A Public Inconvenience

Directed by Delyth Thomas / Written by Ottilie Wilford

First Aired: 5 May 2019

A Public Inconvenience

Feodora (Kate Fleetwood) and Albert (Tom Hughes) watch in wonder as a rose is dipped into water and transformed to gild by an electro-plating technique employed by Henry Cole (David Newman) from the Royal Society of Arts and Commerce. As Victoria (Jenna Coleman) enters the room, Albert tells her they have been discussing the forthcoming exhibition and Cole asks if she would like a demonstration of the gold-plating technique. Victoria declines and leaves them to it.

In Parliament, Palmerston (Laurence Fox) angrily highlights the fate of Don Pacifico, a Jewish British subject who was attacked by an anti-Semitic mob in Greece. Palmerston makes his way to the palace where he relates the story to the queen who agrees action must be taken. Palmerston asks after Prince Albert but Victoria tells him the prince is preoccupied with Henry Cole.

Albert addresses the committee of the Royal Society of Arts and Commerce and outlines a plan for a much larger exhibition which would include inviting other countries to showcase their innovations but the committee members are not too keen on the idea of inviting foreigners. Albert reassures them there is nothing to fear but cannot deny they are right about the costs involved in putting on something so large.

In the Music Room, Victoria is listening as Sophie (Lily Traverse) plays the harp and she reminisces about how much time she and Albert used to spend playing the piano together. Sophie tells her the prince would still do so if he had the time but Victoria is not so sure. Victoria confides Albert has barely smiled at her since the arrival of Feodora and she fears they are no longer the companions they once were.

The following morning, Victoria is having breakfast with the older children when Albert, Feodora and Lord Russell (John Sessions) arrive to inform her Palmerston plans to blockade Athens. Albert asks if Palmerston mentioned anything to her and she relates how he told her of the plight of Don Pacifico and she agreed something had to be done. Feodora says Palmerston is so persuasive that Victoria may not have understood his intent. Albert tells Victoria she has to stop Palmerston before his actions turn into a war.

Later, Victoria invites the Duke of Wellington (Peter Bowles) to the palace for his opinion on the matter but he tells her he is not the best person to advise her anymore. Wellington informs the queen it has been an honour to serve her but his time has come to an end. Victoria is upset and says the country needs him more than ever but the duke tells her she needs a younger man to keep Palmerston in check. Wellington urges her to listen to Albert who will give her sound advice.

Cole and Albert are in his study looking at maps for suitable sites for the exhibition when Albert gets the idea to hold it in Hyde Park. When the matter is raised in parliament, the prince’s critics claim the exhibition will destroy the park and attract the detritus of society. Undeterred, Albert and Cole discuss the possibility of a temporary structure that will be an example of engineering never before seen in the world and provide the necessary amenities.

Albert, Feodora and the children are engrossed in looking at designs submitted for the exhibition when Victoria enters the room. Bertie shows her one of the designs and Victoria looks at it scornfully saying the idea was to celebrate British achievements not to make them look ridiculous. Albert points out Palmerston has already sent gun boats to Athens and she says she is speaking with him soon. Albert tells her it is too late and she tartly says she’s not the one planning to humiliate the nation with a giant gingerbread house. Feodora admonishes her before taking the children out of the room. As Albert gathers up the rest of the designs, Victoria tells him it is time for Feodora to go home. Albert tells her to stop behaving like a child before leaving the room.

Sophie Monmouth and Emma Portman (Anna Wilson-Jones) are playing cards when Joseph (David Burnett) comes in with a tea tray. Emma notices the looks they give each other and warns Sophie to be careful. Emma then tells her about Caroline Norton, a woman who was sued by her husband for alleged adultery with Lord Melbourne. Even though the claim was thrown out of court, Caroline never saw her children again and her friendship with Lord Melbourne was destroyed.

When Palmerston arrives at the palace, Victoria tells him she did not give him permission to start a blockade and wanted him to find a peaceful conclusion. Palmerston tells Victoria that Greece is getting ideas above its station and is supported by Russia whose armed forces are set to eclipse Britain’s by Christmas. Victoria tells him they should not be antagonising Russia and reminds Palmerston the King of Greece is Albert’s cousin. Palmerston tells her family are not always friends. Victoria asks him how you deal with an enemy if force is not an option and he tells her to make that enemy an ally.

Victoria tries to repair her relationship with Feodora by inviting her to paint in the gardens and she tells her sister she wants to put the past behind them and start again. Feodora says it is not that easy but Victoria persists and asks her sister if there is anything she can give her as a token of goodwill. Feodora says she wants her daughter to come to court now that she is sixteen and accuses Victoria of not even remembering her name. Victoria says nothing and resumes painting.

Later, as Victoria is looking through the newspapers she comes across a cartoon mocking Prince Albert and his exhibition idea. Albert is upset no one appears to be taking him seriously and wonders why people are so afraid. Cole reassures him they are just worried about the cost implications but Albert says the money will soon be recouped. The papers are also having a field day with Palmerston’s latest antics and Lord Russell sees it as the perfect opportunity of getting rid of him.

Albert and Cole scope out Hyde Park and come to the conclusion they will need a building of a lighter material which can be put up quickly to accommodate the size of the exhibition. Meanwhile, Victoria invites the Duke of Wellington to tea for recommendations on who should replace him as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army but he says Albert has all the qualities she could ever want for man in that position. Victoria agrees it would be a better job for him than the exhibition.

Later that evening, Victoria tells Albert that Wellington feels he would make an excellent Commander-in-Chief and it would be a perfect opportunity for Albert to show the country he is worthy of their respect. Albert argues the exhibition will achieve the same result since nothing like this has ever been done before. Victoria reminds him of what the papers are saying and what it will mean if the exhibition is not successful but Albert will not be dissuaded.

