Here it is, mes amis! The final review of the finale of Versailles. My sources tell me that sadly, we will have to wait until March 2017 (Yes, NEXT YEAR!!!) for Season 2. I am sobbing. In between re-watching S1, of course. So anyways, off we go. And remember you can also start at the beginning and read my reviews of Episodes One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight. and Nine. Also I have to add – SPOILER ALERT!!!! for all of these.
The episode starts in Madame de Montespan’s bed, with Louis awake and staring at the ceiling. He gets up and leaves, walking through the corridors with a candelabra. The camera then cuts to Rohan, drinking and brooding in his room, absently stabbing the table with a knife as he glares at a portrait of Louis-as-a-boy (which is a gorgeous portrait – and includes Philippe, apparently in a private collection and attributed to artist Charles Beaubrun. I love it). Louis is greeted by Bontemps in his chambers, who enquires about Henriette’s health. “the rest will do her good,” Bontemps says. He tucks Louis in then gets into his small cot (that looks like a camping bed), fully clothed. (Historical note: this happened and wasn’t at all odd) The door suddenly opens, the Queen is standing there. Bontemps is a little freaked: “Th-this is highly irregular, your Majesty.” But the IDGAF expression on the Queen’s face is priceless. Louis looks stunned too. Lulz. “My bed – your last stop before retiring. That was your promise to me. I am tired of waiting for you to keep it,” says the Queen casually as she gets into bed with Louis then settles down. Louis and Bontemps share a look between them – a kind of ‘wtf do we do now? IDK????’ Brilliant. So Louis settles in to sleep. But he will not be resting for long – the door opens later and we see a pair of bare feet, the hem of a nightgown, both bloodied, as they enter. Louis wakes to the sight of Henriette, blood down her gown and from her mouth, saying “help me… please.” Even gravely ill, she still choses Louis over her husband. The Queen rushes to her side as she collapses and Louis commands Bontemps to fetch his doctor. And it is on.
We now see Philippe asleep. He rolls in bed, his cheek on a bloodied pillow, and suddenly wakes, realises what it is and follows the trail to Louis’ bedchamber. He is genuinely distraught, going to a collapsed Henriette on the floor while Louis is just standing there, seemingly frozen. Bontemps says: “protocol demands that if the air is impure and if you are at risk, you must leave immediately.” (this is true) Marchal strides in to take command. “Close the doors!” The Queen adds: “we must put her in the bed.” Louis nods; in she goes. Marchal is still ordering: “Get his Majesty to safety, at once!” His guards rush in to remove him, they scuffle and Louis yells: “get your hands off me! I COMMAND YOU!” and the guards step back. This moment echoes the first from the opening scene in Episode One, where the traitors rush in on the pretext of getting Louis safely away. From the bed, Henriette says pitifully, “Don’t leave me…” and straight away, we know who that is aimed at. Louis. It is always Louis for her. Everyone shares a look because, yeah, they know. They’ve always known. And poor Philippe, who is distraught about his wife, it’s just another snub for him, isn’t it? My heart breaks for him. The writers do it over and over again, in tiny little ways that is infuriating (Philippe with his sad puppy eyes… Nooooo!) yet so satisfying to watch because.. yeah. Brilliant writing. “Let me know when the doctor arrives,” Louis says, and leaves.
(Historical note: it was forbidden for the King to be in the presence of death. He was shut out of his mother’s (Anne of Austria) last moments, while Philippe was in attendance, where, despite her appalling treatment of her second son, he openly wept and grieved. And in 1671 during Louis’ three day visit to the Prince de Condé’s Château de Chantilly, the Master of Festivities and Pleasures François Vatel killed himself over the late delivery of fish, and Louis was quickly hustled away (as shown in the wonderful 2000 Gerard Depardieu movie, Vatel))
So we see Claudine striding to the bedchamber but her way is barred. Louis stands outside: “her life is in your hands,” he says ominously. Claudine then enters and grills Bontemps, the Queen and Philippe about the symptoms while Henriette gasps in pain on the bed. Bontemps wants to move her – “she cannot stay in the King’s bed.” – but Claudine says she cannot be moved. This is clearly frustrating for Bontemps, this is against all protocol, and Bontemps is nothing if a creature who takes comfort (and even enjoys) the routine of protocol. “We are NOT touching her!” Philippe finally says. Claudine confirms: “We have no choice. She stays.” Philippe: “And so do I.”
