Here we are again for the next round…. and everything behind this sentence will contain spoilers. In the last episode, we learned that Louis has won the war and he welcomed Emperor Leopold to Versailles. Liselotte is the proud maman of a little boy, for which the Chevalier acts more father than the actual father. Monsieur is now part of his brother’s council and was given the task of finding prisoners that can be shipped to the Colonies. He discovers a mysterious prisoner nothing is known about and gets knocked out on his quest to find out more about that man. In the meanwhile, the people of France are not at all happy about the tax situation and Madame de Montespan spreads rumours that Madame de Maintenon worked as a whore in her past.
We start with some blurry pictures. A concerned Liselotte looks down at her hubby stretched out on his bed. A doctor and Bontemps are present and declare Monsieur has a concussion. There is blood on the white pillows behind his head. Bontemps figures said concussion must have been caused by the fall, as a half awake half asleep Monsieur murmurs in protest that he did not fall. He was hit. We know what he says is right and we also know that Bontemps is involved and now tries to cover what happened. Monsieur continues to mumble… he did not fall, he was hit, he needs to see his brother at once… there was a mask… and the eyes… Liselotte looks even more worried, so does Bontempts.
After the intro, we are in the gardens of Versailles (filmed at Vaux) where King and Emperor engage in fencing. Not the modern type of fencing that was so hip a couple of years ago, actual fencing. And it is not hard to guess that this will somehow escalate a little. Leopold appears a bit more skilled with the fencing than Louis is, both exchange blows and Leopold makes an imperial elbow to royal chin move, which leaves said chin/mouth dribbling with royal blood. Louis is not amused, Bontemps close to jump between them, Louis returns with a royal fist to imperial stomach hit, but is shortly after disarmed by Leopold after an imperial elbow shove. Leopold points both rapiers at Louis. Fabien draws a dagger…. Bontemps steps in to remind Leopold that etiquette demands the King’s opponent has to bow to the King after the fight. Leopold returns that at his court, the loser bows to the winner and is reminded that he happens to be at Versailles… and I can only say that this scene is very awesome and I bow to all involved in making it.
He bows his head, with a bit of disdain in his eyes, and we follow both of them into the chateau. They discuss their match and upcoming treaty, especially the Spain situation. That was indeed a delicate situation. As Philip IV died, the crown of Spain went to his only son, born in Philip IV’s second marriage. The new King of Spain, Charles II, was a still pretty much a baby, he was born in 1661 and became King in 1665, and in not too healthy. The latter partly because of inbreeding. Philip and his second wife Mariana were uncle and niece, which makes Charles their son, first-cousin and great-nephew. The Habsburgs enjoyed to marry within the family. In case Charles would die early, without an heir, it meant there would be a bit of a war about who would become the new King of Spain. So, after the War of Devolution, the one in the first season, Louis made a deal with Leopold that in case Charles was to die young, which everyone expected, Louis was to get the Spanish Netherlands, along with other Spanish territories, and the Emperor the rest of Spain. This treaty was made in secret. It seems they made a deal like that here too and now, after Louis has won the war, he thinks he should get all of Spain.
Both encounter the Queen. Louis thinks she looks tired, no wonder. The night seems to have exhausted her more than Leopold… and here is my promised little rant. I honestly have no idea what that pious, sweet and dutiful historical Queen has done to be written like this. I guess it is supposed to make her more interesting and hey, Louis cheats too. Remember last season? I disagreed with where this character was going already back then and that has not changed. I hope it would, but no. All of that is so very unlike her and we going along the lines of history as it could have been again… or pure fiction. And the worst of all, there are people out there that will believe it was like that. I guess this is my main issue with it all, especially after all the ado at the start about how much attention was paid to historical details. Don’t call it a historical drama, if all the history gets altered and fictionalised. Call it fiction based on a bit of history.
