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

Thoughts on Versailles season two, episode nine….

Episode nine. That means only one more to go and before we dive into this episode I will put a rant warning here. I have seen the episode already and before I did so the first time, I was actually warned about a scene. This scene will get me to rant a bit again later on…. and I feel terrible about it. I love this show and every time I have to complain about something, it breaks my heart. Here we go….

Were did we leave off last episode? Ah, oui. Madame de Montespan rushed to a certain Father Pascal and kissed his pentagram ring. Will she sell her soul to the devil?

We return to the very same place. A sort of hole in the ground made of old stones. Cellar-style. In contrary to Madame Agathe, who is a character inspired by Catherine Monvoisin, Father Etienne is actually real. His full name is Étienne Guibourg and he claimed to be an illegitimate son of Henri de Montmorency, whom he served as chaplan for a while. He also served as sacristan of the Saint-Marcel church in Saint-Denis, outside of Paris. At some point Étienne Guibourg turned away from the teachings of the Church and got involved with people practising the dark arts. Among them fortune tellers, angel-makers (people who performed abortions), potion mixers and poisoners.   Catherine Monvoisin was one of them as well. She was a self-declared sorceress with connections to court and in her department of black arts quite famous. Madame de Montespan was in contact with this woman via Claude de Vin des Œillets and it is said that Montespan hired Catherine Monvoisin aka La Voisin in 1667 to perform a black mass. This black mass was held in Paris in the Rue de la Tannerie and it is said some sort of ritual was performed to help the Marquise to win the King’s love. She became his mistress shortly after. In 1673 the King’s interest became a little less passionate and La Voisin was approached again. This is when Étienne Guibourg entered the picture. He was hired to perform several black masses for Madame de Montespan and at least during one of these she acted as altar. Naked. To help things along, Madame de Motespan was also provided with aphrodisiacs by La Voisin and mixed those into the drinks and food the King consumed in her rooms. He had no clue about that, but it later turned out that a mysterious headache he had almost every day suddenly vanished after he stopped to eat in her rooms.

We are going down that road now. The Marquise inquires if Father Etienne can help her to win the King back. He can, if this is really what she wants. Oui, says she as a baby starts to cry in the background. The Marquise approaches. It is the baby of Mathilde and it is hinted it will play a role in what Father Etienne intends to do. The Marquise is shocked…. she wants to leave… “Devote your life to his service and your wishes will be granted.” Dark mysterious music. She goes with it.

Back from the intro, we find ourselves in the crowded salons of Versailles. People drink and gamble, musketeers sneak about and observe. The King is there and in conversation with some female beings, behind him sits Monsieur at a card table with Thomas. We move to them as Monsieur plays a winning hand, not for the first time. He rises and Thomas follows thus. A bit of giggling. It appears the two of them might have cheated the others. “Lucky at cards, unlucky in love.” says Thomas and Monsieur’s gaze goes to a certain Chevalier. For some reason this Chevalier lurks in stalker-mode behind a curtain. If you read all my scribblings thus far, you probably know what I am thinking right now. Monsieur does a bit of flirting with Thomas, we know why he does that. The Chevalier does not know and departs from his place behind the curtains.

Monsieur saunters to his brother. How is it going? Not bad so far. It is of utmost importance that Philippe gains Thomas trust. I think Louis will probably use Thomas to feed false information to William of Orange. Monsieur leaves the salons for his own rooms, where a certain Chevalier awaits him already. Drunk and my blood begins to boil…..