The following day, Victoria and Feodora are practising archery while discussing the forthcoming visit of Adelheid, Feodora’s daughter, and Victoria asks what she is like. Feodora says she is carefree and spirited like she was before she was banished to Langenberg. Victoria and Feodora then have a brief discussion about the difficulties they both faced with the Duchess of Kent. Victoria tells her sister Albert thinks she should put the past behind her and maybe Feodora should think about doing the same.

Albert and Cole are studying miniature representations of the building they want to use for the exhibition but none of them are adequate. Albert thinks their failure to find a suitable building may be a sign their project is doomed but Cole argues signs are for the superstitious which doesn’t include them. They go back to the drawing board and study the plans once more, however Cole admits they may have to downsize. Albert is reluctant though because he knows he will be humiliated.

As Victoria goes riding with Palmerston, she tells him Albert has turned down the position of Commander-in-Chief in favour of remaining on the exhibition project. When Victoria returns to the palace, Cole is in the process of leaving having failed to persuade Albert to take a look at some plans drawn up by one last architect. Albert is apparently too busy with his new role as Commander-in-Chief to carry on with the exhibition. Victoria is confused telling Cole her husband turned the role down but Cole admits Albert has lost faith in the project. Strangely enough, Victoria is more dismayed by Albert’s discouragement and rushes to find him in the gardens.

As the rains descend heavily, Victoria catches up with Albert and says she never should have offered him the position of Commander-in-Chief but he argues she was right about everything. Victoria says she was wrong and that she married a dreamer not a soldier. Albert asks what if she’s married a failure but Victoria replies she would be proud to have a husband who was brave enough to pursue something he believed in. Albert pulls Victoria into his arms and holds her tightly.

The following day, Cole introduces Albert and Victoria to Mr. Paxton (Christopher Brand) who is the head gardener for the Duke of Devonshire. Paxton goes on to tell them that he had to design a special greenhouse to house a rare lily named after the queen, the Victoria Amazonica lily, which can grew 7-8 meters in length. The building was inspired by the structure of the leaves themselves and it was surprisingly cheap considering the tax on glass had been abolished. Cole asks if the structure was quick to build and Paxton says it was complete in a couple of months. He hasn’t tried taking it down but thinks it would be easy. Albert asks if the trees would be safe inside it and Vicky says it is a conservatory – that’s what is is designed to do. Albert asks Paxton if he could build one on a larger scale and he enthusiastically calls it a Greenhouse for the Gods but Albert interjects with Crystal Palace.

As Joseph tries to persuade Sophie to run away to America with him, she receives word her son is returning from school and rushes home to see him, however the duke has set a trap for her and she is taken away to a lunatic asylum.

In the Throne Room, Victoria says her final farewells to the Duke of Wellington and reminisces about how unprepared she was when she first came to the throne. Wellington says he never doubted her for a moment and she admits she had wise minds who believed in her when she could not. Wellington kisses her hand and tells her when you reach his age there is no point in getting sentimental about endings.

Feodora rushes down the steps as the carriage carrying her daughter, Adelheid (Ellen Evans), finally arrives at the palace. Feodora introduces Adelheid to Vicky (Louisa Bay) and Bertie (Laurie Shepherd) who is immediately lovestruck by his pretty cousin.

In the Throne Room, Victoria and Albert are having a meeting with Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell who think Albert’s exhibition is going to draw every anarchist from Europe to Britain. Palmerston thinks the invitations should be withdrawn but Victoria disagrees with him. Albert has a vision for the country which is led by curiosity rather than intimidation, by competition rather than conflict, and one that appeals to the very best in human nature rather than the worst. Palmerston says the public do not see the exhibition in the same light but Victoria reminds him the public can change their mind in an afternoon.

In the hall, Feodora informs Palmerston that her daughter has come to stay and hints that she is of marriageable age. Palmerston wonders if it was the queen’s idea to invite Adelheid and Feodora admits she has been most agreeable.

Later, Albert arrives in Victoria’s rooms to say thank you for the things she said to Palmerston and admits only she could have said such things as she knows him so well. Victoria says they know each other so well and that’s why he has had enough of her. Albert looks confused and she tells him she has tried so hard to get him to love her again but Albert tells her he loves her in a different way. Now it is Victoria who is confused. Albert says they have been married for ten years and they have both changed to the extent their love has changed too. Albert tells her of course he loves her. She looks at him, kisses him, and says she should hope so before turning back to her book. Albert smiles, grabs the book, and she chases after him.


  • The Don Pacifico affair was an episode of gunboat diplomacy which occurred in 1850 and concerned Greece. The affair is named after David Pacifico, a Jewish British subject born in Gibraltar. Pacifico’s property was vandalised in Greece by an anti-Semitic mob that included the sons of a government minister. Pacifico complained to Sir Edmund Lyons, the British Minister Plenipotentiary to Greece, who informed the Foreign Office in London that he had requested compensation from the Greek Government. Palmerston advised Pacifico draw up a list of damages but the Greek Government then claimed the costs had been inflated and was not a true reflection of the damages caused. Angry at the Greeks, Palmerston decided to take definitive action by deploying a blockade which would also bring Britain into potential conflict with France and Russia. The blockade lasted two months and the affair ended only when the Greek government agreed to compensate Pacifico.
  • Caroline Norton (1808-1877), on whom Sophie is said to have been based, was a close friend of Lord Melbourne who was accused of committing adultery with him by her husband. The case was thrown out of court, largely due to Melbourne’s connections, but Caroline’s reputation never recovered and she was not allowed to see her children. Caroline became a campaigner for women’s rights in marriage, helping to pass three major pieces of legislation the Custody of Infants Act 1839, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857 and the Married Women’s Property Act 1870, which granted women more rights.