These scenes are odd for me to watch, but by now, I have totally put aside any frustration when the show deviates from what I know of the actual history. Historically, poison was definitely suspected in Henriette’s death and briefly, here’s how it went down: It was 1670 and Henriette was pissed off she couldn’t be with Louis at Versailles, and of course Monsieur knew this, so he ordered her to accompany him to Saint Cloud. Earlier that day, a servant spotted one of Philippe’s mignons and Grand Equerry (Master of the Horse), the Marquis d’Effiat, drink water stored in a cabinet near Henriette’s chambers, wipe the glass, then go on his way. Around 5pm on 29th June Henriette drank chicory water, then keeled over saying ‘Ah! What a pain! What shall I do! I must be poisoned!” so Philippe ordered her dog to be fed the water. Of course, nothing happened and the doctors said colic but nine hours later, she was dead. Even though Henriette had a history of pains (since 1667) and drank only milk and basically ate nothing (she was considered quite a stick in the fashion of the day, and some historians suggest she suffered from anorexia), the poison theory stuck. It was quite the method du jour to get rid of a person, as the series has shown. Philippe, despite their mutual loathing, was upset and distraught, so suspicion then fell to the absent Chevalier de Lorraine, who at the time was still in exile in Rome. Rumour went that he sent the poison to Effiat in retaliation for Henriette having him banished. When an autopsy was done (observed by 17 French doctors, two English physicians, the British ambassador and around 100 other onlookers) death was deemed to be from “cholera morbus (gastroenteritis) caused by heated bile.” The poor Chevalier, accused when he wasn’t even there! And dragging Effiat into it too, for a) being a mignon loyal to the Chevalier, and b) his family’s involvement in the Fronde, during Louis XIII’s reign. But gossip is gossip and it was particularly rife and vicious in those days. People lived for it, and reputations and lives could be ruined with one well-placed rumour. You can read more about Henrietta’s death here.
Anyway, back to the story. Louis stares out the window in the antechamber, servants bring in food, but Marchal suspects poisoning and sends it back until its safety can be confirmed. Colbert and Louvois look considerably worried. Colbert: “You believe her highness is poisoned?” Marchal replies cryptically: “I believe…. many things.” Louis looks at him as he goes on: “I believe this palace is a symbol of our king. Of his power, of his country. And our enemies have stopped at nothing to destroy it. Since the first stone was laid in this expansion. his majesty knew this day would come. So do I believe that our enemies would dare to poison King Charles of England’s sister? Yes. I do. But I also know that their greatest plan has yet to show itself.” the camera pans to Louis, Colbert, Louvois (clearly worried, as he should be), who says, “but what if she’s merely ill?” Marchal: “then your appetite will be merely inconvenienced, Louvois.” Bontemps appears…. apparently it is still not safe. So Louis sequesters the palace. No one enters. No one leaves. Cue some fabulous visuals of doors closing, pikes crossing, the golden gates slamming shut and locking.
Next morning and Louis opens the shutters on a sleeping Montespan (aside here: Louis has a habit of walking in on people sleeping or in a state of undress. He did it with Prince Annaba, with Philippe and the Chevalier, with Philippe in the bath… whether it’s just him thinking ‘hey, I’m the King, I can do whatever TF I want’ or some other deep need to catch people unawares, I do not know). Montespan banters but Louis doesn’t bite. Whats wrong? She finally asks. “Our dear Henriette…. She is gravely ill.” Montespan pauses for a second, then declares she must go to her (because you know, Montespan is supposed to be one of her ladies-in-waiting). And stunned when Louis says she’s in his bedchamber. I find it interesting that Louis feels the need to add: “she came to find me,” to put the doubt on Montespan’s face to rest. But Montespan kind of brushes it off with, “Yes, I would do the same.” She is hurt, nonetheless.
