Marriage Helps Victoria Learn Some Life Lessons
Some are more successful than others.
Ah, newlywed life: when your former governess can walk in on you and your husband having sex at any time, and a bunch of archaic rules dictate whether the two of you can walk into a party together. How idyllic!
Wait. Is that not right?
Victoria and Albert are settling into their new life together and learning a few things along the way. Here they are, in decreasing order of success:
How To Do It
The episode opens with Lehzen walking in on Victoria and Albert in bed in the morning, ends with some rearrangement of Victoria's sexual priorities, and fits in as much canoodling as possible in the middle.
It's nice, actually; history, and the real Victoria's diary, tells us that Victoria and Albert were super-into each other, and Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes have really lovely chemistry. It's fun to see them embracing their newlyweddedness, and each other, with enthusiasm and success. Good job, guys!
How Not To Become A Prince Philip
To viewers of The Crown, which is to say, probably most viewers of Victoria, the whole Prince Consort Marries Queen; Feels Useless; Drives Everyone Crazy thing has been done. For the first half of this episode, it looks like Albert might be heading down the same dark and yet also very boring path -- look, he can blot Victoria's signature on the important papers she's signing, or play the piano nearby! It seems plausible that he could adopt a Philippian level of snippiness at any moment.
But no! To everyone's relief, Albert himself figures out a way to nip this all in the bud and achieve his own happiness and fulfillment -- when Victoria turns down the opportunity to speak at an abolitionist conference, even though she supports the cause, he jumps up and decides to give the speech himself. He gets out of the house; he establishes himself as an independent citizen and not a threatening foreigner; the speech is a raging success; Victoria's a proud wife; and the mope quotient in Buckingham Palace goes down significantly. Everybody wins!
How To Manipulate Members Of Court
This isn't the first time Victoria's blithely manipulated the old dudes around her to get what she wants, and it isn't the first time what she wants has been relatively small. After all, we're reminded, she's essentially a figurehead, so it's not like she's making policy or declaring war -- unless it's on the various dukes telling her what to do. In this case, she figures out how to change up the rules about who can escort her into state dinners -- it's always been her uncle, the Duke of Sussex (played by David Bamber, Mr. Collins from the 1996 Pride And Prejudice; he looks different, but I'd know that uncertain head tilt anywhere), but Victoria thinks Albert should get to walk in with her, and is determined to go to bat for him.
Conveniently, the solution involves Victoria doing something that shows her off to good effect and happens not to cost her much of anything: it turns out Sussex is married to a commoner she's never met, who can't be presented at court due to the Royal Marriages Act. And what better way to distract a stubborn uncle by letting him bring his own date to the party? Victoria pulls him aside, offers her aunt a discretionary title, and bing bang boom, problem solved: the new Duchess of Inverness is thrilled to be at court (and to meet her niece, which seems like it should have happened before); Sussex doesn't have to keep reminding everyone he's not some old bachelor; and Albert gets to be at the front of the line.
Incidentally, this is another area where The Crown looms -- we can practically hear Matt Smith in a snit over having to walk behind his wife, even though he married the Queen of England and that's how it goes. In Elizabeth's case, she makes a more direct power play on Philip's behalf -- and loses. In fact, it seems that Claire Foy's Elizabeth could learn a few things about strategy and soft power from this Victoria; Elizabeth seems to lose every time she takes on the old dudes around her, while Victoria gets them to do her bidding before they even notice. The comparison may not be fair or even accurate from a historical perspective, but as far as the attractive fiction goes, Victoria wins.
How To Have A Presence Outside The Palace That Means Something
At the same time...we've seen this before, back when Victoria whipped Parliament into shape (sort of) by refusing to swap out any of her ladies-in-waiting. Surely there's something Victoria was doing besides owning the bossy dudes in her life? Even if she really was just a figurehead, it seems like we should have gotten to some more queenly plot points by now, and it's a shame to leave them out. I'm happy for the Duchess, and I guess it's nice that insult isn't added to Albert's injury, but there could be a greater sense of Victoria's place in the world here, and we're not getting to explore it.
How Not To Have A Baby Right Now
In an extreme example of the blind leading the slightly less blind, the Queen of England asks her ex-governess, a virgin, how not to get pregnant. She's having lots of sex, but she'd prefer to push the baby-having back a year or two, and so she sits Lehzen down and wink-wink-nudge-nudges her way through her request. Lehzen gets it immediately (or maybe that's the wrong terminology, as we'll see in a moment) and says she doesn't have any firsthand experience, but hey, she has a married sister who writes her "very frank letters." Which, what kind of pen pal is this lady, and why was she writing sexy letters to her sister? I bet those were some good mail days.
Anyway, there must be other variables keeping Lehzen's sister's family planning under control. Victoria takes her advice -- and diligently gets out of bed and jumps up and down ten times whenever she and Albert do the deed. (She does a lot of jumps.)
Fortunately for a certain level of scientific understanding but unfortunately for Victoria's plans, Albert walks in on her doing her routine and sets her straight: the only way to prevent pregnancy is through abstinence. (Not true, even at the time, but okay.) AND IS THAT WHAT SHE WANTS? Clearly, Victoria isn't about to keep her hands off her husband, even if it means kids before she wants them. Incidentally, Victoria and Albert married on February 10, 1840; their first child, also named Victoria, was born November 21 in the same year. So...maybe something to work on, there. Also, track down a medical book and have a good read, both of you.