Episode seven. This means we are drawing close to the end of this season. Last episode finished with a smug William of Orange and a dripping wet Louis XIV. Although in a state of wetness and anger, or perhaps because of it, our King did look quite dashing. Don’t you think?
We return to the convent and find Louis and William seated at opposite sides at a table. Behind them stand various male beings, which appear to be diplomats of both sides. Staring contest. Who will speak first? The Sun King’s lips curve…. William is the one to speak first and inquires what our King finds so funny. Our King says he is amused to see his true enemy for the first time, probably thinking something along the lines of ‘My brother looks more butch than you.’
William tells us it was a bit of a dream he had to meet the great Sun King and to beat him in battle. Louis suggests congratulations might be in order then, not because William managed to beat Louis in battle, but because he managed to defend Amsterdam with his sneaky water trick. A temporary setback, says Louis. Words are exchanged and we are amidst a battle of rhetoric. I do like this. Two powerful man tugging on a invisible rope to get the upper hand. William has matters to discuss, Louis says he’s not interested. William says he should, after all he got weaker cards now. Louis is getting into smug-mode now. Weaker cards, you wish. What Louis did not expect, is how good William is informed on everything. He knows there are several issues, among them that of feeding the troops, which put Louis indeed in a weaker position… and half of Europe is against him. The Franco-Dutch War was a bit of a mess. At the start it all went pretty well for Louis, but then the tide turned slowly against him and it was somehow his own fault. As the rest of Europe saw how fast and how successful Louis was, they feared that once the Dutch are defeated, Louis might turn his glance to their countries. Thus they rushed to help the Dutch. Now Louis had not just one country to worry about, but half of Europe and he could not really count on the English anymore. Their fleet had been defeated and the English parliament urged Charles II to back out of this war. All of this forced Louis to switch his tactics from attack to defence.
Back to our Louis and William. Both of them need to do some talking and the various Ministers and diplomats are dismissed. Once everyone shuffled out, William spills the beans. He proposes a alliance. Together they could take over the world. Again, I do like this whole scene a lot. Louis is being very Louis and the whole word-battle thing makes a nice change from the rather melodramatic tone of this season. They are testing each other, see how far they can go, how much the other knows, how skilled the other is. Louis obviously in possession of more diplomatic skills compared to William, who is probably seen as a bit of a baby by Louis, but William surprises.
As we return from the intro, we have returned to the gloomy Versailles. Colbert’s niece Isabelle has been placed in a coffin and the Queen enters. Her expression says ‘That’s what happens when you let them loose’ as she tells Colbert his niece is in God’s hands and will find peace there. La Montespan enters, looking touched, and expresses her condolences. “I wish I could have done more to help her.” “You did nothing to help her.”
Change of scene, but we stay with Marie-Thérèse now rambling to Bontemps how Isabelle’s death is all the fault of Montespan. Apparently Montespan drove her into depravity, says the woman for which two glasses of wine instead of one is a case of depravity already. I start to wonder again why has this sweet Queen, who giggled and blushed at sexual references, been turned into a raging Catholic maniac? That’s the role of Madame Scarron and not that of the Queen. Hello there, switched personalities. I get it that perhaps the writers considered giving Louis XIV a strong wife might make things a bit more interesting, but this is so far from reality… so very soap opera and if I want soap opera, I watch one and not something that is supposed to be a historical drama.
You know, one of my initial fears as I heard a show about Louis XIV and Versailles was being made, long before I saw the first footage of it, was that things could be taken and portrayed wrongly. Nice people could be turned into bums, for the sake of drama, and bums be turned into even greater bums. I did not expect much history at all. What I expected was that things that are dear to me, would be twisted and turned. Then I watched season one, and although I had things to complain about, I did enjoy it very much. There was some character twisting, but it was bearable. To my great surprise there also was a whole lot of history. This season two, and I am aware it goes along the lines of ‘history as it could have been’, puts on screen what I was terrified season one would be like. The writers might have thought this is a smart move, a move that opens more possibilities, but… I dunno about you… but when I watch something in a historic setting, I want it to be like that. It is true that this season, again, works perfectly well as it is by itself… but all those folks who know their history, or have read it between seasons, which a lot of people did, will be disappointed. Don’t underestimate your audience.
Back to the Queen and Bontemps, she wants Montespan gone by the time Louis returns, the salons are to be closed again and the nobles locked in their rooms. Right.
In said salons, Gaston and Sophie do a bit of chitchat with yummy glasses of water in front of them. Gaston did something for her, now she should consider to do something for him. She has a hubby, she says. Gaston returns that she slowly poisons this hubby. Gaston will keep his mouth shut if Sophie gets a little more friendly with him. No way, says she and he should better keep his mouth shut or she will tell on him….. aaaaand the salons are closed.
