Bonjour! Here we go again. It is time for Versailles season 3, which will be, in case you don’t know it already, the last season. On what kind of roller coaster ride will we go this time? Who knows. What we know is that one of this season’s topics will be the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask…
… and to be honest this put me, and others, a bit off as soon as we heard of it. Why? Because it has been done again and again. And, as with a lot of other things, there is plenty else that has not been done yet and could have been done. Also, to be very honest with you, I fear that they might go down with the twin brother route. Aka Philippe will discover a Louis twin in a mask and will have to decide which brother he likes more.
Unlike before airing the last 2 seasons, they gave us a lot of info regarding story lines before this one. Spoiler: Next to the Man in the Iron Mask, we will also see the people of France in a state of unhappiness about new taxes, the Holy Roman Emperor will visit and get involved with the Queen, Maintenon will play a big role and Liselotte won’t be happy about it.
I beg your humble pardon for getting ranty at times in my reviews, from what I heard so far, I know that I will rant a bit…. here and there. And I will feel awful for doing it. You can not imagine how awful I felt for ranting so much during the season two reviews.
As always, feel free to agree or disagree with me and feel free to let me know what you think. I am very aware that Versailles is not a documentary but a tv show, yet the very essence of these reviews is, and always has been, to compare said tv show with what happened history-wise. Thus spare me the “this is not a documentary” ado. I know. And now you know that I know. I am not getting paid for writing these and each takes me several hours, I do it because I know that there are a handful of people who like to read me writing about it. Some even like the ranting, imagine that. If I get ranty, be aware that I have no problem with cast, crew and all the other amazing people working on Versailles. I love those folks and all the hard work they did.
My reviews, as mentioned, will compare show to history. If you fancy to learn about scene setting and such things, check out julesharper.com for reviews more focused on that. (While I am at it, Jules and I wrote a book and that happens to be about Louis XIV. If you look to your right to that sidebar thingy, you will see a couple of links where it can be bought.)
Also as always, this will definitely contain some sort of spoiler. If you do not want to get spoiled by my silly writings, read no further.
Enough general ado, lets jump back in time to the glorious court of the glorious Sun King, shall we?
The first scene of this brand new season takes us into a dark and creepy forest. It is night-time and a rider clad in a cloak races through it. The rider is Bontemps and as we watch him in this dangerous environment, he tells us that some secrets should better remain secrets. I think it is no secret what he means with that. The scene switches and we are in something that looks very much like the Bastille. Monsieur Bontemps enters a cell, in which a man is seated at a desk. The lace on his shirt is rather white, thus it can not be a common gentleman, his hair is nicely combed…. and looks oddly like that of le Roi… his hygiene has definitely not been neglected as one would expect it in such surroundings, thus said gentleman must be of some importance. He does not say a word and we can see that he wears a mask of iron on his face. You can see a hint of a well-shaped mouth and blue eyes. This does confirm what I thought as I heard of the Iron Mask topic for the first time. Although I am not yet sure if twin or mere lookalike. I guess we will find out and I will definitely tell you more about the legend behind that story as we proceed.
After the intro, we are at Versailles. A lot happened there building-wise. We are on the garden side and you can see that what once was a terrace, has been turned into the Galerie des Glaces by now. There is no scaffolding to been seen anywhere, just promenading courtiers and sunshine. (They virtually removed the church, or rather its ceiling, because that is not yet build at that time. Utterly nice shot.) We move from the back of the chateau to the front and see Louis and Marie-Thérèse at the height of the cour de Marbre as a group of soldiers, Monsieur among them, approach the chateau. Monsieur has made a friend. We see him ride next to a soldier who says it is good to be back home. Philippe is not that sure the statement applies to him. It appears the Franco-Dutch War is over… I hoped we would see the infamous Battle of Cassel in which Monsieur kicked the bum of William of Orange, but alas. Monsieur approaches and is followed by a red and golden carriage. I try to see what is on the coat of arms the golden carriage features, but I can not quite make it out. It looks like fleur-de-lis. Out hop two gentlemen and a young Mademoiselle. One of the gentlemen is introduced to us as Leopold I, the Holy Roman Emperor, as he kisses the hand of Louis. The latter welcomes him after accepting congratulations regarding his victory. I will have to say something about that later on.
