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

Thoughts on Versailles season two, episode five….

Episode five, this means we are half way through the season. Last season things really started to kick off then. I’m thrilled to discover how this new season continues, but before we travel back in time to 17th century France allow me to say something regarding the previous episode. It did get a little ranty… or rather I got a little ranty and I feel like pointing out again that I get into rant-mode because I care about what I see and not because I do not like the show in general. I like it. And I wish I could just watch it as it is, without my mind drawing conclusions or comparing what is shown to what happened. Alas, it is something that is impossible for me and it is impossible for a lot of history interested folks. Talking from experience, I can tell you that this is quite annoying. It is also annoying to see something that is the centre of one’s life, something one has spent years with to study, being not put onto screen to its full potential…. therefore, brace yourself… I have a few more things to complain about as we proceed…

Last episode ended with Monsieur Gaston and Madame Agathe having a bit of a snog to seal their wicked contract. The first scene of this episode brings us back to our King looking out of a window, lost in thoughts. It rains and behind him wait the Ministers and Monsieur Marshal. Our King is not happy with the current situation. His Minister murdered, his widow slain, the killer committed suicide, thus those that kicked the whole thing off are dead, yet the poison and powder situation it not under control. It spreads, infects, grows, and it does show an effect on Louis as well. “Is it any wonder that I have not slept? If such tragedies befall me while I wake, what kind of Hell awaits me should I ever fall asleep?

…and with this, Louis dismisses Fabien from his service. “I do not know that man.” he says and I do like those tiny references to things our historical Louis XIV said. While Fabien packs this things, Gaston returns to Versailles in order to act his evil plan out. To do so, he has to regain the King’s permission to lodge in the palace again… easier said than done, for the guards block the entrance for him. He does manage to get in still, not necessarily with style, but in he gets in and just in time. As Gaston is handled by the guards, our King passes by. He is in company of Bomtemps and la Montespan, the latter wearing a style of gown the historical Madame de Montespan invented. It’s called a robe battante and the Marquise invented it to hide her pregnancies as the situation with her husband had not been taken care off yet. It’s a sort of loose sitting almost dressing-gown thingy. It first it worked out well, and hid that she was pregnant, but at some point people started to notice a bit of a pattern and it became quite clear she was pregnant when she got that gown out. Her grand-daughter (Marie Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans) later adopted this style of dress as well to hide her pregnancies, before it eventually turned into the form of the well-known robe à la française.

Gaston drops on his knees and begs for forgiveness. Bontemps can’t quite believe it as Madame de Montespan leans in to the King and whispers something, we do not hear what she says, but Louis steps to Gaston, placing himself very regally and in proper baroque stance (Details, folks. It works here and I find it awesome.), to ‘forgive’ Gaston and present the royal hand for a kiss of reference. A glance is exchange between the Marquise and the head-valet. Oh, the tension.

Fabien paces and has gathered his belongings, as he is joined by Bontemps in the inquisition cellar. Fabien will be missed, says Bontemps, and is advised by Fabien to have a chat with the King. He must be brought back to his right mind or everything will go down the drain.

One of the reasons things are as they are, is Madame Agathe. We have her mix some liquids in company of Gaston. He does not quite understand why he was forgiven by Louis and Madame Agathe (For some reason I always want to write Agather.) points something out that is quite the nature of our King. He gives and he takes. If you upset him, don’t act as he wants, he takes from you. If you praise him and act according to the role he has assigned to you, he gives. Madame Agathe also explains that Gaston will have to climb the favour-ladder in order to act their plan out and get her some new clients on the way. La Montespan could use some support too and Gaston should befriend her a bit more.

The well might be poisoned, but you have the antidote.” says Claudine to Fabien. Although he has been dismissed, they should proceed to investigate. She is already at it and tries to figure out what the ingredients of the poison are, but can not quite ascertain one of them. Some subtle-not-so-subtle flirting that makes me smile follows, before Claudine sweeps out in order to help those in need.

Back in Versailles, a regiment of soldiers walks the parterre d’Eau in formation and is followed by riders. I do love these shots. Did you know that they can only film there on Mondays? It’s the closing day of the chateau and used by all sorts of companies to get some shots of the palace without a horde of tourists in the picture. (Tourists at Versailles can be rather bold. We observed one climbing over one of those velvet ribbons in order to climb a staircase and get into a part closed to the public, who then got into a major huff as he was called back by security.)

