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Faith, hope and charity were in scarce supply on this week’s episode of Victoria. Instead we got to see what happened to the Irish during the potato famine that killed a million people and caused two million more to emigrate. Fun stuff…
Robert Traill is a protestant minister in Ireland, and he is having none of the attitude that the others of the faith have towards the many Catholics who are going through the famine. When some crusty old preacher tells the others that all Papists who agree to get newly baptised in the Church of Ireland can have all the charity from the church that they need, Traill is quick to point out that it’s not Christian and is reprimanded by his bishop. A little background: Catholics are only baptised once in their lives…any other baptism is taboo; also, Catholics in Ireland were prohibited from owning land, getting an education or having a profession, so many of them relied on being smallholders in potato farming as their only livelihood.
Ernst shows up in pretty much every episode at this point. He’s like the Kevin Bacon of England. This time, though, he’s received the gift of syphilis from one of his companions in Paris, but he hasn’t told anyone yet. The doctor he is visiting on the sly in London tells him that it would be unfortunate if an innocent person were to be infected by him, and that children of such an encounter would end up badly deformed. In other words: keep it in your pants. This is upsetting news, especially after he finds out Harriett’s husband has died in a hunting accident. Life: 1, True love: 0
Albert finds out the palace was built on a sewer, and yet it hasn’t been utilized in London at all. He wants to add water closets (read: toilets) to the palace and is everyone’s favorite old lady when he says “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” His joke about how he hopes every home will one day have a “throne of their own” during a staff demonstration of the flushing toilet was one of the rare moments that we’ve ever seen him be funny. It was great!
Traill sends a letter to the newspapers in London describing the horrors that the Irish poor are going through, and for his efforts he gets a dressing-down from his elder. He responds that he answers to a higher authority than the people of the church. Victoria is appalled that her subjects are eating nettles and seaweed and are too weak to bury their dead. The representative to the government from Ireland says that this is self-regulation of too much population growth, and Victoria is unimpressed. She sends him on his way and wants to visit Ireland. Peel tells her that it wouldn’t be prudent because he can’t guarantee her safety. She invites Traill to the palace instead, and he is honest with her about the tragedy going on.
We finally get to see that Francatelli has been meeting with an American publisher who wants him to write a book about the palace from the perspective of the kitchens. He declines and gives her some of his recipes instead, and tells her he can’t pay back all the money that she gave him. So this is where all his swag came from. Later he finds Miss Cleary (Skerrett’s assistant) crying in the stairwell and finds out her family in Ireland is going to be homeless. He gives her his gold watch and tells her to pawn it to give them rent money. He’s a sweetie!
Penge is a dick. We all know this. It is solidified when Miss Cleary asks him for an advance on her pay this quarter so she can send it to her family. He is cruel in his response and tells her that she and her compatriots must learn to live within their means. After she pawns the watch from Francatelli and gives the money to Traill during his visit to return to her family, Penge is disgusted and says that Francatelli gave her the money for “services rendered.” Cleary accuses him of being a wicked man and says that Francatelli helped out of the goodness of his heart and that Penge should be ashamed. To his credit…he looks ashamed.
Peel is a conflicted man. On the one hand, he doesn’t want to destroy his party by repealing the Corn Laws. On the other hand, he doesn’t like the thought of citizens dying of starvation. He decides to advocate in Parliament for relief to be sent to the Irish. His biggest question is “Are we to sit and debate how much dysentery and diarrhea it would take for it to be necessary to provide food to the people?” Blunt and to the point; we shall see how it turns out.
Victoria is at her most empathetic during this episode. She feels pain for the Irish, and it comes through quite boldly on screen. Her relationship with Peel is on good footing, too, and her appeal to him to help the Irish poor is quite moving. Cleary finds her and thanks her for her generosity and for listening to Traill, and apologizes for being Catholic. Victoria asks after her family and is sad to learn that they are emigrating because the money she sent didn’t make it in time. Lehzen interrupts and tells Victoria she didn’t know that she was Catholic or she wouldn’t have hired her, to which Victoria replies “As if that matters.” #love
Traill was the best part of the episode for me. After he returns to Ireland, he tells his wife that he is opening a soup kitchen in their house. She leaves and takes the children with her – she is highly biased towards Papists and can’t get over it. He brings a Catholic priest to the clergy meeting to discuss collaboration on helping the poor, and all but a few of the clergy turn their backs and leave. He later gets typhus and dies…so yes, it was sad, but I thought it was great to see that he didn’t care about denomination, but about doing what was right.
We know this week’s episode was kind of a downer. What did you think?
**All production images courtesy ITV Studios