Sir Robert Peel (Nigel Lindsay) arrives at the palace with news the French are planning a marriage between the Duc de Montpensier, the youngest son of the French king, and Queen Isabella II of Spain. Peel tells Victoria (Jenna Coleman) a match with the French would not be in British interests as Louis Philippe is intent on creating an empire in Europe by making advantageous marriages. While a larger French empire would affect trade and block Britain’s access to India, no one really wants a repeat of the Napoleonic wars. Victoria suggests she write to Louis Philippe to tell him of her displeasure at the match and asks Albert (Tom Hughes) his opinion. Albert has been uncharacteristically quiet throughout the conversation and tells Victoria he doesn’t feel qualified to make an opinion. Peel does not like the idea but Victoria decides it the best course of action before leaving the room.
Peel tries to convince Albert a letter may not be the best idea, particularly since Uncle Leopold has designs on making a match between Isabella and Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha so Victoria’s intervention may look like a Coburg conspiracy. Albert bristles at the mention of Uncle Leopold and says he is not his uncle’s keeper. Later that evening, as Victoria writes to Louis Philippe, Albert spends his time sketching an image of himself and then ruins it by spilling ink everywhere. In bed, Victoria and Albert discuss the French marriage and the queen suddenly decides a visit in person may be more use than a letter.
The following day, Peel is horrified by the idea and it is obvious he feels Victoria is no match for the wily French king. Victoria points out she will have Albert by her side, however the brooding Albert excuses himself from the room. Peel expresses concern over Albert’s mental state and Victoria tells him a trip to France may just be the tonic he needs. Seeing Victoria will not be persuaded against going, Peel advises she take Drummond with her to represent the government to which she has no objection.
As Victoria’s rooms become a hive of activity for the trip, the Duchess of Buccleuch (Diana Rigg) asks to be excused from the trip as she finds France a godless country but Victoria simply tells her to bring her bible. Lehzen (Daniela Holtz) is dismayed when Victoria informs her she won’t be going but is mollified when the queen says she trusts no one else with her children. During the voyage, Victoria remarks to Albert she is the first monarch to visit France since Henry VIII and she hopes it is the start of a new phase in the relationship between the two countries. Albert isn’t listening though as he is too busy trying not to be sea sick which amuses Victoria greatly as she is feeling no ill-effects whatsoever.
Upon their arrival in France, Victoria is greeted by Louis Philippe (Bruno Wolkowitch) who immediately gets on her wrong side by saying she is like an adorable little doll. Louis Philippe is noticeably cooler with Albert but covers it up by saying he is pleased to meet him at last. On the journey to the Chateau d’Eu, Victoria is enchanted by everything she sees but Albert remains morose. The French ladies are greatly amused by Victoria’s appearance and make no effort to hide their cattiness so the queen sends Skerrett (Nell Hudson) to find some cosmetics so she can look like them. At the same time, Albert tells Drummond (Leo Suter) and Lord Alfred (Jordan Waller) how much he disapproves of the French ladies with their painted faces, however he is soon distracted by the unexpected arrival of his brother.
When Victoria makes her entrance at the evening reception, she holds her head high and is obviously pleased with her new look but Albert is not. At dinner, Victoria tries to bring up the topic of the Spanish marriage but Louis Philippe insists the French do not mix business with pleasure. Later that evening, Albert seems on the verge of a breakdown and he tells Victoria he is not comfortable in France as he hates the artifice and the vulgarity. He begs Victoria never to paint her face again and she agrees since he is so upset. Victoria changes the subject by asking if Albert has managed to speak to Louis Philippe about the marriage as she is having no luck, however Albert informs her the king only wants to talk about how his father passed his mistress down to his son to complete his education. Victoria berates Albert for being so judgemental, particularly since his own family are not beyond reproach, however mentioning Uncle Leopold provokes an angry outburst from Albert which confuses Victoria.
