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Did “Foreign Bodies” alienate our Victoria Roundtable?

Victoria on Masterpiece crossed the mid-season line in an incredibly dramatic way. Queen Victoria (Jenna Coleman) and Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) are barely on speaking as cholera is discovered in London’s poorer neighborhoods. By the end of the episode, the epidemic strikes at the heart of the royal household.

Albert is frustrated by Victoria’s focus on entertaining foreign ambassadors and Jenny Lind (Alison Langer) at the palace. He spends the majority of this episode focusing on securing the position of Chancellor at Cambridge University. Although it is an honorary position, he fully intends on using it to reform science education to prevent future social ills. Once again some of the voters are suspicious of having a German in charge of the school, but Lord Palmerston (Laurence Fox) surprisingly stretches out a helping hand of support.

Back at the palace, Feodora (Kate Fleetwood) has to work a little bit harder to keep up her eavesdropping. Victoria is fed up with the PM and other government officials blaming the cholera epidemic on bad air and foreigners bringing disease into the country. On an official visit to a hospital, she asks Florence Nightingale (Laura Morgan) for advice. She recommends, Dr. John Snow (Sam Swainsbury), an outsider in the medical profession who has been actively tracking the cholera cases. Snow’s research has led him to believe the main source of the outbreak is due to contaminated water. He proves through patient interviews women and children are more likely to die of cholera because they don’t drink alcohol.

While the outbreak is raging all around them, Charles and Nancy Francatelli are preparing for the opening day of their hotel. The Chartists have officially disbanded which means Abigail (Sabrina Bartlett) is free to help with preparations. She also begins to suffer from morning sickness and seeks out a tonic for relief. Sadly that tonic is made from the same water source that is killing other poverty stricken Londoners. As Snow is telling Victoria his progress, Brodie figures out the tonic is what made Nancy ill. Victoria insists on seeing Nancy, and takes Dr. Snow with her. They have a tearful reconciliation, and Victoria returns to the palace saddened that her friend will not survive. Charles has a nervous breakdown as he realizes his beloved Nancy is dead and all of their dreams as well.

The episode ends with Victoria opens Nancy’s letter and the realization she was wrong for how she treated her exit from the palace. The letter also recommends Abigail as a replacement dresser. Albert comes home from Cambridge and both of them realize they need each other for emotional strength. Their reunion will likely result in yet another royal youngster. Charles changes the name of his establishment to Nancy’s as he finds a way to deal with his overwhelming grief.

How did fans feel about saying goodbye to a favorite character? Let’s meet our Roundtable.

Valerie (@valderie) is a social media marketer and graduate student from New York City. She is currently pursuing her Masters degree in fan/celebrity studies, and has an intense love of history.

Andee (@andeesings): Host of Nerdeek’s Life Outlander Roundtables

Ginger (@ginjokat): Traveler, reader, period drama nerd – it all started with The Buccaneers.

Katherine (@Lady_madchan): Period Drama Lover, Poldark Superfan, and Travel Enthusiast

Shannon (@QSassgard): Cosplayer, Fanfic Author, Historic Seamstress found at

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.

1) Victoria shoved Mrs. Francatelli’s letter in her drawer. Do you believe Feodora had something to do with her harshness?

Valerie (@valderie): This whole Feodora plot is driving me mad, and honestly, I tune her out when she’s on the screen. I couldn’t tell you what she did this episode except loitered around scowling and whispering to Victoria and Albert separately. I’m sure Victoria would have shoved her letter in the draw regardless because she was pissed as hell that Nancy up and left her in the middle of a stressful period.

Andee (@andeesings): She’s terrible. But really I don’t think directly, but Victoria’s overall bad attitude just made Skerritt leaving kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Ginger (@ginjokat): No, Victoria is not without faults. She took Nancy’s marriage and resigning personally and behaved badly. It was selfish to throw the letter in the drawer.

Katherine (@Lady_madchan): No I think that’s Victoria.   She runs very hot and cold with those she is closest to.   We can see it with her relationship with Albert.

Shannon (@QSassgard): Feo and Albert are both to blame to my mind.

Both of them testing her and stressing poor Victoria out. Albert is just being his usual stubborn self; Feo, I think, is up to something. The “I’m so poor.” routine got old weeks ago. She’s trying to move in on Lezhen’s position in a way it feels like. She’s trying to make herself indispensable to her sister and thus ensure she have a place in court, and with Victoria as long as she likes. If she’s needed at court they won’t send her back to Germany and her seemingly awful husband.

