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

Thoughts on Versailles season two, episode three….

The last episode finished with the screams of Madame de Montespan and the dramatic/mysterious blowing out of candles as a certain Madame Agathe turned her cards. Now we see Louis in his Apollo costume, the one he originally wore during the Ballet Royal de la Nuit. It was first performed in 1653 and took a whole thirteen hours. Louis XIV was fourteen years old back then as he danced the Apollo, who brought light after a long dark night. This ballet was not just for amusement purposes, it was highly political. It represented the victory of the monarchy over the Fronde.

Here we have Louis entering a stage to hold a speech. He does like them. But things do not go quite as he thought. Everyone starts to laugh. Turns out he is dreaming again. Dreaming that he is not King and just someone who pretends to be so, while the real King is… Madame de Montespan.

La Montespan seems quite recovered from childbirth as Louis awakes from his nightmare. Only few words are exchanged between her and a not too well-looking Louis. They circle around her fear that he might break with her to please the Church. He does not go down that road and instead inquires how their daughter is going. I’m still not quite sure which child that is. Looking at the historical timeline I guess it should be Mademoiselle de Tours… could be Mademoiselle de Nantes too…Mademoiselle de Blois was the last daughter born to them in 1677 and she married the heir of Monsieur. The first child born to Madame de Montespan and Louis XIV was brought up in secret and it is not even entirely clear if it was a boy or girl. Sources suggest it was a girl called Louise Françoise and died in 1672.

We sweep into the chambers of the Queen and again she complains of Madame de Montespan. She is in a bit of a rage over the fact that the child I can not name is in Versailles. Father Pascal tries to calm her and is ordered by the Queen to lure Louis away from his missy and back into the arms of the Church. I do not know what is more of a kill-joy, the poison or the Church. I tend to Church right now, which might have to do with the fact that Marie-Thérèse has a more prominent role here than she actually had.

Louis wanders through what looks like the kitchen area with Bontemps and Fabien. He wishes Fabien to ensure that everything that enters the Palace is checked for poison and Bontemps politely reminds him that might be a little difficult considering how many people come and go each day. Versailles was really a very busy place with hundreds of people coming and going. All kinds of people swept in and out every day, from merchants, servants, builders, painters, cleaners, to various nobles, envoys, foreign visitors and the general public. Versailles was a public place, which everyone could enter provided they wore the proper outfits. For gentlemen this included a rapier and they could be rented at the gates. Our Louis wants to turn his Versailles into a fortress now.

After the intro we find ourselves with Fabien in some sort of amusement establishment. Ladies lounge alluringly as Fabien has a bit of a chat with the master of the house about love powders. It seems this establishment was one of the sources, they bought them from a seller and sold them afterwards to the Palace. Fabien wants to know who that seller is and is told whoever it was, sailed off to China.

In the gardens of Versailles, we see Louvois trying to impress our King with a new cannon, but it’s a bit of a fail. Louis is not amused. Was he amused this season at all? I’m not quite sure. We learn that the English fleet is ready to attack the Dutch. Aha. And that there are still issues regarding the Church refusing Louis’ troops access to noms. Cassel knows the perfect solution. A certain count (I think he said Épernay. If he did that city was under control of the Duc de Bouillon.) has plenty of grain. Said count is not at Versailles, because he pretends to be bound to a wheelchair although he is in fine health. Louis does not like that and the grain will be seized.

We see him chat with Bomtemps next. They talk of Cassel and Louis decides to have him married.

In the meanwhile, it is still too early for the Chevalier to get out of bed, while Philippe is being dressed. The Chevalier however wakes quickly as Philippe mentions making his cousin, of which we know she is not his cousin, lady-in-waiting to his new Madame. A splendid idea, the Chevalier thinks. The lazy morning mood does not last for too long. The Chevalier mentions being fitted for a new coat and Monsieur looks displeased. Asking if he is the one to pay for it. Of course, says the other Philippe, adding that he was never bothered by that before. But Monsieur has a wife now and those are expensive. That wife also didn’t has much of a dowry. He looks annoyed… the Chevalier wants to change that by applying some caresses to certain regions… but they are interrupted by Bontemps talking of a bedding ceremony. Oh dear, methinks. The Chevalier looks a little as if he shares that thought, but for other reasons.

Mademoiselle de Clermont wanders the salons and runs into Monsieur. She is thus informed of the honour that awaits her. Gaston de Foix and Mama de Foix are there too. They lack money apparently. Gaston thinks they should leave, but mama wants to hear nothing of that. His place is here, she says, and she will have to find a way that enables them to stay and climb the social ladder….. I’m probably not the only one who thinks she might have attempted to do so already. *coughs* The Minister. *coughs* Poison.

Fabien is questioning the kitchen staff in order to find out who might be responsible for the death of Madame-Minister-Widow. He is joined by Sophie and instructs her to keep going with her spy work. She sweeps out and Fabien is joined by a maid. The one who brought the plate to Madame-Minister-Widow. She is scared. I would be too.

