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

Thoughts on Versailles season two, episode six….

Bonjour again. We are half way through season two and left off last episode with our King drawing some lines with his own blood on a plan of his Palace of Dreams. It’s in the walls.

Before watching episode six, I was told it would be a bit as if Philippe was King… so I am looking forward to discover what that is all about.

We find ourselves at campaign and ogle a bunch of orange dressed soldiers through field glasses. One plays the drums. Louis was the one behind the field glasses and is not impressed with the drummer. Considering where we are in the whole poison affair, he might have a bit of a headache, a constant one, caused by various love potions he is secretly given, by means of them being added to his food and drink, by Madame de Montespan. We saw her give him some herbs last episode, but so far that was the only hint that she gave him potions or such things. Anyway, Louis orders Louvois to get their own troops ready and nonchalantly reaches for a musket, aims, shoots the drummer. Well done, Sire.

Making history is all about timing… and having God on your side” is what we hear from our King as the intro starts to play in the background.

We return from it and to a long line of courtiers in the chapel of Versailles. There’s the Queen, Bontemps, Scarron, some blonde curly head, and at the end of the queue Monsieur, Madame, and the Chevalier. Bossuet hands sacramental bread out, Monsieur thinks all that praying is a bit of a kill-joy. I totally get him. Someone tumbles out of the queue and collapses. Not because it’s such a boring affair, but because powders. Shocked faces everywhere as Bontemps has a glance and it appears the man is dead. Oh dear…

La Montespan was not at mass, it seems, she hurries about and is followed by a wild Gaston. The latter seems to want some praise for his deeds regarding Father Pascal, but, as so often this season, his conversation partner is not impressed. Gaston tells the Marquise the blood is on her hands, after all she wanted Father Pascal dead and Gaston did only as commanded. Judging by her expression, she finds it not too bad after all as she is told of a certain good-bye letter.

From the unofficial Queen to the official one. Marie-Thérèse is regally seated on an armchair, as she should be, and in conference with Bontemps and the Ministers. Bontemps tells her it appears the gentleman that collapsed in church, seems to have been poisoned during a private gathering in his rooms…. of course, the only logic conclusion is to control what happens the rooms of the courtiers. Colbert is as dumbstruck as I am and argues under a chuckle that this will be rather difficult to achieve. Especially since pretty much every fun activity at court has been banned already. It does not matter to Marie-Thérèse. Thus Colbert suggests to hand out a little less wine… now Cassel is the dumbstruck one, while Bontemps just stands there looking a bit like he would rather be elsewhere… restrictions on gambling, a curfew… it’s not enough for Marie-Thérèse. She wants to know what is going on in the private rooms of the courtiers, which probably includes their bedrooms too, by the look of her. Wow. Cassel repeats what Colbert said concerning that this might be a little difficult, and she rises… I wait for her to stomp her foot on the floor…. luckily, she only steps to Cassel and rambles on about sin. It is Marie-Thérèse’s goal that, upon the return of her husband, Versailles is pretty much a convent. Awesome. She sweeps out. The three remaining gentlemen exchange glances, before Cassel has a glance if the Queen is out of sight and says it as it is “Only a Spaniard would try to stop the French from drinking wine.” We are five and a half minutes into the episode and I feel like…. like… you know that when something angers you, but you swallow it down? That.

Cassel is the next to sweep out, with a bit of a cough, and Colbert turns to Bontemps in order to inquire what he suggests to do regarding this new poisoning. Fabien to the rescue. We have him in the next scene, looking a bit lost in thought, in Claudine’s home, where he is joined by Bontemps and told Versailles needs him. Fabien is the only one who can save them now, says Bontemps, but Fabien has other plans. He intends to leave town and take Claudine with him.

In the chateau, Madame de Montespan holds her chatter gathering and is surrounded by some females of the court. They gossip about Father Pascal and the Queen, and how he had a crush on her, as they are joined by Madame Scarron. The Marquise inquires if her dear friend has heard the lastest gossip and is told her dear friend was otherwise occupied. Marie-Thérèse had asked Madame Scarron to pay her company. Of course. La Montespan tugs her aside at once to ask what that is about and if the Queen is with child. She’s not. Prayer book in hand, Madame Scarron says Marie-Thérèse asked her to become her own dear friend. La Montespan rolls her eyes.

