THE LUXURY OF CONSCIENCE
Albert unwittingly creates problems for Peel as the embattled prime minister faces the most important battle of his political career. A tragedy forces personal and political sacrifices to be made.
Directed by Daniel O’Hara. Written by Daisy Goodwin.
The Luxury of Conscience
Victoria (Jenna Coleman) and Albert (Tom Hughes) are enjoying family time with the children when the mood is spoiled by the unexpected arrival of Uncle Leopold (Alex Jennings) who has brought Albert a belated birthday gift – a miniature portrait of Leopold which matches his mother’s. Albert leaves the room and Victoria reveals she knows the truth.
At Parliament, Sir Robert Peel (Nigel Lindsay) is under fire for his attempt to repeal the Corn Laws, the tariffs which artificially elevate the price of grain in the United Kingdom to protect industries from foreign competition. Peel’s decision is an unpopular one but he is happy to at least have the support of the Duke of Wellington (Peter Bowles).
At the palace, tensions between Albert and Lehzen are mounting when he berates her for leaving the windows open in the nursery. Victoria tells him to stop acting like a nanny goat as exposure to fresh air did her no harm when she was growing up at Kensington.
In the gardens, Uncle Leopold interrupts Ernst (David Oakes) and Harriet Sutherland (Margaret Clunie) during an intimate moment and he asks Harriet to leave them as he has important Coburg business to discuss with Ernst. Ernst is annoyed at the interruption.
In the House of Commons, Peel presents his plans for the repeal and argues there must be free trade amongst nations if the country is to prosper but he is accused of betrayal by his own party members. At the palace, Peel tells the queen if he is successful in repealing the Corn Laws, it will mean the end of his career as his party will never forgive him. Victoria assures him the country still needs him as does she. When Albert joins them, he assures Peel he will still be in power when the new Parliament building is ready to be opened in five years time.
Meanwhile, Lord Alfred (Jordan Waller) comes across Wilhelmina (Bebe Cave) reading the passages from the Bible which depict the relationship between David and Jonathan. It is obvious she is trying to understand what is going on between him and Drummond but Lord Alfred is oblivious since he is unaware she has seen them. Lord Alfred is on his way to meet Drummond (Leo Suter) who reveals he has broken off his engagement to Florence. Lord Alfred tells Drummond he is crazy to do that because a rising politician needs a suitable wife and he cannot throw that away for an indiscretion. Drummond is upset Lord Alfred is calling their time in Scotland an indiscretion because it was so much more to him.
In the nursery, Victoria is worried about Vicky (Hallie Woodhall) but Lehzen insists there is no need to call the doctor as the princess just needs some fresh air. Victoria decides they should all go for a drive in the park. While in the kitchen, Lehzen overrules Albert’s instructions for Vicky’s supper believing she knows best.
In an effort to avoid Uncle Leopold, Albert goes to visit Peel to enquire how his repeal is coming along but the prime minister reveals he has opened a chasm in his own party. Albert does his best to encourage Peel to keep fighting for the sake of the country and Peel remarks he wishes the prince were next to him on the front bench. Meanwhile, the Duke of Wellington is having tea with Victoria and he reveals if the Tory rebels had been his soldiers he would have had them flogged for insubordination for their lack of support for Peel. The duke goes on to warn the Queen the party has no discipline and they will succeed in bringing Peel down.
Albert is reading a story in German to Vicky when he becomes concerned she may be feverish but Lehzen insists it is just a healthy glow from the fresh air. Albert insists Victoria feel the child’s head and she does agree the princess is a little warm but she is unwilling to countermand Lehzen. Albert decides to head to Parliament to support Peel but Victoria tells him that is unwise since he is always reminding her the Crown must remain impartial. Albert reminds her he is not the monarch and he owes Peel a great deal. Victoria tells him people will assume he is there at her request but he disagrees. When he leaves, Victoria tells Lehzen she should have ordered him not to go and Lehzen reminds her the prince does not always respect her authority.
Ernst gets the all clear from Dr. Pritchard (Andrew Havill) who advises him he is free of all symptoms. Ernst tells him he is planning on getting married and the doctor tells him he can marry with a clear conscience provided he remains symptom free.
At Parliament, Albert makes an appearance on the Stranger’s Gallery to hear the debate but it backfires badly when he is spotted by the politicians who accuse Peel of bringing his royal nursemaid. Albert leaves to the sound of laughter and hits the wall outside in anger.
At the palace, Vicky is getting worse but Lehzen continues to insist she just has a cold and there is no need for concern. Albert, still seething, arrives and tells Victoria if she does not send for the doctor immediately, he will not answer for the consequences. Victoria tells Lehzen to send for Sir James Clark (Robin Soans). Lehzen lifts Vicky from the couch where she has been lying and takes her to her bed. Once Lehzen leaves the room, Albert angrily tells his wife Lehzen is not fit to look after their children and she overindulged Victoria as a child which is why she is so stubborn. Victoria argues Lehzen was the only person who kept her from despair while she was growing up but Albert accuses her of exaggerating and insists Lehzen is deliberately driving a wedge between them. Victoria tells him he is being ridiculous but he tells her either Lehzen goes or he does.
The following morning, Albert is riding with Lord Alfred when they have an awkward encounter with Peel and Drummond. Albert tells Peel he heard there was no vote last night and Peel confirms the mood was too ugly after Albert left but he believes it will happen tonight. Albert apologises if he made things more difficult while Drummond and Lord Alfred give each other frosty glares.
