The royal family are on holiday at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight while Palmerston (Laurence Fox) addresses Parliament over the issue of Lajos Kossuth (Simon Gregor), an Hungarian politician and revolutionary, who is seeking refuge in Britain. Palmerston points out Kossuth is regarded as a hero amongst the socialists in Britain for his republican ideas and he makes a sly dig at the queen for fleeing London. Despite opposition, Kossuth is welcomed to London.
At Osborne, the eldest royal children and the servants are reenacting a battle from the Peninsular War which is designed to be fun but also educational. Victoria (Jenna Coleman) receives a message informing her Kossuth was greeted with rapturous enthusiasm in London, particularly by Palmerston who greeted him as a friend. Albert (Tom Hughes) tells Victoria that Palmerston needs to be brought to heel but she says that is no easy feat since she is so far away from London. Albert adds they need to show solidarity to their royal counterparts in Europe instead of harbouring a man who seeks to annihilate them all.
Bertie (Laurie Shepherd) gets too boisterous and is admonished by Albert which results in the boy running away in tears. With the games over, everyone returns to the house where Emma Portman (Anna Wilson-Jones) reads the reports in the papers of Palmerston’s attacks on the queen and remarks Victoria will be very upset. Emma then turns the conversation to Feodora (Kate Fleetwood) saying she must be missing her home but Feodora maintains her place is with her sister. Feodora then wistfully remarks how she wishes her room overlooked the sea, prompting Sophie Monmouth (Lily Travers) to agree to swap with her. Feodora remarks Sophie must be missing her husband but the duchess reveals she is furious with him for sending their son to boarding school.
Albert is ranting about Bertie’s unruly behaviour while Victoria reads a letter of resignation from Mr. Francatelli (Ferdinand Kingsley) and she angrily demands to know if Skerrett (Nell Hudson) knew anything about it. Skerrett says she did not. Albert tells Victoria it is a trivial matter, trying to get back on the subject of Bertie, but Victoria ignores him. Leaving the room, Skerrett confronts Francatelli who tells her it is time for her to leave the queen as well for the sake of their marriage. Skerrett maintains the queen needs her just now.
Albert and Victoria continue to argue about the children as Albert is determined to raise their children so they are not idle like the majority of their class. However, Victoria is too preoccupied with Palmerston who has invited Kossuth to speak at his club and she can no longer ignore his insubordination. Victoria is adamant she must return to London but Albert refuses to countenance the idea. Victoria then decides London must come to her and summons Palmerston and Russell to Osborne.
The royal family head to the beach where Albert is encouraging everyone to partake in swimming. Victoria changes into her costume in her own bathing machine but she is nervous about going into the water and wonders if people can really breathe underwater. Skerrett assures her she will be fine. With trepidation, Victoria enters the water but the sea is rough and she soon finds herself in difficulty. Skerrett jumps in and pulls her back to the shore where she catches her breath while soaking wet. Unfortunately, Palmerston and Russell (John Sessions) choose that moment to arrive and Victoria is at a distinct disadvantage.
At the house, Palmerston makes disparaging remarks about the rooms much to Albert’s annoyance but Victoria changes the topic to Kossuth and reminds the prime minister how important it is not to antagonise the Austrian monarchy. Palmerston starts to interrupt but Victoria shuts him down by saying she is addressing her prime minister and not him. Victoria tells Russell that Kossuth’s reception in Britain has made them look duplicitous and weak. Every time Russell tries to respond to the queen, he is interrupted by Palmerston who maintains Kossuth is not a regicide or anarchist but simply a man tired of seeing his people taxed to death. Victoria orders him to retract his invitation to dine with Kossuth, to get Kossuth out of Britain and to write to the heads of the royal houses of Europe to assure them of her allegiance.
Later, Albert and Russell take a walk around the gardens and Palmerston is the main topic of conversation as the prime minister confesses he thinks the man is a preening fool to which Albert can only agree. Albert invites Russell to stay a few more days at Osborne since he has come such a long way to which Russell acquiesces.
Later that evening, Albert is trying to teach Bertie arithmetic but is fast losing his patience with the boy’s inability to comprehend the basics. Victoria interrupts to ask if it is true he has invited Palmerston and Russell to stay but they are soon at loggerheads again over their son. While waiting on the arrival of the queen to dinner, Palmerston takes the opportunity to flirt with Sophie which is closely observed by Lord Alfred (Jordan Waller) and Emma Portman. Sophie is pleased by the attention as she leaves the room, she is soon followed by Palmerston who continues his seduction. Before matters can get out of hand, Emma interrupts them and Palmerston walks away.