Meanwhile in Utrecht, an impatient looking Louis XIV sits at a table with Thomas. Montespan wrote a letter, Louis does not want to read it and rises. He still does not sleep well and Thomas is obviously very interested in this kind of information. At least the King does not fear for his safety, it’s clear who is enemy is here, unaware that the enemy sits straight behind him.

We return to Versailles and guards that rush through the chateau. “By order of the Queen, the salons are closed.” While they are at it, others lock the wine cellars. Joyous times ahead.

Gaston is thinking what I think. The palace is turning a bit into a prison/convent. He tells Madame Agathe so, adding that all of this does not really help with their wicked plan, nor to win new clients. Gaston thinks, with the King being away, it is the perfect time to strike, but Madame Agathe thinks the opposite.

Claudine has not been lazy between the episodes. She had a closer look at the seeds she acquired last episode and crushed them to powder. Now adds some of the powder to a liquid and applies all of it to a….. I can’t even say what that is…. something dead. She sighs as it shows no effect in first, but then…. bingo. She does not get to enjoy her triumph for too long. Someone, clad in a cloak, sneaks to her and grabs her. Muffled screams. Who could that man be, I think, and come to a quick conclusion. There are only two beings that could have an interest in a vanishing of Claudine. One is Madame Agathe and thus Gaston, but there was no hint so far that they are aware of the investigations Claudine does…. there is however someone who might know… and apparently he’s a Saint.

In Holland, Louis is told news of battle. The west flank is crushed and I believe the man who tells him so is the Duc de Luxembourg. (They use this odd blue filter here again to make everything a bit more gloomy. I do not know why. Unless we are not allowed to see some sun light this season. Thinking of it, it is actually quite fitting.) A won battle does not mean that a war is won, Louis reminds us and tells Thomas of a vision he had. Our King did actually manage to sleep a little and dreamt of himself killing a man on the field of battle. God gave him a hint as to what he must do, thus he will stay a little longer and not return to Versailles yet. (He was supposed to return that quickly?) Bontemps and the Ministers will have to deal alone with the Sultan of Bijapur. Aha. Said Sultan is coming to discuss a trade matter. Aha. Also, the English fleet has been defeated.

Now, I am not a military historian and frankly war not one of my favourite topics at all. I’m more a creature of court, but if you study Louis XIV war-ado is hard to avoid. So, let’s talk some war.

We are amidst the Franco-Dutch War, which started in 1672 and ended in 1678. Contrary of its name, it were not just the French and the Dutch involved. It spread pretty much over all of Europe with as prominent participants as England and Sweden. What’s the whole thing about? Basically, from French point of view, or rather that of Louis XIV, the Dutch betrayed the French in the War of Devolution, we saw last season, and Louis didn’t like that. The Dutch had formed an alliance with the French in 1650, which was ended in 1668 as they teamed up against Louis with England and Sweden to support Spain, the latter’s Spanish Netherlands being attacked by Louis.
Louis XIV never forgave them and it also became very clear to him, that he needs to deal with the Dutch before he can move on the Spanish Netherlands again. Thus war preparations went underway. First our King took care of the English, as we saw last season, by setting a secret treaty up which allied England to France. Next Sweden was approached, but they were not to easy to lure. Nevertheless, they sort of agreed to at least take care of Dutch allies. The gathering of troops and money followed, it was arranged by Louvois, and battle plans were made. The whole thing kicked off in May 1672 and it went quite well for the French in first. More was won than lost and the Dutch got a little nervous. Since I am quite sure our writers alter time here again as it fits them the best, I’m not quite sure how much more I should say about it. If you are from the UK, you might know this war as the Third Anglo-Dutch War.