Our Chevalier’s jealousy has now shifted from Liselotte to Thomas. At least that makes a bit more sense. What’s going on? Monsieur saunters in and is asked by the Chevalier where he has been. Playing cards, or rather cheating at cards. The Chevalier wants to know what exactly Philippe has been up to. Philippe tells him to cool down a little. Obviously the Chevalier is drunk and stuff is going on of which he has no clue. Roll of eyes by the Chevalier. “The whole fucking salon knows what’s going on.” Monsieur can’t explain it. It’s complicated, he says and turns his back to the Chevalier… who then pulls a pistol out and points it at Monsieur. SERIOUSLY? Seriously? Monsieur turns. Shot then, but you know what? You are too much of coward to do it, he says. Mhmmm. Thus the Chevalier points the gun at himself. You probably didn’t even load it proper, says Monsieur. “You really want to know how much I feel for you? You want to know what is really in my heart?” The Chevalier moves to insert the gun into his mouth and Monsieur jumps at him to point the pistol aside. It was loaded and the bullet destroys a mirror. Guards sweep in. Monsieur throws the Chevalier to the ground. “I don’t recognise you anymore. Stay away from me.” What is this supposed to be? An attempt to introduce even more drama, which in my eyes makes, pardon me, no bloody sense at all. Why? It’s once more out of character. I get it all. The fear after returning from exile that he has been replaced. The new wife and how she might influence…. but it does not change the facts that this man is a prince and acts like an idiot. This has nothing to do with the great manipulator and elegant creature the Chevalier was. One character attribute, that of jealousy, has been taken and blown out of proportions. Everything else ignored. It’s ridiculous. Yes, it is supposed to show that also someone like him has a bit of a soul and heart. That he is worried to have lost Monsieur’s love. No issue with that. My issue is how he goes about it or rather how he has been written to go about it. Instead of using what he has been famous for, his smart mind and power to twist facts in way that make him look good, he is, and pardon me again, a whiny idiot. If I had not spent years and years of research on him, I wouldn’t even mind… but this makes my blood boil. A historical character is taken, twisted and turned into something like that. And that pistol thing. Seriously…. bad enough that he had been turned into a whiny idiot, but this crowns it all. Again, I get the point that he did it to sort of prove his love and whatnot….. but to me this is just ridiculous again. Right…. I shall make me some tea and calm down.

We now find ourselves in the gardens of Versailles and observe a fox having a bit of a sniff and dig. Two gardeners observe it as well and hurry over to inspect the spot. They find the skull of a tiny human-being. Monsieur Fabien is called swiftly and has a glance, then orders the baby remains to be dug out.

Our King is in the private chapel, which is the same room he met Madame Agathe in, just that the portraits on the walls have been covered. Bossuet is with him as the King kneels in front of the cross. Prayers are said. Bontemps comes in. The King must come at once. A messenger has arrived from the Palatine. Turenne’s troops have caused a bloodbath. Innocent people were murdered. Louis is shocked? How could this happen? “He claims, Sire, he had his King’s blessing.” Louis has nothing to do with this. It’s Turenne’s fault. The Elector was an ally. Not anymore, says Louvois. What they refer to is Turenne spending the winter of 1673 to 1674 in the  Alsace and the Palatinate, during with the French troops acted so badly that the Elector turned away from Louis… with a hint of what happened several years later during the War of the Grand Alliance, in which large parts of the Palatine were destroyed. Since I don’t know if we see something like this in season 3, I shan’t say more about it right now. To give you an idea how time-fluid we are, 1674 was the year Louise de La Vallière left court to enter a convent and Liselotte gave birth to her second child.

Liselotte has heard the news as well and is, how could it be else, deeply touched by it. Some members of her family are missing. “My brother’s actions have nothing to do with me.” Philippe kisses her brow. “I am married to the family that has destroyed my people.” Philippe’s blood boils as mine has boiled earlier and he enters the bedroom of his brother. The King is just having a meal and it looks to be noon. Louis XIV took his lunch always in his bedroom. Monsieur dismisses everyone and Bontemps utters his displeasure. This is against all rules, he says. Monsieur does not care. He has things to say that only concern his brother. “Must you live your entire life in a melodrama?” ” You are a monster. What you did in the Palatinate makes you no better than a common killer.” “Every war involves regrettable casualties.” “Not the mass-slaughter of innocent people. There are rules. Boundaries. Basic human decency.” “I was here. At Versailles. These events were outside my control.” “Of course, it is always someone else’s fault, isn’t it? You never said sorry in your entire life.” “Turenne was acting on his own initiative.” “This butchery could not have happened without your consent. You are as guilty as he is.” (Remember how he said to Louvois ‘do whatever it takes’?) “What am I supposed to do? I have a spy in my palace, my troops are in retreat and half of Europe has vowed to destroy me.” “You have blood on your hands, brother. Maybe that’s your true legacy. You don’t want to be loved. You want to be feared.” Think back to the very first episode of this season. The very first scene. In which our King ponders if his epitaph will be written in stone or blood.

It rains and we stay with Louis, but some time has passed since noon. It’s dark outside and our King at prayer, this time in his bedroom, as the windows are blown open by strong winds and some conveniently placed papers fly through the room. Bossuet hurries to close the window quickly. “Why am I still being tortured?” “I can not say, Sire.” Louis is not amused. He erased sinful thoughts from his mind. Admitted where he had gone wrong, and yet God continues to punish him. “I have done everything in my power to please him. What else can I do?” “To pray is the only solution, Sire.” Louis is even less amused. Keep going, says Bossuet. Eventually He will answer you.

