Queen Victoria escapes from a gilded jail
Victoria moves the setting once again, this time to the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands. Two assassination attempts on Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) and Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) have turned the castle into a fancy jail. Guards follow Victoria’s every movement and she is developing cabin fever. She has dreamed of a trip to Scotland since childhood, and she realizes as Queen she can take vacations whenever she wants. Baroness Lehzen (Daniela Holtz) is a bit sad the children can’t come along, but this trip is definitely an attempt to de-stress for Her Majesty. For Harriet, Duchess of Sutherland (Margaret Clunie), affairs in London can’t easily be forgotten because her husband has died in a riding accident. Although she wasn’t happy in her marriage, she is still feeling guilt and regret. It doesn’t help that Ernest (David Oakes) is also a member of the royal party to remind her that she wasn’t exactly faithful.
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The Duke of Atholl’s house (Denis Lawson) is a new environment for the characters to embrace the vibe. Prince Albert can’t stand the bagpipes, but Queen Victoria finds them quite a sensation. The Duke of Atholl is a very gracious host, but Victoria especially doesn’t appreciate the constant oversight and the boring poetry reading. Her servants Mrs. Skerrett (Nell Hudson), Wilhelmina (Bebe Cave) Drummond (Leo Suter), and Lord Alfred Paget (Jordan Waller) are having way more fun with the Atholl staff at the ceilidh (Gaelic for dance party). Victoria and Albert wander off from the rest of the riding party to see more of the countryside. They want to meet the villagers and have some time for romance. However for the Duchess of Buccleuch (Diana Rigg), and the rest of the royal party, their concerns over the safety of the royal couple outweigh the benefits of exploring the Highlands.
What do our guests think about what occurred on the Highland Holiday?
Jan (@total_janarchy) – author and podcaster on a variety of pop culture subjects (Doctor Who, Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, RuPaul’s Drag Race), cosplayer, Anglophile, and lifelong costume drama junkie.
Melissa (@immelza)- Lover of period dramas, PBS, good books, kind people and all things Poldark
Katherine (@Lady_madchan) – Period drama lover. Anglophile. Poldark super fan.
Ashleigh (@edwardanddamon) – Often found tweeting about my favorite shows and books. Starting up a book blog presently.
Irene (@petitesoeur) –Lifelong fan of moving pictures, on big and small screens, particularly indie film and all things sci-fi. Irene writes for agnès films, a community that supports emerging and established women filmmakers.
1) What was your reaction to the Scottish sets, scenery, and soundtrack?
Jan (@total_janarchy): I thought it was really lovely. Like last week’s scenes in Ireland, it definitely gave the show a different feel: wide open spaces, expanses of nature, fresh air, the antithesis of the claustrophobic palace and environs.
Katherine (@Lady_madchan): Another beautifully rendered scenery change. Green, lush and awe-inspiring. Actually a pretty good travel video for “Visit Scotland”.
Melissa (@immelza): I was completely mesmerized by the beautiful scenery. The navy dress Queen Victoria wore was my favorite costume in the series so far. I also enjoyed the music they’ve really stepped up the production this year. This was my favorite episode (so far)!
Ashleigh (@edwardanddamon): I thought the Scottish sets, scenery, and soundtrack were absolutely stunning! I really enjoyed what it brought to the episode.
Irene (@petitesoeur): “I did not know there was so much wilderness in England.” “But this is Scotland Albert!” Sets? Scenery? Not a whit ~ it truly is Scotland ~ all 145,000 acres of the magnificent Atholl Estates in Perthshire. And the-for-real Blair Castle actually visited several times by the-for-real Queen Victoria. The music was delightful, the perfect accompaniment to a Ceilidh, as was the rushing water and rustling wind ~ you could just about hear the mist rolling in ~ to the Royal couple’s fly fishing expedition and their ‘roaming in the gloaming’ adventure. The bagpipes were ~ tolerable. I don’t find them rousing like Victoria did but the sound doesn’t irritate me as much as it did Albert.
2) For my fellow nerds, how many accidental references to other shows/movies/books set in Scotland did you spot?
Jan: I caught some visual Harry Potter references. Do I need to turn in my nerd card now?
Katherine: Maybe a few to Outlander. But I’ve only watched very casually.
Melissa: I did get a lot of Titanic vibes when they were showing dueling scenes of the servants’ forest party versus the Queen in all her formality. Yes, I realize Titanic isn’t a Scottish movie, but that’s what I was thinking!
Katherine: Maybe a few to Outlander. But I’ve only watched very casually.
Ashleigh: I really felt like the episode was a nod to Outlander, but that could just be because I’m a huge fan of that show as well! I swore one of the tartans worn looked like Jamie’s clan colors.