Back to Philippe, he looks terrible and I do not like how the character wears his ‘war’ wig constantly. It looks as if he neglects himself in matters of hygiene and that is very unlike Monsieur. Philippe stumbles into the royal bedchamber, where he finds Bontemps and le Roi. Louis is surprised to see Philippe, who ought to be in bed, and Bontemps already told Louis the story of how Philippe slipped and hit his head. It was an accident. Philippe protests, but Bontemps says the governor of the Bastille saw him slip and fall. Nonsense, says Philippe, he went there to see that Duc de Sullun and someone hit him. The Duc wore a mask of iron. Louis looks as if he thinks his little bro has lots his mind. Must be the concussion. Louis says he was informed, probably by Bontemps, the Duc is actually called Marcquart. Bontemps thus adds that Marcquart is a petty criminal and deranged, who believes himself to be a Duc. So, he was given the title Duc de Sullun to shut him up. Why Sullun? Louis explains it, Sullun read backwards is Nullus in Latin and Nullus means no-one…. but what about the mask? It is just in your head, says Louis, and sends Philippe back to bed.
Leopold enjoys the gardens (Vaux again) in the meanwhile and saunters straight towards the Queen’s Spanish lady, who guides him with a discreet wave of a fan to where the Queen can be found. She awaits him in the shade of trees (we have seen this place in all seasons so far) and he attempts to show her how much he likes her. Right there. In the garden. At Versailles. Where every bush and tree has at least one pair of eyes. Fabulous idea. She rebuffs him, but not because they could be watched, she does it because he will leave soon anyway. Leopold argues that they should use the time they have, she returns it would increase the pain upon his departure. Very well, says Leopold, and adds that he needs her help. Louis plans to destroy their dynasty. He wants all of Spain upon the death of Charles and that would mean the Habsburgs would be no longer. I can only presume and hope he does mean the Spanish Habsburg’s. Charles II was the last Spanish Habsburg, not the last Habsburg. That’s a big difference. Austria had plenty of Habsburgs left. Anyway, Leopold wants to stop Louis’ vile plan by marrying his niece Eléonore to Charles, so they can have plenty of Habsburg babies. The Queen is to write her brother and speak favourably of that plan, because after all she is a Habsburg too and it would be a bit of a revenge on Louis.
In the following scene, we have her at her desk writing said letter to her brother. Since they sort of focus several times on a ring, featuring a red-purple-ish stone, she wears I guess that ring will be of importance later.
In the salons, we have the Chevalier and Liselotte at a game of cards and some gossiping about Maintenon. The latter saunters in, accompanied by the Duchesse d’Angers, and the topic is swiftly changed to fashion. The Duchesse d’Angers eyes the Chevalier, who eyes her back, but while her glance hints interest in his person, his own is rather confused. Marquise and Duchesse saunter along, followed by glances and murmurs. We see the young lady that shared the King’s bed last episode gossiping about Maintenon… the Duchesse turns to Madame de Maintenon… “Who are they talking about?” “Me.” She walks out after ensuring the Duchesse there is no truth to that silly talk and leans against a corridor wall. Bontemps comes along and agrees with her that it is no sign of nobility to talk bad about others. His gaze hints that he might bring forward that to the King.
Madame de Maintenon suspects Madame de Montespan to have spread the gossip and enters the latters rooms. La Montespan denies it all, of course.
The Emperor had word from Spain. It appears Charles II is willed to marry and expects to see them soon. He sees this marriage as his trump card (I shuddered briefly here, guess why. It’s not the word card.) and something he can trick Louis with. And that’s were we go next. We see Louis enter the private chapel, where Maintenon sits, as usual, at prayer. Is it true what they say? She knows they talk, but it is not true what they say. They only want to destroy her glorious reputation and that of Louis along with it. He tells her to follow him.
And we are with the Emperor and Eléonore again. She wants to amuse herself in the salons, he says nup to that. Instead, Eléonore should befriend the Queen and talk about Spain (so she can acquaint herself with her future home) with her. Eléonore is very meh about that. Madame de Maintenon returns to the salon, in the meanwhile, and that in company of Louis, who gives a speech about how bad gossiping is. It is a sin. And the girl who shared his bed, which he calls Mademoiselle de Vasseur, is exiled for it. Behind Louis, you can see Versailles very own version of the famous bust Bernini made of Louis XIV and on the opposite side, their version of Rene Antoine Houasse’s Louis XIV equestrian portrait.
