Sophia Trenchard attends the legendary ball hosted by the Duchess of Richmond on the eve of the Battle of Quatre Bras in the opening hour of Belgravia.
From the executive producer of Downton Abbey comes a new historical period drama based on the novel Belgravia written by Julian Fellowes. Fellowes was also the creator of Downton Abbey and served as a writer and executive producer on the award-winning series.
Before diving into the recap, I recommend perusing through this comprehensive character guide published by Radio Times. We are introduced to a lot of characters in this episode, and I found reading this piece helped me get everyone straight before diving into the hour.
Belgravia opens in the bustling and vibrant city of 1815 Brussels. Unbeknownst to the city’s inhabitants, their day will soon turn to the eve of the Battle of Quatre Bras — set just two days before the infamous Battle of Waterloo, setting into motion a chain of events that will resonate for years to come.
Sophia Trenchard excitedly tracks down her father, James Trenchard, in the middle of a tense conversation with Captain Cooper. She gives him an invitation to the famed ball hosted by the Duchess of Richmond, organized in honor of the Duke of Wellington. They have a mild argument about whether Sophia’s mother will attend and what they might wear to the extravagant evening.
Sophia’s mother, Anne Trenchard, is less enthused about the ball than her husband and daughter. Where they see an opportunity, she only sees the potential for disappointment. Despite Sophia catching the eye of Lord Edmund Bellasis, the son of one of England’s wealthiest families, Anne does not believe their courtship could ever evolve into a marriage due to their differing economic class.
Anne believes that James has worked hard for them to live comfortably, but that Sophia should keep her expectations in check. She doesn’t want to be embarrassed.
The Trenchards are a family happily profiting on James’ trading success, but they’re nowhere near the league of the Brockenhurst family. James has earned the nickname of “The Magician,” as he is the Duke of Wellington’s leading supplier.
At the ball, the Trenchards’ appearance mortifies Edmund’s aunt, the Duchess of Richmond, Charlotte. She isn’t overly pleased to have a lowly “merchant supplier” at her famous ball.
Enter the Duke of Wellington, a suave older man who doesn’t appear to mind that The Magician is present. However, his army commander, William Ponsonby, isn’t as happy to see James.
Shortly after, Anne tries to intervene in a cozy conversation had by Sophia and Edmund. She doesn’t want Sophia’s “reputation” to get damaged if people are to see her cozying up to the lord like a desperate hanger-on. Edmund, however, doesn’t indulge her and lets her know that he is “exactly” where he wants to be.
Just as everyone is sitting down to dinner, a soldier rushes in to announce that trouble is afoot. Bonaparte has pushed up the road toward Brussels. Arthur (The Duke of Wellington) is preparing his men to concentrate at Quatre Bras. Arthur requests the assistance of James to ensure all the supplies are ready.
Anne finds Sophia, and they leave together while James aids the soldiers. Sophia and Edmund share a tearful farewell as he prepares to fight in the battle. He promises that he will return, and they will be happy together. However, upon their exit, Sophia is overcome with emotion at something she sees, we don’t find out what until later.
At home, Sophia, her younger brother Oliver, and Anne wait for the battle to end. The sounds of cannon fire are heard in the distance. Despite their disagreements, Anne and Sophia keep each other comfort in the darkness.
Not long after, James returns with bad news. While Bonaparte has retreated, not everyone made it out alive, including Edmund. Sophia is obviously devastated by the news.