We return to William and Louis, still in the convent. Louis gives William a bit of a riddle, William does not know what that is about. A alliance is about trust, says Louis, how is he supposed to trust William, who just betrays his allies to ally with Louis? Good question. As they chatter, their companions sit on various tables in a other room of the convent. Louvios and Luxembourg converse about another really good question. How on earth did the Dutch find them? The answer sits at the same table and goes by the name of Thomas. He distracts them from the topic by pointing out how one of the Dutch fellows looks a bit nervous. Louvios gets his cheek out and asks the Dutch fellow if he is worried William might give half of Holland away. lol. The Dutch fellow approaches with his gaze on Thomas and would like to know who he is. A writer of histories… and secret letters full with secret info… now Thomas gets his cheek out. I do not like him. I find him arrogant. But this is quite funny.
Louis and William are still at it and chat about de Witt. Louis is the superior here and tries to coax William into losing his temper. He succeeds and I do love this. Can we have more of this?
It’s night-time in Versailles and we are with Marie-Thérèse again. She is in company of Colbert and Bontemps. She sits on an armchair. The other two on stools. It looks as if it’s a court hearing. I eye Colbert and Bontemps. The stools. You are not allowed to sit, gentlemen. In front of them stands the Chevalier de Lorraine. I expect the very worst now. The Chevalier is asked why he did not take better care of Isabelle. After all, Colbert trusted him to look after her. What happened is not his fault, he says, and Colbert rises. “A safe pair of hands you said!” “Everyone knows I am not a safe pair of hands!” Exactly. Marie-Thérèse lets her hypocrite side out now, for it appears the fact that the girl died is not what interests her the most. She wants to know if Montespan had anything to do with it. She had not, says the Chevalier. Think again, maybe she had. Nup. The Chevalier sees exactly what is going on, he is that smart for once, and even money can not tempt him.
La Montespan lounges in her fabulous bathtub with Madame Scarron attending to her. Madame Scarron sees only good in people and is a little blind to what the Marquise sees, meaning the Queen’s interest in Madame Scarron might have to do with her being friends with Montespan as well. Madame Scarron can’t blame the Queen for being jealous either. “Do you have feelings for him?” That is plain ridiculous, says Madame Scarron. How could she? Being a good pious woman and all that. She does her very best to wiggle out of the matter, but the Marquise senses what is going on.
From the chambers of the Marquise to those of Monsieur. Liselotte disrobes and strikes a pose in her chemise, while her hubby reads in bed. Totally not tempted by what he sees. She stomps over to the bed with a bit of a frustrated air and crawls under the covers…. to find a wooden object…. it’s not a phallus, it’s a statue of the Virgin. What the f… is that? Philippe tells her it is what it appears to be and there because it is supposed to bring luck. Liselotte finds another statue underneath her pillow… and I giggle. This is a reference to what she wrote in one of her letters and quite hilarious… and cute. The story goes that she observed her husband how he fumbled with… handled… something under the sheets at night. Curious as she was, she of course wanted to know what he was doing there. It was clear that he did not handle himself, for it made an odd metallic sound. So, she tricked him one night to reveal what he had under the sheets and it turned out to be holy medals, which he placed close to his lower regions in hopes they might aid matters to rise and produce heirs. She found it quite funny, because those places where hardly appropriate for the Virgin Mary to visit. He found it a little embarrassing, but then both had a good laugh about it. (I meant to post the whole letter on the blog, but did not yet manage. I promise to do so soon. The whole thing is too hilarious not to share.) Here Liselotte reminds her hubby that they have managed before to put one thing into the other. Philippe says it’s easier said than done. They should try again, they have to try again, the situation is not easy for both parties and Liselotte has a plan. Since Monsieur does not find her arousing, she suggests he should think of something arousing instead. Like soldiers in the mud. It works. While I really like this scene, I have to roll my eyes at the very predictable scene that follows. How could it be else? The Chevalier appears and hears the moaning inside Monsieur’s rooms. I’m supposed to feel sorry for him… all I feel is dread regarding to where this will lead us. More out of character drama.
Thank God, we move back to William and Louis now and their awesome diplomacy battle, where the older teaches the younger, until the younger fires back. They are still in their cosy little convent room at their heavy wooden table, but have moved closer together now. Louis gives William a bit of a list of what he wants in return for agreeing to ally with him. William says it’s not possible and suggests something else, but Louis insists. What he wants belongs to the Spanish not the Dutch. William tells him so and Louis returns, that’s not his problem and William’s to deal with. Brilliant Sun-Kinging. A group of nuns interrupts to inform them both that rooms have been prepared for them.
