Victoria (Jenna Coleman) is playing the piano when Albert (Tom Hughes) comes in to ask her to play something more festive and tells her Christmas is his favourite time of year. Victoria begins to sing the Holly & Ivy and Albert sets about giving the servants instructions on how to decorate the palace which includes separate trees for each of the children. As Albert instructs where the trees should be placed, he starts to sing O Tannenbaum much to Victoria’s amusement. Albert tells Victoria the candles on the tree symbolise the stars at Bethlehem and he is hoping his children will look at them in the same way.
As the Duchess of Buccleuch (Diana Rigg) reads a list of Christmas gifts the royal family have received from abroad, she tells the queen there is a letter from a Captain Forbes who has a gift for her from the Kingdom of Dahomey. Victoria guesses it is a baby elephant and informs the duchess to instruct Forbes to bring whatever it is to the palace.
Victoria, who is pregnant with her fourth child, is dressing when Albert informs her there is a surprise waiting for her in the music room. Victoria discovers her Coburg relatives, including her mother, have arrived to spend Christmas with them and have brought Princess Gertrude von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Nina Pavlovic) who is a marriage candidate for Ernst. Ernst (David Oakes) arrives with little Vicky (Hallie Woodhall) on his shoulders and the Duchess of Kent (Catherine Flemming) gushes over how pretty she is and asks if the child remembers her. Little Vicky says she is the lady who always makes her mother cross much to Victoria’s chagrin. The duchess has also brought her daughter a parrot which she hopes will fill the place left by Lehzen’s departure.
The following day, Victoria berates Albert for inviting her mother without asking her first and Albert tells her families should be together at Christmas. Albert says if he can tolerate the presence of Uncle Leopold (Alex Jennings) after all that has happened, then she can tolerate the presence of her mother. Lord Alfred (Jordan Waller) arrives to announce the arrival of Captain Forbes (Ben Lamb) and Victoria is astounded when he presents her with a little girl he calls Sara (Zaris-Angel Hator). Captain Forbes explains she is the sole survivor of the royal House of Egbado and was earmarked for death before Forbes managed to save her life by saying the little girl’s death would anger the greatest queen on Earth. The little girl is being given to Victoria as a gift from King Ghezo who wants to impress her. Victoria is appalled by the story but Forbes goes on to extol Sara’s virtues and informs the queen she learned how to speak English on the voyage over. Victoria maintains she cannot accept Sara as a gift but as a princess it is only fitting for her to remain at the palace. Victoria tells Sara she is welcome here and will be quite safe.
Albert and Ernst are out in the forest looking for suitable trees when Albert begins to reminisce about their childhood Christmases, however it is clear Ernst doesn’t remember them in quite the same way. Albert is determined his children will always look back at Christmas as a time of enchantment and a time when everything was perfect.
Victoria goes shopping with Harriet Sutherland (Margaret Clunie) and Sara, bemoaning her pregnant state once more, however Harriet diverts her train of thought by asking if she has considered a present for Albert yet. Harriet suggests the queen sit for Winterhalter as he makes every woman look like a goddess and Victoria seems to like the idea. As the queen looks around a toy shop, she tells Sara to pick any doll she wants as dolls are a great deal of comfort. She tells Sara about her lonely childhood and how dolls were her only friends.
Back at the palace, the Duchess of Buccleuch is questioning the queen’s sanity at bringing an African child into the palace when Albert arrives with the tree which he wants suspended upside down from the ceiling. When the prince is out of earshot, the duchess has a go at him for being too extravagant and relates how she had to make do with an orange in her day. Wilhelmina (Bebe Cave) says she is sorry for Harriet now that she is a widow but the duchess has a dig at her niece saying it is better to be a widow than an old maid. Harriet, who has been playing the piano throughout this conversation, suddenly leaves the room when she spots Ernst in the doorway. Ernst follows her and compliments her playing but she gives him a frosty reception. The duchess is trying to convince Wilhelmina that Lord Alfred would make a good husband but her niece isn’t so sure considering he was in love with Drummond. The duchess tells Wilhelmina she has been reading too many romantic novels.
Sara is playing with her new doll in the nursery when Albert arrives with the dogs who bound excitedly into the room. Sara screams and rushes to hide in a corner. Victoria ushers the dogs out of the room which calms Sara down but not before the Duchess of Kent tells Victoria she is making a mistake by having the girl here and Albert seems in agreement. Victoria reminds him she knows what it feels like to be overlooked and will not allow the same thing to happen to Sara.
