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Thoughts on Versailles, Episode Four – Party like 1660

Thoughts on Versailles, Episode Four



Le Roi est pas amusé.
We start this Episode with a bleeding and rather angry Louis. Angry at what happened to his friends from the south and perhaps even more angry as he receives the news of victory and the braveries performed by his brother. Louis never liked being outshined by Philippe. He did not like it to the degree of forbidding, or rather not explicitly allowing, Philippe do continue doing what he did to outshine the King. When we look at the relationship of the brothers there are several prime examples of that during the years and Louis was even jealous that the people of Paris liked his brother more than him, one reason why he disliked the whole of Paris in return. But why is he bleeding? Bontemps tells us an accident during hunting is the reason, but is it really? I do feel like I missed something. (I might have actually missed a whole scene not included in the version I watched.)

After we follow Louis to pay his respects to the deceased southern family and he notices the absence of his good-daughter, little Charlotte de Parthenay, we have Fabien using his superior searching skills to find the girl. Did I mention that I like him?
She tells us of angles and thus we jump to Montcourt….. plotting with Cassel.
No road was entirely safe in the 17th Century, there were always people who sought to make a fortune on they cost of others, yet what we see here is a bit overdone for the purpose of adding more drama to the whole thing. It works.
Versailles was pretty much a swamp surrounded by woods, yet at times I find they made it out to be in the utmost province instead of circa 20 kilometers away from Paris…

Back to Louis. He is sketching and guess what? Louis XIV had quite a talent for it.
As Louis was 7 years old, he did a set of drawings that have survived until this day and “La Fondation Saint-Louis” is in possession of 70 of them. These drawings, considering they were done by a 7-year-old, are of a great quality. They all show buildings, houses, churches, and so on, but no people or animals. Below you can see one of them and in comparison to it a drawing done by Louis XIII, Louis’ father, at the same age.


Let’s talk a bit about Madame de Montespan. Françoise de Rochechouart de Mortemart was born in 1640 into one of the oldest noble families of France. At some point she decided the name of Françoise was way to common for her and so she gave herself the more exotic name Athénaïs, by which we know her today. She married Louis Henri de Pardaillan de Gondrin 1663 and thus became the Marquise de Montespan. This marriage was a surprise to many, because compared to the Mortemarts the Marquis de Montespan wasn’t quite on one level with them. Athénaïs enjoyed the court life greatly and one could say she was born for it. She was extremely witty and charming, very beautiful, and more important she knew exactly how to get others to like her. Louis met her first at a ball hosted by Monsieur in 1666 and around that time Athénaïs decided he should be hers. Athénaïs made herself agreeable with the Queen and the current mistress Louise, along with basically everyone somewhat close to Louis. While she was assuring the Queen she would never want to be mistress to anyone, she was best buddies with Louise, she befriended the Dauphin, Monsieur, Minette, and took every presented chance to catch the eye of the King… like we see her doing it by stumbling into a guard to catch Louis attention and charm him a little. He seems quite impressed.

At court, hardly a thing goes unnoticed, and we see exactly that in the lovely witty exchange of Beatrice and Madame de Montespan. If the King’s glance lingered on someone, parties quickly formed around that person. People offered support to direct the King’s glance back to the Lady in question in hopes the Lady might return the favour some day, while others, mostly those attached to the current mistress, tried there very best to made sure the King would not look at the Lady again. Unfortunate for Louise, she did not have many supporters and her biggest enemy was her best friend.

Louise long longed for retiring into a convent. She was quite the pious person and during her time with Louis, the need to repent for her time with Louis grew strong in her. Louis was once fascinated with her, her shyness, her humbleness, her love to read, and the fact that she loved him, just as he was, and the fact that he was King seemed of no importance to her. At one point he began to tire of it. His personality developed into a direction that more and more differed from that of quiet Louise and there weren’t just few people at court which thought Louise was quite the opposite of what the King needs. Louise fled to a convent the first time in 1662 after an argument with Louis in which had refused to tell him about the affair between Minette and the Comte de Guiche. He followed her swiftly, still feeling a certain attachment to her, and brought her back to court. Louis had born Louis five children during her time with him, three of them died shortly after their birth. The last born child was given the name Louis and legitimised along with his sister, he had quite the tragic life, while Louise herself was made a Duchesse. A bit of a parting gift, one can say.

We see Louise begging the King once more to release her and let her leave. She did so several times, but Louis was quite deaf to her pleas for quite a while. She was the mother of his children after all and her place was with him.