Back to Louis, since the English fleet has been defeated, Louvois thinks it might be wise to lay back a little, but Louis says this is exactly what the Dutch expect and he shall do the opposite. Thomas makes notes in the background. Louis wants to attack Amsterdam.

In the town of Versailles, Fabien saunters into Claudine’s house and finds her on the floor, taking her last breaths. She tries to point Fabien to the rosary in her hands.

At last, a sunny shot of Versailles. We are in the salons with Colbert, Cassel and Bontemps. They chat about the Sultan of Bijapur and how they will hopefully agree on a deal that will drive the Dutch out of a place called Poudouchéry. That’s in India. As they chat, the Chevalier saunters to la Montespan with Colbert’s niece to throw a subtle hint that Madame de Montespan has competition. They pass by Monsieur as the Queen enters to announce her hubby is being successful at war and it should be celebrated… everyone’s mood climbs, including my own, but then she says those celebrations should consist of praying. She does enjoy herself, Monsieur rolls his eyes. I sigh. Behind her stands Madame Scarron and I seriously start to think we have another case of twisted personalities here.

Gaston lurks about outside the house of Madame Agathe for a new business venture. Inspired by the little book of names our witch keeps, he starts to note some himself and thus blackmails those he spotted leaving the house. Of course they pay, who would not….

My eyes rejoice at the colourful display they see now. The Sultan has arrived and is greeted by the Ministers, who then introduce him to the Queen. He is irritated and does not want to do business with a female being… the Ministers tell the Queen it is because the Sultan thinks she should not lower herself to such matters. Whatever it is, I am a little happy to see a little less of her right now.

If not the Queen, who should meet the Sultan instead to discuss how France can gain control over the port in order to help the war business? Monsieur, oui. He doesn’t like the idea too much at first, but then is lured to it as Colbert suggests a bit of money might be in for him…. which is actually something our historical Monsieur could always be lured with and what was often used against him in order to get him to do what Louis XIV wanted. Whenever he blocked something, or was in a huff, some money was offered.

Philippe, being smart, sees that the Sultan might be essential to beat the Dutch in trade, and thus have more money for war, but the goods that come from the Asian-lands must be transported through France too. Colbert says this shall be done via canals. For example the canal royal en Languedoc, which is today known as canal du midi, and was started in 1666. Monsieur mentions just that and says he will play along with he gets some pieces of the cake.

Dressed up like his big bro, the enters the throne room and makes a striking figure. He is presented with a gift in form of silks, and Dieu do his eyes sparkle. Isn’t it funny that Monsieur is more Monsieur while he pretends to be Louis XIV compared to how Monsieur he is normally? Colbert’s talk of business is a bit tedious, he thinks, and thus invites the Sultan for a stroll to let the Ministers discuss those trade matters. Colours have indeed returned to Versailles, now the Sultan is here. Monsieur, in his role as King, saunters through the gardens and past pink-blooming trees. He seems a little happy for once as his impresses the Sultan. Madame and Queen follow, the first impressed as well, the latter sure it will all go to ruins. Jesus, woman. Lighten up.

From gardens back into the throne room. The Sultan signs a piece of parchment, which is then presented to Monsieur, and instead of signing it at once, Monsieur reads it first. (As we all should before agreeing to various Terms of Service, but never do.) What he reads is not entirely pleasing to him and so he rises. The Queen looks as if she wants to kick him in the jewels.

In the lands of the Dutch, Louis learns that Johan de Witt is willed to enter a truce. Our King is not willed to go along with it. The Dutch have not yet suffered enough. Besides, Louis XIV would rather discuss it with William, who is not yet leader of the Dutch, but Louis is sure this will change soon.

We are in the throne room again and the Queen still looks like she wants to tear Monsieur apart, but Philippe’s plan works out and a better deal is agreed on. In the meanwhile, Fabien is dotingly washing the dead body of Claudine and discovers that some of the rosary beads, which we know are poisonous seeds, are crushed. He is not lucky with women, but gets a hint when he sees one… eventually.