Fabien has returned to his inquisition cellar and before him lie the bones of a baby. Someone probably wanted to get rid of a bastard child. Wouldn’t be the first, says Fabien, but is presented with more baby skulls thus. What they do in Versailles, I have no clue. It looked like the first one was found somewhere on the property, did it not? Those baby bones, if you believe the varying accounts, were actually found far away from Versailles. They were found in Paris on the property of La Voisin. I said varying accounts, because in some you will find a mention of it, in others there is no mention of it at all. The bones apparently come from babies sacrificed during black masses, still-born babies or abortions. One account gives the number of 2500.. It was also presumed that prostitutes sold their unwanted babies to La Voisin.

The thought of babies leads Fabien to Bossuet. Asking if he knows of the refuge for unwanted children outside of Paris. Bossuet does not. If there was one, he would know. After all he is responsible for the whole area. He does not know a Father Etienne either… but then pauses… Etienne Guibourg? If you meant that Etienne, you better hurry. Fabien is on a mission.

The Queen is in her chambers and joined by Madame Scarron… pardon, I have to say Madame de Maintenon now and as soon as I use this name, I do like her a whole lot less. (There are some people who are fans of her. I am not. Some even see her as a bit of a Saint that brought Louis back to the light…. I see her as a killjoy… but I shall stay neutral here.) What does the Queen want from her? She asks Madame de Maintenon, who was married to a cripple, for sex advice. There was not much going on in bed, says Madame de Maintenon, without mentioning that her husband’s illness was the cause, but from time to time he liked to have a sniff on her when she had bathed with some scented oils. The Queen acts as if it is the first time she hears something like scented oils exist… although they did belong to her daily toilette… as a lady is shown in which we have seen as friend to Madame de Montespan previously. The Queen wants that lady to be her own friend now… and do a bit of spying. I find it a little sad again how the Queen has been written this season…

Madame de Montespan is with Madame Agathe again and I think we should talk a little of the person I have mentioned a couple of times already. The one who inspired this character. Catherine Monvoisin’s background is a little unclear. She married a jeweller, whose shop did not run too great and decided to help them to get money by getting a other kind of business going. She started to read the future in cards, palms, faces, offered medical advice, acted as midwife and performed abortions, something that was forbidden by law. La Voisin was a smart woman and studied the human nature, thus she was able to read what her clients wanted by just looking at them. The money she got for it, she used to pretty-up her rooms to make them look all mysterious and create the proper air. La Voisin noticed that almost everyone that came to her wanted the same few things: to be loved by someone or for someone to perish. Thus she included the mixing of potions to her business. Since she was so smart about it all, not just the ladies of lower classes payed visits to her. Noble ladies started to visit her as well and her reputation spread swiftly among them. She was not the only witch of her time nor the only one with connections to court, Paris was full of them. People did not actually believe in witchcraft anymore, but they believed that if certain rituals are performed in a certain way, they can help to achieve an outcome that they desired. Adam Lesage was a well-know poison-mixer of the time, so were Catherine Trianon, Marie Bosse and Magdelaine de La Grange. In Italy, a certain Giulia Tofana already helped wives to rid themselves of husbands some decades ago. She invented the Aqua Tofana, the most famous poison of the time.

Here, Madame Agathe instructs Madame de Montespan as to what she will have to do before the ritual. Father Etienne will tell her about the rest. The Marquise is a bit unsure about it all, but wants her lover back. Great, says the witch, and adds that she will have to collect some drops of royal sweat. Can’t be that hard, methinks, Louis XIV did sweat a lot after all.

Back in the salons, the eyes of Fabien fix on a nervous couple discussing something. The male part of the couple hands the female part a book and urges her inside, Fabien sees it all…. but he does not see what is done with the book, because one of his men approaches to inform him the priest has not been located yet, what he sees is a familiar maid walking out in a bit of a haste. She vanishes in front of his eyes, but he gets hold of her. He looks for something, but finds nothing. Gaston interrupts. Drags the maid away. Fabien discovers the book on the floor. It is the prayer-book they use to hand money over, but no money is inside.

In the shadows, Madame de Montespan sneaks through Versailles and into the King’s bedroom via secret door. She hurries and snatches a pillow cover behind the back of Bontemps. Why he does not notice that the bed, which was in perfect order is suddenly no longer in perfect order, I do not know…. but find strange. I don’t have time to think about it for too long, because as the Marquise sneaks back she encounters her former friend, the one that has just been hired as spy by the Queen, and strangles her. Yep.