Louis and Philippe observe the troops from inside and Philippe is getting instructed on Louis plans, then told he will lead the troops. He looks rather surprised. Happy too. But gets no answer as he inquires how his big brother is sleeping.

A merry Gaston enters the salons and this show does surprise me at times. Praise where praise is due. I find it lovely how he pays references. What he does there is a référence en passant and done, for example, when one strolls and passes someone. Since I am etiquette obsessed, I can not help it to point out that one’s head should not be bowed during the act of bowing… but this is done wrong basically everywhere and has to do with the fact that different courts had different rules. Gaston spots Sophie and unknowingly calls her Mademoiselle. He is thus corrected by Thomas, who then goes to mingle. Gaston takes his chance and hints to Sophie that one can do something about unhappy marriages as their conversation allows it. She knows what he means and excuses herself…. isn’t she still supposed to work as spy? Not just for Fabien, but also for the King?

In the town of Versailles, Claudine attends to a young pregnant woman who appears to be of the bedding-industry. It is not her first pregnancy and the girl tells us that she has given some of her kids into the care of a Father Etienne. He’s a Saint and places the children in establishments that ensure a certain comfort and education. I am not to sure about that. The mention of a man of the Church along with the word babies and the fact that we are in the middle of a poison scandal makes me thing of something very different… Speaking of the Devil… pardon, Saint… Father Etienne enters the room as Claudine is about to leave. He seems very friendly. Very caring. Much more likeable than the Father’s that roam the chateau.

Another very beautiful shot of Versailles, this time at night, brings us back to the Duc and Duchesse de Cassel. The Duc leaves his wife to mingle in the salons and Sophie remains behind. In the salons, Louis plays the 17th century version of billiard, at which he was very very good. He quite enjoyed to play it with Louis de Lorraine, the brother of the Chevalier, or Monsieur de Chamillart.

Our Louis here plays against Thomas and Madame de Montespan finds it a little strange that Thomas talks so much, when he is supposed to observe and write. He asks if Louis intends to go to war and gets a no as answer. His face says it all. One gets the idea that a certain William will not like that. Thomas is told Monsieur will command the armies and shoots some Monsieur-flattery into Louis’ direction, probably to make him jealous. (Monsieur was brave on the battlefields and showed that he can command troops, but Louis was better at the whole war stuff. They twist that again here.)

In the little private chapel, the Queen and Father Pascal have a chat about his ding-dong being attacked by a certain Marquise. The King must be told.

Cassel has returned from the salons and wrestles with his wife…. I do not know what I am supposed to say about that.

I have wondered where he has been hiding, but now we see him and…. you know, I used to look forward to seeing him, but the more I see him now, the less I want to see of him. Am I the only one? It is the next day and our Chevalier stands in front of a display of silks. He sells powders. Like a merchant. I do not know what to say about that either. At least he wears a nice coat.

Back to the Duchesse de Cassel. She talks with Gaston and inquires about what he previously said about means to wiggle out of a unhappy marriage. I feel her.

In the meanwhile, the Queen, wearing the same style of gown as her arch-enemy, and Father Pascal have entered the King’s apartments and informed him of the ding-dong grabbing. Father Pascal tries to put the whole thing into nice words and offers a bit of an explanation. The Queen says it as it is and Louis looks a bit like he thinks ‘give me a break.’ He will take the matter in hand himself… not Father Pascal’s…. the reason why it occurred.

Claudine returns to her lodgings in town and finds a sleeping Fabien. She attempts to wake him with a gentle brush of hand over cheek and is thrown on the bed. He has good reflexes and you can imagine what happens next. It cheers the ever-so gloomy mood a little.

It seems Gaston has plenty of screen-time this episode. We are back with him and see him lurk in the servants corridors, waiting for a certain kitchen maid. They have some catching up to do and I am not sure if he wants to rip her into pieces or get under her skirts. Maybe both.