Irene: Totally reminded me of Brigadoon, the musical by Lerner and Loewe ~ traveling to the Highlands to escape city life, finding more than rest and relaxation: “A stranger can stay if he loves someone here – not jus’ Brigadoon, mind ye, but someone in Brigadoon – enough to want to give up everythin’ an’ stay with that one person. Which is how it should be. ‘Cause, after all, lad, if ye love someone deeply, anythin’ is possible.” I also found accidental references to other shows/movies/books not set in Scotland: As You Like It, Star Wars: A New Hope, A River Runs Through It, The X-Files: The Unnatural, Sherlock: Reichenbach Falls.
3) Victoria and Albert went off on their own adventure. Was that a good idea considering the setup to this episode?
Jan: I think it was very foolhardy and selfish of them given how hard everyone around them is trying to protect them. You can see why Victoria & Albert needed to do it, but if something had gone wrong, it wouldn’t have been the delightful pastoral adventure they had hoped for.
Katherine: Of course it wasn’t. For all kinds of reasons re security and safety. Then we remember that they are very young and live in a “birdcage” in a way. They needed to do this, experience a real “break” from their regular lives as Queen and Prince Consort.
Melissa: I think them running away was romantic, exciting and maybe a touch inappropriate. While I doubt an armed assassin was prowling around the Highlands searching for a Queen and her armored parasol. It’s not like Victoria and Albert have the best survival skills given their sheltered upbringing and lifestyle. I thought this scene was very endearing, as they sampled fireplace cooked dinner and darned socks with the older couple.
Ashleigh: It wasn’t really a good idea that Albert and Victoria went off on their own considering the setup to the episode. I was like, “How can you lose a Queen”?
Irene: An excellent idea! The adventure demonstrates Victoria’s determination to escape the confines of her position and live out her childhood dream of Scotland that embodies romance, adventure and most importantly, liberty. Plus, Daisy Goodwin has said she based it on a real incident, that on one of their trips to Scotland “they did get lost, and they did stop at a crofter’s cottage. And they didn’t know who they were! They didn’t spend the night.” Kudos to Coleman and Hughes for hitting just the right notes and making the Royal Couple’s blissful country interlude believable.
4) Were you surprised to see the Highlanders greet Victoria so warmly given the past history of Scotland?
Jan: I most certainly did. I was also surprised Victoria said she’d wanted to be a Jacobite when she was younger, that seemed odd.
Katherine: I don’t think so. I figured that the aristocracy would have had to side with Victoria’s relatives at some point to remain in power. As far as the regular folks, it’s been quite some time. Probably a 100 years since the last Jacobite uprising. Perhaps enough time for heads to cool and maybe the Georgian monarchs pacified them?
Melissa: No, I expected them to greet her as the royal she is.
Ashleigh: Yes, I was actually surprised by the warm welcome Victoria received in Scotland considering the history. I started thinking back to Reign and Mary Queen of Scots!
Irene: Not at all ~ the episode is a reflection of Victoria’s belief and immersion in ‘Highlandism’ ~ a romantic myth of the Highlands and Highlanders developed and popularized by Sir Walter Scott, the author of “Waverly,” the historical novel that figures prominently in the episode. The historical Royal Couple were also fans of Scott’s novels. It’s a fanciful portrayal of a Scotland that’s a fairy-tale place, in the historical Victoria’s words from an 1850 diary entry, “of the independent life we lead in the dear Highlands.” It’s a fairy-tale almost all the characters partake in ~ Mrs. Skerritt has a Highland fling as do Drummond & Lord Alfred. Its magic even induces Harriet to reconcile with Ernest and Lord Atholl with Scotland’s British union.
5) The plot between Drummond and Lord Alfred thickens quite considerably. Discuss your thoughts!
Jan: It’s been telegraphed for a while, so it was nice to see that Unresolved Sexual Tension getting a bit of resolution. However, the whole “What happens in Scotland stays in Scotland” from Drummond does not bode well for these two.
Katherine: Oh no they didn’t! It’s so fun to see those two loosen up. Well played.
Melissa: When they kissed by the pond my first thought was “get in the woods somebody’s going to see you!” Then they were seen in the forbidden kiss, and subsequently upon arriving back at home declared that this could never happen again. Poor Drumfred I can’t imagine the absolute pain their souls must suffer because they can’t be together.
Ashleigh: I was happy for Drummond and Lord Alfred…like finally! I was also a little nervous about them being found out though. I hope the Duchesses’ niece can be discreet.