Leopold turns to Marie-Thérèse and a few words about Marie-Thérèse’s sister follow. Leopold married Margaret Theresa of Spain, half-sister of Marie-Thérèse, in 1666. (The girl in the famous Las Meninas painting by Diego Velázquez) She died in 1673, twenty-one years old. Margaret Theresa was both niece and first-cousin to Leopold, her mother Mariana of Austria was the sister of Leopold. It looks like they make it out as if he is somewhat freshly widowed, but since we appear to be around the time of the Treaties of Nijmegen, 1678-1679, he is actually on his third wife already. After the death of his first wife in March 1673, he married Claudia Felicitas of Austria in October 1673 and she died in April 1676. Then he married Eleonor Magdalene of Neuburg in December 1676. Busy man. (The Emperor looks a lot more handsome in the show than he actually was. I insert a picture for you.)
I wonder if the recent Visitors to Versailles exhibition at the chateau made them come up with the idea of having Leopold visit. As you might guess, Versailles had a lot of visitors, but Leopold was not one of them. (Maybe it is also Marie-Antoinette inspired?)
The King greets his brother after greeting the Emperor and says he got a surprise for everyone. YAY! We enter the chateau with King, Emperor and court, stride up the Queen’s Staircase and into the Oeil-de-Bœuf Salon. (…which did not look like that yet. It used to be 2 small rooms, which belonged to the Queen’s Apartment, then served as Louis’ bedroom between 1684 and 1701, after which it became known as the Oeil-de-Bœuf Salon and served as second antichambre to the King’s bedroom. Only a small side detail. They filmed it at Versailles and one can hardly expect them, or anyone else, to be that accurate. You can see Nocret’s family painting in the background and if you were to look left, there is one of Monsieur. The look of that room is still the same as it was in 1701, which is bloody amazing. More about the King’s apartment here.) Louis tells us that Versailles needed an especially sparkling gem and he built just that.
He swings a set of doors open and we stand in the magnificent Galerie des Glaces. No complaining here, but allow me to say that this shows perfectly how messed up the timeline of the show is. The construction of the Hall of Mirrors started in 1678 and was not finished until 1684, the Franco-Dutch War ended in 1678. Everyone is in awe of what they see, I find the scene very nice… but as far not as impressing as I thought our first glance at the Galerie des Glaces would be.
From the golden Versailles, to the streets of Paris. You can see the back of Notre-Dame, which means we are somewhere close to the Île Saint-Louis area. Monsieur’s soldier friend appears and enters a workshop, it looks like a tannery/shoemaker and he appears to be the owner. Along with his sister, Jeanne. The soldier is called Guillaume and warmly greeted. One of the employees turns to a other and murmurs “That him?”, appears Guillaume wasn’t home for a very long time.
Back to Versailles, where the Chevalier de Lorraine commands servants about. It appears he has become Louis’ maître de plaisir or something like that. The prepared flowers in a big golden vase (Gosh, they look glorious… can I has them?) are lacking vigour, he says, as Monsieur appears at the door. The Chevalier looks a bit surprised to see him, then happy, Monsieur keeps his gaze down… and swallows. He looks absolutely not happy with himself and I am honestly fed up with the writers making him grumpy and almost depressed. Nor am I impressed with the Chevalier acting maître de plaisir. I actually find it ridiculous. The Chevalier asks if Monsieur has missed him and Monsieur replies he was otherwise occupied and that war has kept him busy…. are they doing that on purpose? I bet they do. I bet that from the moment on they realised how much fans this couple has, they made it their mission to create unnecessary drama between them, see the season 2 nonsense, in order to replace happy fan moments with pointless drama in some sort of Game of Thrones move… just that it does not work in my opinion. I’m bored of it. So, we see no embracing or anything like that. The Chevalier returns that he has been quite busy himself in an attempt to hide that he missed Philippe, Philippe makes a comment on the maître de plaisir acting, the Chevalier ignores it and says Philippe must tell him about the battles, but first there is something he needs to see. Philippe does not really look like he cares. More like a “Ah, well. If I must, I guess I must.”