One of the nuns shows our King to his room and pours a glass of wine, as he places himself on a decent but not kingly looking bed. It’s not just war between France and Holland this season, but also between awesome scenes and not so awesome ones. What follows it the latter and I start to wonder if I am being too critical with all of it, but then remember all the folks who uttered their displeasure to me regarding this season. Louis can tell, because the nun speaks five words to him, that said nun must be of good house. She turns and asks if he does not recognise her face. He does not really… she strips down. Louis is as shocked as I am to see the nun in her chemise… and I am again not shocked because the whole thing is so scandalous and dramatic, but because I do find it a little silly. She steps closer to perform the same service she performed the last time they met. You get the idea that she was one of many females he slept with, and he helps her out of her chemise. She crawls on his lap and tells us just that…. while holding a dagger to his throat. She used to be a someone and fell in love with Louis. He slept with her. She got pregnant and he did not recognise the child as his. The child died and she went into a convent. The whole thing seems to be a reference to two mistresses, the first being Claude de Vin des Œillets, who had a child be the King, but he did doubt it was his. The second, Marie Angélique de Scorailles, who was his mistress for a while, got pregnant, gave birth prematurely to a stillborn boy and afterwards, due to weak health, retired to a convent, where she died not long after. Our nun here, wants her life back. She wants to return to court, one can understand that since convent live was not easy and a lot of women entered convent against their own will. For example, to save the family honour as it might have been the case here. The nun tells us her name. She used to be the Duchesse de Longlet. (There might have been one, but I don’t know of one. If you do, let me know.) My issue with it all is once again the whole soap opera air it has. I do get the whole point of it, being that Louis creates his own enemies, but…. it’s one of those scenes again that do not really make sense and seem to have been only added to create more tension in something that is tension filled to the point that it nearly runs over.
A ray of (grumpy) sun shine appears with Fabien. Bontemps actually managed to lure him back to court, as the Queen wished, in order to continue investigating. The King might have dismissed him, but that doesn’t mean he can’t work for the Queen. She’s feeling great in her role as Regent. Bontemps interrupts with news from the land of the Dutch. What we already know, is now told to the Queen. The troops have been stopped at Amsterdam and the King’s location is unknown.
As if he knew Bontemps was just speaking of him, he appears after a change of garments, and joins Louvois, Luxembourg and Thomas. Louis explains what he has talked with William and how the latter tries to make it look as if a alliance is good for both, when it is only good for William himself. He meets William in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary afterwards and now, after they sat down for noms, William is the one who plays his cards better. He attacks Louis subtly by grabbing him by the pride, reminding him how it was Louis himself that turned Rohan enemy. (We never saw it in the show, but the Chevalier de Rohan had a high court office and was dismissed by Louis, after which he was pretty much without a penny and turned against his King. Gossip names several reasons regarding why he was dismissed, one is that he helped Hortense Mancini escape France, a other that he had an affair with Marie Mancini, or ogled Madame de Montespan, or her sister, one even suggests he had something going on with Monsieur. More about it all here.) As William speaks of Rohan, Louis’ glance goes to the nun. He creates his own enemies. William goes even further by suggesting it must drive Louis nuts to know that the people he keeps close to him, might actually tell on him. Who could it be? Louis nearly chokes. A Minister, a mistress, his wife, his brother? It could be anyone. Our King needs fresh air. William joins him and gives him the answer to his riddle. It is becoming very clear to Louis now that he should not underestimate baby-face William and William goes on…. did Louis ever wonder how his nobles feel to be forced by him to live in Versailles? (He makes it sound like it is something bad, when living at Versailles was not always pleasant, but a great honour people fought about.) William goes on still, the nobles kill each other, because Louis forces them to do so. Philippe hates him and only waits for the chance to kill Louis and replace him. (Sure.) Louis changes the topic.
While her lover does diplomacy, la Montespan has a sip of wine in bed. Liselotte can’t sleep either and crawls out of bed.
