As British soldiers freeze to death in the Khyber Pass in Afghanistan, Victoria (Jenna Coleman), still recovering from childbirth, is being pampered by her ladies and is clearly not enjoying the fuss, while Prince Albert (Tom Hughes), Sir Robert Peel (Nigel Lindsay) and the Duke of Wellington (Peter Bowles) discuss the war in Afghanistan in another room. Albert stresses he does not want Victoria to be troubled while she is recovering, however Victoria soon arrives and is annoyed when she realises they are excluding her. Albert tells Victoria she should be resting but the queen is having none of it and wants to go riding. Peel reminds Victoria she cannot be seen in public until she has been churched and Drummond (Leo Suter), Peel’s private secretary, explains a woman who has just given birth has to be purified. Victoria haughtily states she is not a woman but a queen.
Victoria kneels before the Archbishop of Canterbury (Peter Ivatts) and listens with increasing dismay as he thanks God for delivering her safely during childbirth. Afterwards, Victoria stalks out of the church saying the archbishop cannot know how it feels to give birth and God had little to do with it. Victoria and Albert go riding where the queen relishes her freedom once more. Later, a romantic interlude is interrupted by Lehzen (Daniela Holtz) who is bringing the baby into see them much to Victoria’s annoyance as she wants time alone with her husband.
Victoria is busy rearranging her desk when Lord Alfred (Jordan Waller) arrives and asks if she has had time to approve his brother’s commission and Victoria assures him Albert has probably taken care of it. Victoria can’t find the dispatch boxes but Albert enters the room and assures her he has already gone through them and summarised his findings for her. Victoria thanks him but makes it clear she wishes the boxes to be sent to her in future.
As Albert is being fitted with his uniform before inspecting his new regiment, the 11th Hussars, Victoria insists on accompanying him. At Horse Guards, Wellington and Peel watch as Victoria and Albert greet the soldiers, however it is clear they are still hiding the full extent of the troubles in Afghanistan from the queen at Albert’s request. Albert admires the uniforms of his soldiers but bemoans their lack of practicality much to Victoria’s amusement. Peel greets the queen, asking her if she has made a decision about her ladies and she tells him she has appointed the Duchess of Buccleuch as her Mistress of Robes. Peel looks perturbed, asking Victoria if she has met the duchess, the queen haughtily reminds him the duchess was on the list he provided. As Peel is now prime minister, Victoria has readily agreed to change her ladies to avoid another Bedchamber Crisis.
Victoria goes to the nursery where she watches her daughter sleep in her cradle but she confesses to Harriet Sutherland (Margaret Clunie) that she does not feel a mother’s affection. Harriet tells her having a child is a big change and she just needs time to adapt. Victoria tells Harriet she will miss her greatly but tells her she must come to the christening as she is so good at dealing with the Coburg relatives.
The formidable Duchess of Buccleuch (Diana Rigg) arrives at the palace with her niece, Wilhelmina Coke (Bebe Cave), and they both perform elaborately old-fashioned curtseys. Victoria welcomes the duchess to court to which she promptly replies she once served Queen Adelaide who was a great lady, implying Victoria is not. As Emma Portman (Anna Wilson-Jones) escorts the ladies to their rooms, the duchess disdainfully runs her finger along the edge of a painting and sniffs at the lack of cleanliness.
Instead of going to bed, Victoria goes through the dispatch boxes and questions Albert why he did not agree to them attending the naming ceremony for the HMS Trafalgar. She also points out he has forgotten to add Lord Alfred’s brother’s name to the list of commissions, however Albert reveals he did not add Septimus Paget’s name as he did not find him suitable. Victoria reminds him Lord M once said every barracks needs a Paget for their charm but Albert argues charm does not make someone a good soldier and inadvertently lets slip the British army is retreating from Kabul. Victoria is furious when she realises Albert has been keeping things from her and she reminds him they are her soldiers. Albert goes on to say he believes soldiers should be promoted on merit rather than wealth and that Peel agrees with him. He then shows Victoria some designs he has been working on to improve helmets. Victoria refuses to look at them and storms out of the room.
The following day, Victoria is taking tea with the Duchess of Buccleuch and Wilhelmina where they discuss the latest Charles Dickens novel with great enthusiasm, however the duchess disapproves of young women reading novels and things become even more awkward when she says a German woman shouldn’t be running the royal nursery. Lehzen arrives with the baby and when Victoria takes the princess in her arms, she notices the baby is smiling at her. The duchess takes the charm out of the moment by promptly saying it is likely wind.