Now to our favourite Chevalier…
What does one do while the lover is at war? One plays at intrigues. The Chevalier was quite a master of it and I do love the scene with Minette and her Lady-in-Waiting.
Nick a necklace, hide it somewhere until it is noticed, return it and blame it on one of her Ladies in order to have her replaced with someone more willing to assist one.
The Chevalier was in charge of Monsieur’s household and since Madame’s household was part of Monsieur’s, something like this was quite easily done for him. In fact, both Monsieur and the Chevalier did so a couple of times. They had less cooperative people replaced by their own spies, after playing an intrigue on them, and thus having reason to dismiss them. Now we see Sophie being chosen to replace our innocent necklace thief, while Beatrice doesn’t seem to happy with it. She seems to have teamed with la Montespan and Philippe reminds her to show some gratitude before leading Sophie off to dance. He does have to best lines.

As the Chevalier amuses himself and does a bit of ogling, Minette does a bit of touching and tries again on manipulating Louis. She does not buy the whole necklace story, but Louis doesn’t quite care. He has decided to travel and join his glory stealing brother at the front and Minette shall come with him. A note on etiquette her, Madame was actually not allowed to follow Monsieur to camp and she was one of very few who remained in Paris and its surroundings as the court set off to Flanders during the War of Devolution.

Back to the Chevalier and his midnight date. What we see there is something that created mixed feelings in me. He did sleep with other people of both genders, and that is not the problem, my problem with is how very lecherous and unrefined he appears to be in that scene. He was a seducer, not a drooling lecher…. and would that scene not be much better if he would give us a little lesson in the art of flirting and seduction? I think it would.
As I said in Episode One, there will be a few things I will criticize concerning the portrayal of the Chevalier due to the simple fact that he is, next to Monsieur, my favourite historical person… so here is another thing…
I do not have any kind of problem with how he is played in the show and I find he is acted most brilliantly in the way he is written, and the way he is written works for the show very well… but it is not too close to the actual Chevalier at times, which we see as he has that knife on his throat. He is terrified. Like I said it makes perfect sense for the storyline of the show. Do what we want and your lover will be King. My problem with it is that the actual Chevalier would have acted quite differently and I do think that based on some things he did during his life, which do quite fit this situation. In my humble opinion, the first thing he would have done in a situation like this is to run to the King and to tell him everything. Why do I think that? Because he pretty much always did it. He would run to Monsieur and tell him what is going on, and then they both would tell Louis.
The Chevalier knows that Monsieur had absolutely no interest in becoming King himself, which under the show setting wouldn’t really be possible either, since the Dauphin would become King. He would use what he knew to make himself agreeable with Louis, knowing very well that Louis isn’t too fond of him and an information like this would change it immensely….but I guess that would take a bit of drama out of the show storyline.

Back to Moncourt and Cassel. Aha. It is the War of Devolution. An altered version. You might wonder why I was so confused about which war it is or not. The reason is simple. Monsieur did not fight during the War of Devolution, but he did during the Franco-Dutch war and since our Monsieur here fights, very gloriously, it makes it an altered version. While Monsieur does so, Louis is busy with arranging for a treaty.
In the meanwhile watchdog Rohan tries to keep Monsieur out of danger, or rather from stealing more glory, and what does Monsieur do? He is having a wee. Brilliant scene.
Louis is feeling bad for sending his brother off to war (to die?) and sweet Louise is asking Madame de Montespan for assistance. She actually did that. Yes, she was that naive. While Minette has already noticed what Athénaïs is after, Louise still thinks they are bffs, and Athénaïs will of course help in her own way…

We see Louis and Minette leave and him telling asking her if she missed England. That made me go “Ahhhh!”. Why? We will talk about that soon.
They arrive at the camp as Monsieur is talking of his plans for the next battle and he is not at all happy to see his brother. And his Wife. Together. Or the fact that Louis wants to end the war. Is this about the Porridge?

What they are referring to didn’t actually involve porridge, ’twas broth, but there was pissing. How very awesome is it that they mentioned that? Very. I didn’t expect it. Little Louis and little Philippe had their quarrels as kids already and in one they ended up with pissing on each other, actual pissing, and destroying a whole room, while during an other, Monsieur emptied a bowl of broth over Louis. You can read all about it here.

We end with a little anecdote of Monsieur checking himself out in a pocket mirror before riding into battle. I had to grin.
Philippe always paid great attention to how he looks, even on the battlefield. Someone once said he would ride into battle as others go to a ball. He would wear bling. His hair would be perfectly dressed. His garments clean and of the best fabric. He wore colorful feathers. His face was powdered and cheeks lightly rouged.
And never minding his dislike for any activity that was performed while being mounted on a horse, Philippe was worried being on a horse for too long might ruin his lovely pale skin and make him look quite peasant, meaning tanned, he did an awesome job whenever he rode into battle. Until the next Episode.

Merci beaucoup.