The discovery of a boy in the palace has Albert (Tom Hughes) fearing for his family’s safety so Victoria (Jenna Coleman) gives him carte blanche to reorganise the palace. Later, Victoria tells Emma Portman (Anna Wilson-Jones) she is dismayed Melbourne has not responded to her letters and she urges Emma to go see him.
As Albert explores the complicated workings at the palace, Mr. Bascombe (Jacob Krichefski) arrives to tell Victoria the silk industry is in trouble and is dismayed to hear it is mainly down to the import of cheaper silk from abroad. When Victoria asks Sir Robert Peel (Nigel Lindsay) to impose a tariff to protect the silk industry, he tells her it is not as easy as that. Drummond (Leo Suter) comes up with the idea of letting fashionable society know the queen will only wear silk made in Britain so everyone else will follow suit. Lord Alfred (Jordan Waller) suggests the queen hold a ball which would bring the problem to the forefront but Peel thinks it is not a good idea considering the discontent in the country and unwisely compares the situation to Marie Antoinette’s callous attitude when the Parisians had no bread. Victoria retorts if she was one of the lower classes, she would be blaming the prime minister for raising the price of bread in the first place which amuses Alfred and Drummond greatly.
Realising he is getting nowhere with Victoria, Peel goes riding with Albert and urges him to reconsider the ball and the prince assures him he will speak to Victoria. Later that evening, Victoria insists the ball must be fancy dress to ensure the guests will purchase a new outfit from Spitalfields and she tells them Harriet Sutherland (Margaret Clunie) and Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell) must be invited. The Duchess of Buccleuch (Diana Rigg) is horrified when Victoria indicates she is going to dance in her condition but Ernst (David Oakes) tries to defuse the situation by claiming the first two dances with the duchess. The duchess sniffs in disdain so Victoria dismisses her from the room believing the duchess has a cold much to everyone’s amusement.
Albert looks on as Ernst and Victoria begin to plan a medieval theme for the ball and he bides his time before asking if it is appropriate to hold a ball when so many people are starving. Victoria argues she is doing it to help them and tries to get Albert more involved by going to visit the grave of Edward III who she wants Albert to portray at the ball. Peel begs Albert to make the queen see sense but Albert says nothing will change her mind. However, Albert warms more to the idea when the crown he will be wearing finally arrives from the royal jewellers.
As orders for costumes flood into Spitalfields, Victoria is denounced in Parliament for her frivolous spending and crowds begin to gather outside the gates of Buckingham Palace to protest against the extravagance. On the evening of the ball, Victoria and Albert look resplendent as Edward III and Philippa of Hainault but the mood is tense as Peel worries about the country’s reaction and the Duchess of Buccleuch accuses the whole thing of being orchestrated just so Albert can wear a crown. Victoria is delighted by the arrival of Melbourne and berates him for not answering her letters, however she senses something is amiss. Ernst is just as happy to see Harriet Sutherland and when he dances with her, it is obvious the attraction is still there. Outside the palace, the crowds are growing increasingly riotous and Victoria is dismayed by what she witnesses from a window.
The following day, Victoria orders the leftovers to be distributed amongst the poor and is horrified by the criticism in the newspapers. Emma Portman takes the opportunity to request a leave of absence so she can care for her sister who has had a difficult confinement. The queen agrees and points out she will be close to Brocket Hall so she can visit Lord Melbourne whenever she likes. Emma is visibly emotional but Victoria is oblivious. Victoria makes an impromptu visit to Spitalfields and is pleased when she realises the ball’s purpose did pay off after all as the weavers have been inundated with orders.
Albert goes to see Peel and confesses he should have done more to prevent the ball from taking place and it is obvious he feels ashamed. Peel thinks Albert is being too hard on himself and he ushers the prince to the window where they can see the site of the new Parliament building which has been abandoned due to disagreements. Peel tells Albert they need a patron with great organisational skills to oversee the project and he believes Albert is that man. Later, Albert bumps into Melbourne and tells him Peel has given him the job of overseeing the building of the new parliament and Melbourne is pleased for him. As the conversation takes a more melancholic note, Albert asks Melbourne if he is well and Melbourne replies he is not.
Back at the palace, Albert tells Victoria that Melbourne is gravely ill but she must not tell him she knows. The following day, Victoria visits Melbourne at his residence in London and presents him with a mechanical bird so he can have music whenever he wants. Victoria gets quite emotional and it becomes obvious to Melbourne that she knows the truth although neither are admitting to it. Although they make plans to visit each other, it is obvious they are saying goodbye.
When Victoria returns to the palace, she discovers Dash has died and she collapses to her knees in grief. Albert rushes to enfold Victoria in his arms as she grieves for both Dash and Melbourne.
- The Bal Costumé actually took place on 12 May 1842 and was one of three major costume balls held by the couple. Unlike in the show, Albert was eager for the ball to take place and was heavily involved in its organisation.
- Victoria and Albert’s costumes were made by Mr. Vouillon and his sister, Madame Laure, under the supervision of James Robinson Planché who was an expert on historical costume. The costumes were based on the tomb effigies in Westminster Abbey of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault but were adapted to fit Victorian fashion. The ball was captured in a commemorative painting by Sir Edwin Landseer which showed Victoria and Albert in the Throne Room beneath a Gothic canopy decorated with a purple velvet cloth of estate.
- Ernst didn’t attend the ball as he was busy marrying Princess Alexandrine of Baden in Karlsruhe the following day.
- Mr. Bascombe wove the silk for Queen Victoria’s wedding dress.
- The Boy Jones was renowned for breaking into Buckingham Palace multiple times between 1838 and 1841. The last occasion caused a furore since the queen was still recovering from the birth of the Princess Royal and Jones was sentenced to three months’ hard labour. After his release, Jones was found loitering around Buckingham Palace and was eventually conscripted into the Navy. Thomas Jones later went to Australia where he died on Boxing Day 1893 after falling from a bridge parapet.
- The Palace of Westminster was severely damaged in a fire on 16 October 1834 after an overheated stove resulted in the House of Commons and the House of Lords being destroyed. After the fire, William IV offered Buckingham Palace as a substitute but the idea was rejected in favour of rebuilding. While Parliament continued its business in less damaged areas, a Royal Commission was established to oversee the project and architects were asked to submit ideas. The Commission chose Charles Barry’s plan for a Gothic-style palace and the foundation stone was laid by his wife, Sarah, in 1840. Albert, as President of the Royal Fine Art Commission, was more involved with the interior decoration of the building.
- Dash actually died in 1840 and was buried at Adelaide Cottage in Windsor Home Park.