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Thoughts on Versailles, Episode Seven – Party like 1660

Thoughts on Versailles, Episode Seven



Whenever I watch something history related, I usually watch it in company of my better half. She lives pretty much at the other side of the world from me, so we do it by pressing play on our devices at the same time and talking about what we see on Twitter in DMs. Our DMs looked like this during the Episode… “No.” “Nooooooo.” “My baby!” “I can’t even.” “Excuse me while I sob a bit.”. Yes, we are quite emotionally involved into this. What was it that caused this outburst? We will get to it at the end of this Episode.

We start this Episode with a sweaty hallucinating Louis in bed and Bontemps bestowing a fatherly embrace on his Most Christian Majesty. The painting we see come to live is called Saint John at Patmos and it used to hang in the alcove of the King’s chamber, along with Louis XIV’s favourite painting, David playing the harp by Dominiquin. You can find the latter today in the Mars Salon of the chateau.
The doctor is called and rushes to Louis side. Luckily, Louis refuses to take what we know is poison and follows the advice of Masson’s daughter.
While Louis is ill in bed, Monsieur amuses himself…. or not, thanks to Lorraine, who then goes to water the garden and receives a surprise visit. A rather unpleasant one.
A guard enters and calls Monsieur to the King’s circle. I shall refrain from commenting on the amount of naked skin presented to us by Alex….
More naked skin, this time that of Fabien, who is called to the King’s circle as well after bedding the enemy. The Chevalier tries to tell Monsieur what is going on, Monsieur believes he is drunk. I still do not get why he did not went at once to the King after his first encounter with the masked stranger.

Next we see Monsieur, Minette, Fabien, Colbert, Louvois, Rohan, Bontemps and the Queen, all gathered in one room. Philippe does not want to hear any of it, anything of his brother being ill, anything about him maybe succumbing to his illness, anything of the possibility of him becoming Regent for the Dauphin. He never had any longing to become King himself and while Louis feared all his life Philippe might reach for the crown some day, all Philippe wanted was a little appreciation from his brother.
The best example for this is Louis’ illness in 1658, which perhaps might have inspired this one here. Louis caught scarlet fever during campaign and was taken to bed, gravely ill. For a long time it was not sure if Louis would survive or not and thus all eyes turned to Philippe, back then the next in the line to the throne. Philippe didn’t want to hear any of it and stayed at the side of his ill brother even after he was reminded by their mother of the dangers of a possible infection for himself. The court split into Team Louis, hoping for a swift recovery, and Team Philippe, already lifting their glasses to the new King. Louis did recover eventually and Philippe was more than glad to see his brother well and not being King himself.

Masson, by now quite furious at his daughter, knocks her out and helps himself to the bottle of poison. She is indeed unusually smart. Of course, if one’s father is a physician, one learns a thing or two by observing, but she is quite like from a different century. Physicians back then believed the well-being of a person depends on the four humors being in or out of balance. The four humors are black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Each of those humors was associated with a certain temperament, a certain season, a certain mood, and so on. When they were out of balance, meaning a person suffered of a malady, it was believed they must be brought back into balance by reducing the humor that seems most prominent in the person. For example by blood-letting, when one had a fever, for fever meant one was hot, being hot was associated with the warm seasons, which were associated in turn with blood. It sounds quite ridiculous for us today, just like the many other things, but it was actually taught like that and the very thing Masson believed in, while his daughter shows a more enlighted way of thinking. A way that seems more reasonable for us, but for Masson is quite experimental, explaining one reason for his fury. The other is very obviously jealousy. It was not common at all for women to be educated in matters of medicine or any other matter involving any kind science. For the low classes there was simply no way to achieve knowledge about such things, and frankly, they had other things to worry about. The middle class, taught their daughters how to read and write, how to sing and be pleasant, in hopes they might make a good catch, which was like the most important thing. The noble class taught their daughters the very same along with how to amuse, which involved certain knowledge of the arts, for the very same reasons. A daughter was something rather expensive to have compared to a boy. There were of course women who knew what effects certain herbs can have on the body and women who acted as midwives, the birth of children was mostly an all female activity, while the male doctors cared more for other things. Mason’s daughter is quite unusually smart considering all of this, especially since she seems to have taught most of it to herself.