Mathilde is brought to Fabien, for a French whore she got quite the English accent, and he asks what she knows about that Father Etienne. He’s a Saint, says she, but he hints he is not. She should better tell him all she knows… and we return to Madame Agathe and Madame de Montespan as the first extracts some sweat from the pillow-cover the latter brought her. She adds something powdery to it and tells the Marquise to rub it on her skin at dawn and dusk. (It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.) Also not to eat anything apart from some blue potion that looks a little like freshly pressed smurf blood. Madame de Montespan is still not quite sure about it all, but her witch friend ensures her all will go well.

The strangled Madame, not Liselotte… the one Montespan killed… has been found and is carried past courtiers. King and Queen observe as well and the Queen shoots Louis a ‘that’s all your fault’ glance.

Our King has returned to his little chapel and is in a rage. What does God expect him to do? Has he forsaken him? What does he need to do? In the meanwhile, Father Etienne leaves his hole in the ground with a bundle in his arms. Fabien and his men watch to rush after him.

Night has fallen in Versailles as Madame de Maintenon enters the little chapel. What does she do there? I do not know. Since when can courtiers enter what seems to be a private chapel? I do not know. I also do not know why she is not the least irritated that a fucked-up Louis sits on the floor in the middle of the room. She walks straight past him and kneels down to pray. I get the idea now that I am supposed to think she was sent to answer Louis’ prayers. He still sits on the floor and it’s not the first time someone does address the King with a simple Highness. She prays for him. Of course. He is France and that is not an easy thing to be. How understanding she is. God will help. She is an angel. He finds it a little silly… and rages again as he is told to pray and confess. He’s doing that. He does nothing apart from it. He’s only a man, she says and I gasp. How does she dare to say that. It goes against the divine right. Louis XIV was a big fan of it. He rests his head on her lap, as you would.

The Marquise de Montespan has arrived at some secret location and we hear Father Etienne say some words in what I presume is Latin. A stone altar is in front of the Marquise and she climbs on it, exposing her naked skin. We are in the middle of the famous black mass. Father Etienne wears some kind of robe with a pentagram that looks a bit like something a modern-day goth would wear to appear creepy. Mathilde’s baby is handed to him as Fabien dismounts outside to scan the area. It is not well watched. As he fights his way inside, the baby is placed above Montespan’s naked bosom and we see blood drip down. Fabien storms the party. People run, among them Montespan. She hurries to grab her garments and rushes out. Father Etienne is arrested. The baby picked up, to my great surprise it is still alive and only has a cut on the arm.

As the screams of the baby fade, we return to King and Madame de Maintenon. Our King as fallen asleep and awakes, feeling like a new man. Her lap has healing powers, who would have thought that. It was the first time in a while that he actually slept and again she is very understanding. She knows it all. They kiss. No surprise there. But they do it in front of the Cross. Is this a hint to tell me that all will be well now? Madame de Maintenon aka the angel has saved our King?

The Duc de Cassel is still alive, but not for much longer by the look of him. He looks for something in a cupboard and finds a letter Thomas has written his wife. She enters, he throws a subtle hint not to trust Thomas. Talking of Thomas, we return to Louis and find him in conversation with Monsieur. Thomas suspects nothing so far. Great. Louis hands some instructions out as to what Philippe is to tell Thomas. This is actually quite funny.

Now we also see the man in question. Thomas sits at his desk and scribbles. Monsieur saunters in and casts a casual glance at the scribblings. (I hope Alex won’t cast a glance at mine.) What are you writing there? A new play, says Thomas. Philippe takes a piece of paper and talks of how very awful Louis is with all that war stuff. Really, says Thomas and throws a hint that Monsieur should perhaps take over certain matters. Philippe saunters a bit away and Thomas swiftly closes his little red book of treason, but Philippe sees it. Acting as if he had not, Monsieur turns his glance back to the paper in his hands and begins to read. He needs to do that with more feeling, Thomas suggests and climbs on the bed Monsieur has placed himself on. What is better to create feelings than some attention to princely-matters located in princely breeches? I guess I am supposed to be like ‘NOOOOOO. Don’t let him do that. What about the Chevalier?’ now, but I am not. That’s the thing…. not Monsieur’s…. if something is done nicely and fits in well… again not Monsieur’s lower-parts…. I mean fiction that runs smoothly along with history, it does not interrupt the general story. Monsieur had other lovers. So had the Chevalier…. what the Chevalier did not do was being a whiny idiot about it.

