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Thoughts on Versailles season two, episode eight…. – Party like 1660

Thoughts on Versailles season two, episode eight….

Our King is on his way back to Versailles and we are at episode eight. I actually felt a little guilty after complaining so much again last episode….

How long does it take to travel from Holland to Versailles on horseback? I can’t quite say. I do have a note somewhere that lists distances and how fast one could travel those on horseback, but can’t locate it right now. I might add it when I see it next. Anyway, I guess at least more than a good week must have passed in the meanwhile as our King rides towards his home, the stunning thing that is Versailles. No-one shall be informed that he is about to enter the building, he wants it to be a surprise. (Is that the same spot where he stood at the end of last season?)

Inside the chateau, the salons are for once open and Madame de Montespan sweeps through them with Monsieur Bontemps. The Queen wishes to see her. Marie-Thérèse sits in the council room, note the painting of Louis XIII on the wall above the fireplace, with some Ministers at her side. It’s about debts. Marie-Thérèse has found a new way to try to rid herself of the Marquise, which did not pay her bills. Or rather the King did not pay them because absent. It will be all sorted when he returns, say the Marquise, and he is just about to do that. Our King rides through the golden gates of Versailles. Since we all know I love etiquette, here’s an interesting etiquette fact: Who could enter Versailles in which way was regulated as well. Only very few had the right to drive with their carriage to the doors, most had to stop outside the gates and walk.

The King!” shouts Bontemps and everyone is in quite the surprise. Even more so as Louis orders the room to be cleared in a rather loud tone of voice. All are to leave, apart from the Marquise, who shows Marie-Thérèse a bit of a smug face. She missed him, he says he missed her too… his tone says otherwise. La Montespan inquires why her royal lover has not replied to her letters and, with his back to her, Louis starts to talk how his dream of Versailles has been slowly suffocating and he with it. Madame de Montespan, who had been with his for so long, blinded him to all of this. He dismisses her. Historically speaking, this is a little strange again. Versailles did shine especially brightly as Louis was with Madame de Montespan and she was quite invested in it. She even designed a fountain.

La Montespan’s face says it all. It was the last thing she expected. Her fears have come true, for it appears Louis’ passions are not so passionate anymore. Back for M83 Outro- Intro, she locks herself in her rooms. Madame Scarron is with Madame de Montespan, asking if the King is doing well and la Montspan acts as if nothing unusual happened.

Our King feels freshly invigorated and is undressed for a bath. Did you ever wonder why bathtubs are always covered with sheets of linen in historical settings? One reason for it is that they were made of metal, which heated up due to the hot water. The sheets were used to prevent a burning of the skin which came into contact with the metal. Bontemps notes that our King seems changed since he has last seen him. Indeed he has and his return must be celebrated. He orders a banquet to be held in the evening and everyone is to attend it. As well as Bontemps to inform him of everything that happened while he was away.

The Duchesse de Cassel sneaks her way to Madame Agathe. (My fingers still want to write Agather for whatever reason.) Sophie does not regret what she has done and her hubby is doing worse by the day, but she is bothered by the thought that she will have to live with this vile deed for the rest of her life. Don’t be silly, says the witch/bitch, you did only defend yourself and some more poison is handed over.

Louis lounges in his linen-covered tub and Philippe has joined him in the meanwhile. I’m not quite sure if Louis is kidding as he says Philippe made a fine King in his absence, but he hands out some thanks after it. Philippe, being his usual grumpy self, did the bargain hunting very well in service of France. He kneels down by the tub and inquires how the war was. Educational, says Louis. He left his enemies here, to confront a other one, but his actual true enemy travelled with him all the way.

A bit of reverse-breakfasting is going on in the chambers of Madame. Madame la Duchesse de Cassel looks concerned, but Liselotte thinks it’s nothing serious. She probably just ate something wrong. You are pregnant, methinks. One of the maids rushes off to inform Monsieur and the doctors, after what happened with the previous Madame, and all that ado about poison, one can’t be too paranoid.