Jan (@total_janarchy): Feodora definitely is feeding off the tension and misery. She’s been pouring poison in Victoria’s ear as well as Albert’s, so Victoria was cross with everyone and felt like everyone had abandoned her. Unfortunately poor Nancy got shoved into the ‘everyone’ category.  

2) Jenny Lind is a somewhat familiar face thanks to The Greatest Showman, were you surprised she would appear in this episode?

Valerie (@valderie): I was surprised because the timeline is off to place Jenny Lind there at that time. I’m pretty sure Lind was not living/touring in England at the same time as the cholera outbreak. But I love her, not because of the Greatest Showman (uck) but because she was one of the first public figures to have what we can consider a fandom! She had immensely loyal followers, who ate up every bit of merchandise they could, who would clip newspapers about her, and stand at the docks waiting for her ship to come into port just to get a glimpse. Everyone knows the term “Lisztomania” for Franz Liszt. His frenzy started in the early 1840s and was first, but Jenny was right behind him with “Lind Mania”. Modern fandom can find similar love, adoration, obsession, and collecting in Jenny Lind’s fans – and I love it. Nothing we are currently doing as fans is new, it’s all been done and has been done since the moment entertainment was commercialized (thanks P.T. Barnum!).

Andee (@andeesings): Actually I knew PT Barnum also brought Tom Thumb to a command performance at Buckingham Palace so I was surprised not to see the two of them! I loved the inclusion of the Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind. It was sort of a light moment to put in a REALLY heavy episode!

Ginger (@ginjokat): Not particularly.

Katherine (@Lady_madchan): A bit surprised.   But a nice touch anyways….

Shannon (@QSassgard): Let’s just say: I love Hugh Jackman but I cannot stand The Greatest Showman. I had to google her… oops.  

Jan (@total_janarchy): I suspected she’d show up at some point — Lind spent 2 years in London before she met PT Barnum and came to the US, and she was supposedly a favorite of the Royals, so it stood to reason that she’d make an appearance. (Is “recent pop culture” a reference to “The Greatest Showman”?)  In her later days she (and her husband) moved back to the UK where they both taught at the Royal Academy of Music.

3) Prince Albert indulges his academic side at Cambridge. Were you surprised by his appointment?

Valerie (@valderie): No, because I know the history. But also, like, come on – like they weren’t going to elect the prince out of fear of being accused of treason or something – hah! I liked seeing his remorse at the appointment, though.

Andee (@andeesings): He’s been a science nerd from the beginning and since basically everything in London is called the “Victoria & Albert” in some way I knew he was a great patron of the arts and sciences. Plus you knew that Lord Palmerston was going to vote for him it was too coincidental that he showed up.

Ginger (@ginjokat): Surprised no, interested not particularly. It is apparent Cambridge is not ready for Albert’s enlightenment.

Katherine (@Lady_madchan): Not really. I knew he was involved with supporting many public causes.   And with his lifelong interest in education and reform, this appointment seems like a natural fit for him.  I’m not at all surprised that he wanted to use his position for actual change rather than just keeping it to a ceremonial one.

Shannon (@QSassgard): Yes and no. It’s hardly the first time we’ve seen his interest in the academic- though the train was my favorite by far. He’s getting bored again and needs something to keep him busy. Maybe this appointment at Cambridge will keep the peace with Victoria for a little longer. Albert is simply put a man that needs a job.

Jan (@total_janarchy): A little bit. I knew he was an engineer and a musician and well educated, but I didn’t know he’d actually gotten involved with academia. I was also surprised that Palmerstone actually supported his plans.

4) This John Snow seems to know something. Did you know a lot about epidemiology and his place in history before tonight’s episode?

Valerie (@valderie): Yes. The Museum of London has a great exhibit on him, cholera and the water pump – I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in London and want to learn more about the Victorian era beyond just visiting the palaces.I did spend an awful lot of the episode yelling at the prime minister and whoever else because they haven’t developed germ theory yet and were stupid. Gee, our subjects are drinking water that is being collected and NOT TREATED directly from the Thames! Where everyone dumps their trash and sewage! And now people are sick???? Sounds fake, but okay. *eye roll at history* But yeah, I loved seeing this part of the story play out, watching John Snow color in his famous map of the outbreaks. I also had to laugh at the short moment at the end of the episode where they removed the water pump handle (making it unusable) because by then the disease was already dying out (but that wasn’t mentioned, of course).

