SEASON THREE.EPISODE SIX

A Coburg Quartet

Directed by Chloe Thomas / Written by Daisy Goodwin

First Aired: 28 April 2019

A Coburg Quartet

Several months have passed as Victoria (Jenna Coleman) has already given birth to her seventh child, Prince Arthur, and is showing the older children the drawings she did of them when they were infants. Vicky (Louisa Bay) is astonished when she realises the woman bathing her in the drawing was in fact her mother rather than a nursemaid. Feodora (Kate Fleetwood) laughs and says Victoria doesn’t look like a queen at all in the drawing which annoys Victoria. As the baby starts to fret, there is a commotion outside when Bertie (Laurie Shepherd) and Affie start to fight. Victoria hands the baby to a nursemaid as Albert (Tom Hughes) admonishes Bertie for his behaviour.

Feodora asks Vicky to help her take the other children back to the nursery as her mother isn’t feeling very well. Victoria argues there is nothing wrong with her but Vicky can’t understand why more babies keep coming if they make her mother so unwell.

As Lord Palmerston (Laurence Fox) arrives, Feodora advises him there will be a ball to celebrate the arrival of the new prince and Palmerston wonders if he will be invited but Feodora tells him invites are for valuable members of society. Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell (John Sessions) show Albert and Victoria the new coin they are having minted as a step towards decimalisation which doesn’t seem to be pleasing Palmerston as he prefers dividing things by twelve rather than ten. Albert requests to have a hand in the design of the new coin when Victoria states it should have a new image.

Later, Victoria introduces the children to Uncle Leopold (Alex Jennings) who has arrived for the christening and Vicky presents him with a book of etchings so he can keep them close to his heart always. Uncle Leopold is particularly moved by the gesture and says she is so like her dear father. When Victoria tells Bertie to bow to Uncle Leopold, his pet mouse escapes from his pocket which sends the rest of the children running after it. Uncle Leopold wryly remarks the Prince of Wales takes after the other side of the family. Feodora laughs and says he is definitely a Hanoverian which amuses Uncle Leopold who has no idea who she is until Victoria introduces her.

The following day, the sketch of the queen bathing baby Vicky has made it into the newspapers much to the consternation of everyone at the palace but Abigail Turner (Sabrina Bartlett) thinks there is nothing wrong with a picture of a mother bathing her own baby. A furious Victoria discusses the situation with Lord Russell who says they can only sue the publisher for damaging her reputation as she was the one who gave him the pictures to make prints in the first place. Victoria argues her dignity does not have a price and will not be mollified. Lord Russell maintains there is nothing more to be done, other than to chose a printer with more care in the future. Annoyed, Victoria tells him to leave.

In the garden, Bertie is playing with his pet mouse when Albert admonishes him for not being at his lessons. Bertie says they are boring but Albert tells him sometimes life requires you to do things you do not want to do. Bertie gets cross and says he hopes Mama will die soon so he can be king and do whatever he wants. Albert tells him that is a terrible thing to say but Bertie gets himself so worked up, Albert pulls him into his arms and hugs him tight. Feodora appears and tells Albert that Bertie is so like Victoria at that age and suggests an expert might have a solution.

Later, Uncle Leopold is looking at sketches for the new coin with Victoria and wonders how her subjects can still perceive her as a sovereign after seeing such intimate sketches of her. He maintains monarchy should be shrouded in mystery rather than paraded as a public spectacle. Victoria thinks it is unfair for a woman’s flaws to be seen as evidence of her unsuitability when a man’s flaws are seen as signs of character. Uncle Leopold thinks the coin would be more regal if Victoria was wearing a crown but she argues coins have always been bareheaded. Uncle Leopold reminds her she is an exception in so many ways and a thoughtful Victoria draws a crown on the image.

As Victoria is being fitted for her costume for the ball, she asks Sophie Monmouth (Lily Travers) what she is wearing but Sophie laughs and says it is a secret. Victoria tells her she cannot keep secrets from her queen and Sophie reveals she is going as the 9th Duchess of Monmouth’s Gainsborough portrait as suggested by her husband. Victoria tells Sophie it’s nice her husband is taking such an interest but is sure there is a story abut the duchess but cannot recall it. Victoria looks at herself in the mirror and says at least she looks like a queen in her gown. Feodora clucks her tongue about those terrible pictures and says she and Albert can cope at the ball if Victoria doesn’t feel up to attending. Victoria tells her sister she is sure she would like nothing more than to be able to tell people she is incapable of fulfilling her duties. A tearful Feodora says she is only trying to support her before leaving the room.

In the hall, Joseph (David Burnett), the footman, tells Sophie the 9th Duchess of Monmouth was a Cavendish so they knew everything about her at Chatsworth where he worked before coming to the palace. The duchess was so miserable in her marriage she took a lover but the duke found out and took her children away. The duchess ended up taking her own life. Joseph warns Sophie her husband intends to humiliate her.