When Lord Alfred arrives at the palace, Victoria passes him a copy of his brother’s commission which she has approved despite Albert’s misgivings and Alfred is very pleased since Septimus is his favourite brother. Victoria asks Alfred if he has seen the prince and he tells her Albert is with the prime minister. Annoyed, Victoria tracks them down and demands to know whether they have been discussing the situation in Afghanistan and reminds Peel she was a soldier’s daughter. Peel tells her they were discussing the new sanitation project they have been working on and asks whether she would like to hear more about the sewage system. Victoria says Albert will explain it later and asks for news from Kabul but Peel says there is nothing new as the mail system is slow. He promises to keep her updated.
Unsatisfied with Peel’s responses, Victoria summons the Duke of Wellington and as they stroll through the gardens he tells Victoria the gory truth about Elphinstone’s incompetence and how they will need to be prepared if the army doesn’t get out. As the Coburg relatives arrive for the christening, Victoria berates Albert for keeping the truth from her and the tension between them is evident. Albert says he was only trying to protect her while she was recovering from childbirth, however she reminds him she is the sovereign and it was not his decision to make.
The Coburgs arrive for the christening but Victoria is immediately annoyed when Uncle Leopold (Alex Jennings) hints she should be spending more time in the nursery while he advises Albert on what’s best for the country. Victoria tells him he is welcome to help Albert on the sanitation project while she attends to affairs of state. To make matters worse, Albert’s father (Andrew Bicknell) promptly announces he’ll be expecting a grandson by Christmas which ruffles Victoria’s feathers. Ernst (David Oakes) is dismayed to learn Victoria has a new Mistress of the Robes and Emma informs him Harriet has gone back to her husband.
At dinner, Victoria and her guests are disgusted by the quality of the food so the queen orders Lehzen to get Mr. Francatelli (Ferdinand Kingsley) to come back and mutters about another decision being made behind her back. Uncle Leopold quietly asks the Duchess of Kent (Catherine Flemming) whether something has happened as he can detect upset between Victoria and Albert. Victoria storms away from the table and is quickly followed by Albert who is soon the target of Victoria’s wrath. Victoria rages at him for making decisions without her consent and tells Albert she is not a child who needs to be sheltered. After dodging a hairbrush, Albert decides to sleep in his own quarters.
The following morning, a subdued Albert fences with Ernst and comments on how much Victoria has changed since the baby arrived, however Ernst points out Victoria doesn’t like Albert doing her job for her. Albert maintains he was only trying to help but Ernst says Victoria probably sees it as him trying to control her. Albert looks thoughtful and they resume fencing. Albert tells Ernst he will make a good husband one day but Ernst laughs and says there’s not much chance unless the Duchess of Buccleuch is a widow.
Drummond arrives at the palace with the latest army lists and Victoria reminds him she wants to be apprised of any news about the troops in Afghanistan as soon it arrives. As Drummond leaves, Lord Alfred (Jordan Waller) arrives to discuss the order of ceremony for the christening. Meanwhile, the Duchess of Kent, Uncle Leopold and the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Andrew Bicknell) discuss Victoria’s difficult behaviour and the duke states Albert needs to get Victoria pregnant again as quickly as possible. Uncle Leopold tells them there is no need for such coarseness but decides he will stay on after the christening.
As the whole family take a walk in the gardens, Uncle Leopold informs Victoria he has already decided little Vicky should marry the nephew of the King of Prussia. Victoria tartly responds the princess is far too young for marriage discussions and she may have other ideas when she is old enough. Victoria doesn’t like all the talk about having more children and says her daughter may even succeed her one day if she has no more. Duke Ernst is appalled by the idea, telling her Albert will not neglect his duty, which annoys Albert, however Leopold is convinced the country will have many princes and princesses. Victoria gets angry and tells him the country needs a queen right now and not a brood mare. She takes the baby carriage and stalks away.
At the christening, the tension between Victoria and Albert seems to ease and Ernst is reunited with Harriet who is present with her husband. Victoria is once again appalled by the food being served but Lehzen informs her Mr. Francatelli does not want to return. The christening tea is interrupted when Peel receives bad news from Afghanistan and he informs Victoria the troops have been ambushed with only one survivor out of 4,000 men. The survivor, Dr. William Brydon, has just arrived back in London and Victoria demands to see him immediately.
Dr. Brydon (Alexander Owen) recounts his ordeal to Victoria who assures him he has been exceedingly brave. Brydon then tells Victoria the men thought of her a lot while they were over there and when he is overcome with emotion, she presses her handkerchief into his hand. When news of the ambush becomes public knowledge, there is a great deal of anger and Peel lays the blame at the feet of Lord Melbourne and Lord Palmerston. At Parliament, Peel is asked to explain why the British army were defeated and he maintains the real question is what they were doing there in the first place.
