So now the nobles are flooding to Versailles and we open with a magnificent view of the palace under construction (excellent CGI!) and Louis, Philippe and an entourage taking in the building. Louis explains that the nobles and their families will be accommodated: “it is my wish above all, that you see Versailles not as the royal palace, but as your home. A place of leisure and conversation, a place of joy…. and light.” But alas, his proud spiel is interrupted by a catcalling former-soldier-now-builder high on the scaffold, unhappy with his lot in life, which was to fight in the name of the king, lose chunks of his body and his relatives, then toil for the glory of the king as a Versailles builder. “You said that France would honour its heroes, that was your promise. Lies! We’d even die like cattle. Work as your slaves. You say you are France – if you truly were, then you would know our suffering. You’d feel it in your bones. And you’d take the pain away.” Another builder interrupts, trying to get him to calm down, but the rebel is having none of it. Bontemps sends a soldier to get him, but the builder smirks: “do you wish me to descend, Sire? Very well.” He looks to Philippe and adds: “as your brother commands,” and puts a noose around his neck. “No! Don’t!” Philippe yells but to no avail: the man jumps and is hung before the shocked gathering.
Cut to a council meeting with the usual advisors, where Colbert says: “the man believed he and his fellow soldiers have not been given the honour and respect they have earned on the field of battle.” Louvois, ever the voice of dissent, adds: “their grievances are many, Sire. Many suffer from injuries sustained with their work and as yet untreated.” Apparently the workers have downed tools – two thousand of them so far. Unless they return to work, construction cannot continue. Colbert continues: “The rooms on the second floor are not yet complete and winter is fast approaching. With no lodgings yet to house them, I fear our new arrivals might soon depart.” Everyone looks suitably grim.
Okay, an historical note here. Louis’ aim for Versailles, amongst other things, was to bring all the noblesse together under one roof so he could basically keep an eye on them. If they were close by, under his control and constantly seeking his favour, focused on the minutiae of court life, they would have no time to plot and scheme against him (a la the Fronde). So he needed a shit load of rooms to house everyone, and those rooms were handed out according to rank and standing. Of course, the richest, most titled nobles got the best rooms. If you were in great favour with the royal family, the closer to their rooms you were placed. When Louis and his entourage moved in, construction was still underway, and many families had to negotiate building works and the builders themselves, who were not exactly clean and tidy and tended to relieve themselves in stairwells. Also, the builders were indeed unhappy about the working conditions: for e.g. there are accounts of a peasant woman berating Louis for the death of her son as he inspected work, and she was quickly hustled away and flogged for her insubordination.
Anyway, back to the council meeting. Louis tells them to order the builders back to work, and in the meantime the rest of the builders (the non-soldiers) will continue. Colbert: “I fear not, Sire. Apparently they too, are refusing to work.” They claim that the working conditions are too harsh, that not enough attention is paid to their safety. Is this true? Louis asks. Colbert: “We lose half a dozen men per week, Sire. Many more are injured. We have a reckoning of compensation.” But apparently the dead man’s family will receive nothing because his injuries were self-inflicted. “Pay them anyway,” Louis says. Colbert answers quite logically: “that may assuage their grief, Sire, but not the anger of the men.” A long pause ensues, cue concerned looks between the assembled men as Louis goes to the window and stares out, thinking about his next move. Finally he murmurs: “By the age of thirty, Alexander the Great created an empire stretching from Greece to India. Without his men beside him, King Darius would have driven him into the sea.” He glances at his assembled men, who are awaiting his decision. More firmly, he adds: “Last year we retook the Spanish Netherlands. Soon, we shall turn our eyes to Holland. We profit from our trade with the lands of King Annaba, even as the Duc de Cassel bows his head.” His look is tight, his voice determined: “I will not be pushed into the sea by a builder on a scaffold.”
Okay, another side note here…. the dates. With the short scenes and the modified timeline that sometimes deviates from history, I got a little confused about what year we were in. Episode One begins in 1667. Louis says the war was last year (which ran from May 1667-1668) with winter approaching. With other fixed major events yet to happen (that occur in Eps 7-10), I am assuming we are in late autumn of 1669.
