In the monarchy, some days are less glamorous than others. And last night’s episode of The Royals followed England’s most scandalous rulers through one of their most challenging times to date. Season 2, Episode 8 of the E! series started with Liam candidly speaking about his family while fireside, only to pan to King Cyrus bursting into Queen Helena’s room and holding the Great Sword of State to her throat. Demanding to know what she did with his missing girlfriend, Violet, Cyrus is quickly subdued when the queen’s mother, the Grand Duchess Alexandra of Oxford, breaks an antique vase over his head.
That’s when the episode cuts to Cyrus speaking with the palace’s head of security, Ted Pryce, about Violet’s whereabouts later on in the day. He flashes back to the events that led up to his attack on the queen, and we see him binging on drugs and alcohol before Helena stops by his room for a chat. After Cyrus realizes that Helena found out he was planning to propose to Violet, Cyrus believes that she’s responsible for his girlfriend’s disappearance. Because that would effectively take the throne away from Helena, and as she’s proved before, she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her queenly title.
Meanwhile, Liam is trying to find out what happened to Dominique Stewart, the former love of King Simon whose death is at the center of the Domino conspiracy. He tells Eleanor that they need to “find out if mom’s an assassin” once and for all. But after spending quality time with the queen in last week’s episode, Eleanor wants to give their mom the benefit of the doubt. She shows Helena an old photo from the day that Dominique died, and asks if she knows her. That’s when Helena pretends not to know who Dominique is, which sets Eleanor off in a major way.
“The b— did it,” she tells Liam. The twins then confront their “murderous mother,” demanding that she admits to poisoning the horse from which Dominique was thrown. But as the queen adamantly denies any role in her former rival’s death, her mother appears. “I did it,” the Grand Duchess says. “And you two spoiled brats should thank me for it,” she tells Liam and Eleanor. The Grand Duchess—wearing a studded Balmain jacket that the show’s costume designer Rachel Walsh tells InStyle harks “back to Joan Collins’s Dynasty vibe of power dressing”—has no remorse for what she did 30 years ago. But Helena certainly does.
The queen apologizes to her children for having to learn the truth about their grandmother now that they know what she did to their father’s first true love. The facts hit Eleanor particularly hard, and she struggles with the realization that she’s loved her grandmother and hated her mother for as long as she can remember. She feels bribed by the Grand Duchess’s diamonds—including the stolen earrings that Jasper just returned to her (and which she subsequently gives to her mother later on in the episode).
As Liam and Eleanor are coping with the shocking revelations about their grandma, Cyrus hears the tragic news he’s been dreading. Pryce tells him that Violet’s car has been found abandoned, and while there’s no sign of her, there was blood inside the vehicle. “They always take the good ones,” an emotional Cyrus says.
While he’s mourning the apparent death of his girlfriend, Eleanor learns more about her new bodyguard, Agent James Hill. She’s been trying to guess his backstory all season, and she finally gets it right. The princess learns that Hill’s brother died years ago, leaving behind his daughter. Hill raised the girl as his own, and when King Simon was killed, she turned to him and said, “You should help them daddy—they look said.” So he took her advice, and that’s how he ended up at the palace.
The Grand Duchess, however, is being kicked out of the palace. Queen Helena tells her mother that she’s stripping her of her title and taking away her staff. The Grand Duchess protests, but Helena warns that it’s either that or wearing orange in prison for the rest of her life. “Orange, Mother—with no accessories,” she says. Appalled, the Grand Duchess is then interrupted when Cyrus appears and accuses her of poisoning Violet to keep her from becoming queen. But it turns out that Violet wasn’t about to take the throne anytime soon. Cyrus steps aside to reveal Prudence, the former maid who’s pregnant with his baby, standing in the doorway. “The engagement ring is for the mother of my son, the heir to the throne,” he says to the Grand Duchess. “Congratulations—you killed the wrong maid, b—.”
Even though Cyrus may have plans for his son to take the throne one day, the people of England have other plans. Liam invites Dominique’s niece to the palace so she can see the life that could have been hers, had things turned out differently 30 years ago. The two sit down by the fire to have a more serious conversation, which turns out to be the chat we started to hear at the episode’s start. As Dominique’s niece records him on her phone, Liam speaks directly in the camera to address the people of England, expressing his sadness over his family’s ups and downs. But when it comes to the fate of the monarchy, he still maintains a positive outlook—and he even believes that it can someday become inspiring once again.
As soon as Liam’s video goes live, Eleanor proudly watches her brother appeal to the nation online—and she’s not the only one who’s impacted by his words. The first comment left under the video says it all: #KingLiam. And that means Cyrus had better watch the throne.
The Royals airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on E!