When Peel returns to the palace to discuss the situation with Victoria, Albert once again maintains the army needs to be reformed and the uniforms made more practical. Victoria says they have to do something to boost the morale of the country and decides to attend the commissioning of the HMS Trafalgar. Peel is not sure this is a good idea as the country needs time to recover before celebrating an old victory, however Victoria gets unexpected support from Wellington who states the country needs reminding it has the best army and navy in the world. A huffy Albert tells Victoria he will not be able to attend as he has a meeting with the sanitation project, however she reminds him the state of the country is more important than plumbing.
At the commissioning ceremony, Victoria gives a rousing speech reminding people she is a soldier’s daughter and how great the British armed forces are despite the recent defeat. An impressed Albert arrives as the crowd cheers loudly for their queen and Wellington praises Victoria for boosting the morale of the country. Victoria is pleased when she spots Albert applauding her in the crowd. Back at the palace, Albert and Victoria gaze at their sleeping daughter and Victoria maintains she does not want her daughter used as a pawn in some dynastic game. Victoria wants her daughter to marry for love like she did and all is harmonious once again.
- Princess Victoria was baptised in the Throne Room of Buckingham Palace on 10 February 1841 by the Archbishop of Canterbury and her godparents were Queen Adelaide (her great-aunt); Leopold, King of the Belgians (her great-uncle); Ernst, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (paternal grandfather); Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (her great-uncle); Mary, Duchess of Gloucester (her great-aunt); and the Duchess of Kent (her grandmother). Ernst, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha did not attend the christening and the Duke of Wellington acted as his proxy.
- The Lily font, designed by Prince Albert, was commissioned especially for the christening to replace the old font which had been used to christen many illegitimate royal children. The christening robe was also specially commissioned to resemble Queen Victoria’s wedding dress and it has been worn by successive royal babies until it was retired after the christening of Lady Louise Windsor in 2004. A replica, made by Queen Elizabeth II’s dressmaker, Angela Kelly, has been used ever since.
- Vicky did marry the nephew of the Prussian king, Frederick William, on 25 January 1858 and it was a love match, however the union was still engineered by Victoria and Albert as they wanted their daughter to help create a liberal and united Germany.
- Churching is a ceremony giving whereby a mother is blessed after a successful recovery from childbirth and is performed even when the child is stillborn. The ceremony is based on the Jewish practice in Leviticus 12:2-8 where women were purified after giving birth, however the actual ceremony varies according to faith.
- Charlotte Montagu Douglas Scott, Duchess of Buccleuch (1811-1895), became Mistress of the Robes in 1841 when Peel became prime minister. However, the duchess was much younger than portrayed in the show as she was born in 1811 and was only a decade older than Victoria. The duchess and Victoria became lifelong friends.
- Wilhelmina Coke is a fictional character.
- Lord Alfred Henry Paget (1816-1888) was Chief Equerry and Clerk Marshal to Victoria from July 1846 to March 1852, from December 1852 to March 1858, and from June 1859. He married Cecilia Wyndham in 1847 and they had fourteen children.
- Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) served his second term as prime minister from 1841 to 1846 where he was instrumental in passing The Factory Act 1844 which restricted the number of hours children and women were allowed to work in factories and setting rudimentary safety standards. Peel’s most notable work though was the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1946 which would inevitably bring down his government. While Victoria’s sympathies lay with the Whigs even though she was supposed to be impartial, she learned to respect Peel and he was a good friend to Prince Albert.
- Edward Drummond (1792-1843) was older than portrayed on the series and any relationship with Lord Alfred Paget is highly improbable. Drummond was Personal Secretary to several British Prime Ministers, including: George Canning, Lord Goderich, the Duke of Wellington, and Robert Peel.
- Dr. William Brydon (1811-1873) was an assistant surgeon in the British East India Company Army during the First Anglo-Afghan War and was most famous for being the only member of an army of 4,500 men, plus 12,000 accompanying civilians, to reach safety in Jalalabad at the end of the long retreat from Kabul.
- The First Anglo-Afghan War began in July 1839 after the British intervened in a succession dispute which led to them supporting Shah Shujah Durrani in August 1839, however the Afghans resented the British presence and the rule of Shah Shujah Durrani who they believed was a tyrant. It soon became clear British soldiers would have to remain in Kabul but their licentious behaviour offended the puritanical Afghans who began to rebel. Major General Sir William Elphinstone, a weak and ineffectual commander, brokered a deal with the Afghans to allow the British forces to retreat from Kabul, however they were continuously ambushed along the route while enduring freezing winter conditions. The final massacre happened at the Gandamak pass in January 1842 with only Dr. William Brydon making it to Jalalabad.