Louis is now with a demure looking Montespan and confronts her as to what that whole grabbing incident was about. She explains that she felt weak and almost fainted, during which she grabbed Father Pascal’s robe to steady herself and accidentally grabbed a bit more than just his robe. Adding that this prompted him to have a fumble. She did not tell Louis, because she felt sorry for Father Pascal. After all he is surrounded by the most beautiful women all day and it must wake desires. Desires that he is not allowed to act out… perhaps Louis should pay a little more attention as to how Father Pascal looks at the Queen, with whom he pretty much spends most of the day… a lot of it in private. Louis leaves, successfully manipulated, and storms into the rooms of his wife. “Are you in love with him?” he yells at his wife. He thinks the whole grabbing story was made up in order to make her jealous. The Queen sees at once that this accusation is the work of the Marquise. Louis asks why she does hate her so much, she returns she does so because the Marquise has twisted Louis’ mind. “You are putting me through hell!” she yells at him and returns with “The flames will do wonders for the ice around your heart.” Ouch.

Bontemps stroll towards the King’s rooms (Could be Montespan’s too.), so does Madame de Montespan. They have a glance at each other. The Marquise gets there first. The doors close. Bontemps probably thinks something along the lines of ‘That bloody woman!’

Sophie sneaks through town, careful not to be seen, and into the house of Madame Agathe. (It looks like they added some sort of blue filter on the scene to make it look a bit more gloomy.) Sophie does not have to explain what bothers her, Madame Agathe knows already. She suggests that something can be done about it. Something that either solves the problem at once, or something that will take a while to show full effect. Sophie decides for the latter.

We are with Philippe again and he prepares for his command by trying his armour on. The Chevalier lounges on the bed, talking of how he should declare war on someone too. It’s a splendid idea actually, he thinks, and says he will declare war on someone today, while wandering to Monsieur. I smile as he embraces him from behind and says he can not go to war. Monsieur does not care. Very well, the Chevalier will go with him then. Here’s me thinking ‘Yesssssss. Finally.’ but I am disappointed just moments later. Philippe tells the other Philippe that he will have to stop taking whatever is in that little bottle and the Chevalier says he will stay in Versailles then. Keep the bed warm. Monsieur is more of the opinion that his money will be spent again. Do not fret, for the Chevalier has an income now. Some uncle died and left him some money. We know it is not true and I try to enjoy this scene, which is frankly by itself not so bad as previous ones, but I can not enjoy it. There is this little voice in my head that keeps on to tell me ‘This is so wrong. This is so not him. And even though this is not bad, it is still based on something that is.’ I sigh. Drug addiction, oui. We proceed with both of them getting a bit cuddly and Bontemps wanders in. He looks troubled.

What troubles him is the fact that a certain Marquise squeezed herself between him and the King. Now he does not dare to do what he was commanded. The King told him that if he should ever be suspicious that some woman might influence him, Bontemps just has to say so and that woman will be gone come morning. Philippe is a bit between chairs. He worries about his big bro, but at the same time he’s friends with the woman in question. Nevertheless, the King has changed and he refuses to listen to Bontemps, the man who cares for him and sleeps at the foot of his bed. You know where this is going… the next scene brings us straight into the bedroom of Louis. He sits by the fire with an empty glass of wine and Bontemps enters via secret door. Louis invites Bontemps to join him for a drink, the latter suggests that perhaps a nap would do more good. Louis disagrees. Kings do not sleep, as in they must stay alert. It is quite touching how Bontemps tries to get to him, but Louis has a invisible wall around him. Bontemps utters his desire to speak his mind, as a friend, of course Louis does not want to hear it. Monsieur is called in thus. He is to say what Bontemps can not. Louis rages on the inside, then outside, feeling betrayed by brother and valet.

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

After a sunny and lovely outside shot of Versailles as it looked during this time, without Hall of Mirrors, we are in the rooms of the Marquise as Madame Scarron plays hairdresser. Madame de Montespan was not always kind with Madame Scarron and treated her a bit like a maid. The Marquise asks for wine, needing it to get through the day, now the Queen is plotting against her. Madame Scarron can understand why the Queen is in such a huff, but it seems a little out of character to actually plot. (Preach!) It’s all the fault of Father Pascal, argues Madame de Montespan, and Madame Scarron finds that strange. He is devout and inspiring.