While Victoria is siting for Winterhalter (Oliver Walker), Albert is busy designing a new emerald tiara which he wants to give to the queen for Christmas. Later, when the Duchess of Kent views the portrait she is shocked as Victoria has been painted with her hair down and bare shouldered.
Ernst is brooding in his room when Uncle Leopold arrives to remind him they are going to the opera with Gertrude. Uncle Leopold spots a tin of mercury on the floor by the bed and is appalled to realise Ernst is following in the footsteps of his father in more ways than one. Ernst tells him he cannot marry Gertrude but Uncle Leopold insists there is no reason why he cannot which shocks Ernst as they would be risking her life. Uncle Leopold points out Ernst is looking quite healthy and there is no reason he cannot make a comfortable marriage with a sensible girl. Uncle Leopold tells Ernst to get ready and leaves the room.
While sitting in the royal box, Uncle Leopold spots the Duke of Cumberland (Peter Firth) in the audience and says he wishes he had worn the Order of the Gold Fleece as he knows Cumberland covets it immensely. Victoria is shocked when she learns Cumberland is present and Uncle Leopold hands her his opera glasses so she can see for herself. At the end of the performance, Cumberland barges into the royal box where he is greeted by the Duchess of Buccleuch who knows him from when his father was king. Cumberland takes the opportunity to ask the duchess if she remembers the diamond necklace his mother used to wear which just happens to be the one the queen is wearing. Victoria tells him it is one of her favourite pieces and tells her he will soon call on her at the palace before taking his leave.
While getting ready for bed, Victoria frets about what Cumberland is up to and Albert says he may just want to see his family for Christmas. Victoria points out how much her uncle hates her as she was the little girl who prevented him from becoming the King of England. At that point, Victoria hears Sara crying and starts to leave the room, however Albert says he is concerned she is disturbing the other children. Victoria says she just needs time to adapt to the family to which Albert asks if she intends to adopt her. Victoria reminds him she has no one else. Victoria comforts Sara who is in tears after having a nightmare and Albert looks on in concern.
The following day, snow is falling heavily so the family head out to skate on the pond but Sara is reluctant so she builds a snowman with Victoria. Albert and Ernst have a great deal of fun with the children but Harriet Sutherland takes a fall and Ernst comes to the rescue. Ernst tries to explain about Gertrude but she won’t listen. A page arrives to inform Victoria that the Duke of Cumberland has come to see her but she says she will not see him, however the page informs her Cumberland will not leave until he has his property.
Exasperated, Victoria heads back to the palace where Lord Alfred is keeping a close eye on the duke who is waiting in the Throne Room with the Duchess of Buccleuch. Cumberland informs Victoria he has come for his mother’s diamond necklace and shows her a copy of Queen Charlotte’s will which indicates her possessions were to be handed down to her male heirs. Victoria refuses to part with the necklace so Cumberland hints it would be a shame if the press got wind of the dispute to which Victoria calls his bluff by ordering Cumberland to leave.
Later, Victoria informs Albert about Cumberland’s visit and he offers to look at the wording in the will but if the necklace does belong to Hanover, they will have to hand it over. Victoria is annoyed Albert is giving in so easily and accuses him of not wanting to spoil Christmas. Albert jokingly says they should invite Cumberland to Christmas dinner but Victoria doesn’t see the funny side and reminds Albert that Cumberland has wished her dead on more than one occasion. Albert tells her it is just a necklace which infuriates her even more and she says Lehzen would have been on her side. Albert remarks Lehzen’s great talent was always being on Victoria’s side. Victoria argues Lehzen understood her but Albert tells her there is no use arguing with her when she is in this mood and he leaves to supervise the decorations.
Sara walks into the Music Room to see the parrot but she hears someone crying and finds Victoria weeping on her couch. Sara tells her it isn’t good to cry as it doesn’t make things better. Sara asks why Victoria is crying and she says it’s because she misses someone who was like her mother and Sara tells her Mrs. Forbes used to tell her to make faces to cheer herself up. They both make faces and laugh. Victoria asks Sara why she isn’t in the nursery and she says she was visiting the parrot as it reminds her of home. She tells Victoria she remembers how her mother used to sing to her every night to help her sleep and how Mrs. Forbes used to do the same thing.