Irene: Hats off to how these two revels in their escape from the confines of London to the charming Scottish countryside. In a midsummer dream, they progress from sidelong glances to hugs, dancing, and actual kissing! Alluding to the friendship of Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad is a perfect literary reference, especially in an episode with such a storybook quality. I’ll go back to a song from Brigadoon: “Lonely men around me trying not to cry; till the day you found me, there among them was I. I saw a man who had never known a love that was all his own. I thought as I thanked all the stars in the sky: There but for you go I.” BTW: I was far more surprised by Victoria’s little striptease act after opening up Parliament than anything else in this episode.
6) Which character would you pick as your ceilidh (Scottish dance) partner and why?
Jan: The Duke of Atholl! Because he was played by Denis Lawson who is adorable under all that hair and beard. I know he can dance up a storm, having seen him in the musical “Lust” in 1995, so I think he’d be loads of fun.
Katherine: Obviously Prince Ernest. If you can catch him in a good mood, he’s the most fun.
Melissa: Any of the hot Highland men in the forest party! Any of them would be just fine.
Ashleigh: Francatelli wasn’t there, so not sure who I would have chosen?! Some cute Scottish lad I guess.
Irene: One of Lord Atholl’s handsome Highland soldiers because ~ who wouldn’t want to go reeling with a man in a kilt!
7) Looking ahead to the future, now that Harriet is sadly free, do you think Ernest might make a move?
Jan: I certainly think he wants to. Syphilis or not, he is still in love with her, so I think it’s likely. Also, they are a fictional couple (the real Harriet’s husband lived to a ripe old age and died around the same time as Albert), so the dramatic tension will be there for a while.
Katherine: Hmm, he’s in a tough position with syphilis. I can see a big conflict on the horizon.
Melissa: I don’t know if he will make a move on Harriet but I hope he doesn’t because he has syphilis. But knowing Ernest he probably will.
Ashleigh: I definitely think Ernest isn’t going to give up on Harriet so easily. I hope they get together eventually. They both deserve to find happiness.
Irene: Will Ernest pursue his ‘true love’ given his condition? Well, the historical Ernest also had a condition. He married and may have also fathered three illegitimate children. So who knows what Daisy Goodwin has in store for her fictional creation ~ certainly not I.
The Highland environment captured the essence of romance and adventure
In a similar fashion to Episode 3’s trip to France, viewers can’t help but feel like they want to take a vacation. The staging and the direction throughout the episode showed viewers a rare insight into 19th Century Scotland. Current dramas set in Scotland tend to focus on modern-day settings, involve werewolves or other supernatural phenomena, or the immediate aftermath of the Jacobite rebellion. We were especially delighted Daisy Goodwin upped the unintentional meta references ante by featuring Nell Hudson in this episode. Drummond and Lord Alfred have an uncertain future, but Leo Suter and Jordan Waller have done a great job capturing the emotions of those who can’t be who they are. Within the exotic environment, there were also nuggets of history and characterization.
This trip was the beginning of the royal tradition of Scotland as a choice destination for the British royal family which continues to this day. Victoria and Albert’s “slumming it” escapade was also a powerful testament to Victoria’s ongoing resentment against anything that resembles the confinement of the Kensington System of her childhood. The soldiers at the palace that protect her from assassination reminded her of how her mother used to forbid her from going outside. Vicbert also had quite a few swoon-worthy romantic moments. Fans are wondering if they added another child to the royal nursery on this trip! This article would be remiss without shouting out the adorable crofter (Andrew Neil) and his wife (Anne Kidd). They played the old married couple role brilliantly and were a great mirror for Victoria and Albert. Victoria learned more about the simple life and hospitality towards strangers in need on that trip compared to any other lesson she learned during this season.
Overall, this episode for many reasons is a fan-favorite for the entire season. However, there were three very small missteps in the writing. Baroness Lehzen’s heightened emotions of isolation from Victoria as she grows older and closer to Albert developed rather quickly compared to the other threads from this season. Victoria’s offhand comment to the Duke of Atholl about her younger desire to be a Jacobite was a bit distracting for the history nerds. This is another one of those instances where some viewers can’t suspend their disbelief. The failure of the Jacobite rebellion is why she is on the throne. It would have also been awesome if the crofter and his wife had first names because so many fans related to them.
Next week is technically the last regular episode of the season. Lehzen’s sadness over her diminished status in the household and Victoria’s desire to move away from her childhood to maturity will definitely result in some sort of argument. Ernest is stuck between taking a chance with Harriet or rejection when she finds out the truth of his condition. Will Wilhelmina spill the beans about what she saw between Drummond and Lord Alfred? Will the fling Mrs. Skerrett had in Scotland affect her feelings for a certain chef? Fans are looking for the answers to these plots before the standalone Christmas special “Comfort and Joy”.