Invitations for the banquet, with golden L’s, are handed out as we return to the Marquise de Montespan. She promenades through the gardens and sees this banquet as the perfect chance to win her favour back. Her dress-maker must come at once from Paris and a certain Monsieur that does fireworks as well. I have the feeling this will terribly backfire. Louis has watched her from his windows, before turning his attention to Bossuet. Our King has been deaf to Bossuet’s advice, this will change now. Bosseut is delighted. Easter will be celebrated in three weeks and under these new circumstances, the King will of course receive communion. I think I have mentioned in a previous episode how very paranoid Louis XIV got around Easter time after it was hinted that he shan’t receive communion. It was a major scandal that the Church could do this, after all Louis was chosen by God himself. He broke with Madame de Montespan due to it and although he continued his affair shortly after, always was rather paranoid it could happen again. Sometimes he even broke with his various lovers again over Lent and Easter. Here, our Louis hints that he did not just break with la Montespan to get communion, but also to get the Church to aid his war efforts.

Back to Liselotte. The Doctors have arrived and Madame is being bled. According to the 17th century understanding of how the body works, bleeding was something to be thought able to cure any kind of disease…. but she is not just bleed here, she also gets a blood transfusion. This is something rather new in 17th century medicine. The first blood transfusion attempts were made in the 1660’s by the English physician Richard Lower of the Royal Society. Towards the end of February 1665, he opened the veins of a dog and bled said dog until it nearly perished, then gave the dog the blood of a other, with the help of newly designed instruments, after the veins were closed again, the first dog recovered swiftly. The first blood transfusion involving an animal and a human-being was performed on June 15 in 1667 by Monsieur Jean-Baptiste Denys, at that time personal physician to Louis XIV. He transfused the blood of a sheep to a fifteen year old boy, who had been bled using leeches (*shudders*) about twenty times. The boy survived. Denys’ then did the same with a worker, who also survived…. but three was not a lucky number for Denys. His third attempt, with the Baron Gustaf Bonde, ended badly. It caused such a fuss that Denys had to go to trial and quit practising medicine. Interestingly, the practise was banned in 1670…. so a couple of years before where we currently are time-wise… *side-eyes the writers*

Liselotte receives the blood of a lamb and here expression mirrors what I feel seeing the blood. Monsieur tugs the physician aside to ask what he thinks. It must be poison. The woman is pregnant, I think, but them thinking it’s poison makes a lot of sense actually. The thought poison was pretty much everywhere, not just during this time, but in general. It went so far that people were seriously worried even their garments could have been poisoned. Back then, they thought this possible, but today we know that people probably did not have the knowledge and means to do this. It’s also interesting to know that Liselotte considered coffee to be a rather dangerous drink and thought coffee drinking was one of the reasons why the Dauphin died. She was not the only one to think that.

A wild Monsieur races through his rooms to find a irritated Chevalier. “Was it you? How did you do it? Did you slip poison into her wine?” The Chevalier has no clue what is going on. “My wife! She has been poisoned and I think I know who did it!” Get a grip, Philippe. “You yourself said you would declare war on her!” Unbelieving shocked expression by the Chevalier. “I meant this like on her clothes. I may mock her. I may hate her for stealing you from me.(Ugh.)  And in the dark of night I have wished her dead. But I would not go so far as to make her dead.” “………I’m sorry.” “You should be.” 

In the council room, Louis gets an update on war matters by Louvois. Bonn has fallen. Things ain’t looking great and Louvois suggests that perhaps peace should be sought, if they do it now they still do it from a position of strength…. which might change quickly. Nup to that, says Louis. Louvois is ordered to do what ever is necessary and my history-senses begin to tickle.

