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Thoughts on Versailles, Episode Six – Party like 1660

Thoughts on Versailles, Episode Six



The rise of the builders. We start with Louis showing off his soon to be palace, the hunting lodge of his father, that is slowly but surely transformed, to a handful of nobles. Introducing it as their future home, a place of leisure, providing everything they will need. They are quite impressed, but the soldiers serving now as builders are not and we see one of them opposing the King in front of those he seeks to impress, until he jumps and hangs himself with a ‘As your brother commands” that clearly aimed at Monsieur, who now is seen more as one of them as Louis will ever be… and that sets the tone for the whole Episode.

Before we move on, let’s have a look at the construction of Versailles. What we see in the show right now is known as the Second Building Campaign. The first took place from 1664–1668, after minor alterations and enlargements had been executed on the château and the gardens in 1662–1663. The second, 1669–1672, consisted of the execution of what is called the enveloppe, enclosing the hunting lodge on the north, west, and south, along adding new structures and lodgings for the King and members of his family and long terrace was built at the garden front.

The west facade of Versailles and the terrace before the construction of the hall of mirrors.

You will search for the terrace in vain today, because it was replaced by something else during the Third Building Campaign, 1678–1684. It was replaced by the Hall of Mirrors. A little anecdote about that, Louis urge to have the Hall of Mirrors built was partly caused by jealousy after seeing the Gallery his brother had built at Saint Cloud, which was by the way dedicated to Apollo and thus more or less to Louis. So, Louis nicked basically everyone who did help with the Saint Cloud Gallery and had them do the Hall of Mirrors.  Another idea Louis stole from his brother’s palace in Saint Cloud, was having his bedroom placed at the very center of the chateau. Monsieur had a splendid apartment created for his brother, in case he should visit, whose bedroom was at the very center. Louis copied that during the Fourth Building Campaign, 1699–1710. The working conditions at Versailles were not too good, but you can say they were normal for 17th Century Standards. While our Louis here moves his court to Versailles already in 1667/1668, this did actually not fully happen until May 1682, and the life at Versailles was not that spectacular and gilded as we imagine it to have been today. The Palace was one big construction site. It was dirty, it was dusty, cold in the winters, very loud, and as soon as one new structure was finished, the workers moved on the next.

While the Duc de Cassel seems not to be too happy with his new quarters Bontemps presents him, people would have killed for a room in the Palace later on. As Louis managed to lure more and more people to Versailles, living space became rather rare. It is quite amazing and one reason for why Louis is my favourite King. He actually managed to lure the nobles from a somewhat comfortable life in their Parisian Hôtels and estates to Versailles, where they actually were happy to be given a small attic room. A Duchesse, that has country estates and a lovely Hôtel, was happy to be given an attic room, that was too cold in winter and unbearably warm during summer, just to be close to the King… they complained about it, yes, but still they were happy to belong to those who could actually live in the Palace.

Jacques the gardener, a man full of wisdom, hints Louis should send his brother to talk with labour withholding builder-soldiers, but Louis seems to be of the opinion Philippe had stolen enough of Louis’ personal glory already and sends Rohan. Louis was during all his life rather obsessed with glory, so his decision is no surprise. Rohan. I do like that man less and less for some reason.

Next we have Marie-Thérèse and Louise de La Vallière. We didn’t really talk about Marie-Thérèse yet, did we? The historical Marie-Thérèse was more of a shy person, she had quite the Spanish accent and would never get really rid of it. It is said that her accent, at times, was so bad that people hardly understood her and thus did not spoke too much with her. She had a good heart and was incredibly fond of anything sweet, especially chocolate, which was not too good for her teeth. She is said to have had terrible teeth already in her 20’s. Another thing about her, quite naive and yet admirable, was the fact that she believed a King could only love a princess of royal blood. Marie-Thérèse was all her life incredibly in love with her handsome and strong Louis…. he was quite in love with himself too, but less so with Marie-Thérèse, yet treated her himself with the utmost respect and always made sure everyone else did so as well. Since Marie-Thérèse believed a King, her King, could not possibly fall in love with someone of a rank less than royal princess, it came quite as a shock to her as it dawned on her that Louis loved sweet Louise. She started to loathe her and could not understand how Louis could love that person at all. Here we see Marie-Thérèse assisting Louise and Louis once more refusing to let her go. At the time Louise’s fall and the rise of la Montespan, Marie-Thérèse still believed Louise is her archenemy, so perhaps her act of assisting has quite a different reason as Louise might think.

More encoded letters are written and obviously by a noble, judging by the clothing. I have an idea by whom. The letters are delivered more or less subtly, one lands by Cassel, a other by the Chevalier… who is in Monsieur’s bed. How did he get there? When did they make up? Why was it not shown? I feel like I missed something of importance. Anyway, the Chevalier’s letter urges him obviously to get Monsieur into the gardens, who casually mentions the builders and the fact that his good Parisian friend has no room yet. I see what you are doing there, Philippe, and it works…. but I still quite wonder why the other Philippe plays along in that letter game as mentioned in Episode Five.
We see them stroll and Monsieur is approached by one of the builders, while the Chevalier casually saunters ahead. He shouldn’t have done that, it makes him a little suspicious. Monsieur is told he could count on the support of the soldiers, if things should change. The sun is setting, something big is clearly going on and now the soldiers are a part of it too.