Next scene – Bontemps and the duc de Cassel do a ‘walk-and-talk’ through the palace corridors, and we learn that Louis has extended ‘a financial inducement’ to all nobles – those who wish to build a house at the periphery of the grounds will be forgiven all outstanding debts. Oh, well played, Louis. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” could have been written with Louis in mind. With a now-smirky Cassel who is told he will be accommodated in the palace until his house is complete, Bontemps leads him through more corridors…… there’s a brief, satisfying confrontation with Montespan, then they stop at two gilt doors. The look on Cassel’s face when Bontemps opens a third, invisible door and indicates it is to be his room, is priceless. “It’s no bigger than a broom cupboard!” “As a matter of fact, I believe it was a broom cupboard. Welcome to Versailles,” Bontemps replies coolly, then shuts the door on him. Excellent!
Now we are in the gardens with Louis and his guards and Jacques the gardener, where Louis asks : “When you fought for me, did you ever encounter rebellion in the ranks?” Again, a wonderful little scene with Jacques in the Wise Man/Mentor role (seriously, if you haven’t read Christopher Vogler’s The Hero’s Journey, do it. You can also read a summary and related articles on his website). Louis asks how he came by his scar….. “the other one” (the fleur-de-lis brand mentioned in Episode 5). “Rebellion,” Jacque replies, then adds this advice: “the king that brings soldiers to face down soldiers, rarely stays king for long.” He’s a regular Yoda. I love it. Jacque then says there is one man to whom they might listen to – “He has their respect. He fought alongside them.” we all know he’s talking about Philippe, right? Right?! Right. “Brothers can disagree without opposing one another, Sire.” Louis: “You are clearly an only child.” Très drôle, Louis 😀 And then Jacques adds: “All men lash out, Sire. When they are pain.” Oh, this covers so many issues, it’s a fabulously cryptic yet direct statement from Yod- Jacques. And you can see Louis gets it too.
Next walk-and-talk scene with Louis and Rohan… yes, Rohan. UUUUGH LOUIS Y U DO THIS TOOOOO MEEEE? Louis: “you will go to them and address them soldier to soldier. Offer nothing, this is a parlay.” And Rohan gets it, saying there is another who is more qualified than him. Louis will have none of it. He brushes Rohan off, demanding to see the architect, plus Leclerc, his Director of Bullion with the Royal Mint. Ahhhhh…. I know where this is going!
Off Rohan goes in his carriage, to see the injured and sick who seem to be housed in a huge grotty abandoned building, with quite appalling conditions. Claudine is tending to their injuries and warns not to approach them, there could be pollution in the air. “These are our brothers in arms,” Rohan replies. “I shall take the risk.” He recognises a fellow soldier and says: “The king feels your pain.” There is nothing overtly out of place here, but more and more, I am becoming less at ease with Rohan.
Next scene with Louis dressing and the Queen and Louise de La Vallière walk in. They are still clearly not giving up on Louise’s desire to move into a convent. Even though the Queen goes in to bat for Louise, Louis is irritated: “it seems no-one is content with what they have been given.” Such a stubborn man – he will not allow his subjects to just up and leave his precious palace. He adds that their son, Louis de Bourbon, will remain a child of France (meaning he has privileges and honours that a legitimate son would receive). This does not placate Louise at all.
Another historical note re: Louise and her son (who was the last of five children Louise bore for the king). Louis de Bourbon, or Louis de Vermandois after his title, was quite a tragic figure. At the age of seven he was added to Philippe’s household at the Palais Royale where apparently he got up to all sorts of sexual debaucheries, with, it was said, none other than the Chevalier de Lorraine. They were both exiled for this, then little Louis was sent off to the army, then…. well. Other things happen that make it a horribly fascinating tale and one worth reading. You can read more (and also about the Chevalier’s history) on site ma bien-aimée. Sadly, poor Louis de Bourbon died a drunkard at the tender age of sixteen and Louise was said to have remarked that “I ought to weep for his birth far more than his death.” Charming.
Now we come to a mysterious scene – a display of sealed letters, then a pair of hands – clearly male and noble – folding and sealing a coded letter with what looks like a “h” on the stamp. Is it our mysterious masked man planning more trouble? Remember, Marchal has found the codex and can decipher the messages. The notes are being seen passed under gaming tables, put into saddlebags, placed in bibles, left in fruit bowls and in washing baskets to be collected. Cut to a cold, miserable Cassel in his broom cupboard, where a letter is slipped under his door.
