As Victoria (Jenna Coleman) contemplates the ascension portrait of Elizabeth I, she tells Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) she is still having problems with her uncles. Uncle Ernest Augustus (Peter Firth) is still trying to have her declared unfit to rule and Uncle Leopold (Alex Jennings), preoccupied with her marital status, is coming to England to convince her to marry. Melbourne points out Elizabeth chose to have companions instead of a husband and this intrigues Victoria.
Uncle Leopold arrives at Buckingham Palace and immediately provokes the ire of Victoria by pointing out her lack of height and reminding her that if Charlotte and their child had lived, Victoria wouldn’t be queen. Leopold then wastes no time in promoting the cause of his nephew, Prince Albert, however Victoria reminds her uncle how unimpressed she was with Albert when they first met. In the meantime, Uncle Ernest is busy plotting to marry Victoria to his son, George, so he can control Victoria through him.
Melbourne returns to the palace to inform Victoria about the Chartist problems, while also taking the opportunity to advise why first cousins should never marry. Later that evening, Victoria attends the opera with Grand Duke Alexander Nikolaevich of Russia (Daniel Donskoy) which prompts Uncle Ernest to send his son, George (Nicholas Agnew), to the royal box. The atmosphere between the prospective suitors is frosty much to Victoria’s amusement but Uncle Leopold is far form happy to see Albert has competition. On the way home, Leopold warns Victoria she cannot marry Melbourne and even the most stable of countries can be prone to revolution in view of the recent Chartist trouble. Victoria declares she has no plans to marry anyone but Leopold’s words worry her.
Victoria and Melbourne attend the commemoration of a new statue to the Duke of Kent but Victoria is disturbed by the increase in the number of soldiers protecting her. Melbourne assures Victoria the security is necessary and just as Victoria is pulling the cord to unveil the plaque on the statues, violence erupts in the crowd and Victoria is whisked away. Leopold takes the opportunity to impress on Melbourne how important it is for the queen to marry and requests he use his influence to persuade her to consider marriage to Albert. Melbourne, dismayed by Leopold’s words, maintains he does not have as much power over Victoria as everyone believes and the decision will be hers alone.
The following day, Victoria notes Melbourne’s absence and upon hearing he has gone to Brocket Hall, she commandeers an unmarked carriage to visit him. Victoria confesses to Melbourne she has feelings for him but Melbourne gently rebuffs her and tells her his heart still belongs to his dead wife. A heartbroken Victoria returns to the palace where her mother and uncle pressure her into receiving Albert but she is too upset to listen to them.
While Victoria is being dressed for the ball, Emma Portman (Anna Wilson-Jones), compliments the Queen on the beautiful orchids she has been sent from Brocket Hall. Victoria seems unimpressed until Emma points out the orchids are out of season and Melbourne has gone to considerable expense. Victoria reveals Melbourne confessed he was still in love with his deceased wife, however Emma maintains the orchids say otherwise which makes Victoria thoughtful.
Victoria arrives at the ball as Elizabeth I, and George of Cumberland and Alexander Nikolaevich of Russia immediately begin competing to dance with her, while Melbourne, as the Earl of Leicester, watches in amusement. When Melbourne finally gets to dance with Victoria, he reminds her Leicester and Elizabeth were not free to marry either but remained companions. During the ball, Victoria learns Alexander Nikolaevich is already engaged to a German princess but he gives Victoria a beautiful trinket box engraved with the initials V and A as a parting gift. Meanwhile, Leopold corners Melbourne to inform him he has sent for Albert.
The next day, Victoria refuses an audience with George of Cumberland as she overheard him calling her short at the ball and it ended any prospects of marriage between them. Uncle Ernest decides it is time to leave for Hanover as he cannot bear to see Victoria on the throne, however his wife (Nichola McAuliffe) helpfully reminds him women die in childbirth all the time.
Victoria meets with Melbourne and insists the Newport Chartists have their sentences commuted as being hung, drawn and quartered is no longer civilised and they should be sent to the colonies instead. Victoria then informs Conroy (Paul Rhys) she is granting him an Irish title and a pension which will require him to leave court much to the consternation of the Duchess of Kent. Victoria tries to console her mother but ends up confessing she doesn’t believe she will ever be happy and cries on her mother’s shoulder.
Victoria informs Melbourne she will be following the example of Elizabeth I and ruling alone, however Melbourne tells her the Coburg brothers are already on their way and asks her to keep an open mind about Albert. Melbourne tells Victoria she would not be happy alone because she needs someone to love her. Later that evening, while Victoria is playing the piano for her guests, Albert (Tom Hughes) and Ernst (David Oakes) enter the drawing room unnoticed. Albert approaches, turning the music, and a stunned Victoria stops playing.
- The Chartists were a working class moment fighting for political reform in Britain to make the system more democratic. The name derived from the People’s Charter of 1838 and there was significant support in Northern England, the East Midlands, the Staffordshire Potteries, the Black Country, and the South Wales Valleys.
- Millions of working class people signed petitions or took part in mass demonstrations to draw attention to the movement, however an increase in violence led to frequent arrests and trials.
- In November 1839, several thousand marched through South Wales to the Westgate Hotel, Newport, with the intention of seizing the town and triggering a national uprising. However, the hotel was full of soldiers and the Chartists were forced to retreat after a brief battle.
- Three prominent Chartists, including John Frost, William Jones and Zephaniah Williams, were charged with treason and were the last men in Britain to be sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered. After a public outcry, the sentences were commuted and the men were sent to Australia. Queen Victoria had no part in the commutation of the sentences.
- Prince George of Cumberland was born on 27 May 1819, three days after the birth of Queen Victoria. After Victoria ascended to the throne, George’s father became King of Hanover and George was his father’s sole heir though there were doubts about his ability to reign due to his blindness. George lost the sight in one eye due to a childhood illness and he lost the sight in his remaining eye after an accident in 1833. George eventually married Princess Marie of Saxe-Altenburg on 18 February 1843 and they had three children, a son and two daughters. George’s son, Ernest Augustus, would be the last King of Hanover after its annexation by Prussia in 1866.
- Grand Duke Alexander Nikolaevich of Russia would eventually became Tsar Alexander II of Russia on 2 March 1855. While Alexander and Victoria did meet during the grand duke’s European tour, the prospect of them marrying was remote due to their respective positions. Alexander married Marie of Hesse on 28 April 1841 and they had eight children together, including Maria Alexandrovna, who would marry Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred, on 23 January 1874.
- Albert was first invited to London in May 1836 with the purpose of introducing him to Victoria as a prospective husband, however Victoria was not ready for marriage and would not be pushed into it. Though Victoria did find Albert handsome, she was dismayed by his sickly constitution. When Albert returned to England in October 1839, Victoria had already ascended the throne and was being pressured into marrying.