Later, Victoria invites Palmerston to play cards at her table where she questions him about the comments he made regarding her departure from London. Palmerston confesses he did not expect the queen to hear about his comments from such a distance and was merely seeking the attention of the house. Victoria accuses him of play acting and he retorts it is something they all relish, meaning her. Lord Alfred interrupts the awkwardness by revealing he has heard the German states are now safe which should please Feodora. Victoria says that is wonderful news and says they should make arrangements for her to go home but Feodora tearfully asks to withdraw from the room. Confused, Victoria asks if she does not want to go home and Feodora maintains Langenberg is full of hatred. As a relative of a queen, Feodora claims her life and the lives of her children are still in grave danger. Victoria asks Palmerston if is is true but he has no knowledge of the situation. Palmerston reveals he has informants who will be able to get to the bottom of it which does not please Feodora.
Later, Palmerston confronts Feodora in the corridor and asks to know what game she is playing with the queen, informing her he already knows Langenberg is safe and so does she. Feodora walks away.
As Victoria holds baby Louise in bed, she assures Albert she loves Osborne but the troubles of her country won’t just disappear because she can no longer see them from the window. Albert stays sullenly quiet which annoys Victoria. Albert says he is afraid Palmerston will continue to do as he pleases prompting Victoria to say he is in love with the idea of the people being in love with him. Albert says he fears Victoria has the same problem and that she craves the adulation she cannot get at Osborne. Victoria is less than pleased by his observations.
During the night, Palmerston makes his way to Sophie’s bedroom but he is shocked to discover it is Feodora who is in the bed and makes a hasty retreat.
The following day, Albert and Victoria are spending time in the garden with Vicky (Louisa Bay) and Bertie. While Victoria is sketching the scene, Albert is listening to Bertie read but he keeps getting the words wrong and complains the letters keep jumping around. Albert tells him they will stay here until he gets it right much to Victoria’s annoyance. Matters aren’t helped by Vicky’s smugness and she says Bertie’s description of the words is stupid. Bertie tells her she is stupid which earns him a rebuke from his father. Bertie says he would rather be digging but Albert says there is a time for digging and a time for words.
Palmerston approaches Feodora who is studying an ornate map of the Isle of Wight to which Palmerston scornfully comments they can’t forget they are on an island. Feodora accuses hm of not appreciating the arts but he says he likes to collect decorative things in secret. Feodora tells him there are no secrets from God who judges their every misdeed and makes them pay for them. Palmerston wonders what the price for lying could be but Feodora says she has no desire to return to Langenberg. She tells Palmerston he is detested by Victoria and Albert and they would be even less impressed by his nocturnal activities if they found out.
In the garden, Victoria and Albert are once again arguing about Bertie and she claims he is using their son’s education as an excuse to keep everyone at Osborne. Albert maintains he is investing in the boy’s future as they can’t mindlessly live in the present. Victoria, still smarting from the previous night’s conversation, asks if it is really mindless to consider the respect of her subjects as worth having. Victoria comments Bertie may not actually have a throne to inherit one day so it hardly matters if he can conjugate his verbs. Albert tells her the throne is secure but Victoria argues otherwise since it is currently unoccupied.
Victoria greets Palmerston in the garden and informs him she asked the prime minister to dismiss him but Russell advised against it. Victoria asks him to elaborate about Kossuth and Palmerston says it is vital for the world to see that Britain is not afraid of him. They should let him have his say and then send him packing. People will soon forget Kossuth’s visit but the queen will be celebrated for her tolerance and willingness to let her subjects have their free debate. Palmerston reminds Victoria she is the only constitutional monarch in Europe and her understanding of that is clear for all to see. Palmerston says it is good to keep the people on your side. Amused, Victoria says she isn’t used to his admiration but he retorts he is not an admirer of her but of Britain.