Sir James informs Victoria her daughter is suffering from congestion of the lungs which is always a cause for concern in a child but they must hope her fever breaks sooner rather than later. When the Queen enquires what will happen if the fever doesn’t break, she is terrified by what she reads in the doctor’s face. When the doctor leaves, Victoria sits by Vicky’s bed and starts to blame herself for taking the princess out yesterday but Harriet assures her she is not to blame. Victoria tells her Albert believes Lehzen is trying to come between them and Harriet acknowledges it can be difficult holding two people in your heart at the same time.
Lord Alfred sends a message to Drummond apologising for his previous behaviour and asks him to meet him for dinner that evening. Drummond is pleased with the message. In the House of Commons, Peel is being accused of betraying his party to gain royal favour and for turning his back on the very people who have made this land so great. An angry Peel storms out before he does something he may regret but Drummond manages to calm him down.
At the palace, a happy Ernst kisses Harriet but Uncle Leopold nearly catches them and Ernst settles behind the piano where he starts to play The Wedding March. Uncle Leopold finds it distasteful and can’t understand why it has become so popular. Ernst comments he thought Uncle Leopold liked weddings and he replies he will be delighted when Ernst marries Princess Gertrude of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. When Albert appears, Ernst decides to go to the nursery to see Vicky and Uncle Leopold tells Albert his brother is about to make a grave mistake. Albert says at least Ernst is being honest for once.
In the nursery, Victoria is keeping an anxious vigil over her daughter who is no better but Albert returns and assures her their daughter is strong. As the doctor attends the princess, the politicians finally vote on the repeal and Peel wins much to his delight, however tragedy strikes when a disgruntled farmer tries to shoot Peel but Drummond pushes him out of the way and is fatally shot instead. Unaware, Lord Alfred sits alone at dinner believing he has been stood up.
At the palace, Vicky’s fever has finally broken much to the relief of her parents, however the Duke of Wellington and an emotional Peel arrive to tell them about Drummond. The Duchess of Buccleuch (Diana Rigg) receives a message about Drummond and insists Lord Alfred accompany her to the Amber Room where she shows him the letter. The duchess says she may be an old woman but she is not blind and she knows how much Drummond meant to Lord Alfred. She tells him to go to his room to compose himself and to remember the chief mourners at Drummond’s funeral will be his mother and his fiancee. Devastated, Lord Alfred can only nod.
Peel arrives back at the palace to inform the Queen that he intends to resign as prime minister as he feels his work is now done and he has lost heart after Drummond. Victoria tells him he has been a great prime minister and she will miss his counsel but he tells her no one is indispensable. After taking his leave of the Queen, Peel says his goodbyes to Albert who is sad to see him go.
After having made arrangements to meet Harriet in their usual place, Ernst indulges in a luxurious bath but he is devastated when Brodie (Tommy Knight), his valet, informs him he has a rash on his back. Distraught, Ernst realises his symptoms have returned and instead of proposing to Harriet as intended, he sends his valet to tell her he is indisposed.
Back in the nursery, Victoria tells Lehzen it is time for her to return to Germany to be with her family but Lehzen doesn’t want to go as she believes the prince wants to control his wife. Victoria reassures her Albert has her best interests at heart and Lehzen realises she cannot win this battle.
At Drummond’s funeral, Lord Alfred acts as a pall bearer alongside Peel but when he is introduced to Florence (Grace Link), his composure begins to crumble and Wilhelmina leads him away.
At the palace, Victoria watches as Lehzen’s carriage leaves but she is soon drawn back into the circle of her family as Uncle Leopold arrives with a miniature pony for the children. Victoria thanks him and Uncle Leopold tells her he would do anything for his family while looking at a silent Albert.
- Louise Lehzen entered the household of the Duke of Kent in 1819 and five years later was made governess to Princess Victoria. Lehzen was fiercely protective of the lonely little girl and she was made a Baroness of the Kingdom of Hanover in 1827 in recognition for her continued devotion to the princess. When Victoria became queen in 1837, Lehzen served as an unofficial secretary while the Duchess of Kent was sidelined, however Lehzen did not get along with Prince Albert after he married Victoria in 1840. Matters came to ahead when the Princess Royal became seriously ill and Albert, blaming Lehzen for her incompetence, demanded Victoria chose between them. Lehzen was dismissed from court in 1842 and she returned to Germany where she died on 9 September 1870.
- The Corn Laws were tariffs imposed on imported food and grain to encourage people to buy British produce instead. Enforced between 1815 and 1846, the steep import duties made it too expensive to import grain from abroad even when food supplies were short as during the potato blight which led to famine in Ireland and to a lesser extent in Scotland. Sir Robert Peel fought to repeal the Corn Laws to open up free trade with other nations but it caused a serious division within his own party as most were against the repeal. In 1846, Peel finally succeeded with the backing of the Whigs but he was eventually forced to resign as prime minister.
- Edward Drummond was shot in the back on 20 January 1843 by a Scottish woodturner, Daniel McNaughton, who was then apprehended by police. It is believed McNaughton thought he was shooting Peel but this is inconclusive. Drummond managed to walk to his house so it was assumed he wasn’t badly hurt and a surgeon removed the bullet successfully, however complications set in and Drummond died five days later. McNaughton was tried for murder but found not guilty by reason of insanity. An anonymous pamphlet later claimed Drummond had been killed by inadequate medical treatment as the bullet wound had not been fatal.
- The relationship shown between Lord Alfred Paget and Drummond is highly improbable for many reasons and the casual acceptance of it by several characters is also unbelievable as homosexuality was seen as immoral. Lord Alfred was twenty years younger than Drummond and was appointed as Victoria’s Chief Equerry in 1846, three years after Drummond’s death.