We return to the bedchamber of our King. From behind closed doors we hear muffled Minister voices. Colbert and Louvois have a private chat in the council room about courtly matters and if Versailles is the right place for Colbert’s niece, which has just arrived. He is not quite sure about it considering the current situation. Louis hears it all and sees it via two secret and hide-able holes in the door. They are placed on a sun motive and his piercing blue eyes observe what is going on. The conversation turns to war and Louvois is positive that the whole thing will end in victory. Louis does not like what he hears as Colbert hints Louis has not so much a clue of battle as his little bro has. Do they know he listens? Do they say that on purpose? They know better than anyone else that all walls have hears and eyes, some even piercing blue ones…. anyway, I think it’s safe to say that a certain little bro shan’t go to war after all.

Yeps, Monsieur shows off his fighting skills as Louis approaches to inform him that he will go to play war himself. Philippe is to stay home and keep an eye on things instead. He thus goes into a rage and jumps at Louis, look how the guards draw their swords as if they think Monsieur could stab the King… lol…. Louis says he can’t stay at Versailles, a higher purpose calls him, Philippe is irritated. What the hell does he mean? Has he lost his mind now? Monsieur informs Louis that everyone is a bit concerned regarding the King’s behaviour. I am too… and not just about his behaviour.

Back with Louvois and Colbert in the council chamber, where they are joined by Louis and informed he shall go to war. A Regent must be found. Although we move to Madame de Montespan now, she is no candidate for such an office. Gaston is with her, trying to make friends, she is not too sure about it… even as mutual friends are mentioned… but then sees a chance to rid herself of a nuisance and throws a subtle hint.

The things I like the best so far this season are the palace shots. Here’s another of the Bassin d’Apollon. Originally it was a pond and enlarged to be turned into a fountain showing Apollo how he rises from the sea to bring light. It is perhaps interesting to know that pretty much all fountains in the gardens are connected with each other and Apollo is fed with waters from the fountain dedicated to his mother Latona. Lilies bloom in front of the fountain and one is picked by a hand belonging to Gaston, who then carries it all the way to Madame Agathe. She adds some red powder stuff to it. Without a doubt poisonous. And there’s Father Pascal… being tricked into writing a good-bye letter by Gaston, who then hands him a lily. Father Pascal sniffs on it… his nose starts to bleed… he reaches for a conveniently placed candlestick and tries to hit Gaston… but collapses…. smartly done, I must say.

Madame Scarron can be glad she chose the small chapel for her prayers, otherwise she might have witnessed it and perhaps be killed too. In said small chapel, she is joined by our King, who is quite friendly with her out of a sudden.

Liselotte rolls her eyes as she watches her husband shove various objects from a table with a rapier. Monsieur feels sorry for himself again and Liselotte decides she had enough of it and speaks her mind. It works so well that matters are stirred and put into places….. of course, a certain Chevalier appears shortly after. He is either high or gone mad by the look of him and finds a naked Liselotte in bed. A muffled voice tells him to remove himself. Covers are lifted. A naked Philippe is spotted. The Chevalier knows now on whom he should declare war. Well known principle to introduce drama into a relationship. Take two and add a third…. I know where this will go and it reminds me of something like Emmerdale.

Change of scene, thank God. Our King sits at his desk in the council room and announces who will be Regent during his absence. It is his wife. Marie-Thérèse acted as Regent from 12 June in 1672 to August 13 the same year as her hubby went off to war. Regent in name, she did not really do any ruling, nor was she ever educated to do so. (They went with history here, but it would not have surprised me in the least if they actually went down a different route and put the Regency into the hands of Philippe.)

That being done, Monsieur Colbert takes to introducing his niece, a young thing named Isabelle. When I hear Isabelle I have to think of a certain Mademoiselle de Grancey at once and think even more of her as the Chevalier saunters away with the girl. Mademoiselle de Grancey might be the inspiration for this character. She was part of the household of Monsieur and acted as his mistress during the early years in which it was still attempted to hide Monsieur’s preferences for boys. There was never anything going on between the two of them, but she did had a bit going on with the Chevalier. Mademoiselle de Grancey was quite into plotting as well and rumour has it she even found her way into the King’s bed for a brief period.

Claudine still ponders what the secret ingredient of the poisons might be, but she is getting close now. Her way leads her to Paris and some mix of whorehouse and herb shop, where she tries to acquire some Akar Saga. You might know that stuff as Crab’s eye. It is highly toxic and one single seed can be enough to kill a grown up person. In some places of the world, the seeds are made into bracelets and worn to ward off evil spirits. Claudine inquires if the seller might be in possession of some and he tells her nup, while quickly taking a rosary out of her sight. Claudine, smart as she is, gets the hint and snatches it without it being noticed. She turns to leave and what happens next is not really surprising when one, being a young pretty girl, enters such a place without protection. She is being attacked… but do not fret, saved by the Saint Father Etienne.