We stay with the King and enter a large salon. It is empty and it’s shutters closed. Louis gets his propaganda side out. Whatever setbacks there may be, the people of France are just to read about good news. Make your own history. Louis steps into the middle of the salon. “What do you see?” Cue dark mysterious music. Furniture, says Colbert. Walls, says Louvois. “Yes. Furniture. Walls. Curtains. Candles. What else?” Darkness, says Thomas, and that seems to be right answer….. obviously it is rather dark in there since all shutters are closed. “Precisely.” says Louis and opens said shutters at once to let some light in. “I dreamt of creating a hallway (*gasps* How can you call it a hallway? It kinda was… but still…) ten times the size of this room. A room without darkness. On one side, windows looking out to the gardens. On the other, mirrors. A hall of blinding light. It will make the palace famous throughout the world and for time eternal. Let us now turn this dream into reality.” Applause. The Sun has returned to Versailles, but the good mood does not last long. Bontemps appears to tell the King that Liselotte is feeling a bit ill… before we return to her, let me ramble a bit about the Hall of Mirrors. The Galerie des Glaces as we know it today, links the apartment of the King to that of the Queen. It was constructed during the third building campaign of Versailles, starting in 1678 and lasting to 1684. Before there was a Galerie des Glaces, the whole area was a sort of terrace in Italian style. Unfortunately, the French weather is not as pleasant as the Italian at times and the marble of the terrace did not like this. A other issue was that water soaked through it and destroyed the rooms underneath. It was decided to cover the whole area. An inspiration for this was actually the chateau de Saint-Cloud, in which Monsieur had a large gallery built which was dedicated to Apollo. Louis did quite like it and had to outdo his brother of course. Why all the mirrors? Louis wanted to show off. Mirrors were extremely expensive and this gallery has 350 of them combined into 17 large mirrors. Nobody had ever seen something like this before.

Liselotte looks utterly irritated as we return to her. Is it poison? Suddenly the doctors ain’t too sure anymore. He hands Liselotte a sort of chamber pot, wishing to perform another test. She crawls out of bed to produce some liquid, while everyone watches…. and orders them to turn. It’s difficult enough already and I guess we all feel her right now. The pot is handed back, something added to it, and it is announced Madame is with child. I can’t quite tell you what sort of test this is, but I can tell you they had certain tests to find out if someone was pregnant. I can also tell you that Monsieur was quite quick with getting his wives pregnant. Liselotte was pregnant by the end of 1672 and Minette a couple of weeks after her wedding.

Gaston has a bit of a date with his maid in the servants corridors. She hands him the prayer-book used for collecting money, but he is not that happy. He blackmailed someone he had already blackmailed and they did not pay yet. How very greedy.

An inpatient Montespan is being dolled up and her dressmaker is urged to hurry. Considering how long it took to create on of the elaborate state-robes, which had to be worn at occasions like balls, banquets, receptions and so on, she can be glad to have something to wear at all. She is quite on the edge. If her plan succeeds, she will return to favour. If not….

Banquet time comes swiftly and, after an awesome shot of the Allée d’Eau, we have a bold Thomas leading the Duchesse de Cassel inside. Some dancing is going on and I hit pause for a moment, because it amazes me how we move between outside shots of Versailles to shots of Vaux-le-Vicomte. The set here is again the Grand Salon of Vaux and while we have just seen a part of Versailles’ gardens, you can now see those of Vaux again through the open doors. On we go with the arrival of Gaston, who approaches a couple to not-so-subtly remind them to pay him a bit of money. The Chevalier is present as well and drinking. He saunters to Monsieur and Madame. I want to slap him….. but instead of going into ranting mode again, I shall just continue… there is not much I could say about it anyway… apart from that the way he is written is as far from how he was as the moon from the sun. Sigh. The Chevalier is informed that Madame is pregnant and sweeps away. Shouldn’t be like in a huff after being accused of poisoning? There is so much that doesn’t make sense here….

King and Queen enter. She in Spanish red, him in stylish blue and gold. Everyone lines up and I have to pause again to cast a glance at what Liselotte is wearing… is that a robe battante? Looks a bit like it. Did you notice how everyone has certain colours assigned to their characters? Liselotte seems to be light blue and the reason for this might be the light blue gown she wore during her wedding. Also…. did Monsieur dress her up? Will we ever get to see something like this? It would be hilarious and a nice historical reference.