Back to Louis and how Father Etienne shows no remorse for his evil deeds. Not yet, tells us Fabien, and one of Etienne’s helpers said there are friends in the village. Louis wants names, especially of the woman who is their chief. The next scene brings us straight to that woman. She walks through her dark house and you get the idea that she is not alone. The idea that Fabien is lurking close already, but non, it is the Marquise de Montespan and she does look awful. No wonder considering she run all they way back from Paris to Versailles. (The Women’s March on Versailles in 1789 managed to reach Versailles from the outskirts of Paris in six hours.) Montespan is in panic mode and told to be calm. Father Etienne won’t betray them. Gaston joins and is not too sure about that. They must have faith. What should they do now? Kill the King, of course.

The scene changes and our Chevalier does a bit of stalking again. I probably won’t say much about this scene because it enrages me just as much as the one with the pistol and I think I have made my points clear about what I think of how the Chevalier was written this season. Some of you might enjoy it, I do not. So, he lurks about and sees Thomas leave Monsieur. Funnily enough, it looked like Monsieur was in the room of Thomas and not Thomas in that of Monsieur… or is it just some random room? Anyway, the Chevalier sneaks after Thomas, who leaves the chateau to hand a note over to a cloaked man. Thomas spots the Chevalier, who is being rather idiotic again considering the man was a really good fighter, but as we all know our writers have totally ignored that bit and made him an utter coward. No surprise there as Thomas disarms him, but that can’t be all already, non, the Chevalier also gets beaten up by Thomas and afterwards robbed by his former friends of the whorehouse. That man is utterly helpless, of course. He doesn’t even f…. try to defend himself. Robbed, sans shoes and stockings, face bloody and all that, he drags himself back inside and enters the rooms of Monsieur. What on earth happened, Monsieur asks, and is told that was his new lover. Monsieur moves to assist in cleaning the bloody mess that is the Chevalier’s face…. “Ouch! You are making it worse!” Oh shut up. You crave attention since episode three and now you got it. “Why wouldn’t you let me help?” “Because this is your fault.” The Chevalier moves to the doors, wanting to kill Thomas. Suddenly, after he behaved like a disaster all season, he got honour to think of. “You must not cause him anymore trouble. You have to leave him alone.” “WHY?” “Trust me. It’s important!” “Trust you? Seriously?” Philippe moves forward to draw the Chevalier against him. “Get your hands off me!” “I love you! But Thomas has to be left alone. We both need to show a brave face. Can you do that? For me?” “Run me a bath.”

In the gardens, Louis ogles the back of Madame de Maintenon. She turns and approaches with not too elegant steps. He offers her to take a seat, on a chair sans arms, and Madame de Maintenon utters her worries regarding Liselotte. Perhaps Louis should go and talk with her. Ask her forgiveness. They kiss again, but she breaks the kiss. The scene fades and we are with Liselotte, a tear running down her German cheek. Louis praises how very well she acts considering all that happened. She has full-filled her duty and if it were not for the child she carries, he would let her return home. I do not think that is possible. “My child will grow up within a family of murderers.” Philippe watches from the door frame.

We are nearly at the end of the episode and in bed with the King. Bontemps is crawling into bed as well, as Louis turns and sits up. Our King has remembered something. Bossuet is informed to bring the satanic bible. Our King flicks through it, stopping at a picture of a sort of bull in a maze. He drew this with his own blood. And now he remembers where he has seen it first. On one of Madame Agathe’s cards. The Labyrinthe.

Fabien rushes swiftly to his torture cellar, where Father Etienne is bound to a mix of wheel and cross. He is turned about and questioned, but says nothing that would help Fabien… only that is was him, as we all thought, who killed Claudine. Fabien kills him. The real Étienne Guibourg was arrested in 1680 and sentenced to prison until death. He died six years later.

And so closes episode nine. Thank you for reading and I shall see you next episode.

One Comment

  • Tess

    Merci for your review, only one left. Time flies…
    My favourite scenes in this episode are those with the royal brothers. Their dialogues are brilliant, and George and Alex are fantastic together. I absolutely believe that their (Louis/Philippe) interactions could really look like this.
    On the other hand, the idea that the Marquise de Montespan can strangle someone personally is completely unbelievable. Queen of intrigue and planning could not make such a mistake. The whole situation with theft of the pillowcase could even help her if it came to light. A woman in love longs for the smell of her lover… So easy to come up with an excuse, but kill for it? I do not buy this at all.
    As for the motif of the labyrinth, whenever someone was in the corridors for servants at Versailles, I had the feeling that he/she was in the labyrinth….