She wakes up just in time to discover her bleeding father, after he had drunk what he thought to be a laudanum mix but seems to be a arsenic mix. Bontemps tells her either help your father, or the King. We all know what she will choose and she does just like that to discover the King is not there. Where is he? Where would a feverish King go to? He would go to dance, of course. Louis was a great dancer. He loved it, and whenever the King danced, his court had to dance with him. Court ballets were a massive thing and it was an honor to be given a role in one, although that meant weeks of practice. Every step had to be perfectly executed, every move had to be of the utmost grace, every gesture, every turn, every jump. Louis loved the ballet so much he created the Académie Royale de Danse in 1661 with the purpose “to restore the art of dancing to its original perfection and to improve it as much as possible”. He also came up regularly with new steps and until today a specific and rather difficult jump, he was perfect at, is named after him.
Now we see him, still feverish and in a chemise with fashionable high heels, doing just that. He comes up with a dance and he wants everyone to learn it. This solved two problems at once. Everyone was busy to learn and thus has no time to worry about other things, like opposing him, and during the performance of said dance everyone praised him simply by dancing, if they wanted or not. And how much does Bontemps suffer to see the King suffer of his illness…. Alexandre Bontemps was the Premier valet de la Chambre du Roi, watching over three other Premier valets de chambre and thirty-two valets. His father was already Premier valet to Louis XIII and Alexandre succeeded him in 1659. There is actually a Rue Alexandre Bontemps in Versailles, hinting how very important he was for the King and his security. As Bontemps died in 1701, he was a Comte and a Marquis, and held several key offices in the household of the King, along with being in charge of the Swiss Guard, which was responsible for his safety and that of the Dauphin.

Louis is brought back to bed and Jacques the Gardener appears to tell him a story after being asked. Once more Jacques is full of wisdom.
The court now is sure that something major is going on after seeing the clergy arrive. This, along with the fact that the King is ill, can only mean the worst.
In the meanwhile, Beatrice acquires her papers and proof of nobility by faking it with help of the seal she received by a masked stranger. Someone that manages to get hold of a seal like that, must be someone with access to the Royal Bureaus, and thus someone of importance. I have an idea who.

A new round of secret encoded letter is handed out and one lands by Fabien’s assistance, which has shown a bit of jealously and suspicion towards Beatrice. It is swiftly decoded and Fabien rides off to save the day. Or not.
It was a maneuver of distraction and the real secret gathering takes place at a other location and there she is, Beatrice. We are not too surprised to see her there, but the Chevalier is. What are you doing there, Philippe? You should know better. It seems the extent of what is going on finally dawns on him and we learn the Dutch support it, of course they do. Everything in me yells again for Philippe to finally run to the King or at least to Monsieur, what I expect the historical Chevalier would have done, and to tell them all along with him just being there as a spy to see what is going on. Will our Chevalier here do it? I doubt it… which once more makes me question the nature of this Chevalier or rather why this Chevalier does not use a chance like this to use it to his advantage like the historical Chevalier would have done and now where this will lead dawns on me.

Louis is brought back to the land of the, more or less, healthy by the rays of the sun, how fitting, yet don’t wants anyone to know. The King’s Circle holds another meeting and no-one wants to vouch for Monsieur as Regent, not because they do not trust him, but because they do not trust his friends. The Chevalier. Now I am very sure to what this will lead and the outburst of emotions it will create for me and Monsieur.
Like in the next scene…. I do not get it. I do not get it at all. Yes, it makes sense for the show Chevalier, but everything in me tenses right now and also in my better half watching the Episode at the other side of the world. This was when our DMs started to go crazy, because we both knew what we where about to see later on.