We are back with Sophie, now in the rooms of Liselotte. Mademoiselle explains Madame that she will help her to get used to the French customs. The Chevalier joins in, pointing out that Sophie is his cousin, and that he will do some helping of his own. I do like this Liselotte. The historical one was quite outspoken too. She came from a relatively small piece of land in Germany and grew up in a sort of 17th century version of a messed up family. Her father was Prince-Elector and a relative of Elizabeth Stuart, sister of Charles I. (If you look at the family trees, both Minette and Liselotte a distant relatives of the Chevalier through Claude de Lorraine. Which I find quite amusing.) Her mother was a bit of a moody thing and her father had a bit of an affair, which led to Liselotte being taken to live with her aunt. She was a freedom loving thing, enjoyed to walk in the nature, spent most of her days with writing letters, and never really got used to life in France. It always remained a little strange to her. Liselotte was a bit on the butch side and not much of a looker. She did not care for dresses or jewels, nor about getting all dolled up. A bit of a tomboy, which made her not the perfect match for Monsieur, but a better match than his previous wife.

The scene changes to Montespan in front of a mirror. She is surrounded by some pretty things and joined by Louis. Bontemps is there too and does not approve of Louis spending money on bling for the Marquise. He is told to mind his own business. One of the pretty things shifts into the focus of attention as Louis has a bit of a glance. The Marquise dismisses her thus.

Liselotte is getting ready to brave the salons with Sophie on her side. She is nervous. I would be too. They enter a salon and I am a bit… well… it is not as it should be. She is new, oui. But she is the sister-in-law of the King, yet parked like a no-one on a stool. Waiting to be invited. Pardon me, but that is just not right. Nobody bows or curtsy’s as a member of the royal family enters and this member is parked on a stool. New or not, she does outrank everyone in that room. Including la Montespan, which again sits in an arm-chair. The King would be furious at such a display of bad manners. They all pretty much ignore her, a princesse de France by marriage, until at last Montespan rises to saunter over. As nice as this whole scene looks, the devil is in the details and details can enrich or ruin a lot. In this case the latter.

Mademoiselle de Clermont is rather busy this episode. Now she is with the King and informed that she is to marry the Duc de Cassel. Obviously, she ain’t pleased about that, but the King wishes it. Louis XIV did arrange quite a few marriages during his reign and no marriage of a noble being could take place without his agreement, which was not always given. Sophie learns first hand now that marriage has nothing to do with love. It is a business arrangement, in which both parties gain a little but love plays no role. The important things are rank and status.

Thomas is still there as well. He walks the gardens with the King and scribbles a little. Both head towards where Jacques should be found, but alas he is not there. We know what happened, Louis does not. Thomas acts like he as nothing to do with it and continues with his questioning. A few moments later we see him pass his notes to someone in a servant’s corridor. There is no doubt that the info will go en route to Holland.

We are introduced to another new face. That of a certain Madame Scarron. A woman of noble, but humble birth that grew up Protestant and is now a very devout Catholic. Madame de Montespan and Madame Scarron know each other for quite a while already. Madame Scarron married the poet Paul Scarron and frequented many salons la Montespan frequented too. Now Madame Scarron is a poor widow and hired by the Marquise to look after her child. Or children. I can not say if she previously has looked after the other kids already, because they do not say. Madame Scarron came to court in 1673 and was by that time already acquainted with the King. He did care a whole lot more about his children than the mother did. It does not seem like our Madame Scarron here does know the King already and again I wonder which child that is. Now it all fits the first child. It might not make much of a difference for most, but for me it would make it a little easier to figure out where we are time-wise. Anyway, the King is thus introduced to Madame Scarron… and doesn’t care much. (She mentions one child here again. This drives me nuts.)

The Chevalier pays a visit to the amusement establishment and is informed they do not longer provide the court directly with powders and potions. I just realise that the master of the house seems to be the one who lost a finger last season. I remember his face. Vaguely.

After a lovely outside shot of Versailles, we have Bontemps minding his own business in the servants corridors… until he spots a certain Gaston with a certain kitchen maid. They embrace. From behind. Gaston looks a bit like a wild rabbit. The maid slightly bored. Fabien is thus informed of what Bontemps spotted and decides to do a bit more investigating. It does not take long until the maid is sitting in a cell and Fabien tricks her into admitting Gaston had something to do with the poisoning. If you look at her, it is quite clear she just said that because she is scared and pissed off… Fabien doesn’t realise… or does not want to.

Gaston feels lucky in the meanwhile at the gambling tables. He has no clue what is coming for him and it comes with full force in form of Fabien. He is punched, dragged off, punched some more and questioned.

Louis has doubts again. He chats with Bomtemps, who tries his very best to reassure him, as the King is getting ready for the bedding ceremony. The Queen is getting ready too, while chatting with Father Pascal. Invitations have been send to join her in prayer after the ceremony. Some have responded and she inquires after Madame de Montespan. It appears she declined the polite invitation. I would too. Prayers with someone who looks like a potential serial killer and a grouch ain’t sounds like much fun. Madame de Montespan is dolling herself up as well, concerned that her looks might be fading. Madame Scarron assesses the situation swiftly. The Marquise feels like she could lose Louis to someone younger, prettier, someone more charming and more fun. We move to Monsieur and it appears that everyone is on the grumpy side of things this fine evening. Can we have a merry scene? Just one. Please?