Then a Monsieur/ Chevalier scene (such a cute snapshot of domestic bliss, with the Chevalier reading on the bed and Philippe on a chair with a book 🙂 ) …..but hey, have they kissed and made up since their awful coitus interruptus? I’m guessing so, since the end of the war was ‘last year’. Damn. I really wanted to see that scene! UGH.
Anyway, a knock at the door, the Chevalier finds a letter in his shoes outside. He reads it then strolls through into the bedroom, saying nothing. “Have you heard about the builders?” asks Philippe. “I try not to hear anything about builders,” replies the Chevalier. Philippe: “One died right in front of us. The others downing their tools. Now my good friend Pascal de Saint-Martin is here but… has no rooms.” Chevalier: “If I were him I’d ride straight back to Paris.” Philippe: “If you were him you’d be three inches taller and twice as handsome.” AHAHAHAA. #SassyPhilippe. The Chevalier appears immune to this snark – he fancies some air and asks Philippe to join him. When Philippe doesn’t move, the Chevalier says: “I know I vex you from time to time, and I am vain and lazy, and inexcessively fond of frivolity, but… a quick turn around the garden before dinner is good for the soul and everyone should do it.” He adds a seductive kiss to sweeten the request but Philippe knows something is wrong…. “you’re not yourself today.”
Anyways, they stroll and are soon approached by a soldier-turned-builder, who says: “Your Highness. We need your help.” (historical note: Philippe’s correct form of address was ‘your Royal Highness’). Philippe recognises him – a sergeant in the army – and the man asks him to speak to Louis on their behalf about compensation, decent lodging, having their wounds tended, etc. “as befits the soldiers of the King.” Philippe, quite a bit haughty and irritated, replies: “why should I plead on your behalf?” To which the man says cryptically: “you can count on our support…. in the event of a change in circumstances.” WHOA NOW. We know Philippe gets it but still asks for clarification. The man says quite clearly: “if your brother were no longer King.” Oh, dear. Philippe actually looks as though he is about to cry…. and the camera cuts to the Chevalier a few feet away who is suddenly quite interested in his nails but obvs so eavesdropping. “Do you realise I can have you hanged for talking like this?” Philippe gets out tightly. “I do.” The man nods, then glances to the sky and says cryptically, “the sun is setting,” before walking away. The Chevalier strolls up. “What did he want?” Philippe replies: “he wanted me to speak to my brother.” From the Chevalier’s expression, he most def. knows something is up.
And now we’re back inside, early evening, with everyone lining the corridors and Colbert reminding de Clermont that he is still awaiting her papers. Bontemps then announces the king and everyone bows, the Queen and Henriette following, and they all walk in to supper. (A beautiful salon, filmed in the gorgeous Vaux Le Vicomte) The favoured ones are allowed to sit at the table, others are stood behind, and we see a little power play with the seating arrangements for Louise (on her way down) and Montespan (on her way up). The king and queen arrive, people bow, he nods and sits then everyone is allowed to follow suit. They are then served their meal (by Cassel – hehe) a kind of honour-but-not-really. Philippe and the Chevalier arrive late and the Chevalier pulls out Philippe’s chair, Philippe sits. This is a fab display of court etiquette and privilege, with armed chairs for Louis, backed chairs for other ranks, and stools for those lower. We also catch a glimpse of Philippe’s friend Pascal (sorry your Royal Highness, but he is not twice as handsome as the Chevalier 😛 ) and Philippe tells Louis the builders are unhappy: “let me talk to them.” Louis sighs… his little ‘ugh STFU, brother’ face says it all, followed by: “I will not discuss politics at dinner.” The camera cuts to a few faces – Rohan, Sophie, Cassel – as Philippe says: “they followed me into battle. Perhaps they would… follow me back to work.” Yeeeeeah, Louis doesn’t want to know, instead announcing to the table: “we will go hunting tomorrow!” UGH. Philippe gives him a WTF? look: “you ignore my offer.” Louis replies drolly: “I do, brother. I am glad you noticed.” Philippe is clearly irritated. “Why then, are you keeping me here? My own house is ten miles away. If I have no function for you, if I have no position of which you deem worthy but that of a brother…? Why am I still here? I can go to Saint-Cloud and be your brother in the comfort of my own bed. If you wish to see me you can send up a firework.” God, I love the way Alex Vlahos delivers Philippe’s lines – smart and borderline insulting. Sometimes even deliberately insulting. Truly, he has the heart of a royal. His screen presence brings me much joy.