In her rooms, Victoria is looking at the pictures in the newspaper with dismay when Abigail Turner arrives. Victoria says people used to refer to her as a little girl when she first came to the throne and now they will refer to her as a nursemaid. Victoria is convinced everyone is laughing at her as she is the first queen to have a child whilst on the throne and she’s had seven into the bargain. Abigail tells her she sees a mother who loves her children and she is glad that woman is her queen.

George Combe (Hilton McRae) arrives at the palace to examine Bertie’s skull and announces the prince’s anterior lobe where the intellect is based is underdeveloped much to Albert’s dismay. Combe goes on to say the weakness has been inherited from Victoria’s grandfather, George III, who descended into madness. Victoria argues Bertie is not mad despite his wilfulness and slowness to learn. Albert asks if there is anything to be done but Combe says the prince cannot help his behaviour and on cue Bertie knocks over the ceramic cranium Combe was been using for demonstration purposes. Bertie apologises and runs out of the room.

In their bedroom, Victoria claims Bertie’s behaviour has only gotten worse since the arrival of Feodora but Albert argues her sister has done nothing but good for the family. Victoria wonders if Feodora had anything to do with the etchings being released since she seems to have a new horse but Albert thinks she is being ridiculous. Victoria is adamant her sister is up to something.

As the Duke of Monmouth (Nicholas Audsley) waits on his wife getting ready for the ball, he is angry when she descends the stairs in a different costume. Sophie accuses him of deliberately wanting her to dress as a woman whose life was destroyed by her husband but the duke retorts the duchess brought about her own misfortune. Sophie tells her husband she would rather go to the ball as her own grandmother who was a servant.

At the palace, Vicky and Bertie, with a chamber pot on his head, are watching the guests arrive in their Georgian costumes. When Victoria sees them, she asks Bertie what he is wearing on his head and Vicky explains they are trying to fix his head to please their father. Annoyed, Victoria leads them away and gets into another argument with Albert about phrenology which she maintains is mumbo jumbo. Feodora witnesses the argument and Victoria whines about the ridiculous costumes they are having to wear. Feodora opines costumes from the Georgian era are rather unsettling in light of Mr Combe’s observations about Bertie and George III. However, Victoria dismisses Combe as a charlatan before she observes the expensive sapphire tiara her sister is wearing and wonders if she’s come into some money. Uncle Leopold arrives as Frederick the Great and remarks how they all make an excellent Coburg quartet.

As the ball begins, there is much tension in the air between all the parties and all eyes are on Feodora’s tiara. Victoria and Albert begin the dancing and Sophie sneaks away with Joseph but Monmouth soon notices his wife’s absence and mistakenly believes she is with Palmerston. As the duke searches for his wife, Lady Emma Portman (Anna Wilson-Jones) finds her first and warns her. Albert thanks Feodora for her efforts in organising the ball but Victoria is incensed by the number of unsavoury guests she seems to have invited which merely provokes Albert. When Victoria threatens to confront some of them, Feodora says she is acting like a washerwoman rather than a queen.

Victoria leaves the ball, closely followed by Feodora, and the queen accuses her sister of betraying her by selling the sketches. Victoria says nothing has been right with the family since Feodora’s arrival and she wants to know why Feodora is so hellbent on turning Albert against her. Victoria says she has always done the best for her sister but Feodora argues the last time she was really happy was when they lived together at Kensington Palace. Feodora reveals she was courted by George IV and wanted to be his queen but that did not fit with their mother’s plan. Instead, Feodora was sent away and married to the first man who would have her. Feodora goes on to say Victoria has no idea what it is like to live in a palace with a leaking roof and share a bed with a man who likes to drink himself into a stupor. She tells Victoria she has everything and she has no idea how lucky she is.

The following day, Albert is playing chess with Vicky while Bertie grabs a piece from the board which riles Vicky. Bertie accuses his father of always playing with Vicky and never with him. Albert asks Bertie if he wants to play with his marbles but Bertie says he wants to play chess. When the children leave the room, Uncle Leopold, who has been sitting in the background with his embroidery, tells Albert he should play chess with Bertie. Albert claims he is saving his son from further disappointment as he would never be able to grasp the point of the game. Uncle Leopold accuses Albert of giving up on Bertie but Albert says he is being pragmatic.

Meanwhile, Victoria is admonishing Palmerston and Russell for the fact the new coin does not have the Latin words Dei Gratia (By the Grace of God) and Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith) engraved on it so people are calling it the godless florin. Russell promises to have the mistake rectified but Victoria maintains the damage has been done. Palmerston then informs the queen he thinks the release of her etchings has done her image the world of good, showing her a framed print of one that he bought for a shilling. He tells Victoria the prints remind them she is a woman who loves her children and her dogs which is more familiar to them than the trappings of the monarchy.

Somewhat mollified, Victoria returns to the subject of the coin and wants to know who was responsible for the mistake. Russell gently reminds her the prince was in charge of the design and it would be better for that information not to be revealed in light of the fact Albert is suing the publisher over the sketches. Palmerston and Russell then excuse themselves.