Louis is dining. He and the Queen seated on an armchairs, Minette on a chair without armrests, the rest on stools. Only the King, Queen, and Dauphin had the right to sit on chairs with arms, the next level are chairs without arms, then the stools, then standing. At the height of the courtly life in Versailles and in general at court, who was allowed to sit and who not, along with on what they were allowed to sit, was quite a big deal. So big that noble families went into private little wars with each other.
We see how Montespan rises, while Louise sinks, and Cassel, a Duc, serves the first course. Monsieur takes his place on the side of Louis and both are arguing again. Monsieur wants to leave, but Louis won’t let him.

Slowly, but surely, Versailles starts to look a bit like a prison. It was not that bad. As we mentioned above, Louis did not install the court at Versailles until the 1680’s and before that it was a bit of a traveling circus. There were several official royal residences the King, along with his court, would stay at and this even was the case after everyone moved to Versailles. There was Saint-Germain, for example, and Fontainebleau, perfect for hunting or romantic strolls. Monsieur had two residences, one was the Palais Royal in Paris and the other was his baby Saint Cloud just outside Paris. If you ever go to Paris, make sure to go to Saint Cloud as well. It is not far and although the actual palace is not there anymore, the park is and along with it the famous Grand Cascade.
Monsieur spent plenty of time there along with his wife and his so-called mignons, the male friends he kept close. They were given the nickname mignons based on the nickname of the close male friends Henri III had. The Chevalier was nicknamed le archimignon, the favourite of the favourites. Just as Monsieur spent time in his residences, Louis traveled from one to the other as well frequently. He spent the winter of 1667 in the Tuileries, for example.
So it was not quite like once one set foot into Versailles, one could not leave it anymore. People came and left all the time. Louis did so as well.

Beatrice still did not manage to get the papers that prove her nobility and by now I think we all are aware they do not exist and that she is actually not related to the Chevalier, otherwise she would have no problems to acquire them. The Lorraine’s, as mentioned in the last Episode, are a very large family, one of their strengths, and a very old family. In fact way older than that of Louis XIV. There is nobody who could actually doubt their right to nobility. How can the Chevalier not notice Beatrice is not his cousin as she claims? He most likely had never seen her before she came to court. The term cousin was way more loosely used back then as it is today, and since the family had so many branches, it is quite likely he had never seen her before. He might have heard of the name Clermont before, and he might be aware they are somehow related to him, many people are, but that is all.

Louis gets dirty with la Montespan. Does he finish what he started? It does not look like it. He leaves, just before Monsieur enters in search for him. Both meet in the bedroom of Minette… where else. Philippe tries to talk sense into Louis, Louis, as always, refuses any advice or help, at least when it comes from his brother. And boom. Minette is pregnant. I was waiting for this.
Who is the father? We do not know and how could we, since she was slept with both of them.

Louvois, he looks quite like the actual Louvois, talks with the soldiers-now-builders and fails. I did not expect anything else. While we hear Louvois shout in the background, Sophie gets a surprise visit and both witness Monsieur and Madame arguing. There is so much truth about the nature of Louis in what Philippe says there. A bit of historical background on the situation, as said in a previous Episode, Louis and Minette weren’t actually a thing anymore in 1667. They had a brief thing going on between 1661 and 1662, but Philippe would always remain cautious about it.
What we see here seems to be inspired by the talk of 1662. Minette gave birth to a girl on March 26. A girl who was given the name Marie Louise and would become Queen of Spain. Very shortly after her birth, the first rumors started, that, due to everyone being aware of Minette and Louis, the father of this child can be found on the throne and not standing next to it. Meaning people believed Marie Louise was the daughter of Louis and not Philippe. We can all imagine how he felt about talk like that and the vast majority seems to have believed it. Nobody can quite say if it is true or not, but if you look at the paintings of Marie Louise, she pretty much looks like Monsieur in a dress.

As Moncourt acts out a fake robbery, Sophie finally questions her mother as to who they actually are. We learn they aren’t really from Pau as they claim to be and also that Beatrice is part of the conspiracy. Shortly after we see her masked and sneaking into a building that does not really look respectable.
Louis breaks up with Minette, finally doing what is decent.
Back to Beatrice, her visit to Fabien and a bit of bed, or rather table gymnastics. Seducing the chef of the police when you are part of a conspiracy and also lack papers of nobility. Smart.
In the meanwhile a other member of the conspiracy, they are everywhere, exchanges a bottle in Masson’s medicine bag meant for the King. Poison? Without a doubt. Is it what Beatrice got in that not so respectable looking building? I bet. Is she a major player in the conspiracy? It seems so.

Louis is up to something and orders the soldiers-now-builders to be brought to him, while he goes to fetch his brother…. who is in bed with the Chevalier. My fangirl part was freaking out and saying thinks such as “Aww. How cute.”.
Louis was never fond of homosexuality and the only reason why he partly tolerated it, was his brother.

The soldiers arrive. See that one being all “OMG” at the decor? That was me when visiting the chateau for the first time.
Louis explains his plans for a hospital, Les Invalides. Today it is a museum in a building one can hardly not see, due to its vast proportions and shiny golden dome. Along with being a museum of anything military, it also is the burial site of Napoleon. One of the great military geniuses of Louis’ time is buried there as well, the Vicomte de Turenne, and the heart of Louis’ master of fortifications rests there too.
As it was build it was a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers, that kept them off the streets and gave them something to do.

The builders-now-soldiers seem quite pleased, apart from one. He spits at Louis.
Whatever disease the man has, Louis got it too now. His worst nightmare becomes true in form of a fever dream… and what that we will continue in the next Episode.

Merci beaucoup.