Back with the sick princess and Claudine is fiddling with potions while Henriette writhes and vomits blood. Poor Philippe is helpless… “do something, woman!” She has to find the source, which means poking about on Henriette’s body, causing agony with every poke. Henriette is restrained by Philippe, the Queen and Bontemps, and Philippe is clearly suffering as he listens to his wife muffling her screams. (*cries*)
Bontemps goes to see Louis. There is no change. Louis looks strained, says: “I do not regret sending her. She brought honour on herself and glory to our court. And I do not regret it for an instant.” Like he is trying to justify himself. This really shows he is vulnerable. And Bontemps replies: “we are all proud of her, Sire.” Louis: “And now someone is trying to destroy me, by destroying her.” Rohan appears: “And they will not succeed… I came as soon as I could… I wish to offer myself to you as your subject and as your friend.” UGGGGGH. Snake! And Louis, who is being so totally duped, is convinced by Rohan to take his son, the Dauphin, out to ride, so he is far away from the cries of pain. “keep him occupied in body and mind,” adds Louis with a brief smile. “thank you.”
NOOOOOOO. How can people not see Rohan’s calculating glances, his sly little looks? His face may be handsome but now he just reminds me of a ferret. Horrible man.
We are back at the sickbed, where Henriette sleeps and Montespan silently weeps at the bed. Bontemps moves her along. Claudine and Philippe converse, with Claudine saying she feels they are not through the worst. Philippe: “my brother always trusted you.” Claudine: “I am honoured.” Philippe whispers: “I don’t believe I know what it feels like.” ….. Emo Philippe, so dark and tortured! Claudine looks sad: “this must be frightening for her. And for those who love her.” Philippe replies ominously: “we are all of us in sickness here. We’re just waiting for it to take root.”
Now we are outside in an antechamber again, where Colbert is frantic that Henriette must be moved, that she cannot be treated in the King’s chamber. Colbert tries to push his point when Louis enters. What if the poison spreads? There was an attempt on her life before. How do we find the poisoner? Marchal replies in that cool way of his: “we eliminate the suspects.” Colbert: “‘eliminating the suspects’ doesn’t mean the same to me as it does to you!” Lol. Louis reels off a list of people who were with Henriette on her journey, people that must be interrogated. Quite a few. Louvois and Marchal agree. Colbert looks a bit stunned. Then Philippe walks out, still dressed in his nightshirt and robe, barefoot. He sees Louis. “You!” He points and accusing finger. “You did this to her.” Louis looks shocked: “Brother….” Philippe will have none of it: “We warned you. We begged you. Yet you heard nothing.* The only voice, your own. Desire for glory. Yet how much pain are you willing to endure before you get what you want?!” Louis is stunned: “Why are you casting all this rage at me?” Philippe: “Because you deserve it. Because the whole world gave you counsel. Your closest confidants told you to look elsewhere! The advice you took came from only one source….” the door opens, and Montespan enters. Philippe adds: “….or two, perhaps.” And he strides off. (Historical note: mistresses were in competition with each other all the time, poison was effective and the murderer didn’t have to deal with the messiness. They could be far away from the victim at the time of death, so it would be difficult to definitively pin on anyone.)
(*WTF…. Philippe was the one in strident dissent! Henriette wanted to go!)
I can see where the series cliffhanger is heading, besides the obvious ‘unmasking of Rohan as a traitor’. The wedge is firmly being driven between Philippe and Louis, all their arguments and conflict and opposition for each other has been carefully constructed and built up over the last nine episodes, into this final one. Excellent.
Another scene now, with Rohan getting ready for his ride, and a servant girl by the name of Marie entering, demanding her money. This girl is familiar – she was at Henriette’s bedside as the princess related the story of her first masked ball to Sophie. Rohan grabs her by the throat, saying it is not yet clear to him what she has done to earn her money, then demands she clean his room before leaving. Charming.