Cut to Montespan telling Henriette she must eat, then to de Clermont and Sophie, who wishes to know a thread of the truth. “A thread of truth is enough to hang you, my dear.” Sophie glances to the Chevalier: “And our cousin? Or is our family a lie as well?” De Clermont replies: “the Chevalier believes only what’s in front of his nose, so long as he feels he might profit. He will be our friend and maintain our position at court… at least that was the case until the King demanded his proof.” Sophie: “and what if we cannot convince him? What happens then?” De Clermont replies tightly: “We do whatever it takes to survive.” Sophie glances up, sees Cassel creepily watching her. ‘Whatever it takes to survive’ doesn’t look too good to her. Then Marchal walks over, pays de Clermont a compliment….. Sophie is so totally unimpressed.
Now we’re outside what looks like a brothel. Cut to the interior, with scantily clad women and men in their cups…. and a particularly verbose man in conversation who declares: “there is not a carriage from here to Paris that is not vulnerable. If the King’s police cannot control the roads then he cannot expect a king’s taxman to ride on them. Let alone arrive with full coffers.” Montcourt overhears this Very Important Information and wanders over to suggest ‘protection.’
We return to Versailles and the salons where courtiers gamble and tell stories. Montespan invites Louis to her bed, then Rohan updates Louis on his visit to the builders, suggests a military man approach them, reason with them. Yes! Finally. He means Philippe, right? Right?! Louis: “you are right. I will send Louvois.”
FUCKSAKE, LOUIS! *deskflip* SERIOUSLY? But wait, forget about that shit, here comes Henriette, who apparently feels faint and wishes to retire. Louis says: “You used to be the brightest light in the room and now… you are absent.” Yeah, I guess knowing your lady-in-waiting is now your lover’s new fuckbuddy would be a cause for upset. Poor Henriette (nah, not really). She leaves, we see Philippe watching them both and that is that.
And now to a hot and heavy smexy scene…. Louis and Montespan getting jiggy with it. Clearly his mind is elsewhere, because he leaves her bed, unsatisfied and irritated, saying “I will return.” Where is he going? We all know, don’t we? After he leaves, Philippe enters Montespan’s bedroom. She: “what are you doing?” He: “Looking for my brother. I thought he might be….” points to the bed- “…there.” He pauses, then adds casually: “Ohhhh…. I know where he is.” And walks over to the door that Louis exited through.
Louis sits on Henriette’s bed. He is concerned for her. She declares herself tired, that is all. Philippe strolls in and declares breezily: “he does this, doesn’t he? Waits until you’re tired to have The Big Talk. I mean, he’s always done it to me, but it’s reassuring to know he does it to you, too.” AHAHAHA. Louis says: “some privacy, brother.” Ugh. What. Quite rightly, Philippe replies: “I think you forget where you are.” Louis: “I think you forget who addresses you.” Philippe is torn….. what can he say to that? So he deflects: “Louvois will not help you, you know that, don’t you?” They begin to argue, with Philippe declaring “a warrior only trusts the man who stands beside him.” More words, with Philippe frustrated and grabbing Louis’ arm: “How is it possible that you are blind to those who want to help you? Not everyone is trying to knock you down! If you stopped attacking for a moment you might see it. Let others aid you in your decisions. You cannot do it all.” Louis angrily points at Philippe, replies firmly: “the business of government is no business of yours.” Ouch. Philippe declares: “It could be if you let it!” Ahhhh! Now we see very clearly Philippe’s frustration, the poor thing. This is totally in keeping with historical Philippe, just wanting to help his brother. And yet Louis will have none of it. And now Henriette, who has crawled out of bed at the first sign of the argument, demands they stop. But Philippe is on a roll, ranting at Louis… “but you will never do that, I know that now. You think I oppose you. You think the world opposes you, but you are mistaken!” He then turns his anger on Henriette, who is still demanding they stop, spitting out “Oh, for Heavens’ sake, eat something!” Louis chimes in: “What on earth is the matter?” Henriette: “I am expecting a child!”