Victoria and Albert arrive below stairs to attend the Servant’s Ball and as the dancing begins, Ernst is faced with the dilemma of choosing Gertrude or Harriet as a partner so he opts to ask Miss Cleary (Tilly Steele), Victoria’s junior dresser, to dance instead. The Duchess of Kent reminisces about the Servant’s Ball they used to have at Kensington Palace and Victoria caustically replies she remembers how she was allowed to come downstairs for exactly ten minutes. Upset, the duchess asks her daughter if she has any good memories of Kensington to which Victoria responds by walking away.
Uncle Leopold corners Albert and says he could look into the situation with the diamond necklace but Albert assures him Cumberland has a legitimate claim. As Albert tries to walk away, Uncle Leopold asks why he was invited for Christmas when it is obvious Albert does not want to talk to him. Albert says he was invited as he is family but that doesn’t mean he has to talk to him. Having no joy with Albert, Uncle Leopold berates Ernst for not dancing with Gertrude but Ernst is having none of it and promptly leaves. Meanwhile, Wilhelmina notices Lord Alfred is not dancing and decides to take matters into her own hands by dragging him on to the floor much to the amusement of the Duchess of Buccleuch.
As Ernst makes his way to his rooms, he is followed by Harriet who has grown tired of waiting for him and she begins to undress. Ernst kisses her passionately and they fall to the bed. As Harriet tries to remove his shirt, Ernst stops her and then tells Harriet she is not as appealing as he once imagined. Distraught, Harriet rushes out of the room. As Harriet sobs in the corridor, Uncle Leopold discovers her and tells her she is not the only woman Ernst has reduced to tears tonight as Gertrude has decided to return home. He then asks Harriet if Ernst has told her about his condition which confuses her.
The following day, Wilhelmina watches from the window as snow continues to fall and she is soon interrupted by Lord Alfred. Wilhelmina tells him she has been sent a lock of Drummond’s hair and she presses a handkerchief into Lord Alfred’s hand before rushing away. Lord Alfred opens the handkerchief to reveal a silver locket containing the hair and a quote: Surpassing the love of women. He is deeply touched and then runs after Wilhelmina. Wilhelmina begs him not to be offended but he thanks her for helping him through these past few months. He tells her she is a pearl among women and then promptly proposes to her. She asks if he is sure and he assures her there is more than one kind of love.
As Albert is putting together the finishing touches to the decorations, Victoria notices there isn’t a tree for Sara and Albert suggests she share with Alice (Bessie-Rose Bell). Victoria argues Sara is part of the family and as such she should have her own tree. Albert is annoyed with Victoria for making decisions about their family without him and she reminds him he invited the Duchess of Kent for Christmas without consulting her. Victoria says Christmas is about showing kindness to those who have nothing but Albert accuses her of not considering what Sara wants. Albert says Sara is unhappy and Victoria has been blinded by her desire to prove she is a better mother than the duchess.
As Albert sings carols in the Music Room, Ernst begins playing with the glass baubles on the table much to his brother’s horror as they were handmade in Bohemia. Amused, Ernst deliberately lets the ornament fall to the floor where it shatters. Albert is frustrated about why everyone is being so difficult when all he wants is for his children to experience the same kind of Christmas he had as a child. Ernst remarks if he is looking for a Christmas where everyone is miserable then it is working spectacularly. Ernst then tells Albert the Christmas he is looking back on so fondly was the night their mother was forced to leave them by their father. Albert refuses to believe it and Ernst accuses him of trying to recreate something that never existed. Albert insists his memories are different but Ernst accuses him of trying to perpetuate a lie. Ernst insists Albert cannot protect his children from everything and that no one escapes unhappiness.
When Victoria arrives in the nursery, she realises Sara is missing and goes outside looking for her but comes across Albert skating alone on the pond. As Albert skates faster, the ice breaks beneath his feet and he falls into the water. Victoria screams his name and scrambles out on to the ice but he is soon sucked under and trapped. Victoria desperately tries to break the ice with her fists but then everything goes still before Albert suddenly breaks through the surface. Victoria manages to drag him to safety and they cling to each other tightly.
Later, Victoria visits Sara who is playing with her doll, apparently she had been asleep in the Amber Room with the parrot, when Victoria asks the doll’s name and is told Aina which is Sarah’s real name. Victoria asks if Aina would like to visit Captain Forbes and Sara says she would like to see Mrs. Forbes. Victoria asks if Aina would like to stay with them but Sara doesn’t reply.