Finally, a scene with the Chevalier!!! (it’s only 16mins and 50 seconds in… not that I was counting *innocent whistle*) Filmed in the Château de Maisons in Maisons-Lafitte, in the Salon d’Hercule, he strides past Montcourt, demands to know what he is doing. “My apartment has no pisspot and I do hate to urinate in the stairwells.” The Chevalier: “Never stopped you before.” (teeheehee) They are interrupted by the Duc de Cassel (who is looking even rougher and more filthy than usual. Ugh) and oh dear, the Chevalier looks so panicked, so worried by the Duc’s appearance… is it because he thinks people will start accusing him again of treason? Because no one knows that Cassel is one of the conspirators (and UGH I don’t know WHY the Chevalier just didn’t tell Marchal or Louis???) They talk about what’s happening – Marchal is questioning people, and Sophie was taken in that morning. The Chevalier looks a little panicky… or is it my imagination? He should be – he has not given up either of their names for the part they played in his arrest. So to me, this indicates he’s still quite scared. Plus he told Louis he didn’t recognise the ‘sender of the notes’ which is technically true. But I still don’t get why he doesn’t just dob them both in….? Anyways, he says: “we cannot be seen together anymore. Is that understood?” and pushes past them. Cassel leaves, then Montcourt walks away in the direction of Rohan who is discussing the Dauphin’s outing with a guard. Montcourt pauses – it’s clear he recognises Rohan’s voice. Then he looks to Rohan’s hand tapping on the stone, decorated with a ring… and the penny drops. Rohan is the Masked Man! Montcourt turns and quickly leaves.
Now we are with Marchal, who is interrogating Henriette’s ladies, Sophie included. And she is the only one who knew who prepared Henriette’s chicory water. But of course, she wants to know what happened to her mother in exchange for that information. Marchal is cool: “I am not here to answer you.” Sophie is equally cool: “Then neither am I.” He suggests she reconsider, that she has her life to lose if she doesn’t. But Sophie declares she has no life: what her mother told her was a lie. To which Marchal says: “you are the daughter of a Huguenot conspirator to the King, funded and supported by William of Orange.” But Sophie says her mother paid that price, she is merely trying to survive and thought Marchal’s protection would ensure it. Oh, and she was the one who prepared Henriette’s tea.
I am really liking Sophie’s growth as a character, who is, of course, beautiful, but with attitude and a strong backbone, as we are now seeing. I especially like the pairing of her and Marchal. (yeah, I know I said I liked Marchal/Claudine, too! I’d be happy with either, tbh!)
Back to Louis outside his bed chamber, where Henriette’s screams of pain can be heard. He is clearly upset. In walks Philippe, now fully dressed (and what a fine figure he is!) Henriette screams and they both surge to the door… then suddenly stop. Philippe’s distress is written all over his face, while Louis just looks angry, eyes flinty, mouth flat, jaw clenched. He says quietly: “She knew what she had to do. And she did it willingly.” Philippe: “Because you told her to.” Louis: “Because she was born to it.” Philippe: “Because she loves you.” Louis: “if we do not have the English, we cannot attack the Dutch.” The look on Philippe’s face is incredulous… yes, Louis is talking war when his wife lies dying. Louis adds, almost contemptuously: “you never understood politics. Or survival.” he starts to pace: here comes the lecture…. “The state is a person. And the person either asserts himself or is subjugated to the will of others. We stake our claim or we are ploughed into the field. It is one or the other.” Philippe replies calmly: “You acted out of pride. I risked my life for your vanity, to rescue your wife’s dowry.” Louis: “I acted for France because I AM FRANCE!” Philippe remains stoic – this time it’s Louis getting angry and we know why. Guilt often manifests itself in an outward show of rage. Louis continues to yell: “because without me this country will consume itself in nobles’ squabbles.” He paces. “Music. Dance. Art. Fashion. All of these things have the power to change a nation from within. To affect the hearts and minds of people. To bring them over to us. We could never invade the entire world but the world can imagine us as their centre. And one day, brother, one day they will. The cost is justified a hundred fold!” …..And Philippe’s face… that little sigh, the look… he is incredulous. And Louis is still on a roll, caught up in his speech about grandeur and nobility and the endurance of a legacy: “….the song we sing here, brother, I mean it to be played forever.” And suddenly, as he stares at Philippe, his face alight with the emotion of a true believer, the cries of Henriette are heard. And just like that, the light dims in his eyes, his face twists and his zealotry is gone. And Philippe says calmly and quietly: “There. There is your music.”
