Thoughts on Versailles, Episode Nine



Le Roi saunters and shortly after find himself in a meeting with his Ministers. Rohan doesn’t like what he hears, considering the hoodlum and a possible spilling of beans. Said hoodlum is questioned by Fabien and more or less spills the beans, or at least a certain involvement of Holland in the plot against our sunny King.
Minette reaches the English coast and how very gloomy does it look there compared to France? A bit like a different century with a major lack of Sun. She does not receive quite the welcome she had hoped for, while the historical Minette received quite the welcome party.

She left France on May 24 1670, in company of a mere 230 people, after she felt suddenly homesick, just like Louis had planned it, when seeing English ships in the harbor of Dunkirk. Madame reached England two days later and was greeted by her brother, Charles II, who then let her to shore and a party marathon. The actual signing of the treaty was quite incidental, all terms had been worked out already and agreed on. As Madame left for England, she was of a quite fragile health and her nutrition basically just consisted of a few cups of milk a day along with some broth. She was described as rather pale and thin, for her not actually something too unusual, since she had always been of delicate health, yet it was remarked that she looked especially pale, but Madame somewhat recovered during her time in England and with her brother.

Our Minette here negotiates valiantly, aided by Louis advice on how to deal with the matter, but as we already said the part of the historical in the treaty more or less just consisted of bringing the previously agreed on terms to England, which were the following: “The King of England will make a public profession of the Catholic faith, and will receive the sum of two millions of crowns, to aid him in this project, from the Most Christian King, in the course of the next six months. The date of this declaration is left absolutely to his own pleasure. The King of France will faithfully observe the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, as regards Spain, and the King of England will maintain the Treaty of the Triple Alliance in a similar manner. If new rights to the Spanish monarchy revert to the King of France, the King of England will aid him in maintaining these rights. The two Kings will declare war against the United Provinces. The King of France will attack them by land, and will receive the help of 6000 men from England. The King of England will send 50 men-of-war to sea, and the King of France 30; the combined fleets will be under the Duke of York’s command. His Britannic Majesty will be content to receive Walcheren, the mouth of the Scheldt, and the isle of Cadzand, as his share of the conquered provinces. Separate articles will provide for the interests of the Prince of Orange. The Treaty of Commerce, which has already begun, shall be concluded as promptly as possible.”

In the meanwhile in sunny France, Rohan saunters casually into the musketeer guarded cell of our hoodlum as Fabien is ordered to go to the King at once. The guards are killed, rather skillfully, and the hoodlum set free with new instructions. Louis and Fabien discover it at once and the King is, of course, not impressed.
After setting the prisoner free, Rohan, just as casually, plays a game of cards with Louis. We see Beatrice there as well and so does Fabien, who uses the chance to break into the chambers of the self-styled Madame de Clermont and finds, after a bit of rummaging, a vial hidden in a secret pocket of a gown. The very vial that he and her drank from. He takes it thus to Claudine, and yes, it is poison.

Poison was a big thing in the 17th Century, a thing of that everyone in a position of power was quite paranoid of. People suspected poison everywhere, especially when someone died in a way that was considered to be too sudden, or without long-lasting visible malady beforehand, and poison was a thing that could be quite easily acquired. The usually suspected initiators of death by poison, were of course females, along with homosexuals. Why homosexuals? People who were gay, a crime, were also thought capable of committing other crimes. They were associated with being weak of mind and body, and thus, since they already sinned, likely to commit every other sin as well.
Love potions were quite a thing as well and common in all classes. They were bought, by prominent ladies, to prolong the abilities of their lovers, or to ensure they would remain in love with them. In contrary to poisons, less harmful, but with mostly quite disgusting ingredients.