Brilliant Louis being brilliant again. Getting everyone to worry about him, when he is already better. What did Jacques say? Appear weak when you are strong. The perfect chance for Louis to see who is really on his Team and who not.
Another thing that did not really come as a surprise at this point is the fact that our female doctor gets appointed doctor to the King. From a historical point of view, nearly impossible.
The court endures mass to pray for the King’s recovery. Cassel and Beatrice are there too, the perfect change for Fabien’s eager assistant to sneak into her chambers and do a bit of rummaging. She finds the seal used by Beatrice to seal her proof of nobility.
In the meanwhile, Louis has a bit of a decent less selfish moment and allows Louise to leave and place herself into a convent. This took place on 1674 after Louise ran away to a convent again in 1671, Louis finally allowed her to leave three years later. She left for the Carmelite convent in the Faubourg Saint-Jacques in Paris under the name of Louise de la Miséricorde, Sister Louise of Mercy.

And here we go.
I knew this moment would come as I saw a picture posted by the lovely Versailles fan account, before Episode One was aired, that showed the Chevalier in a cell. I just did not know how they would do it. In the very moment we saw Monsieur praying, it was clear to me and this was the moment I and my better half started to exchange the “Nooooooo.” DMs. Both of us are equally attached to Les Philippes and both of us feared that moment. They are dear to us and we suffer with them. What do I talk about? The Chevalier getting arrested.

We see Monsieur praying for the recovery of his brother as his brother appears just like that and well. Monsieur is happy to see him, but that happiness is swiftly destroyed by Louis and the fact Louis did not tell Philippe he was better and let him continue to believe his brother was dying. Monsieur’s disappointment is obvious. So is his despair as he is told his lover is a traitor and about to be thrown into a cell. He cries. I cried with him.
While this scene is quite dramatic by itself, the way the Chevalier was actually arrested was not less dramatic and a perfect example of Louis taking as he pleases what is dear to his brother if it is to his own advantage. Here we have the Chevalier being arrested for conspiracy against the King, based on his arrest in January 1670. What has happened then? It was a mix of several events. For one, The Chevalier gained more and more influence over Monsieur, thus making it hard for Louis to control his brother and a brother that can not be controlled is a dangerous brother, in the eyes of Louis at least. The Chevalier was basically controlling everything Monsieur did and that was not good because Louis needed Monsieur’s agreement to send Minette off to England. Since 1669 Louis had worked on getting the support of the English in order to destroy the Dutch. The terms where all worked out as Charles II insisted his dear sister Minette might bring them to England in order to be signed. While these terms were discussed, it was also discussed what Louis could do to make the life of Minette easier, meaning removing the Chevalier. Minette, although she always denied it, played a rather prominent role in the arrest of the Chevalier.
In the meanwhile, as always, Monsieur was totally excluded from anything political and so, as Louis and Minette saw each other more often again, suspected they have an affair again. The Chevalier made it his mission to find out what was going on, and he did so with help of his spy network and one or two chambermaids that were quite in love with him. He told Monsieur and was shortly after arrested in presence of Monsieur as both of them had breakfast to be brought to a prison to Lyon. Why Lyon and not the Bastille? Lyon was further away and therefore also further away from Monsieur. Monsieur suffered greatly and went into a proper fit of rage that included removing himself from court, along with Minette, and traveling to one of his country estates. A country estate so far away from Paris, it can be considered the end of the world by 17th century standards. More about that in the next Episode.

What does Beatrice do in the meanwhile? She kills the eager assistant and takes something rather odd before visiting Fabien. In bed with Fabien she drinks what she says it a love potion, something quite common, and he drinks the rest. Does he suspect her by now? I hope so, because I suspect it is poison and the thing she took before it something to neutralize or postpone the effect.

The show must go on. Entree Louis, dressed in a costume that reminds me somewhat of the one worn during the Ballet de la Nuit in 1653. It was a highly political thing. Louis was dressed as Apollo, what else, and the whole thing basically resembled the victory of the King over those that wished to destroy him during the Fronde.
While everyone admires the recovered King and his gracious moves on the dancefloor, Fabien suffers the first poisonous effects and Monsieur probably cries in some corner broken-hearted.
We close with a bloody Chevalier in a cold cell busy trying to ignore the screams of the gentleman outside that is currently quartered. My heart is broken. I must watch the next Episode.

Merci beaucoup.