Outside, a lady clad in a cloak approached. It is Sophie and she is brought to Fabien, who thus questions her. There is tension. She was in Holland, at the court of William, because that is where Thomas told her to go. She was arrested there and questioned, she told them all she knows about Versailles and the King, which is not much, she says. She looks rather smug and says they asked her to spy for them. And we switch to Louis. Sophie tells Louis she refused to spy, because she considers herself unsuited for such a task. She charmed a guard afterwards and fled back to France, where she now places herself at Louis’ mercy. Adding that Dutch forces march to Austria in support of the Emperor, which she surely would not tell Louis if she was indeed a spy. Fabien will check that story, he says, looking as if he does not believe a word of that. Nor do I, do you?
Philippe is stretched out on his bed. I presume the shutters are closed, because it looks rather dark in there, in other words it fits his mood. He seems lost in thought and then jumps from his bed, to run into Bontemps, as if Bontemps was creeping around there, telling him that he knows exactly what he saw. Bontemps looks very worried and wanders to the nearest guard to order said guard to have a horse ready for Rome. That is strange. I hear Rome and the first connection that comes into my mind is Mazarin.
Eléonore is with the Queen and they talk about Spain. She is taught some phrases and the topic shifts to Charles II. Eléonore want to know if the Queen misses her brother. Of course she does and I raise a brow. Charles II was born in 1661, that is after Marie-Thérèse married Louis… which in turn means Marie-Thérèse has never met Charles in person, because nor did she leave France to see him or he came to France to see her. But yes, she misses him and fetches a portrait of him. Eléonore is shocked/disgusted at the sight. Charles II is not a looker.
While Eléonore pulls a face, Louis and Leopold talk treaty. If Louis gets all of Spain, it would trigger a war. Louis does not care, he has just won a war and can win any other too. Although they make it look like it, Louis XIV did not exactly win that war. What he did, was to make everyone so paranoid that they teamed up against him in order to defeat him, which established him and France as military superpower… but he did not win the war. He had to give up as the tide turned in order to save France from foreign invasion. Somehow, he still managed to make himself look as if he was victorious, which you can behold on the ceiling of the Hall of Mirrors, but it was no full victory. Here we have Louis and Leopold skilfully moving invisible cards over the table between them. Leopold argues Louis could never win such a war, Louis does not care and returns that Leopold needs his help against the Turks, yes but for that Louis had already gotten something, Louis wants more… Leopold argues that the Pope would never agree to Louis taking over Spain… Louis returns he will settle for 80% of Spain then.
Back to Monsieur, alone on horseback on the way to Paris. It’s not like he was attacked and could need some guards. After a beautiful 17th century Paris shot, we are back in the Bastille and learn along with Philippe that Marcquart is dead. He has cut is wrists. Monsieur moves to the corpse. It is a man dressed the same and with the same hair as Mask Man, but his eyes are brown. Philippe does not notice that yet. The body is brought out and the door closed. Monsieur has a glance around and discovers two words scratched in the stone walls of the gloomy cell. Kill me.
He leaves the cell and encounters a slightly insane prisoner in a cage. Monsieur asks if the madman knows the mysterious man who apparently just killed himself and is told that everyone and yet no-one knows that man. What follows is a reference to Cain and Abel, to which we will surely come back at some point… and makes me curious. It sort of confirms suspicions.
In Versailles’ gardens (filmed at Versailles this time) we have Liselotte and the Chevalier being approached by Madame de Maintenon. A maid behind Liselotte carries Baby Philippe and la Maintenon beholds that little cute thing. Liselotte is all proud at first, but then not so much anymore as Maintenon dares to suggest Liselotte is making a mistake by keeping the baby here. Maintenon thinks the court is not a fit place for children… Liselotte politely tells her to shut up. Maintenon might have been a governess, but never a mother…. which she thinks strange, considering all the lovers Maintenon had. There will be some sort of revenge for that, I am sure.
At council, Louis is informed by Colbert that there are still serious money issues and the people do not really pay the new taxes. Colbert has to inspire them to do it. Bontemps walks in and has news for Louis as well. It seems he did a bit of searching and found who spread those nasty Maintenon rumours. It was Montespan.
In Paris, Jeanne and her brother Guillaume ask their employees who of them has not paid their taxes. A lot of hands are being raised. Guillaume argues it is bad for their business, if his employees do not pay.