Now we are at my personal lowlight of this episode. If you thought the Chevalier de Lorraine was quite out of character already thus far, just wait until you see this. I can’t even put into words how very out of character this is….. we have the Chevalier, alone in a salon, playing cards with a invisible opponent as he is joined by Liselotte. He looks awful and has his little bottle in hand, but drug addiction is a lame excuse for this disaster. Liselotte tries to be friendly. Saying look, you don’t like this. You love him and he loves you. Now there’s me, but I won’t cause trouble. He needs to get me pregnant and once I am, he won’t be in my bed anymore nor I in his. Until this is the case, nothing does stop you to roll about in other beds or to meet elsewhere. A very sensible woman and indeed she had no issues with Monsieur being gay. Minette had some. The Chevalier tells her, his great enemy, that she does not get it. Meeting elsewhere means people like each other, while meeting in bed and sleeping in one, means they love each other…. and if Philippe does not longer love him he might kill himself or something like that. So, there he sits and weeps. Hello wall, this is head. Where shall I start? Drugs. Yes. They alter ones behaviour and they are most likely the writer’s excuse for why he acts like he does…. yet it makes no sense. That man is like a chameleon in this show. He’s arrogant, he’s manipulative, he’s violent, he’s haughty, he plays Monsieur, then is played by him, then he’s a coward, he’s poor, he’s funny, charming, sassy, cheeky, bitchy, he’s smart and utterly idiotic at the same time, now he whines like a baby in front his enemy. Lets her see into his cards. Think about it… would a man in his position do that? Present himself like that? In place like Versailles? Where showing weakness was deadly? Where every weakness someone showed was exploited at once? Here sits the Chevalier de Lorraine, a prince, weeping. And here’s me being at the point where I can not watch this any longer. I am supposed to feel sorry for him. I am supposed to understand him. This whole thing is supposed to wake emotions in me. Emotions that make this hard to watch, because I feel so very sorry, but the complete opposite is the case. I can not watch it, because it is so plain ridiculous. I could rage on and on and on about it. A character has been taken, a awesome one, and written into this…. connerie. Evan has my utmost respect for his acting skills, which are fabulous, and nothing of this is his fault. It’s the writers. Maybe there is something I do not get about the whole thing, but guess what… I do not want to get it by now…. nor do I want any more of this.
I take a deep breath as the scene changes and we are back with Louis. He stares at the flames of a fireplace as William saunters in with an exotic gift. It’s a mask of Leyak. A widow-witch in the form of flying head with entrails as hair. Yummy. During daytime, Leyak looks like an ordinary woman, but when night comes she is on a mission to find pregnant women to suck the blood of their babies. Yummy. I don’t think it’s a reference to Madame Scarron, but it would be hilarious if it was one. William has the upper hand again and coaxes Louis to lose his temper with talk of him being scared that what he has created, Versailles, might collapse and take Louis with him. Again, he teases Louis with how he can know all of this and how it bothers Louis. As he then says Madame de Montespan rules Louis, our King has enough. Now it is him that loses his temper.
Louis retires to his room and collapses on the bed. Sweat on his brow. While he does so, Thomas is strolling through the courtyard and encounters a Dutch Minister and outs himself to said Minister.
We return to our King in bed. He is sweating quite a lot now and unrestful. The land of dreams is not a pleasant one for him. He hears the voice of his mother, that of William, of Madame de Montespan. He sees her. She stands by the window with her back to him. “Please hold me. I am so cold.” She turns, looking normal at first, but then her eyes turn into black empty sockets. All Leyak style. As if everything that went wrong is totally and just her fault. He backs away. Hears the voice of Minette. Of course. Madame de Montespan is the devil and Minette the angel to save him. Sigh. Don’t look at her, says Minette, look at me. He has changed and he knows it himself. What are you afraid of, she asks… that he is a mere mortal like everyone else… he doubts his divine right, that he was chosen by God, and wether that means he might go to hell like all the other sinners…. Who killed you, he asks Minette, and she says it was him. If he wants to be saved, he should close his eyes… and he does so thus… “What do you see?” Our King sees himself, as boy in a forest. The boy is lost and looks behind him, seeing a shadow. He’s scared. He runs and runs, falls, runs, until he reaches a cliff. He looks down and there are rocks. Darkness. It’s either jump or turn…. he must turn around… face the shadow… he turns…. the shadow is gone… Church music plays in the background as our King turns to Jesus on the cross behind him. Candles start to burn by themselves. The message is clear. He must turn towards God again.
And so he wakes, sun on his face, to find the stripper-nun by his side. She watched over him all night and has changed her mind. She does not want to return to court anymore. She will stay in the convent to pray for Louis. Enemies can turn into friends.
Now freshly invigorated and rid of his fears, Louis joins Louvios and Thomas. They are going to leave and return to Versailles. This meeting with William never took place. Thomas is to erase it. History as it could have been… and with that closes episode seven.
I’m at a loss. There are things I like, for example the meeting of Louis and William, something that is fiction, but so well done that I want more of it… and there are things I dislike, the whole Chevalier situation and general soap opera style. At this point I still hope the Chevalier situation will become better. (It won’t.) My mixed feelings get a bit more mixed with every episode and it pains me to speak so badly about certain things. If I had no clue about history, I might even enjoy the whole thing, but as it happens I do and it’s hard to ignore that little voice in me which yells how very wrong certain things are. Thus far, I find season one more enjoyable and hope the last three episodes will be a bit less… disappointing. I shall make myself a cup of tea now, while I ponder if I should hit publish on this or not….. if I do, thank you for reading.