Some fire-action is going on outside and it looks like the Indian Sultan forgot his dancers, because for some reason they are still at Versailles. I would say it’s just Indian influenced fashion, but it doesn’t quite look like it. Maybe they were a gift? Anyway, Marie-Thérèse and Liselotte observe this unusual display of dance moves with mixed feelings. Louis rises to place himself in the very centre of the room. If I am not wrong, Louis XIV actually stood on this very spot once. Our King turns and tells his courtiers to look at him, while he looks at them. “You all have a choice to make and now is the moment to make it. To live the dream of Versailles, or to betray it. If you choose to betray the dream, you will end your days in the gutter of history… but if you choose to follow me…. here… now… tonight… there is no limit as to what we can achieve. Tomorrow is the equinox (that’s around March 20), where the hours of the sun are longer than the hours of the night. And the shoots of branch and blossom are reborn. Let us banish the shadows that have haunted this palace for too long. Let us now be reborn.” Louis is not yet quite done as firework erupts outside and all heads turn… applause follows as we see a clearly irritated Louis and a Madame de Montespan entering in a spectacular golden dress. Someone isn’t amused at all. “You have forgotten your place.” Oui, she has, I think as the King leaves and the whispers start…. you know… I find it a little hard to believe that someone like Madame de Montespan, who knows the court and knows Louis, would really think this was a great idea. She knows better than anyone else that Louis does like to be in the spotlight. Alone. If someone is allowed to share it with him, for a brief moment, then it also serves him. Walking in there, all dressed up, with fireworks in the background is a show-stealer…. it is against everything he is about. Obviously, not a great idea. On the other hand…. if she had presented those fireworks as a gift to him, it would have flattered his ego…

Look at the Queen’s smug face. The pity in the eyes of Madame Scarron, as Montespan shovels her own grave. While the fireworks still fire-work about and illuminate the night sky in golden light, the blackmailed couple commits suicide by poison. Holding hands.

’tis the next morning it appears. Our King is getting dressed in style and dismisses a coughing Cassel, would drive me nuts too…. but Bontemps is a little… well, he isn’t as polite as he should be as he informs them. I sometimes think someone forgets that he is… not just a valet, but not a Duc either. With someone I mean certain writers. Screams interrupt the ceremony and head turn. Our couple has been found dead on the ground. A letter is found.

King and premier valet ride out of the golden gates of Versailles. I think they might be on the way to fetch a certain Fabien and that’s exactly what they do. Monsieur Marshal is located at the grave of Claudine. Bontemps tells Louis that Claudine is dead… he seems to have forgotten to tell Louis as he was asked to tell everything…. and the King dismounts. Fabien has buried Claudine in a spot she liked much. “I’m sorry for her death. I wish I could have done something.” “You could have.” Louis learns that Claudine was killed during investigations regarding the poison situation, because she seems to have discovered something. “I need you. I wish you to return to my service. It is not an order. It is a request.”

We are half-way through this episode, and gosh, quite a lot did happen already, didn’t it? Now we are with the Queen again. Bossuet and Madame Scarron are there too. The Queen is still plotting. They must ensure Madame de Montespan remains out of favour… and Madame Scarron is to ensure it. Yes. The Queen wants Madame Scarron to play nice with the King. In real, it needed no Queen. Louis did discover Madame Scarron himself… but you know what… I shan’t waste any energy on ranting about how a sweet and giggling Marie-Thérèse has been turned into a plotting kill-joy nor about how a lot of this makes no sense…

Law and order has returned to Versailles. Fabien Marshal is back and thus continues his investigations. He has a closer look at the letter which was found with the couple. Close your eyes. Do you see the skyline of Miami in the sunset? Do you hear a Yeeeeeaaaahhhh? (I had to.) The couple murdered someone and was blackmailed due to it. They could not pay and committed suicide to save the family honour. Fabien is quite sure that a member of their family died recently and that they have poisoned this member of the family. (If you want, have a look at the case of the Marquise de Brinvilliers. She tried to murder her family with poison she tested on the poor and ill.)