Madame de Montespan is summoned to the council chamber, where she finds Louis, with his back to her, Bontemps and a piece of paper on the table. She is ordered to read and sign it, by doing so she renounces her rights to be part of the court and agrees to withdraw to a convent. She signs it, but not without pointing out to Louis that the man he is now, is very different from the man she once knew. He should be careful, for who flies to close to the sun will burn and fall. The historical Madame de Montespan remained at court for quite a long time after her disgrace. Louis visited her often and she still acted all the grande dame for several years, after which she withdrew/was pushed away. The oldest son she had with Louis took over her rooms.
I very much love the next shot. We see her walking out in semi-slow-motion, her expression is a mix of sadness and pride, Madame de Maintenon appears from the side and steps behind her, after which both are briefly covered by male courtiers and as they move out of sight, only Madame de Maintenon remains. She turns and walks in the opposite direction. I think this my favourite scene so far. Very simple, yet with so much meaning.
We see the Marquise in a tub shortly after. If you ever wondered why there is always linen in the tubs, it was done to prevent injury to the skin. The tubs were usually made of metal, which heated up due to the hot water and could cause bad burns. La Maintenon steps from the tub and covers herself with a sheet of linen, Louis sees it all. He creeps on her by the door and is discovered. Maintenon quickly covers herself as best as possible as she spots him. I think he is a bit embarrassed that he had been discovered and places a morning gown over her shoulders. His fingers remain on her shoulder and grasp the fabric…. standing behind her, he inhales her scent… his fingers wander a bit… they kiss… she rebuffs him. “Why not? Don’t tell me you do not want to…“.. they kiss again and his hand wanders to her very private parts…. she slips away. “Enough“. She asks him to leave. He looks angry and irritated. I roll my eyes as she says the Marquise de Quincy awaits him in his bedroom. Louis looks like he can not quite believe it and turns away, while Madame de Maintenon sinks to the floor with an expression of very mixed feelings. We follow the King to his bedchamber, where said Marquise, she looks like a child, drops her robe.
From the King’s bedroom to that of the Emperor. He is visited by the Queen, who changed her mind several times on if she should visit him or not.
It is the next morning and we have Louis at a window, reflecting how a King does not always get what he wants. I presume he means Maintenon’s private parts. That he does not always get what he wants is something he should actually be very aware of. After all, he had to give his first big love up for the sake of his Kingdom… and I am still a bit annoyed about the total lack of anything Mancini in this show. It would have added such a nice twist to have Marie show up after she fled her husband.
Fabien has in the meanwhile checked if Sophie’s story regarding her escape is true and it appears she spoke the truth. At least, Fabien can not find evidence that it is not so. It does not make his suspicions smaller however and he promises to keep a close eye on her. Am I the only one humming Every Breath You Take right now? Sophie is allowed to roam Versailles as Duchesse de Cassel again.
In Monsieur’s bedroom, we have Liselotte playing with Baby Philippe, while the grown up Philippe watches them, very uncaring, his mind is clearly somewhere else again, and the only thing that rips him out of his thoughts is Liselotte mentioning blue eyes. He rushes to Fabien and tells him the whole Mask Man story. Fabien appears very intrigued, but Philippe is not the King and Fabien only works for the King…. see it as leisure activity, says Philippe, and skips away.
Jeanne and Guillaume have arrived at Versailles and are busy to measure the King’s royal feet. That portrait of Maintenon in the background makes me ugh. Louis wants to know in what kind of mood Paris is in and Guillaume tells him everything is happiness and unicorns. Louis asks again, he has heard the people are not happy…. Guillaume says hard work can cure that. But surely there are some who do not like their King? There are always some of those and they simply fail to see the glory of their King. Jeanne butts in. They are hungry. Bontemps calls her to order, before Louis explains that taxes are for the common good. Tax money is needed for trade and to keep the people save. He takes money and returns it to them in a different form. Is that wrong? Jeanne says yes. The people have no money and think the King only takes their money to enhance his personal glory. Guillaume tries to rescue the situation, in vain. Louis steps closer… he tells her the people are wrong. He does not seek personal glory, only glory for France. Jeanne returns the poor do not care for France’s glory. They are grateful for clean water and street-lighting… but it does not fill their bellies. Guillaume looks like he fears they may be executed at any moment, but Louis forces himself to remain calm and thanks them for their honesty.