The scene switches, we see Monsieur with a baby in his arms, he holds it awkwardly, while Liselotte introduces said baby as Baby Philippe, the Chevalier all doting next to her. Baby Philippe was the second son of Monsieur and Liselotte. The first, born in 1673, received the name Alexandre-Louis and died not yet aged three. Baby Philippe was born in 1674, so he is actually not that much of a baby anymore where we are time-wise right now. Monsieur doesn’t really know what to do with Baby Philippe, and I feel the need again to point out that he actually was a fabulous papa and that I have no idea why he appears so very untouched by it all. Seriously, he does not even smile once. The Chevalier takes the baby out of Monsieur’s arms and gives him a lesson how to hold babies correctly, let me remind you that Monsieur is a father of several kids by now. Liselotte, looking all the proud mama, takes Baby Philippe away for some noms. The Chevalier approaches Monsieur, clearly hoping for some gesture of affection…. Monsieur does not move, he looks as if he is not happy with himself (nothing new there), he looks like he sort of wants to run away.
Bontemps enters and Monsieur believes it is because his presence is required, but non, the Chevalier is needed. He leaves, Monsieur remains back. Looking even more lost. I get that this is supposed to make me think that Monsieur, returned from war, finds himself in a position with nothing to do. He still has to cope with what he has done and seen during the war. He is in a place, Versailles, that he does not really see as his home. Everyone seems to have moved on and he is somewhat stuck. I get all of that, but I’m utterly meh about it. (And now I question again whether I should hit the publish button on this later on. I had that feeling very often during the last season.)
On we go. We are in bedchamber of the Emperor, he is getting dressed for the planned festivity, and it turns out that the Mademoiselle in his company is his niece. She can not wait to party and he tells her to calm. I don’t really know who she is supposed to be, but I guess we will find out. Meanwhile, Louis is getting ready too. Maintenon adjusts his cravat and tells him his destiny is there for the taking.
It is party time in the next scene. There is a large table with peacocks on it, impressing, and courtiers around it. It is not hard to spot that we, again, have some issues regarding chairs… what I also spot are golden forks. While they have the proper shape for a 17th century fork, their presence does irritate me… but I guess it is easier to have them there than to somehow explain why the King is eating with a spoon. Truth is, Louis was not a fan of forks and they were forbidden at table in his presence. At least the knives have round tips. My mentioning that might sound petty, but it’s the little things that can make or ruin a show…. and I guess if you read the previous seasons reviews, you are used to me pointing that kind of stuff out.
Louis is pleased with himself and an equally pleased Chevalier wanders about, Monsieur says it is good to be home, but it does not look like he means it. Glances are exchanged between King and Maintenon, Monsieur asks Liselotte “So, is he sleeping with the ice Queen or not?”. Liselotte is not sure, but says they are very close and the Chevalier adds that some women are not made for sex, or so he heard. The setting looks very nice and I want more of it. Le Roi rises to welcome the Emperor as a new friend of France and hopes they can come up with a deal good for both of them. Leopold looks as if he doubts that. Colbert murmurs to Louvois that in such a setting it is hard to believe that France is actually broke. Madame de Montespan appears at the doors, less regal dressed than we know her, and spies inside, while Louis thanks God and his brother. A slightly embarrassed looking Philippe rises and is applauded as la Montespan attempts to enter the room and is prevented from doing so by two guards.
Maintenon has spotted just that and leaves the room to go after her. She casually states it must be hard not to be invited and la Montespan returns that she is fine. A exchange of words follows about how Montespan hardly sees Maintenon at the King’s side, to which she replies that she knows where her place is… and that she is not a common whore. Burn.
The party continues and we move to Queen and Emperor, for some reason the latter calls the first Highness… but we are used nobody being addressed as they should be and you know that I’m slightly obsessed with correct addressing. *cough* Imperial Majesty *cough* Leopold tells the Queen that she is still beautiful, implying that they have met before, and how he would enjoy to spend time with her. She does not think that would be wise. He kind of looks like that has just given him ideas.