Andee (@andeesings): It was pretty cool seeing him, I didn’t know anything about him before this. I did know that cholera was spread by contaminated water so watching him figure it out was interesting. I knew a bit about cholera from The Secret Garden and they always show people dying from it so nicely. But I guess showing people covered in poop wasn’t really an option. I liked learning about this John Snow though. He was only 45 when he died, too. Sad.

Ginger (@ginjokat): I do know some epidemiology but not aware of the physician. Even though I know how Cholera spreads I found his process interesting. I loved the scene with the Queen.

Katherine (@Lady_madchan): I didn’t know a lot about him personally…..   His speech made him immediately memorable. I guessed that he might figure out how Cholera was spread by marking down cases on a map.  A long time ago, I may or may not have learned about his Cholera map…..

Shannon (@QSassgard): I’d heard a bit in passing in a few history classes over the years, and in my own research but that was about it. You hear again and again in history classes “Oh they never drank water even little kids drank *insert insane amount of your choice of alcoholic beverage*.” right along side “People didn’t bathe.” People still take a safe water supply for granted in 2019- I say as someone who doesn’t have city water. I’m so far out in the middle of nowhere we have a well… in 2019. I will say more of what I knew about epidemiology- in the show’s time period- honestly came from things about Jack the Ripper which is still quite a few years off from the events of the show. Snow was a genius for his time. As I said in my live tweeting on Sunday night people act as if Germ Theory just popped up in the 19th century- specifically around the American Civil War- but really the idea had been around a LONG time. The British royals were vaccinating for Smallpox- the only one available at the time- as far back as the 1750s with the children of George III, It was largely unproven aside from anecdotal evidence but at the time it was all they had.

Jan (@total_janarchy): I know something about epidemiology and the history of science (I once took a course in historical psuedoscience and scientific discovery) but not Doctor Snow.  I am so glad Victoria listened to him.

5) On a scale to 1 to 10, how hard did you fangirl over Florence Nightingale and why?

Valerie (@valderie): I didn’t fangirl over her, but I was tickled to see Florence Nightingale appear. This was a great episode for historical figure guest characters.

Florence’s stint working in the London hospital with cholera patients was right before she left to work in the Crimean War. All of her work in these years led to her believing sanitary conditions were crucial to good health and this is partially why she is considered the founder of modern nursing. She was a super complicated figure (who was very privileged and kind of hated early feminism) but is a vastly important Victorian figure. Florence and Victoria will meet again, further down the road, because of the Crimean War.

(If you want to know more, a great book that features a short biography on Florence is Eminent Victorians by Lytton Strachey.)

Andee (@andeesings):  Florence Nightingale was awesome and I loved the look of the actress that played her. When you think about her taking care of the sick and dying with diseases that people barely knew anything about it really is inspiring. Doctors believed all those illnesses were carried by air and she dove in anyway and cared for them. That takes a really incredible person.

Ginger (@ginjokat): 10 – she is a famous woman in history and medicine it was interesting to see her portrayed and come to life.

Katherine (@Lady_madchan): Like 11!  I have to say that they worked that in so nicely.  It was such a short appearance (loved Athena the Owl) but definitely memorable.  I wasn’t expecting us to meet such a famous figure in quite that way. I definitely SQUEED in surprise when she said her name.

Shannon (@QSassgard): The Mercy Street fan/best friend of a nurse in me was freaking out! 12/10. Daisy is fantastic at throwing in those little pops of historical figures that may not be 100% true but the person fits in perfectly. I had an inkling she was special when the owl showed up but I didn’t expect it to be her for a second.

Jan (@total_janarchy): I was really surprised to see her there. I knew about her work in the Crimean War, but we’re not up to that. I probably fangirled her owl more — finding an owl (the symbol of Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom)) at the Parthenon (a temple dedicated to Athena IN her sacred city of Athens) is pretty auspicious!

6) Do you believe the Vicbert reunion at the end of the episode is a lasting one or will something else come between them again?

Valerie (@valderie): Boring scowl face older sister is still hiding in the palace so I’m sure someone will come between the two of them again, real soon. It was a nice moment where Albert comforted his grieving wife, and you were reminded of their humanity – that they are both just people and not royalty you see in textbooks or in statues.

Andee (@andeesings): One word: Feodora. She’s definitely going to come between them again there are so many episodes still! Maybe she’ll get into a compromising position with Albert and then sparks will fly.