Fabien has done some research and meets with Monsieur. The latter is informed that this Marcquart was well-known to the police and committed some crimes, but nothing too serious. It looks like Marcquart just tried to keep his family fed. What was he doing in the Bastille then? Well…… he was not imprisoned there, says Fabien, someone must have brought him to the Bastille… where he then died/was killed.
Leopold had good news again. The Pope is not against a Charles II and Eléonore marriage, with that in mind, he strides to Louis to tell him that he can have Spain. Well aware, that if said marriage results in children, Spain will be his.
Liselotte is still entertaining Baby Philippe with a lovely historical accurate silver-rattle as Madame de Maintenon sweeps in along with guards and Bontemps. I fume. Let me get this straight…. Maintenon, favourite or not, takes a grandchild of France away from its mother, who happens to outrank her a lot and is the second woman of France. This is not just ridiculous. It is plain stupid. That woman has no right to do that, no matter how you turn it. Yes, I know that it is the revenge for Liselotte’s comments. Yet it still makes no bloody sense at all. Madame de Maintenon has no say over that child, nor has Bontemps, nor can some guards rip said child out of Liselotte’s arms and hold her back as if she was a peasant woman. This is creating feelings, but not the feelings the writers intended. If you are German or Austrian, you most likely have seen the Sissi movies at least once. Remember that scene were Sophie takes Sissi’s kid away? That is a setting that makes sense, this one does not.
The following images of Paris how it looked back in the days can not really calm me, although they are stunningly beautiful. Colbert has travelled there to inspire the people, like Louis wanted. The people should trust the King, as he trust them…. The people might be starving, but there is enough food to throw at Colbert.
While Colbert is hit with plenty of hard-boiled eggs, Louis sends Bossuet on a mission to Rome in order to gain the support of the Pope for Louis Spain plans. In the meanwhile, Philippe talks Masked Man with Fabien. Does Philippe know what just happend to his heir and only son? If he does know, he does definitely not give a flying you know what… and that, pardon my French, pisses me off even more. That man was a doting father.
Eléonore tells her uncle about what a good time she had with the Queen. He should know how fun that Queen can be, eh? Eléonore suggests they should go to Spain instead of Vienna. Leopold says they will. Awesome. But Eléonore remarks she would not want to see that disfigured Spanish King. That can hardly be avoided, says Leopold, and Eléonore wants to know why… she is told she will marry that ugly King and protests…. until Leoplod slaps her. She should be grateful and not make such a fuss in his opinion, after all he arranged for her to become Queen of Spain.
On the way to the treaty signing, Louis is stopped by Louvois who tells him that a bunch of Austrian nobles have been spotted entering Spain. Smart as Louis is, he figures they either go there for a funeral… or a wedding.
We are at the treaty signing. Liselotte is red-eyed. King and Emperor sit down and the latter asks if the paper he signs is according to what they agreed on. He already starts to sign it as Louis says he made a small change. Silly move. The small change concerns Eléonore, Louis wants her to remain at court, which does lift her spirits a lot. The Queen has grown attached to Eléonore, Louis argues, and he would like her to remain at Versailles in company of his wife. She will be treated with utmost care… and who knows… they might even find her a hubby. Oh God. Please don’t let them marry her to the Chevalier.
Louis scribbles his name under the paper. Leopold can hardly say more in order to take Eléonore with him, or he will confirm Louis’ wedding suspicions.
It’s party time in the last scene. A cane-swinging Chevalier, who reminds me a bit of the dude that announces the next highlight during a circus show, calls everyone closer. He wants to play a game, apparently the favourite game of Monsieur, who happens to be absent (Where the hell is he?). Louis volunteers and is blindfolded for a game of blind man’s bluff. (We call that game Blinde Kuh in German, which translates to blind cow.) Leopold takes his chance to whisper something in the Queen’s ear. Everyone is merry, until Colbert appears at the doors. One of his eyes is swollen and his face is covered with blood. Who did this? “The people of France.”
End of episode note…. Everything still looks very good and the actors still do a very good job…. the story… you can guess that I do not like all of it.