Monsieur inquires what the hell the Chevalier is drinking, I would like to know as well. He is told it is for medical reasons. Blatant lies. Of course Monsieur is aware that whatever it is, is taken to brighten the Chevalier’s mood. Being told to try something different after finding himself unable to decide on an outfit, Monsieur enters the chambers of his wife in a gown. He looks lovely. Aaaaand he smiles as both head towards the salons. I do like to see him smile, but have the feeling this smile will vanish in a swift.

It does indeed shortly after King and Queen enter. Louis has to remind his bro again what an embarrassment he is. Oh, let the boy have some fun. Monsieur and Madame move to dance a menuet as I spot the painting in the background. It shows Louis XIV, here with the face of George, on horseback painted by René-Antoine Houasse.

The Queen’s eyes look rather red and la Montespan rocks a sparkling mouche, whose location implies she is a passionate woman. Mademoiselle de Clermont is not interested in dancing with her future hubby, she much prefers Thomas…. The Chevalier looks a little high and fumbles with some tassels attached to Louvois.

Gaston does not participate in the celebrations. He is in Fabien’s cellar and secured by means of chains, while getting some punches in the stomach area. Poison is a weapon mostly used by women, he tell us shortly before Fabien knocks him out with a well placed punch to the chin.

Upstairs, in the salons, the celebrations continue and Louis is about to start another of his grand speeches. Historical Louis XIV wasn’t much of a talker, but his brother was. People thought our King was a little slow-minded due to that, especially when his little bro impressed everyone with his fine manner of speech as they were children, but Louis was not slow. He was just very aware that everything that left his mouth could be interpreted wrongly, thus preferred to listen and spoke only when necessary. Imagine what a burden this must be to a small child.

Louis is interrupted by Mama-Gaston and once more he is not impressed. She is kicked out. The King proceeds with his speech and informs everyone it is time for the bedding ceremony. This was actually custom and done to ensure a marriage is consummated. Mostly the couple was simply escorted to their bed and left alone after prayers were said, but in some cases it could also happen that someone remained in the room, or an adjoining one, after the bed curtains had been closed.

Monsieur asks the Chevalier to wish him luck and I sigh. Loudly so. Why? Because the Chevalier grabs Monsieur by the jewels and this is so very out of character. I can’t even. Oui, I am aware that drugs have been consumed, but it does not change the fact that both Monsieur and Chevalier knew that this, the bedding, was only duty. It is quite obscene. He was not an obscene man.

In Monsieur’s chambers, the newly-weds crawl into bed. Both dressed in dashing night-shirts and Monsieur still wearing his red lipstick. He does look nice and his expression says it all as Louis inquires if his brother still remembers what to do….. Do you know what lèse-majesté is? It is an offence against the dignity of the monarch and Monsieur looks like he does not only want to offend the dignity of his brother right now. I can’t blame him and do a bit of lèse-majesté myself now by saying that Louis XIV was a bit of a (major) bum to his brother on a lot of occasions. If you only know Louis’ story, he is very likeable…. but as soon as you learn about how he treated his brother, you see him in a totally different light.

Of course matters do not rise after such a burn and instead of bed activity, some chatting is going on followed by a bonne nuit. I can’t help to feel sorry for both…. and the Chevalier. He is in the amusement establishment and drinks from his small opiate filled bottle, while behind him some dancing is going on. One of the guys looks a bit like Monsieur on first glance. It’s the hair.

The night isn’t going as planned for Montespan either. She sulks in bed as Louis joins her and is told he does not mind her being jealous. That will change soon.

At least Fabien has a bit of success. Sometimes he is on the slow side of things, but with some help from Claudine it finally dawns on him that Mama-Gaston might have something to do with a certain poisoning. He rushes off and straight into the rooms of the lady in question…. and is stabbed by her.

Episode three closes with him having a knife in his chest and I am not sure what to think about all of it so far. So many questions, so little answers.  Thank you for reading.


  • Tess

    I watch the episode, then read your review, the next day I watch it again and it is always more interesting than the first time. I would like to have this comfort with every historical show :). Merci!

    P.S. I love how the Palace of Versailles is shown in this series. We see not only luxurious chambers, but also basements, kitchens, service corridors… It’s hard to distinguish the decor from the real interiors. I admire all these details. For example, in this episode I saw scaffolding in the corridor in a short scene with Louis, Bontemps & Sophie. Such a subtle hint that Versailles is still under construction.

  • Stella Burnell

    I’m so enjoying your reviews ! I’ve only just found them and I’m reading them and then watching the episode again, to increase my understanding. Your knowledgeable insights really increase my fascination with this era and it’s characters. Many, many thanks !

    • Aurora von Goeth

      Thank you for reading, 🙂 They do get a little ranty towards the end…. but I could not help it.