Ginger (@ginjokat): This is marriage it’s not smooth sailing all the time, as long as they find their back to each other. I loved the notes back and forth. They are passionate in love, anger and annoyance.

Katherine (@Lady_madchan): I believe that something else will come between them.   I really didn’t think that they have worked their problems out.   They just put a bandaid on them.

Shannon (@QSassgard): As much as I ship Vicbert as much as I love Vicbert they’re always going to butt heads. When the times get really rough they do pull together and can do some amazing things but there will never be peace in paradise. Albert was raised as too much a man’s man. I don’t mean that in the sense of he’s a butch macho brute but he was raised to think a man ran the household. To an extent Victoria was as well but she’s the queen. She spent too many years at Kensington to give up the power she has to Albert just because he’s a man and her husband. Albert doesn’t want to admit that his wife sometimes has to put England above what she wants, above what he wants, and above their kids. Like it or not they have got to get rid of Feo or it’s just going to get worse.

Jan (@total_janarchy): Given they had 9 children in total and they’ve only had five? six? I am assuming it’ll be a lasting one. They’re still human beings so I wouldn’t think that they would never have any other falling outs in future, but they were pretty much devoted to one another up until Albert’s death (and then Victoria for the rest of her life) so yes.

7a) Did Daisy Goodwin go too far/jump the shark with killing off Nancy Francatelli?

Valerie (@valderie): No, to me it felt very predictable (and a little boring?)! The show is about Victoria, we can’t have supporting characters pulling the story away from her and the palace. Nancy leaving the palace obviously deeply affected Victoria, and in a way, her death was punishment for leaving. See what happens when you leave royalty? You get poisoned by water with sewage in it like 600 other ordinary subjects that no one cares about! Nancy’s death was also a perfect excuse to drag Victoria right into the action of the cholera outbreak and gives the audience another lens to it. Of course, Queen Victoria would be concerned by the outbreak that is virtually on her doorstep – but now, it’s personal.

Andee (@andeesings): Why kill off the best character in the show?! I’m completely shook. She provided a lot of the show’s warmth! Plus she was basically the person you rooted for the most. I’m so mad.

Ginger (@ginjokat): Jump the shark? no. I was shocked and did not see this coming. If in fact Nancy could no longer work for the Queen while married it would be difficult to pull off two storylines. The show is called Victoria after all, not Nancy. Would we have intrigue at the palace and goings on at the Hotel? Doubtful. The question is what becomes of Francatelli? Goodbye Nancy, goodbye Nell I will miss both of them. I am sure this move angered as many viewers as it saddened them.  

Katherine (@Lady_madchan): Right now I am so numb about this….   I don’t really know what I feel about it.  We don’t what the future holds? We don’t know if this is a prelude to the best drama of the whole series like Francis Poldark’s death or a shark jumping moment like Matthew Crawley’s death?  I suspect the later is more likely to be true and we’ve been painted into a corner. I will tell you that Nancy’s death moved me like no other in Victoria 😥😥😥

Shannon (@QSassgard): Yes yes yes! I had JUST gotten back on the good ship Skeritelli and then Nancy died. I admit I gave up when the wedding was in it’s will it/won’t it stage. My gut said something was wrong, that whole ep felt way too much like the first season of Downton Abbey when it ended and poor Cora stepped on the soap causing her miscarriage. Happiness cannot last that’s the first rule of shipping. Don’t get attached to anything because it will ruin you. What did we get out of all this? A half sunken ship. . . In hindsight we should have expected someone was going to die with all the illness around them. Charles and Nancy were simply the most venerable characters as they’re the only ones not living full time at Buckingham Palace anymore aside from the odd politician.

Jan (@total_janarchy): I wouldn’t say ‘jump the shark’ but it was a punch in the gut I don’t think the audience really needed. Nancy and Francatelli were our other ship and this just was more than many of us could take. But, it’s a British costume drama, and we need personal drama as well as the historical kind. Years ago, a friend of mine wrote a filk about UK shows called ‘Miserable Depressing Endings”. So…yeah.

7b) Who should have died instead and why?

Valerie (@valderie): The only other person who would make sense would have had to be Francatelli himself, since he was cooking on/near Broad Street near the water pump. He could have died, and Nancy could have returned to the palace – heartbroken but alive. Basically, as soon as the episode showed us this happy couple followed by a close-up of a water pump, if you knew anything about Victorian history you knew one or both of those characters were going to at the very least get sick, at the worst die from cholera.