To her great shock, the Queen sees her buddy Father Pascal dangling from the ceiling of the grand chapel. Everything looks like he committed suicide and there is a letter as well… Madame de Montespan saunters through her rooms, in the meanwhile, and spots King and Queen outside. The matter is clear for Louis. It was as he thought. That priest was in love with his wife and killed himself. Later, we find her in bed and troubled by the thought of her lover going to war, while she will be alone in Versailles with a Regent Queen. Louis is with her and tells her all will go well, his mistress does not think so. He tries to soothe her and she starts a scene. Our King has had enough of those and tells her so. He also has enough of not being able to sleep and is presented thus with a small bottle containing ‘herbs’. La Montespan drinks and seeing her do so, Louis has a sip as well.

The episode is nearly over as Sophie gets a note shoved through underneath her door. It’s from Thomas, who awaits her in the servants corridors. She joins him. There is snogging. While they are at it, we return to Louis in the bed of la Montespan. She sleeps, he does not. Something is about to happen, I sense. Change of location. Philippe is woken by Bontemps telling him there is something wrong with his bro… and something is mightily wrong. We see the great Sun King in his chemise how he draws on a plan of Versailles. With his own blood. In one of the court yards. What he draws are lines that do not make much sense or from a pattern, but I guess it is another Labyrinthe reference…. (Remember how George periscoped getting some latex put on his hand?)

That’s it for episode five. What do you think so far? I got a case of mixed feelings. There are things I like and things I do not like. Things I find great and things I find quite displeasing. I also noticed that, while I was able to focus on one or two historical topics per review last season, this is not really possible this season. There is history, but more references than actual history. I can not watch a scene and then tell you how that actually happened like I did last time, because everything is more along the lines of ‘history as it could have been’. The writers threw hints about that a couple of times already. While I like how much work has been put into the fictional characters, I do not like how the historical ones are treated and twisted. That’s the thing about tv and historical novels…. fiction is way more formable. One can do with a fictional character what one wants, while one is bound to the characteristics and life-story of a historical person… unless it’s the Chevalier de Lorraine it appears. One of the reasons why this bothers me so much has to do with how he was generally portrait before the show, on-screen and paper, and that this show had the chance to turn him into a different light, but instead turned him into a drug abusing idiot… it might fit into their idea, but it does not mean that I have to like it. I do not like it and am not the only one who does not like it. Thank you for reading.


  • Tess

    As usual, you wrote a great text full of interesting details, and I have a question related to one of them. You mentioned in your review that Louis’s words “I do not know that man” (about Fabien Marchal) are historically true. Forgive me for my ignorance, but you interested me. Has he dismissed someone particular in this specific way? Or maybe it was his usual way of showing dissatisfaction…? I am curious.

    • Aurora von Goeth

      What I meant is basically that once he had managed to lure everyone to Versailles by establishing that only he himself was the one who granted favours, and that those favours depended on who served him in which way with their presence, he dismissed requests by those who were not as often in Versailles, and thus did not serve him, with statements like ‘I never see him/her’ or ‘I do not know the person’. He of course knew the person and saw the person, but not as often as he would have preferred. It was very typical for him to say it and make clear, by saying it, that only those who served him could expect to be recognised by him. Thus when he says it to Fabien, it means as much as this person has no place at my court for he does not serve me. 🙂

  • Tess

    Thank you for such a detailed answer. I imagine that Louis could also say (or at least think) “I know this man all too well”. In some cases it would be even worse than “I do not know that man”… 😉

    • Aurora von Goeth

      When he got requests or advice, he usually replied with a ‘I shall see’ which either meant ‘not interested’ or ‘I can’t say yes to this right now.’

  • Carin

    I do not like how the Chevalier de Lorraine’s part was written. It has become a brat, so easy to dislike. Was it the purpose ??

  • Carin

    I will add something about the scene where he is selling silk and powders, beside the fact that it is so not him, I think the worst thing is that it belittle him to an inferior position.