Who was the real Robert Traill? Get the scoop on the true history behind Victoria Season 2 Episode 4, and see images from the era of Her Majesty’s reign.
In Episode 4, Victoria’s awareness of the famine in Ireland was sparked by the writings of Irish rector Robert Traill.
Historically, as the famine of 1845-1921 devastated Ireland, real-life rector Robert Traill led efforts to fundraise and feed the hungry.
Traill is also the ancestor of Victoria writer Daisy Goodwin! Read more in MASTERPIECE’s Fact or Fiction: Inside Episode 4.
Episode 4 depicted friction between Victoria and her government due to Britain’s “Corn Laws,” which some of her members cited as the reason Britain could not increase the famine relief efforts.
The Corn Laws were a system of importation restrictions in place during the time of the famine in Ireland. They were designed to favor domestic grain farmers by heavily taxing imported grain–even during times when food production was inhibited.
In Episode 4, Prince Albert overhauled Buckingham Palace operations, beginning with the sewers.
It’s hard to imagine, but the reality was even more grotesque. Before Prince Albert’s renovations, the sewer waters would regularly flood the kitchen and release an odor through the entire palace. Albert’s modifications to the sewer, lighting, and heating systems greatly improved quality of life for all inhabitants.
Mercury as Medicine
In Episode 4, Albert’s brother Ernest began a series of treatments using mercury.
Mercury was regularly used in 19th-Century medicine, especially for the treatment of syphilis. Patients were treated using mercury as an elixir or in an ointment, often while enclosed in a metal chamber.