A furious Victoria barges into Albert’s study and asks him why he did not inform her about the lawsuit with the publisher. Albert tells her it was the best solution as she was not able to sue the publisher herself and there was nothing legally preventing him from doing so. Victoria is angry he did not ask her first and tells him she’s changed her mind since Lord Palmerston says the pictures are popular. Albert tells her the monarchy should be respected rather than liked but she responds by showing him the coin with the missing quotations. He tells her there was no room for it since she was so adamant on having a crown. Victoria tells him she wants to be seen as a queen but her own husband seems to be undermining her efforts. Albert accuses her of contradicting herself since she is so keen on the sketches but angry about the coin. He tells his wife she has no logic to which Victoria responds by picking up the ceramic cranium and smashing it on the floor. At that moment, Lord Alfred (Jordan Waller) appears to announce the arrival of the Archbishop of Canterbury (Peter Ivatts).

In the Throne Room, everyone gathers for Prince Arthur’s christening but Victoria and Albert can barely look at each other during the ceremony. The Duke of Monmouth notices the looks being exchanged by Sophie and Joseph, the footman, and is incensed. Bertie reaches in his pocket for his mouse which falls to the floor and is scooped up by Palmerston who places it on his shoulder much to Bertie’s delight.

At the reception, Victoria asks Uncle Leopold if George IV really wanted to marry her sister but he tells her the king liked teasing his brothers that he could still produce an heir and Feodora was merely a pawn in his game. Victoria tells Uncle Leopold that Feodora blames her and wants revenge but Uncle Leopold tells her Feodora does not have the power to bother her. Unconvinced, Victoria watches as Albert and Feodora laugh with each other. Victoria comes over and asks Albert if he knew Feodora was selling invitations to the ball but Albert says it’s not Feodora’s fault if they’ve sent her gifts. Albert asks Victoria why she grudges her sister the crumbs from her table which upsets her greatly. Victoria tells Feodora it is time for her to go home but Feodora says Albert enjoys her more rational company.

Victoria follows Albert to his study and tells him Feodora hates her. Albert say she only feels that way because Feodora treats her like a sister rather than a goddess which just infuriates Victoria. Albert tells her he thinks her intellect has become overtaxed and Victoria asks if he is saying she is mad. Albert says she is like Bertie in that her character is overdeveloped in the area that controls self-esteem. Victoria slaps him across the face. Albert admits he’s been mistaken in expecting her to be something she cannot be – a rational woman. Victoria accuses him of being cold and he replies it is the only way he can deal with her temper as he has no desire to stoop to her level. Shocked, Victoria asks him when he stopped loving her. Albert says he loves her and the children as his duty requires him. Victoria argues that is not what she meant and he says he knows but it is all he has left.

In the hallway, an upset Victoria comes across Bertie crying in the corner as his pet mouse has run away. Victoria pulls him into her arms and says they will get another mouse. Bertie argues it won’t be the same and she agrees with him. Bertie then tearfully tells her Papa doesn’t love him any more because he is stupid but Victoria tells him you can’t just stop loving someone.

Notes

  • George Combe (1788-1858) was a Scottish lawyer who founded the Edinburgh Phrenological Society in 1820 based on a pseudoscience which claims the measurement of bumps on the skull can predict mental traits. Victoria and Albert were so worried about their son’s perceived lack of intellect that they had Combe measure their son’s head and his subsequent report really did say the prince had inadequacies which he probably inherited from his great-grandfather, George III.
  • The first florins were struck in 1849 and were worth one tenth of a pound, however Britain would not adopt full decimalisation until 1971. It became known as the Godless Florin because the abbreviations for Dei Gratia (By the Grace of God) and Fidei Defensor (Defender of the Faith) were omitted. The Master of the Mint, Richard Lalor Sheil, an Irishman and a Roman Catholic, was suspected of plotting to overthrow the Protestant regime but he stated it had been an error and the coin was redesigned in 1851 with the Latin quotations reinstated.
  •  In 1844, royal reporter, Jasper Tomsett Judge, caused a scandal when he managed to acquire 60 unauthorised prints of Victoria and Albert with their children for £5 from an employee of a local printer. Judge had hoped to sell the prints at an exhibition but Queen Victoria was infuriated when news of the sale emerged and a subsequent injunction stopped the prints from being published. Victoria would have the sketches printed in collections as gifts for close friends and only three sets are known to exist outside the Royal Collection. In 2016, a set of 80 prints, gifted by Queen Victoria to Sir Theodore Martin, were auctioned for a guide price of £30,000 to £50,000.
  • The 9th Duchess of Monmouth never existed but her fictional links to Chatsworth Estate likely allude to Georgiana Spenser who was married to William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, and had her portrait painted by Thomas Gainsborough. Georgiana was exiled to France after an affair with Charles Grey led to her becoming pregnant. After giving birth to a daughter, the child was taken away from her and raised by Grey’s family but Georgiana was not allowed to return home to be with her other children until she renounced her lover.