Powder is sold in the chateau by a certain Chevalier as he is joined by Monsieur. I do not know what his problem is. Seriously. He acts like a buffoon. The writers want to hint here that our Chevalier is a bit jealous of Liselotte, which makes not much sense, but yeah….. and then he complains that Philippe took the offer to play King. Remember season one? Do you think what I do? The whole ‘if you were King we would dance all night’? Would it not be more logical for the Chevalier to stay very close to Monsieur now? For his own advantage? He plays hard to get however, and Monsieur needs a bit of sweet talk to get him to agree to a bit of partying.

I do have so many issues with how he is written, I do not even know where to start. It is true that he and Monsieur were not too close as the Chevalier returned from exile. The reason for this was not Madame, but a other Chevalier. Our Chevalier solved the issue by a bit of huffing and withdrawing, after which he was called back by Monsieur. It is also true that the Chevalier had issues with Liselotte, but they did not involve bedding. He knew what Monsieur’s duty was. He knew that Monsieur did not enjoy it. He knew. He was more worried about the influence this new Madame could have, but he solved this as well by bad-talking her. Here Monsieur is more like the Chevalier and the Chevalier is more like Monsieur. Again. It makes my heart ache. All those people, and it were a few, who did not like season one because of how their characters were twisted, are going to find season two unwatchable…. and we started so great in the first two episodes. This is one big disappointment now. Can you sense how frustrated I am?

While Montespan is getting no letters from her lover, the Duchesse de Cassel is more lucky and reads a love letter by Thomas as her hubby enters quietly. She burns the letter in a swift, telling him it is from a cousin. Cassel is his lovely self again and Sophie defends herself by biting him, receives a slap in turn and uses her chance to apply a bit of the poison she got from Madame Agathe to her hubby’s smoking-device as he leaves.

We return to the salons and the Marquise de Montespan. She stops Isabelle to ask about some talk she has heard regarding her. Talk that she might want to catch the King’s attention, something pretty much every female tried. Montespan thinks Isabelle should stop dreaming, because she would never be able to keep the King’s attentions. That might be true, she says, but time passes and no man is able to love a woman who has reached a certain age. Ouch. Also, oui. They really thought that woman, when they had a reached a certain age, could not possibly wake any kind of desire in a male. Madame de Montespan is quite close to reach that age…. and fumes.

Back to Fabien. He can be observed making inquiries about a red powder and is told by the master of the whore house to look in Paris for it. Madame de Montespan has relocated herself to the town of Versailles and the house of Madame Agathe. She is clearly worried that she might lose her royal lover. He does not write to her. There are pretty young things just waiting to jump at him. The Queen still plots. Madame Agathe suggests getting rid of the Queen, but the Marquise says the Queen is no rival for Louis’ heart…. yet there is someone. One of those pretty young things. Poison is handed over.

In camp, our King is alone in his tent and kneels to pray. He grasps a dagger and glances to the cross in front of him. Probably thinking that it is William of Orange he must kill. Said William is just informed that de Witt’s time as ruler is over. The people want to execute him. William will not intervene. Johan de Witt resigned from his position on 1672, the year the Dutch call the Rampjaar -Year of Disaster-, after being wounded in an assassination attempt. His brother Cornelis, someone hated by the Orange-supporters, was arrested and sentenced to exile, after enduring quite a bit of torture. As Johan was on the way to visit his imprisoned brother, both were attacked, shot and their bodies left to the mob.

With de Witt gone, William is now the ruler of the Dutch. Luckily for him, he also knows what Louis is up to. Thomas sent another note. He has a plan as well on how to deal with it.