In the meanwhile, la Montespan enters a bedchamber and approaches a maid. She ask if it is true that the maid has worked at the chateau de Villarceaux, that name rings a bell, in the past and the maid confirms it. Montespan thus asks if the maid remembers anything about the time Madame de Maintenon has stayed there and hands her a pretty bracelet…
The scene switches to a morose Monsieur, alone in the salon that hosted the fete. He is joined by his royal brother and told that Monsieur’s victory has given his brother much honour. Philippe reminds his brother that he should thank the soldiers instead. Louis offers Philippe a place in his council…. Philippe says that is against protocol… Louis says he makes the rules…. which is right… I have feelings. There is no protocol that forbids the King’s brother to be part of the council, Louis simply excluded Philippe from it. The historical Monsieur was never part of the council, nor did Louis allow him to do anything political. I also have feelings that show Monsieur, who was so very after signs of affection from his brother, is so very unmoved by that as well. It appears Louis thinks the same.
It is nighttime and Bontemps wakes on his made-shift bed on the floor before the royal bed to find the royal bed empty. He finds his King, dressed in morning gown, in a salon. Louis plays with a golden coin/medallion in his hands, I can only see that some face is on it, but not what face. Might be his own. Bontemps tells him that the war is won and Louis can rest, Louis returns that he is not done yet. He wants Bontemps to summon the council at once.
The sleepy Ministers and Fabien appear. Louis lets them know that it is time to start on the next chapter. He invites them to sit, hands them wine, and says that they must focus on securing their borders and improve their overseas colonies now. Fortresses must be build and a fleet as well. Colbert says that all of that could be done, if Louis would demand compensation money from the Emperor in the upcoming treaty talk. Nup, says Louis, war is not about money. Louvois points out that France does not have the money for such plans. That’s why we have taxes, says Louis, and is reminded that the people pay a lot of taxes already and are not too happy about it. Most can not even pay the current taxes and could impossibly pay more. Louis sighs, Bontemps says Paris is full of sick people, Louis has an idea. He will provide Paris with fresh drinking water and light the streets, that should make the people happy.
The scene changes to Guillaume on horseback. (That places looks very familiar, but I can not tell you were it is atm.) He meets Monsieur, who is for once actually happy, and they embrace. After a short chat, Monsieur leads Guillaume away and we see them again in the King’s bedchamber, where Monsieur tells his brother all about Guillaume’s bravery in war and how Guillaume saved his life. The King offers Guillaume a reward for his service, but Guillaume says he needs no reward. Louis makes Guillaume the exclusive shoe provider of the court. Mission successful.
Emperor and niece encounter Louis in the garden. Niece loves Versailles, Leopold not so much. Leopold and Louis have an exchange about the war and Protestants. Louis asks how Leopold, a Catholic, could team up with the Protestant William of Orange. Leopold returns that Louis got quite a few Protestants at his court. We all are French here, says the King, and saunters past a group of Protestant courtiers without paying much attention to them, which irritates the group.
Back in Paris, we have Guillaume informing his sister and workers that the King has granted them a great honour. They can not quite believe it, celebrate and toast the King. While Liselotte saunters into a salon, where la Montespan gossips and laughs with a group of ladies. A side-remark from Liselotte about what an expert at tittle-tattle Montespan is, leads the latter to follow her. Liselotte has no interest in gossip, but changes her mind as Montespan mentions Maintenon and is thus told that Madame de Maintenon spent a summer at the chateau de Villarceaux in order to gain noble contacts and support by selling her body. Liselotte can not believe it. “Her arse is tight enough to uncork a wine bottle.” XD (I will tell you more about Villarceaux later on.)
Talking of Maintenon, she is with the King and her gown has almost the same shade of orange as the comfy armchair she is sitting on. Bontemps is there too and Louis asks if he knows how many Protestants they have at court. A lot, apparently. Louis ponders and says it is not like he has anything against them in general, but… and is interrupted by Bontemps who reminds him of the Edict of Nantes, signed by Louis’ grandpa Henri IV, which grants religious freedom to the Protestants. Oui, of course, says Louis. Bontemps leaves and Louis moves closer to Maintenon, who tells him that some Catholics, meaning herself, were once Protestants. But you have seen the light, says Louis. I see it everyday, returns Maintenon while looking at him. He is pleased and moves his hands under her gown… she stops him and he is not that pleased anymore.
