Queen Victoria: Wednesday 18th September 1844…When I awoke the sun was shining brightly & it lit up the mountains so beautifully. — At 9, we set off, both, on ponies, attended only by Lord Glenlyon’s excellent servant, Sandy McAra, in his Highland dress, to go up one of the hills.
Jace Lacob: I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to a special edition of MASTERPIECE Studio.
Queen Victoria: We went through a ford, Sandy leading my pony, & Albert following closely, & then went up the hill of Tulloch straight over a very steep cabbage field, afterwards going round zigzag to the very top, the ponies scrambling up over stones & heather, & never once making a false step.
Jace: In a particularly adventurous episode this week, the royal family flees north to the Scottish Highlands, in an effort to escape the hustle and bustle of grimy urban London and the threat of more assassination attempts against the young Queen. While in the Highlands, Victoria and Albert sneak away more than they planned when they wander off the trail and into an anonymous hideaway with a Scottish crofter and his wife.
Queen Victoria: The view all round was splendid & so beautifully lit up. From the top it was quite like a panorama. We could see the Falls of Bruar, the Pass of Killiecrankie, Ben y Gloe, & the whole range of hills behind, in the direction of Taymouth. The house itself & the houses in the village looked like toys, from the height at which we were. It was very wonderful.
Jace: In real life, Queen Victoria did travel to Scotland’s Blair Castle — although for not quite the same reasons as her televised counterpart. In her own words, here’s what Queen Victoria wrote in her diary entries from this period, written early in her reign.
Queen Victoria: We got off once or twice, & walked about. There was not a house or creature near us, only pretty highland, black faced sheep. Coming down, made me rather nervous, particularly as my pony wanted to go faster than I liked. We returned the same way, stopping at the ford, for the ponies to have a drink, before we passed it. From inside the gates, we walked home. It was the most delightful, & most romantic ride & walk, I had ever had. It was the first time I had been up such a mountain…
Jace: These diary entries helped inspire Victoria creator Daisy Goodwin to include the crofter’s cottage getaway in this season of her show — even if these events weren’t quite as dramatic as portrayed on screen.
Daisy Goodwin: There is an episode in her diaries where she and Albert go off together and they do, you know the mist comes in, and they stop at a croft to ask for directions, and ask for some tea and it’s clear that the crofter and his wife have no idea who they are, and they love that, they think that’s hilarious. Although Victoria is also slightly miffed that she’s not been recognised…but you have to remember these are the days before photography, so Victoria could go to remote parts of the country and feel reasonably sure that… people wouldn’t know who she was.
Jace: That sense of escape from duty is one that the on-screen Victoria desperately craves, according to series star Jenna Coleman.
Jenna Coleman: Normality…a lack of fame, I suppose. the ability to get lost — that’s something that they can never do. Not only because of guards and because of you know soldiers but also because of duty. And I think it’s well who would we be if we weren’t who we are? A life without duty and a freedom in that, and… I really pushed very hard to get the moment where Victoria sees the young girls on the other side of the river. And because I just feel that that’s the imagining, like, wow, what if this was really my life? Who would I be? And you can get lost in that make believe in, lost in that story that they live just for the night.
Jace: Jenna’s co-star Tom Hughes agrees. As Albert searches for purpose in the English court, the Prince is pleased to find an opportunity to play-act as an ordinary husband and father in a small Scottish cottage.
Tom Hughes: It’s very funny for them. It’s rare, but it’s exhilarating. I think they’re just a young man and a young woman who are in love sitting by a fire eating fish, and having a chat, and being the humans that they are, without the constraints and great privileges as well, any of the things that come with their day job.
Jace: And although that magical sense of anonymity was ultimately fictionalized, the dramatic tension it creates for the royal couple, caught between their royal duties and romantic commitment, leads to a rather poetic ending to this episode.
Daisy: I think she’s trying to say, we may be back in the palace, we may have gone back to our to our royal roles, but we can still recapture some of that magic when we’re alone? Of, you know, you cooking, and me darning your socks. I just love that. It’s just like, and we can be husband and wife. You know, like other people. Because the whole of that episode, you know, they keep seeing, you know, the girls on the other side of the bank, you know, the couple standing by the by in the in the grass, Albert sees this couple, you know, and they keep being reminded of the life that they can’t have, and it’s about them saying, you know, ‘We can have some of that at home.’
Jenna: I think that’s maybe what she craved in life. They were very domestic. Her bedroom at Osborne House it feels very small, there’s a lack of fuss, it’s cozy. Their house in Osborne feels very lived in in a way even though you know it’s grand and it’s a palace and actually it was one of her favorite places to be and I think it’s very it’s very telling the simplicity of how she began to dress and her environment.