We return to Versailles and the chambers of Monsieur. It appears the Chevalier got a grip and a party has been arranged for. Monsieur enters, still in his bro’s shoes and garments, to welcome everyone. ‘That’s my boy’ thinks the Chevalier and saunters over to crown Monsieur, followed by a Bontemps impersonation. Finally we get to see a bit of merriness. Madame de Montespan is there as well and by the time Mademoiselle Isabelle arrives, the whole thing looks a bit orgy-like. There is drink, music, kissing, general merriness and debauchery. I’m surely not the only one who does prefer this over the prayer situation… and I am sure not the only one who thinks we shan’t enjoy it for too long. Monsieur and Chevalier climb on a table…. embrace…. kiss….. cuddle…. but then guess what, and I am so sick of it by now, a certain Chevalier starts to talk of a certain wife again and Monsieur leaves the table-fun. By saying I am sick of it, I mean I am sick of how he is written. Evan still does a great job. The Chevalier says he lives for the now and does not plan for the future… if someone planned for the future than it was the Chevalier. His position alone made it necessary for him to do so. His past made it necessary. I do not know what else to say, apart from that I was told it will get even worse in the next episodes…. that’s a way to shoo your audience away.

We stay in the party scenery and move to la Montespan and Isabelle. The Marquise takes her aside, Isabelle being a bit shocked by the debauchery, and advises her to mingle and be merry. After images of more debauchery, we more to Bossuet in church. Before him kneel Madame, the Queen, and Madame Scarron. Music and laughter drifts to them. Upstairs, Madame de Montespan adds a little bit of yummy poison to a glass of wine she offers Isabelle. The Marquise did probably not expect the girl opening up to her. All she wants is to be a bit like Montespan, so elegant and glamorous. The girl is terrified to be with a man and still a innocent virgin. La Montespan feels pity for the girl and swiftly snatches the wine glass to empty it in a flower-pot. Some powder is offered instead and I wonder if this is Versailles’ reference to the talk of Madame de Montespan poisoning Marie Angélique de Scorailles. This young lady was in the good graces of the King and pregnant by him, then died suddenly and talk of poison spread. Today we can say it was not poison that killed her, but complications that occurred during her pregnancy from which she never recovered.

Sophie is not at the party and feeds her hubby some more poison. In the meanwhile, the powder Isabelle took shows its effects. She dances about and is observed doing so by Montespan and the Chevalier. The Marquise teases the Chevalier if he is not interested to feel about under Isabelle’s skirts. Not really, he used to, but then he discovered the real think. His glance goes to Monsieur, who rolls about half-naked with another half-naked man in a fun-wrestling match. Why not, thinks the Chevalier now and tugs Isabelle away. That’s at least a bit in character. He liked to do that whenever he had a disagreement with Monsieur and chased after skirts then. Sometimes it did annoy Monsieur, in other occasions not so much, it always depended on who it was. Our Monsieur here seems not to care.

Fabien has reached Paris and enters the mix of brothel and herb shop Claudine stole the beads. One of the girls wears the same kind of rosary, but can’t or does not want to tell who gave it to her. He tries to get it out of her by the help of some strangulation and is interrupted by Father Etienne.

In Monsieur’s rooms things got a little more debauched as a door swings open and the Queen appears. She looks disgusted. Her glance goes to Monsieur and a naked Chevalier. The latter turns to put his lower parts straight in sight and does a bit of a pose. I smile. People hurry away or try to cover themselves. Monsieur explains he had a few people over for prayer and it got a bit out of hand. I laugh. Especially about the look on her face. Monsieur tells her politely to shut it. The King won’t like this, she says. Oh, he will understand, argues Monsieur, after all he knows his bro. More disgusted faces from Queen and her new bff Madame Scarron as they step through the rooms. Some whisper. Others giggle. I grin.

The party is relocated to the outside and people in various states of undress take over the fountains. Isabelle is there too, enjoying herself, but then suddenly falls back and into the waters.

We are nearly at the end of this episode as we return to Holland. Louis wants to lead his troops into battle and Louvois and Luxembourg think this ain’t a great idea and way too dangerous. Louis insists. William, being informed of everything by Thomas, gives the orders to open the dykes, aka the Hollandic Water Line. A series of water-based defences that when opened could turn the country into an island… and not just that. The water was not deep enough to master by boat, yet deep enough to make transports quite difficult and the flooded parts covered with underwater obstacles such as ditches, covered traps, and barbed wire. What we see here now, is what happened in 1672. The dykes were opened and prevented the French troops from taking Amsterdam.