As Albert continues to decorate the trees, Ernst comes into the room and Albert teases him by saying he is not allowed in. Ernst has heard about Albert’s adventures on the pond and Albert admits he was foolish. Ernst apologies for what he said earlier and admits he is angry because he will never have what Albert has. Ernst confesses to Albert he went to Paris after their father’s death and now has an illness which prevents him from marrying the woman he loves. Albert asks why Ernst did not tell him before but a tearful Ernst says he is ashamed and Albert hugs him tightly.
As Victoria walks down the steps with Sara, Captain and Mrs. Forbes (Catherine Steadman) are waiting next to their carriage. Sara rushes to Mrs. Forbes who hugs her happily. Victoria admits she was wrong bringing Sara to the palace as it is obvious Sara will be much happier with them, although she will continue to provide for her. As Sara rushes back to thank the queen, Victoria tells her she has given her something to look after for her and it revealed later to be the parrot.
Ernst is sitting outside on the steps when Harriet joins him and she reveals she knows all about the mercury. She says it makes no difference to her but Ernst says it does to him. Harriet says she just wants to be by his side but Ernst says they are star-crossed.
Outside the Drawing Room, the children are bouncing with excitement as the bell rings summoning them inside to open their presents. Lord Alfred presents Wilhelmina with an engagement ring as the Duchess of Buccleuch looks on in approval and Victoria offers her congratulations. However, the dinner is interrupted by the arrival of the Duke of Cumberland who has come to take his leave and tells Victoria to consider the necklace as a Christmas gift. A surprised Victoria invites the duke to sit with them, Albert asks Uncle Leopold if this was his doing. Uncle Leopold reveals Cumberland stays in an apartment at St. James’s Palace belonging to the Crown when he stays in London and the information was passed on by the Duchess of Buccleuch.
Later, when their guests have settled for the night, Albert presents his wife with a large box containing a new emerald tiara which he designed himself. Victoria loves it and immediately puts it on. She kisses him with gratitude before revealing the portrait to which Albert seems dumbfounded. Victoria nervously asks if he finds it too shocking but Albert assures her it is magnificent. They wish each other a Merry Christmas to the strains of Silent Night.
- Sara Forbes Bonetta (1843-1880) was a West African Egbado princess of the Yoruba people who was orphaned and sold into slavery during intertribal warfare. Originally named Aina, Sarah ended up at the court of King Ghezo of Dahomey who intended making her a human sacrifice, however her life was saved when Captain Frederick E. Forbes of the Royal Navy convinced the king to give her to Queen Victoria. Forbes named her Sara Forbes Bonetta (Bonetta was after his ship HMS Bonetta) however Queen Victoria referred to her as Sally. Sara was placed with a middle class family in England and raised as the queen’s goddaughter, however the cold climate weakened her health and she was sent to a school in Africa for four years. Sara eventually married Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies, a Yoruba businessman of considerable wealth, in August 1862, and they moved to Africa where their three children were born. Sara Forbes Bonetta died of tuberculosis on 15 August 1880.
- Victoria is pregnant with her fourth child, Alfred, who was born on 6 August 1844.
- Princess Gertrude von Mecklenburg-Strelitz is a fictional character. Ernst was already married to Princess Alexandrine of Baden, however the marriage remained childless and it is believed Ernst had made his wife infertile due to venereal disease. He was extremely unfaithful to his wife and was reputed to have had more than one mistress at a time.
- The diamond and emerald tiara Albert presented to his wife as a Christmas gift was designed by the prince and created by Joseph Kitching. The tiara is set with cushion-shaped diamonds and step-cut emeralds, and surmounted by a graduated row of 19 inverted pear-shaped emeralds, the largest of which weighs 15 carats. The tiara was given to Victoria in 1845 and is still part of the Royal Collection.
- The intimate portrait Victoria had painted by Winterhalter was actually presented to Albert on his 24th birthday and it was kept in his Writing Room. Winterhalter became a favourite artist for many of the royal families throughout Europe as he was renowned for flattering his subjects.
- The dispute over the jewels belonging to Queen Charlotte was not resolved during the Duke of Cumberland’s lifetime. The matter went to arbitration but just as they were about to decide in Hanover’s favour, one of the arbitrator’s died and the decision was void. Victoria refused to allow the council to be reconvened while Cumberland was still alive and continued to wear the jewels. Cumberland’s son pursued the matter after his father’s death and the jewels were finally returned to Hanover in 1858.