Victoria Season 1 Episode 5 Recap: Pity The Poor Prince

Photo: Courtesy of PBS.
Here's a good way to make yourself want to light shit on fire and tear out your hair: Imagine if, instead of Victoria, this were Victor, and tonight's episode dealt with a wife made to leave her home country, only to find that in her new home all that's expected of her is that she look pretty, produce an heir, and write thank you cards. Would that king bend over backwards, in the year 1840 (OR in the year 2017, for that matter) to make her feel like a productive member of society?

So, yeah, I'm kind of thrilled by those first scenes of Victoria getting her box from parliament while Albert is left with the piano, those thank-you notes, and eventually, the task of blotting his queen's signature. Not feeling sorry for him in the least there. (It did make me wistful at the idea of Bill Clinton being in that position, if only...) No wonder the queen is intent on learning some birth control techniques. If you think having a child (or nine) puts a big damper on a modern woman's chances at gender equity, think about adding the constant, looming threat of death in childbirth to that mix. But V is quite smitten with her new husband, and she doesn't want him to feel quite so ... emasculated. She'd like to make a position for him by her side, without ceding her own spot.

Her first attempt — simply walking in to dinner arm-in-arm with Albert — doesn't fly with her uncle Sussex. He gives her quite the unsubtle hint that he was one of the few to support the rules of succession that made her queen, because of tradition, and so she needs to support the tradition that favors him in return. All of this seems so petty — rules about who goes into dinner in which order! — that Albert's pouting about it makes me hate him a little. Dude, you just married a queen. Get over yourself. Everyone else is nicer than I'd be, and they say it will all be different when he knocks up his wife.

The queen has learned quite a bit about diplomacy and manipulation, however, and she comes up with a very clever solution: Give Sussex's commoner wife a discretionary title, Duchess of Inverness, that will allow her to come to state dinners at the palace. This way, the Duke gets his beloved wife on his arm, and the queen gets her husband. Are you happy now, Prince Albert?

"I think this was your victory, not mine," he says. So, that's a no?
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Photo: Courtesy of PBS.
In the meantime, he takes his frustration out on his brother, who's fallen in love with the very married Duchess of Sutherland. As we learned last week, Albert's the conservative one in the family, and he'd very much not like his brother to screw things up for him, so he asks Ernest to go back to Coburn. Even if Ernest is truly in love, you can tell he'll be just fine with time. The real victim is Ernest's valet, Lohlein, who was hoping to return home to his girlfriend. Poor kid now has to stay behind to keep Albert company, and he looks truly heartbroken. The only bright spot here is how Brodie, whom we've only known as a petty crook until now, steps up to tell Lohlein he has friends in the palace. Aww. Is this story going anywhere?

Another surprising development downstairs: Francatelli decides to drop the creepo act and show some decency too. A cholera outbreak means the neighborhood where the real Skerrett and her daughter live is under quarantine, but the pastry chef knows how to bribe street kids and sneak around the place. Not only does he get to see them, but he manages to move them to a safer, unquarantined neighborhood. And the "something in return" he so menacingly asked from Skerrett was just her real name. Not to hang it over her, but to make her a candy "N" for her pillow. Sweet, if still a little creepy. (BTW, am I the only one who just noticed that Ferdinand Kingsley, who plays Francatelli, is the son of Sir Ben? That's why that look of simultaneous threat and charm is so familiar.)

Back upstairs, Prince Albert's working on his plan to show the Brits that he's more than a royal sperm bank with a pretty face. He's going to deliver a speech to an international audience of abolitionists. It's a topic about which he feels quite passionate — luckily, he lets his English secretary edit his speech down to an appropriate length — and the audience will include some Tory doubters of his, such as Sir Robert Peel. It's a great success, which brings tears to the eyes of the escaped slave guest of honor (oh, hurrah for white saviors!). And because Victoria understands at the last minute that she has to call in sick to this one, he really does shine on his own.

It would appear that this step toward equality makes Victoria and Albert's sexy time even hotter. Except, oops, he catches her jumping on the couch, as advised by the virgin Baroness Lehzen, to avoid getting pregnant. He tells her that not only will jumping not work, but that the only thing that does is abstinence. Either the prince is almost as ignorant about birth control as his wife, or he's a selfish jerk who still knows a child is his only key to real power, because Victoria loooves sex. Have fun with those nine kids, guys!

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