbs. I have to wonder about her decision to wear a crown of orange blossoms instead of jewels (another trend she set) — would she really have decided that at the very last minute, on a whim? I also just spent way too much time looking up whether the queen tossed her bouquet and found some random, not quite reliable sites that said she didn't, so take that as you will. Most of this show is historically accurate, so if they needed to embellish a few things to make Victoria look like a girly, blushing bride, who am I to oppose?

Finally, there's the question of the ceremony, in which Victoria again went against the advice of her elders and decided to keep the "obey" part of her vows. Was she doing this just to keep peace or did she really plan on it? It did seem to please him, though this probably isn't the last we'll see of Albert being peevish about having less power than he'd bargained for.

That brings us back to Lord M, who's back on my good side with his sweet goodbye to his protégé. I would have shed a tear, if it hadn't been for the fact that I was so looking forward to a hot and heavy wedding night scene. Oooh, here it comes, they're getting in bed, whispering each other's names, kissing and...that's it. Right, we're watching PBS, not cable. Imagination will just have to do.

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