Tom: It’s that divide between public and private life that makes it hopefully as a piece of drama will make it interesting and also through that more those more tangibly human instincts and feelings we can discover the history of the time as well. So I think it’s necessary in many ways to have those moments and just see a young man and a young woman trying to get through by the end of the season.
Jace: Living in the public eye as Great Britain’s queen, Victoria isn’t used to evading her crown or her royal duties.
Queen Victoria: Monday 16th September 1844. Felt much better all day. — We took a charming walk for an hour, after our breakfast going up towards Ld Glenlyon’s Farm, a steep road, & I managed quite well, without using the chair. After the constant trying publicity we are accustomed to, it is so pleasant & refreshing, to be able, amidst such beautiful surroundings, to enjoy such complete privacy & such a simple life.
Jace: A brief word from our sponsors…
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Continuing our exploration into the history of Queen Victoria — and the show that bears her name — creator Daisy Goodwin joins us for a brief look back at more of the realities and dramatic inventions surrounding this episode of the series.
What was the motivation for Bean’s attack on the queen?
Daisy: What’s so interesting about the assassination attempts on Victoria — and there were seven in her lifetime — I’m not sure whether they actually wanted to kill her. They were there all of them young men, usually troubled in some way, and most of them had guns that weren’t loaded, so they didn’t actually want to kill her, but they probably wanted the notoriety that goes with making an attempt on the Queen’s life, because then you’re tried for high treason, you instantly become one of the most famous people in Britain. And for that reason, you see Bean at the top of the episode, he sees these posters of the two people that have tried to kill Victoria prior to that who have been turned into wax works, and have become famous throughout the land. And I suppose if you’re a young person with no prospects and a bit bitter and twisted, you think this is a way of achieving notoriety. And in fact, what the Prime Minister, Robert Peel, does is he decides to change the punishment for these kind of attacks from a full trial to making it a crime and misdemeanor. And so instead they’re flogged. Instead of them becoming public figures, they’ve become publicly humiliated through a flogging, and after that, I think the number of attempts to kill her, or, so-called attempts to kill taper off until the 1860s and 70s when a Finean element, you know, the Irish element enters the frame.
Jace: Fact or fiction: Albert invented an armored parasol.
Daisy:Well Albert did invent an armored parasol. You know what you have to love about Albert is that he’s so endlessly practical. So there is his wife, who he loves beyond anything, who insists on going out in public, even though she has really no protection against somebody trying to take a shot at her. And so he decides, ‘Well, what can I do about this? I can’t stop her from going out so I will invent this handy armored parasol to keep her safe.’ It must have been incredibly heavy. Anyway I thought it was a very charming touch.
Jace: I love the scene in this episode where Victoria walks through the house stripping off the vestments of her royal station from the opening up parliament, she casts off her cloak sash her gloves and then finally removes her crown, and it’s an act of shedding almost. How did you come up with this sequence?
Daisy: Well, I’m afraid I took that from the Dior advert. You know, Charlize Theron walks through those halls and you see her taking off all her stuff, and I just thought it was a very cinematic way of showing Victoria wanting to kind of go from being monarch in full state robes to Albert’s wife. And so by the time she gets in there, she’s Albert’s wife, she’s got her darning out. Albert’s cooking the fish on the fire, and it’s the transition from Queen to woman, and I thought it would be a rather dramatic way of showing that. I don’t know whether it’s not in period, but I just kind of like the idea of her leaving all her queenliness at the door.
Jace: Queen Victoria and Prince Albert aren’t the only members of the royal court who have an eye-opening visit to Scotland. Lord Alfred Paget and Edward Drummond, Prime Minister Robert Peel’s private secretary, share a private moment in the the rolling Scottish hills.
Alfred: I find the death of Patroclus most affecting.
Drummond: Yes, the lengths Achilles went through to honor his friend.
Alfred: You believe they were friends?
Drummond: I wouldn’t know what else to call them
Jace: Actor Jordan Waller offers his take on the blossoming same-sex romance that took Victoria viewers by surprise this season.
Jordan Waller: So what these characters are going through…is a intensity of emotion that isn’t based within language. So both of these characters are feeling something that they can’t quite describe.
Jace: Watch for our interview with Jordan Waller, appearing in your podcast feeds next Sunday.
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MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob, and produced by Nick Andersen. Elisheba Ittoop is our editor. Special thanks this week to Helen Sadler for providing the voice of Queen Victoria and to Mark Holden of Invisible Studios in Los Angeles. Susanne Simpson is our executive producer. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.