Louis has no idea what coming for him as he leads his troops into battle and is swiftly stopped by a whole lot of water. He is thrown off his horse and crawls through mud and water. He finds the enemy and stabs him, just like he did in his dreams, but the man he steps is not William. It is Louis himself.

Luxembourg rips Louis out of his hallucination and we return to Versailles. The party participants leave the fountains to return to the chateau in the light of early morning. Colbert approaches as they leave, in search of Isabelle, and finds her floating in a fountain.

The episode closes with our King. He enters a convent in quite the rage, a rage neither Louvois nor Luxembourg can calm. There is suspicion that someone might have informed William of the attack plans. Louis rage grows as a nun reminds him of being in a house of God. It seems like Louis had enough of God and how dares she anyway. He is King by the grace of God. God speaks through him…. and there’s William of Orange, looking all smug.

That’s it for episode six. Thank you for reading.


  • P^2

    Another great review! Thank you! I agree with you that this season is a huge disappointment from the perspective of historical accuracy. It’s driving me nuts (and I’m in the US so I haven’t actually seen it yet)! Especially the role reversals of Philippe and the Chevalier. They had such a successful first season, I don’t understand why they changed so much. Season 2 is so melodramatic, really. I agree that they have destroyed the Chevalier. I loved him as the sassy scoundrel he was last season. He didn’t like Liselotte because she could potentially manipulate Monsieur as his wife, and ruin his plans, not because he was jealous for crying out loud. Same for Philippe, he was so much softer last season. He’s quite out of character this year, but not nearly as much as the Chevalier. This whole drug thing is just plain weird! They are ruining a brilliant production.
    I do have a historical question for you.
    In the research you have done, do you see the historical Chevalier as being as emotionally invested in Philippe as Philippe was with the Chevalier? I’m not seeing that so much. I think Philippe was very vulnerable emotionally and clung to anyone who could make him feel loved and appreciated because of how he was treated over his lifetime, and the Chevalier did that. The psychological impact would probably have been pretty big. I see the Chevalier pretty much working to getting whatever he could. I do think he cared for Philippe, just not as much or in quite the same way. Especially since neither was exclusive, it could have easily gone on (and off) for 50 years. (I’ve been watching the exact same scene go on in my family for the last 20 years and counting.)What do you see in the writings from that time? Thanks!

    • Aurora von Goeth

      Depending on what you read, he’s either a very charming creature or a total bum. I think it might have been a case of taking advantage first, but then he got to like Monsieur. He still took advantage of certain things, but he also seems to have cared about him. They couldn’t show their affections too openly and we can’t travel back in time to see how they were in private, so we will never know for sure. I think both did like each other quite a bit.

  • P^2

    I agree with that. I’m just trying to gather some sort of consensus one way or the other based on the sum of the evidence, and perhaps there just isn’t one.

    I really wish we had Philippe’s letters. That would have told us so much. I’m sure the Chevalier was very charming indeed, but I think he had a sharp edge to him. I also think he did indeed care for Monsieur.

    I just know what that constant suppression that Monsieur experienced during his entire life can do to a person and how it can affect their personal and romantic relationships, and I admit I tend to focus on that. (Perhaps too much.) Some of the descriptions of Monsieur being perceived as weak, easily led, explosively emotional at times and the lavishing of gifts on his minions etc. just fit so well. We’ll probably never know for certain. You are also quite correct that they could not be as open then. You do have to factor that in.

    We really need The Doctor’s TARDIS
    right about now. ? Thanks to your thoughts.

  • Tess

    Thank you for the great review, although I guess it is not easy to write when another episode makes the blood boil and you want to grind your teeth. Sometimes I would like to see a sultan in every episode to improve the atmosphere…

    I wonder how credible is Louis’s psychological portrait this season. In the previous one he was rather restrained in showing his emotions, now on the contrary. He is quite mentally unstable. George obviously plays fantastically, I like him more now than in season 1, but I think the writers went a little too far in fantasizing about his fantasies.