Afterwards, Emma approaches Palmerston and warns him away from Sophie while revealing they once had a liaison themselves. Emma tells him Sophie is vulnerable and using her would be cruel as she is yearning for something more than an affair. Palmerston agrees to leave her alone. In the gardens, Sophie approaches Palmerston eagerly but he dismisses her advances much to her chagrin. Clearly upset, Sophie rushes away from him, almost bumping into Joseph, the new footman, who follows her to the pond. Joseph offers Sophie a handkerchief and she tells him she has behaved foolishly.
As Victoria is seated at her writing desk, Albert enters the room to tell her the new Austrian emperor has sent ambassadors to every European country except Britain and blames the arrival of Kossuth for it. Victoria informs her husband she has agreed Kossuth can be honoured with a dinner over which Palmerston will preside. Annoyed, Albert asks if Palmerston has promised her the people will love her for it. Angrily, Victoria leaves the room and approaches Skerrett who is sewing some clothes. Skerrett is so absorbed in her work, she takes a moment to realise the queen has entered the room and hastily gets to her feet to curtsey. Victoria asks her if she is quite well, however Skerrett blurts out she wants to leave her service for the sake of her marriage. She confesses to the queen she has married Francatelli but hadn’t meant to keep it a secret and tearfully apologises. Distraught, Victoria collapses into the seat at her dressing table and bursts into tears.
At dinner, a morose Victoria is playing with her food while everyone else looks on awkwardly. Bertie arrives at the table with some homework but when Albert asks him a question, Bertie tells him he doesn’t bloody know which amuses Palmerston greatly. Albert sends Bertie to his room but Victoria tells him not to bully her child. Albert tells her not to interfere and that he has never bullied his son. As Albert gets to his feet, Victoria tells him he has made it clear to everyone how little he values his son’s attempts to get his attention. Albert tells her she is being inappropriate and she angrily gets to her feet. Victoria tells him to address her with respect and he retorts she does not deserve his respect. Furious, Victoria lifts her glass and throws wine into his face to the horror of everyone at the table. A humiliated Albert walks away.
In the bedroom, Victoria is joined by Feodora who assures her sister she will always have her support. Feodora says Albert is a kind man but everyone has seen how he constricts her. Victoria wants to know who has been saying such things but Feodora says they are of no consequence. Afterwards, Feodora goes to Albert’s rooms where she assures him it will all blow over once Victoria calms down as multiple births can play havoc on the emotions. Albert asks if she is suggesting they should have no more children but Feodora just laughs. She tells Albert the change in behaviour is merely temporary and nothing like her grandfather’s madness.
The following day, Albert has come up with a new way of teaching Bertie his letters through the medium of archery. Albert tells Bertie which letter to hit and the young prince attempts to hit it with an arrow. The method proves to be a great success. Palmerston and Russell say their goodbyes and it is apparent Palmerston and the queen have reached a new understanding.
Victoria tells Albert she is returning to London but he can remain at Osborne longer if he wishes. Albert says nothing. As the royal family leave Osborne House, the dinner with Kossuth commences but the Hungarian is treated with derision when he starts his speech and the other guests are soon laughing at his expense. Palmerston and Russell look pleased with themselves.
When the royal party arrives at Buckingham Palace, crowds have gathered to welcome their queen home and Albert tartly observes how she likes to be adored. Victoria says nothing but when she alights from the carriage, she takes a moment to acknowledge the crowd while Albert remains inside.
Later that night, Victoria goes to Albert’s rooms but the doors are locked and he does not respond to her pleas to let her in.
- Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894) was a Hungarian statesman and politician who was Governor-President of Hungary during the revolution of 1848–49. After escaping Hungary after the Habsburgs regained the throne, Kossuth arrived in Britain in October 1851 and was received rapturously by socialists. When Queen Victoria learned Lord Palmerston was keen to invite Kossuth to his estate, she demanded his dismissal. Lord Russell advised the Queen against it as the move would be an unpopular one, however Palmerston’s actions would eventually be instrumental in bringing down Russell’s government.
- Victoria and Albert’s eldest son, Bertie, proved to be a poor student much to the chagrin of his parents and he continually failed to live up to their expectations. Prince Albert devised a rigorous programme of education for his children but Bertie was unable to match the standards of his older sister, Vicky, who excelled at learning. When Bertie failed, he was punished. Some historians believe the young prince had a learning disability, possibly dyslexia or attention deficit disorder, which made it harder for him to learn. Either way, Bertie was not a natural scholar and his perceived lack of effort was never forgiven by his parents.