The scene brings us to Les Philippes, the devouring of yummy macarons, and etiquette. As I already mentioned, court etiquette is one of my favourite things ever. It is so lovely easy in its difficulty, and was one of Louis major weapons to keep his court under control. Monsieur seems not too impressed by the idea and while the historical Monsieur actually did not come up with the rules of etiquette, he was still a big fan of it. Etiquette, by itself, has always been around at court and it consisted of general rules of behavior. What Louis did, was to bring it into a more precise form and to turn it into an art and way for him to control how everyone acted and what everyone did.
There is a anecdote about why etiquette, in its French form pretty much translating to sign, is called etiquette. Apparently little signs were put on the grass and paths of the gardens of Versailles, with instructions such as “Don’t step on the grass.” or “Don’t throw your trash around.” or “The bushes are no toilets.” during a garden party, to subtly remind people of right way of behaviour. Louis basically took some basic rules and turned them into a art, where everyone exactly knew his place. Each rank came with certain privileges, to distinguish it from lower and higher ranks, and Louis managed to fill peoples heads with so many rules, they hardly had time to think of plotting. These rules go from how to address someone, a art by itself, to where to sit, how sit, when to talk and when not, to whether one only needs to bow one’s head or must execute a proper bow, when to take your hat of or gloves, how to walk, how to dance, and even to how to look.
When one is busy to remember and follow all these rules, one of course has little time to plot, at least against the King, but there is time to argue with others about them. Peers of France went into private wars with others on the question of whether their wife is allowed to sit in presence of the Queen or not. People fought over things that seem quite ridiculous to us, but were of utmost importance for them and their whole family, because who one was at court was pretty much who one was in the eyes of everyone else. How did Louis manage to get everyone to follow these rules? He followed them himself and swiftly made everyone aware that disobedience in these matters would be their own downfall. He worked out a rather strict schedule for himself that he followed and Saint Simon once said, even if one was miles away from King and court, one still exactly knew what the King was doing, and thus what pretty much everyone else was doing, simply by knowing what hour and day it is.
For Monsieur etiquette had its own merits. Since it put everyone in their place, it did the same with him, and his place was pretty much above most. It made him in the eyes of court someone of importance, even if Louis refused to give him any, and so Monsieur turned out to be the person at court that constantly reminded people to follow etiquette.

As Fabien seeks Louis’ allowance to deal with Beatrice as he sees fit, their conversation moves to William of Orange, who we see in the next scene in England with Charles II. We see him proposing a marriage pact. What is Charles up to? The little girl, Mary, and proposed bride is his niece and daughter of Charles’ brother James and his wife Anne Hyde, and one day she will be Queen of England.

Louis already makes plans for his next war as Minette returns. Isn’t this scene a bit fairytale? The gallant King, ignoring all rules, hurries to meet the princess, only problem with that is the fact that the princess is the wife of his brother, but as we know that didn’t bother Louis too much most of the time. Sophie returns with her and finds her mother searching for a vial shaped brooch, in vain.

I find it very awesome how Louis reads the actual historical treaty terms in the next scene, and a part of me wishes this would have been the case as well as he returned the Chevalier to Monsieur. What he said in this very situation was written down by a Lady of the court and it would have been fantastic if they would have included a bit of it.

Also, Bontemps and Claudine. “If the King says you are a man, you are a man.”. One little sentence with so much hidden meaning.

Back to Minette in bed and her talking with Sophie about her first masquerade. Without a doubt, the stranger in the Apollo mask was a certain sunny King, and without a doubt what she drinks there is…… if one is familiar with her story, it is hard not to notice what the writers hint there.

Louis is awoken, not by a beautiful female as he might have preferred, but by his brother, who gives us a nice explanation of what is known as the Grand Lever, the great awakening of the King. Once again, this was not a new invention of Louis and had been around for quite a while already, but Louis gave it a whole new meaning and purpose. They were two kinds of the lever, the petit and the grand. The grand was something for most of the court to witness, while only a selected few were present at the petit. The whole thing was strictly sorted by rank and only those of the highest rank were allowed to assist the King while dressing. The rest had to watch and envy them, and they did. Lots. In the evening the court witnessed the same spectacle in the form of the coucher, when Louis went to bed. Funnily enough, he mostly did not. The coucher was sort of official going to bed for the eyes of the court, but Louis mostly got straight back up and worked on matters of state for a few more hours, or visited the female of his choice. Just as he got up again after the coucher, he sometimes already went to hunt before the lever. More about it here.

Beatrice, lured to believe she is safe by Fabien with help of some sweet words, leaves her chambers to meet with him… and her end, but Fabien does not bring an end to it himself, Jacques does. Is our smart gardener actually one of Fabien’s helpers? Once the deed is done Fabien commands Sophie to leave Versailles, while Louis talks with his son. In contrary to our Louis here, the actual Louis had not much interest in preparing his son for becoming King. Louis tells Rohan the Dauphin will be staying at Versailles for a bit, Rohan thus alters his plans of capturing the King himself, to capturing the Dauphin.

We close this Episode with a splendid masked ball to celebrate Madame’s glorious deeds and see Sophie there. She approaches Fabien and suddenly she seems so very less naive than during all previous Episodes. The King and his brother wear the same outfit. The Chevalier a mask with horns, like the little devil he is. Minette enters…. and collapses. More about that in the next Episode and Grand Final of Season One.

Merci beaucoup.

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