At the council meeting, Louis is informed that there are problems with his plans and not enough money for them. Monsieur enters and says his bother’s idea is great as he is welcomed as new member of the council. Louvois thus informs both that many French settlers encountered problems, and savages, in the Colonies and new ones must be send there. 400 men are needed and Colbert suggests to send soldiers, which Philippe thinks not fair and instead suggests to send prisoners. That would rid them of unwanted people and save money. Brilliant idea, says Louis and appoints Philippe to select fitting candidates. (I know that France sent criminals to New Caledonia, but I am not sure about America. England did that. I will look if France did too.)
Madame de Maintenon saunters about and encounters Liselotte in company of a lady in one of the salons. Imdb tells me the lady is called Delphine and goes by the title Duchesse d’Angers. She was among the group of Protestants ignored by the King and asks Maintenon if it is true that the King has a problem with Protestants. There is no problem, says Maintenon, and the Duchesse asks if she could see the King to talk about it with him. Maintenon could arrange a meeting, after all she has the King’s ear…. Liselotte adds that she might also have other royal parts… “The King and I have an understanding. We connect through heart and soul.” Of course, but one is also allowed to have fun once in a while, says Liselotte. Non, God frowns upon that. “Is that what they said at the chateau de Villarceaux?” Maintenon goes red in shock and excuses herself.
In the gardens, Queen and Emperor are in conversation. They seem familiar with each other and jest. The topic of marriages comes up and the Queen says that she loves her hubby. Leopold returns that Louis seems to never ever get enough. He wants to talk with Louis, but Louis lets him wait. The Queen might be able to do something about it… he tries to kiss her (What.) right there in the garden, not like someone could see them there, she backs away and returns to the chateau. We see her approach the royal bedchamber, the doors are opened, inside stands Louis and strokes tenderly over the cheek of Madame de Maintenon. The Queen, who looks like she wanted to tell Louis what the Emperor had just attempted, turns on her heels, unseen by Louis, and leaves again.
Monsieur gets a delivery of old dusty books, prison records. He is irritated it is just three books and demands that Bontemps also brings him the rest. The latter is not happy about such a request. We know why. He fears Monsieur might discover a certain secret and you can bet that he will.
A troubled looking Maintenon is joined by the Duchesse d’Angers in a corridor. She asks what is wrong and says that she can talk with her about everything, they are good friends after all. Maintenon spills the beans, saying that she shares a lot with the King… but not his bed. The Duchesse d’Angers is amused and shocked. Maintenon explains she fears she might lose him if she should sleep with him and how he has ruined every woman he was ever with. That is a bit silly, says the Duchesse d’Angers, men have needs and Maintenon might actually enjoy it. She skips away with a sway of hips and la Maintenon’s gaze goes to a lady of the court. It appears she has a plan.
Said plan is thus executed. The lady in question appears in Louis’ bedroom, sent there by Maintenon who is doing a historical Montespan move there. The lady undresses and Maintenon, like a creeper, watches her engage in close physical contact with the King. So. Yes. That is very unlike Maintenon. Madame de Montespan placed other females in the King’s bed during times of disgrace or pregnancy. Madame de Maintenon on the other hand, tried to get Louis away from all mistress related matters, so having her place a girl in his bed is…… let us say it is totally against the nature of that woman. The girl leaves, looking kind of unhappy with herself, and is told by Maintenon to keep her distance to the King. Not even looking at him is permitted.