Historical note: this is a lovely little twist – whose is it, Philippe’s or Louis’? Of course, we may never know. What we do know, however, is that historically speaking, by 1669 Philippe was already a father. Marie Louise was seven years old and from all accounts, Philippe doted on his daughter, who, despite the popular “Louis is the father” rumours, was the spitting image of Philippe. Philippe’s mother, Anne of Austria, also doted on the child, and was horrified to hear Henriette say shortly after the birth that she wished the child thrown into the Seine upon hearing it was a girl. Yeah. Wonderful mother. Such a delight.
So now we see Cassel enter the brothel and meet up with Montcourt, who has a proposition for le Duc. He says he will not go back on the road with a musket, that he has decided on a new plan – offering protection to the excise man. Cassel just wants money, he doesn’t care how it’s gotten. He tells Montcourt about the builder’s problems and wants to encourage the dissent.
Cut to Louvois on a horse, preaching at the builders, and sounding rather angry and forceful and not at all nice. He asks for their leader… the builder who spoke to Philippe during the garden stroll steps up, declares they have none: “we all speak with one voice.” Louvois says if they do not work, he will have him hanged. ……Jezus, Louvois. Seriously? Ugh. The builder doesn’t care. He and the others just want Louis to honour his promises. Louvois looks pissed.
And now we have the cute builder Benoit at Sophie’s window. She is worried. He’s sent her a dozen notes…. but suddenly Henriette storms through her salons, Philippe in pursuit and in heated argument, demanding to know if the baby is his. “I cannot say!” she yells. “Cannot or will not?” Whoops, Sophie. She bundles off Benoit as we hear Henriette scream: “abandon me if you wish!” Philippe returns with: “I can do neither, as you know so well. Even as I feel betrayed by you, by him, by myself.” Henriette replies tightly: “Do you hate me?” (yes, YESSS WE DO!) Philippe: “how much more straight forward if I did. He will use this, you will see.” Henriette, quietly: “In what way?” Philippe, his hands in the air: “To get what he wants.” Henriette: “I do not believe it.” (Jezus woman, have you not been paying attention AT ALL??) Philippe replies darkly, his voice dropping to a whisper: “Oh, I can assure you of it. It’ll be his child on a Monday, mine on a Tuesday. Depending on his mood… his needs, his whim. His health. His breakfast. Whichever way the wind is blowing. You have not given him a child – you have given him a club, for him to beat us with.”
Perfect dialogue. Perfect mood music. Just perfect.
And now we see a carriage arriving through the woods, Montcourt staging a robbery with the aforementioned excise man (“what happens next? I forget!” hilarious 😀 ). Back in de Clermont’s room with Sophie, arguing about their real identity. We learn Sophie’s father was an architect, “a good man, crushed by the strictures of the King”, because he was a protestant. Distracted, de Clermont finds one of the mysterious letters in a bouquet delivered earlier. And off de Clermont goes, to the brothel… but we see Marchal’s assistant is watching her. There are eyes everywhere, it seems.
Now we’re back in the palace, with Louis visiting Henriette. “We cannot continue as we have done.” Henriette understands: “You are the King, Sire. We are yours to own or discard as you see fit.” Louis replies: “The child you carry is a symbol of doubt. A doubt I do not myself wish to bear.” Henriette looks confused; Louis continues: “Do you want me to own you to the exclusion of all others? To the exclusion of my own brother?” Henriette looks teary: “I cannot answer that question, Sire. I am sorry. Please forgive me.” Okay, then. Unsatisfied, Louis turns on his heel and storms off.
Now we have Marchal (ahhhh, finally a scene with Fabien!) returning to his rather dingy rooms to study the cypher… until de Clermont enters and he quickly puts it away. What does she want? A little banter about books (and we learn Marchal likes his books and is well read). She strolls about, taking in the rooms with interest, the chains on the walls, then launches into a darkly flirty dialogue, first asking if he enjoys his work. “Joy is not the word I would use,” he replies. What word would he use? “Satisfaction.” Does it pain him to see people suffer? “I do not consider such matters.” Does he look them in the eye when he punishes them? “Always.” Then there’s a bit of slapping and shoving and he admits, “I’ve never been with a woman like you before,” then wah-hay, some rough sexytimes. Oh, with Marchal’s creepy woman assistant looking on from the doorway as a bonus.
