Autumn 1938: Britain maintains a fragile peace with Germany after the Munich Pact, but Hallam has his doubts that it will last.
Amid the tension, Agnes hosts an intimate dinner for American ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy, his wife, Rose, and their son Jack, who is on a gap year from Harvard to soak up the diplomatic excitement in Europe. Also attending are the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and a friend of the Kennedys: American businessman Caspar Landry, who made his millions in a hangover cure.
The Ambassador and Hallam spar over appeasement, while Jack absents himself from the table with an attack of colitis. In the kitchen, Mrs. Thackeray mothers the miserable future president, addressing him as “dear”—to the outrage of the punctilious Mr. Pritchard.
This proves to be the last straw for Mrs. Thackeray, who has just had a tiff with the butler over her right to make some macaroons from the kitchen larder for her relatives. She resigns on the spot and moves in with her stunned working-class nephew and his wife, who have a young son whom the cook adores. In the days ahead, she cooks them a bewildering variety of gourmet meals, when all they want is corned beef and a thrifty food bill.
Back at the dinner party, the night owls adjourn to a Soho jazz club, where Jack dances with beautiful young strangers, Caspar flirts with Agnes, and Hallam and Kent (the king’s youngest brother) swill gin and discuss Ambassador Kennedy’s proposal that Hallam and Agnes move to America, where Hallam will be Kennedy’s personal foreign policy advisor.
It’s a tempting offer, but that night Hallam receives a frantic call from Persie in Munich. It is Kristallnacht, the orchestrated attack on Jews throughout Germany, which announces to the world that the Nazis care nothing for civilized standards. Hallam is determined to get Persie out of Germany, and he also resolves to stand by England in the war he knows is coming. Therefore, he decides to decline Kennedy’s proposal.
The next day, Hallam sends Mr. Amanjit to the school attended by Lotte, who has been Hallam’s ward since her Jewish-refugee mother died last season. In a meeting with the headmistress, Mr. Amanjit learns of the urgent need to get Jewish children out of Germany. Hallam works on persuading the government to take action, while Agnes helps with fundraising, deftly scoring a large contribution from Landry, who is himself Jewish. Mr. Amanjit and Blanche pitch in with the planning for what becomes the Refugee Children Movement, also known as the Kindertransport, which manages to save thousands of young Jews from the Nazis.
Also rescued is Persie, who returns to England on a diplomatic flight arranged by Hallam. She steps off the plane as cruelly flirtatious and manipulative as ever, hinting at trouble ahead.
The final rescue involves the cook crisis at 165 Eaton Place. Ever since Mrs. Thackeray’s sudden resignation, the meals have not been up to Mr. Pritchard’s exacting standards, and he begs her to return. Which she does—much to the relief of her cuisine-shocked nephew and his wife.