In the meanwhile, a certain Chevalier sneaks into the rooms of Monsieur. The latter studies the prison records. The Chevalier, still waiting for a bit of affection from Philippe, makes a move on him and says he has a better idea how one could spend the evening. He kisses him… and Philippe tells him to back away. One Philippe asks the other what the hell is wrong and if he is more interested in shoemakers now. Without a doubt remembering what the other Philippe said to him before he rode to war. The shoemaker is only a friend. Why can I not touch you then? Monsieur looks lost again and says he was looking forward to seeing the Chevalier… but then not so much anymore. I think he does not even know himself what the actual problem is. The Chevalier says that Philippe always acts so strange when he returns after war and there are tears in his eyes as he says that. Monsieur calls him a cuckoo in the nest. (Here is me wanting to turn the show off.) We are wasting our time then, ask the Chevalier… Philippe kind of says oui and the Chevalier leaves.
Louis joins Maintenon in the chapel, she was confessing and asks if he is content. He says he is, but does not look like it.
It is a new day, with a beautiful sunrise shot of Versailles, and we follow King and Emperor back to the chateau after a successful chase. The Emperor is inpatient to go home, Louis says he must stay until they are friends, because only then they can find common ground. Louis suggests to send French troops to aid the Emperor against the Muslim forces, if he is granted something in return. The Emperor will think about it. Philippe, in the meanwhile, sorts prisoners out. Not all meet his standards, the Marquis de Chevret does. We are told he poisoned his wife in order to marry his wealthy cousin and he gets a ticket to America for it. The next name on Monsieur’s list is a Duc de Sullun…. but nobody knows where the guy is. Back in Versailles, Monsieur presents his brother with a list of prisoners and asks about that Duc de Sullun. Louis doesn’t know who that is. Bontemps doesn’t know either, but we know he does and he looks like he does. Monsieur says there is no record on the Duc de Sullun’s everything, which is utterly strange. Louis commands his brother to find the gentleman and send him to the colonies. As Monsieur leaves again, Louis is told about difficulties with the tax collection and nods to Fabien. He will be surely able to solve it. He does and is not gentle.
Back to Monsieur. He sorts through papers, more prison records it seems, and he found something. Which he mentions to Bontemps shortly after. Philippe says that he has found the record and that it was not easy, almost as if someone meant for it to be well hidden. He now wants to see that Duc. Bontemps warns him that it is not a wise move. Apparently, that Duc is being held at the Bastille and the Bastille is home to the worst of the worst and insane… also to very prominent noblemen for brief times… Bontemps urges Monsieur to wait until the morning (so he might hide the Duc in the meanwhile), or at least take some guards with him. Monsieur of course ignores it all… and so rides, all alone, from Versailles to Paris. I have to take a deep breath, because that annoys me. Why? Because there is no way Monsieur, still the third in line of the throne, could travel anywhere without some sort of guards.
The Queen receives a sparkling gift out of the hands on her maid… could also be a lady-in-waiting… the gift is from the Emperor and she asks if he is worth it? I do not know what the maid replies, for she does it in Spanish, but I guess the answer was affirmative.
It is nighttime again and we see the court, in a merry mood and blindfolded, being led to a regal looking dais. Le Roi stands in front of it and declares let their be light. The court removes their blindfolds to behold a dark city in the distance which is then illuminated. It is Paris. Installing street lights in Paris is something that had been attempted a couple of times. Louis XIV succeeded with the plan and if you ever wondered why Paris is called the City of Lights, this is the very reason. There was lots of crime in Paris and the lights were installed to make it harder. (More about that here.) The court applauds and Monsieur arrives at the not so bright Bastille on his quest to find that Duc.
The last scenes of episode one, take us to the bedroom of the Emperor, who hears someone sneak in. He reaches for a dagger, afraid he might be attacked at any moment, and drops the dagger again as he sees it is not an attacker…. but the Queen of France. Yeah. I know. Louis, seated on the dais, thanks God for granting him success and swears he will bring glory to the name of God, while his wife sleeps with her ex brother-in-law and his brother gets knocked out by a hit to his head after beholding a masked man in a gloomy cell.
I need a cup of tea now and will see you for the next episode, where I, without a doubt, will rant about the Emperor and Queen scene. So far, I must say I have mixed feelings again. The scene setting and the costumes are glorious as usual. Everything looks so very good. But the story…. I have the feeling it will be even more lacking than last season.