After a quick scene that shows a masked figure creeping into Masson the doctor’s house and replacing a vial inside the King’s medicine box (obvs not a concerned citizen wanting to anonymously improve the health of an ailing King for altruistic reasons), we return to Louis the next morning in the palace, looking rather pleased with himself. He tells Bontemps to bring him the soldiers who refused to work, that he “has a proposal to make which I believe will satisfy their demands.”
Back to Marchal and his assistant, who tells him she saw de Clermont at the brothel, then the apothecary, where she ordered two bottles of arsenic, and one bottle of eros, to “aid the vigour of amorous coupling….. but I think perhaps you already know that.” Marchal is unimpressed: “I pay you to spy on others. Not to spy on me.” She isn’t amused. I do suspect a case of unrequited lust there.
Now we see Bontemps leading the soldiers through the palace to meet Louis, getting rather shirty when they stop to ogle the gold and grandeur of the salons.
And then a cute little scene, where Louis walks into Philippe’s bedroom and we see Philippe looking all innocent and sweet, cuddling up to a sleeping Chevalier. Louis opens the window, Philippe blinks awake in the bright sunlight and Louis says simply: “I need you,” then leaves.
Moments later, Louis walks into the salon where the soldiers are gathered, lighting subdued and large drawings hidden by cloth. He welcomes them, then goes into his professional spiel in order to skilfully sway them. Lord, he is such a consummate performer, playing to his crowd, persuading them with his words. Such a sight to behold. And he plays his cards – revealing plans for Les Invalides, a home for wounded soldiers. “it will host the finest medical facilities, refectory, dormitories, a church. It will be located in Paris, close to the river. Every soldier wounded while fighting for France will be taken there to be treated…” and so it goes, the hard sell. It is quite a thing to watch, Louis impressing the masses with his generosity and command, even handing out specially struck gold coins for the momentous occasion. Philippe watches in stoic silence as Louis murmurs to him: “you said you wouldn’t come.” To which Philippe replies: “You really believed everything you said there, didn’t you?” Then Louis makes a show of presenting the very first coin to Philippe, “A man to whom I owe the most. A brave soldier known to you all. Philippe, duc d’Orleans, who I am also honoured to call my brother.” Oooooh, so very smooth, Louis. Veeeery slowly, Philippe accepts the coin, then when the rest are being handed out, he walks out, silently handing his to the soldier he met in the gardens. Not. Impressed. So he totally misses one of the soldiers grabbing Louis, hissing “the enemy is closer than you think!” and spitting right in the king’s face. He is quickly dragged off, with Louis looking shocked (and me trying not to dry heave).
Philippe storms into Henriette’s bed chamber. “Get up! We’re leaving! We’re going to Saint Cloud. I refuse to stay here another minute!” Henriette is all “stop, explain yourself.” And he replies: “I just realised we have a choice. We don’t have to do everything he tells us. We have been cowards. We are free to leave. It merely requires courage for us to resist him.” Henriette, the poor thing with little brain cells, says “I don’t really understand.” And Philippe replies: “what do you really want? To come with me? Or to remain here… waiting day and night for his knock at your door? I don’t care if the baby is mine or his. It will be ours.” Henriette: “But our lives are here. You are brother to the King. You cannot leave. This place is who you are. Who we are.” Philippe looks so forlorn at this, so defeated. Quietly he says: “If that is true then we are already rotten inside.” Then he turns and walks away. UGH. Still he gives her a chance and yet she has subtly chosen Louis over her husband. Again.
Now we are back with de Clermont and the masked man. She says the cypher has been broken and the man replies they must form a new codex. But wait. The good guys don’t know that the bad guys know they know…. So they will use that to their advantage. De Clermont then gets a seal from him – a royal seal with the fleur-de-lis and off she goes.
Then what follows is obviously a dream sequence – everyone is in Louis’ bedroom, Rohan and Colbert pin him to the bed, Louise prays, Henriette speaks, Marchal looks on… and Philippe strikes a dagger through Louis’ heart. Not difficult to understand the symbolism behind that. So Louis awakes in a dead sweat and Bontemps attends him, saying “your Majesty. You are sick.”
And there we have the end of Episode Six. Merci beaucoup for reading!