Andee (@andeesings): Ok so I think everyone will say Penge because he’s a total dick. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say Francatelli. People also like him, but not as much as Skerritt so we’d all be sad but not ready to burn sh*t down. Also then Skerritt could go back the queen. Why didn’t Daisy hire me?

Ginger (@ginjokat): If a minor character died it would not have the same dramatic impact.

Katherine (@Lady_madchan): I can’t begin to tell you.  This Cholera outbreak was a big deal.   We felt it as keenly as we did because we suffered a major loss. If a minor character had died, it wouldn’t carry the same emotional impact.   Out of the existing cast of characters (who could be killed) I can’t think of anyone else’s death carrying as much emotional impact as Nancy’s.  

Shannon (@QSassgard): Feo, Palmerston, Sophie’s husband, that useless PM. . . Wellington. . . anyone. I’m a Wellington fangirl and I’d still be willing to have him take one for the team. I’m even wiling to put Joseph up on the chopping block to save poor Nancy. He’s cute and al but I didn’t have as much invested in Joseph/Sophie as I did Nancy/Charles. After Penge’s crack about foreigners he could go too. Alas that’s why we have fanfiction.

Jan (@total_janarchy): I personally would have been happy if Feo died of Cholera instead of Nancy. Or one of the clueless doctors and their miasma theories. Feo is just a huge pain and I’m tired of her stirring up things. The doctors were all ignoramuses — granted, that WAS “medicine” in the 1800s but still… ugh.

Final Verdict: The overall success or failure of Season 3 of Victoria depends on developing existing characters from this point on

The Roundtable is still reeling from the death of Nancy Francatelli (nee Skerrett). Our Roundtable is split between fans who are incensed over Nancy’s death and fans who are sad but realize Nell Hudson’s contract was up this season. She gave the audience a clear perspective into both the upstairs life of the palace and the servant’s quarters. Her relatability as a working class character helped fans to see Victoria had incredibly close friendships with her most trusted staff members. Nell Hudson is a clear scene stealer with the way she snowed Nancy coming to grips that her happiness in life was too short lived. Ferdinand Kingsley also deserves praise for showing the extent of Charles’ broken heart purely through body language.

Daisy Goodwin has shown last in the past with the Irish Potato Famine, she will use the servant characters as a way for a social crisis to “hit home” for Victoria. From a historical perspective it makes sense a character who wasn’t wealthy was exposed to cholera contaminated water. The Roundtable is split on how effective that method of storytelling this time around. When you compare this episode to the Famine one, the argument for having an established character die versus a situational character becomes more compelling. The argument for fans losing interest because of their emotional attachment to Skeretelli is also a strong one. In addition, Victoria before this episode was not known for being a show where favorite characters were bumped off without warning. Nancy’s death is major shift in tone for the show, and the second half the season will need to show quite a bit of character development to convince fans if this plot was worth it.

The historical guest stars were bright spots throughout this darker narrative. John Snow’s appearance was a huge shout out to the fans who study epidemiology today. Although Florence Nightingale didn’t meet Queen Victoria until the Crimean War 10 years later, the Roundtable still appreciated the episode bringing attention to her work with cholera patients. Some of our Roundtable members work in the medical field in real life and stressed the work of Snow and Nightingale continues to be relevant today. For the performing arts inclined Roundtable members, Jenny Lind’s appearance was their easter egg moment. was the historical shout out our musically inclined Roundtable members appreciated. We also thought it was important to see Jenny Lind without a word about P.T. Barnum because The Greatest Showman colors her story with too much American exceptionalism.

Despite the divisiveness of this episode, we are looking forward to see what the rest of the season has in store for character development. Victoria and Albert’s enduring love making a comeback has some potential for Feodora to finally be given the eviction notice. We are hopeful Abigail ends up working for Victoria because she has already proven herself to be a successful “every woman” character.

Victoria returns next Sunday 2/10 at 9PM EST/8PM CST on PBS.

We want to hear your opinions on Victoria this season!

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About The Author
Amanda-Rae Prescott
Amanda-Rae is a frequent period drama cosplayer live-tweeter. She contributes to Blacklanderz is the host of This Week in Mammoth Screen Dramas Fancast, a podcast devoted to following the production company behind Victoria. She is also the founder of the Poldark Costuming Project.
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