Our King is in the garden and I am so very happy they finally got rid of this blue filter. He is joined by Madame Scarron and excuse me, but he is rather friendly with her out of a sudden. Le roi inquires if the widow would fancy a garden tour, but she would rather hear about war. Louis looks as if he rather would have done a garden tour and is not quite interested in war-talk. He wants her advice on something instead. That something is Madame de Montespan. The King wishes to know if he did the right thing, meaning to break with her. Oui, says Madame Scarron. Bed-sports should only occur between a married couple. It is the best for him and for her.

The lady they are talking about is in the gardens as well. She has sent a note to Philippe, wishing to speak to him. Philippe hopes it’s something important. He hates mornings. Monsieur wasn’t much of a morning person and usually didn’t get out of bed until noon. The Marquise wants Philippe to talk with his brother. They are sitting in one boat and she thinks he’s the only one Louis will listen to. Philippe’s expression hints that this isn’t quite true. He also can’t see what could change Louis’ mind in the matter. “Love is stronger than any argument, is it not?” Philippe makes a bit of a funny expression and I’m surely not the only one who thinks he should apply this to himself and the Chevalier.

Louis is in his bedchamber. He has decided to set up a new trading company. What he talks about is the Compagnie française pour le commerce des Indes orientales and was founded already in 1664 to compete with the English and Dutch trading companies. The idea dates back to Louis’ grandpa Henri IV, who authorised the first Indian trading company. Colbert revamped the idea and put several others into it. Louis XIV did indeed put three million into it himself and the rest was sold as shares. Our King moves from trading in India to trading in France. The crown should have a share on it, but there is a bit of a problem…. his little bro has claimed that share already. “……………..I see.”

The Duc de Cassel isn’t doing great at all. We join him as a doctor leaves him. He’s coughing his lungs out. Thomas saunters in as well. Thomas kindly reminds Cassel to spy on the King for him. Nup, says Cassel. He is about to die and not fit to serve anymore. Insert WTF face by Thomas here. Another reminder by Thomas is in order. If Cassel betrays him, Cassel shall be killed by him. It’s not much use to threaten a man half dead… and Cassel shows this thus.

Everyone is assembled in the council chamber as the Duc de Cassel enters. He got something to say. He spills all the beans. Saying that he has been part of a plot against the King…. and that Thomas is a spy. I rejoice. (Also, there’s another Louis creates his own enemies and enemies can become friends reference here.)

Louis utters his desire to speak with his brother as a coughing, but smug, Cassel shuffles away. Secret spy mission for Philippe? Monsieur makes an appearance in a swift and paces the room in grumpy-mode. Louis got a bit of an issue with Philippe claiming a trade share. Think of France. Most issues have solutions and it appears Louis found one for this. Philippe is to make merry with Thomas….

Fabien tries to find a solution for the poison issue in the meanwhile. He sneaks about and observes a lady handing her baby to Father Etienne. It’s the girl we know from previous episodes. Mathilde is her name. Fabien approaches to make some inquiries, but the girl knows nothing and wouldn’t tell even if she would know something. What she can tell is, that she gave her baby to a sort of orphanage outside of Paris…. and just as she sweeps away…. is that Bontemps sneaking in? Oui it is. He pays a visit to a colleague of Mathilde and she seems to know him by the name of Hector. I wonder if that is a sneaky reference again, but it probably is not. Bontemps got a bit of a reputation of copying his master in matters of women, so it would be hilarious if him going to a prostitute would be a snide remark of Madame de Montespan being a bit of a whore.