The following day, Victoria is given a tour of the kitchen gardens by Louis Philippe and they discuss the problems of being a monarch and the assassination attempts each have endured. Louis Philippe wants things to be different for his children but Victoria points out the prospective marriage with the Spanish will not achieve that as it will upset the balance of power. Louis Philippe argues an alliance between the Spanish queen and the Coburg prince is not the answer either as the Coburgs cannot be allowed to gain more power by snapping up foreign queens. Victoria takes exception to his remark, saying she was not snapped up, and she married Albert for love. Reaching a stalemate, Louis Philippe tells Victoria he has arranged a special picnic in her honour.
At the picnic, Albert refuses to be taken in by the charm of the French court and tells Lord Alfred it is more like a boudoir as Ernst (David Oakes) seems to be up to his old tricks with the ladies. Albert takes off into the forest followed by Ernst, Lord Alfred, Drummond and Antoine, duc de Montpensier (Henry Faber), and is delighted when he comes across a lake with a waterfall. Albert begins removing his clothes and tells Antoine he intends to go swimming but Antoine insists it is not the civilised thing to do. Albert says that’s precisely why he wants to do it and he is soon joined by the others apart from Antoine who prefers warm baths. Victoria, walking with her ladies, hears the commotion and they watch in amusement before leaving.
At the chateau, Victoria pretends to be upset by Albert’s behaviour and accuses him of not thinking about how it would reflect on her. Victoria starts to laugh and tells Albert their host thinks he is a noble savage before they fall on the bed. Afterwards, Albert tells Victoria about Uncle Leopold believing he is Albert’s father and he tells her his life has been built on a lie. He says he is ashamed to stand by her side but Victoria tells him she cannot face this world without him and that’s all that matters. Albert tearfully says he is not the man she married but Victoria tells him she knows exactly who he is even if he doesn’t. They came to France for a reason and it’s time to achieve it. Together.
Downstairs, Victoria and Albert meet Louis Philippe alone and they finally discuss why the Spanish marriage is such a problem. Albert finally offers an alternative solution whereby neither the French nor the Coburgs pursue an alliance with the Spanish and they eventually come to an agreement to do nothing. Victoria and Albert return to London feeling a great sense of achievement, however their illusions are shattered the following day when Louis Philippe announces the engagement between Antoine and Queen Isabella. However, Albert’s despondency doesn’t last long as Victoria tells him they are to have another child.
- Victoria and Albert visited Louis Philippe at the Chateau d’Eu in September 1843, three years before the marriage between Antoine and Isabella was first mooted.
- Antoine actually married Isabella’s fourteen-year-old sister, Luisa Fernanda, on the same day as sixteen-year-old Isabella was forced to marry her double-first cousin, Francis, Duke of Cádiz, who was rumoured to be homosexual. Louis Philippe figured the marriage would be childless and the Spanish throne would then fall to the children of Antoine and Luisa Fernanda. However, Isabella gave birth to several children who were likely fathered by lovers and Antoine’s constant meddling drove a wedge between the sisters.
- The Coburg cousin, Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, actually married Maria II of Portugal on 9 April 1836 and they had eleven children before Maria’s death in November 1853. The real Coburg candidate was actually his younger brother, Leopold, whose name would have probably confused viewers. Cousin Leopold eventually contracted a morganatic marriage with a commoner, Constanze Geiger, who bore him a son, Franz.
- Louis Philippe’s fears about the Coburgs taking over seems rather weak when you consider three of his children were married to them. Louis Philippe’s eldest daughter, Louise, was married to Leopold, King of the Belgians, and his youngest daughter, Clementine, was married to August of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Albert and Victoria’s first cousin. Louis Philippe’s third son, Louis, Duke of Nemours, was married to Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, another first cousin to Victoria and Albert.
- Victoria is pregnant with her third child, Princess Alice, who was actually born in April 1843, six months before the French visit took place.