We return to the palace and a crowded salon in which Thomas walks about and observes. Scarron and Montespan are present as well, both seated a bit away from the general action. The Marquise has fallen out of favour and nobody pays too much attention to her. Over are the armchair days. Madame Scarron wishes to return to her rooms, but the Marquise commands her to stay… otherwise she would be completely alone. Bontemps, having returned from his adventure, saunters to both with some papers in his hands. I got an idea what that could be. The papers are handed to Madame Scarron, who wants to hand them back because they are meant for the Marquise de Maintenon and that’s obviously not her. It is, says Bontemps, the King has granted her the property and made her a Marquise.

The Marquise de Montespan is not happy about it and sweeps off, while Bontemps joins a lurking Fabien. The latter has observed Gaston gambling his money away without blinking and asks Bontemps why that man is suddenly so rich. Bontemps can’t quite explain it. “By the way, I encountered a friend of yours yesterday in Paris. Goes by the name of Hector. Well dressed. Well spoken. Spitting image of you, in fact.” lol Bontemps is a bit shocked. That lady is a friend of him and he visits to chat and drink tea once in a while. He has no clue why his friend calls him Hector. lol “Don’t worry. The King will know nothing of these tea-parties.”

Madame de Montespan has returned to her rooms and is in company of Philippe, who not yet managed to talk with his brother about the matter. He probably doesn’t want to either. She should be patient, he says, but she can not. He will find a other woman if she waits too long… but nobody that comes close to you, says Philippe. “But you agree. He will find someone else.” The mask of la Montespan has fallen. She is not longer the proud and sparkling woman. She is broken. “Go and see him. Confront him. Tell him your feelings.” Am I the only one thinking Philippe should apply that to himself again? As in run to a certain Chevalier?

The Marquise takes Monsieur’s advice and rushes to the King… but again, she doesn’t do it in a smart manner. Louis is already annoyed as she enters and orders those in his company to leave. “Do you still love me?” “I gave you my reasons.” “Do you still love me?” No answer. “Say I do not love you. Say it. SAY IT!” “I do not love you.” “You’re a liar.” It’s quite obvious by the look of him that his words were not quite true… it’s also hard to deny that a different approach might have been more successful.

We stay with Madame de Montespan. She rushed from the palace to Madame Agathe. There is only one thing that can be done now to win the King back. La Montespan needs to meet a friend. He will be able to help. And she’s quite in a hurry with that, because she arrives already at the place of that friend in the next scene. It’s looks like it’s somewhere in some forest. A wall, overgrown and old, with a door featuring a large cross. Do you think what I think? It’s not hard to guess, is it? She knocks and enters. The place is dark, somewhat creepy, and the man who occupies it nobody else than a certain Father Etienne.

And with that, 4857 words later, ends episode eight. Now where we come to the more interesting parts of the whole poison affair, I can’t spoil too much anymore and shall chat about it a bit more in the next episode. Thank you for reading.



  • Grace

    Hi, just a quickie question or I’ll forget: Do you think the Hector reference is to do with Hector and Apollo, maybe?

    Love your reviews.

    • Aurora von Goeth

      Oh 🙂 I didn’t even think of that. It might have and Hector is quite a unusual name for a Frenchman of the time.

  • Tess

    In this episode, the Queen and Liselotte were again in the same scene. I can’t help it, but every time I see them together, I think Jessica Clark is more fit for the historical image of Marie-Therese (rounded blonde) than Elisa Lasowski (who is a great actress, btw). Speaking of the queen, I have mixed feelings at the sight of Marie-Therese plotting and trying to push the new friend (read: new mistress) to the king. Just no. And I have the impression that the writers want to convince me that the Marquise de Maintenon turned into a religious fanatic mainly under the influence of the queen. What a mess…

  • Carin

    I am very much fond of the Phillipes combo. As we progress through the season 2 , there is a feeling of something missing and I think it’s due to the onscreen time allowed to the relationship. When Lorraine learnt about the pregnancy he should have been in anger to be so badly treated when accused of poisonning. And he was not happy in this scene but the disapproval only showed in the way he turned his back as he moved away.