Perfectly written line is delivered perfectly by perfect actor.
Bontemps suddenly appears; Henriette has been calling. “I will come,” says Philippe. Bontemps: “For you, Sire.” Shine on Bontemps, you unsubtle diamond, you. “Protocol demands that he stays,” Philippe says tightly. “At least that’s always been his excuse.” (aaaand check out the looks on Louis and Bontemps’ faces as I randomly paused right here…. OMG!)
Claudine confirms poison and Louis huddles with his advisors: he wants to know if any English are at court. In Paris, says Colbert. “When King Charles hears that his beloved sister has been poisoned in France, it is only a matter of hours before a declaration of war.” Louvois: “a war they cannot afford to win.” Colbert now counsels Louis on the shift of power should Henriette die: “Henriette’s very existence strengthens your position. Keeps your brother’s power in check and offers a direct connection to England. It unfortunately follows that her absence would weaken you. In every possible way.” …….. now, I am not saying that Colbert is implying Philippe poisoned his wife, but… it sure sounds like it. Louis just nods, gives Philippe a look (who is standing near the doors, looking so alone and sad, I just wanna hug him!) then goes into the bedchamber.
We see Henriette asleep in the bed. Louis approaches and she wakes. He takes her hand and closes his eyes and for a moment he is vulnerable.
Back outside, to a view of Versailles under construction (I love these pre-glory shots!) and to Marchal in his office, interrogating Montcourt. Apparently de Clermont gave Marchal the names of the conspirators against the king, and all the names of those who shared her allegiance. Montcourt declares he only knew her in passing, Marchal calls out his bullshit: “but you knew she had malevolent intent.” To which Montcourt sarcastically replies: “it may have escaped your notice but everyone in this building has malevolent intent. Though only a few actually act on it.” 😀 Marchal is having a hard time believing Montcourt’s usual crap about returning to court because he is a ‘true friend to the king’ and was his ‘duty to inform him of a threat to Henriette’s life’. Then Montcourt, the sly little worm, implies that Marchal will cop shit if Henriette dies and no culprit is found, and that Marchal’s judgement is lacking due to the whole de Clermont thing. Nice one, Montcourt. Get Marchal pissed at you. But Marchal continues calmly. Who seeks to harm Henriette? “Your question misses the question,” Montcourt replies cryptically. UGH. He’s not gonna tell him of Rohan outright, is he? Still with the playing of games, the half-truth words. “It is my experience that it is only those closest to a man that can inflict the greatest pain. When we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away. When we are far away, we must make him believe we are near. When we are the king’s enemy, we must make him believe we are his friend. ” Yep. That’d do it.
As Montcourt is delivering this little speech, the camera angle singles out the massive symbolism in the shot: the angels on his leather sash belt. And Marchal sees this too, his eyes flicking down to focus on them, then showing us a flashback of the dying girl, Charlotte de Parthanay, whom he held in his arms in Episode Three, where she says she saw angels.
We now join Rohan with the Dauphin, riding out with the King’s Guard. They have some banter, and Rohan invites the boy to play a game… “A game of war?” The Dauphin says excitedly. And Rohan chuckles and I… well. I just wanna smash his smug ferret face.
Back with Marchal, interrogating Louvois this time. And Louvois being the pompous ass he is, says haughtily: “Before you speak to me, I suggest you speak to the king.” Marchal: “I am his Majesty’s eyes and ears, M’sieur Louvois. I will speak to whomever I like.” Louvois: “I know this is true. I’m merely suggesting you might save some time.” Marchal persists, pointing out that Louvois always disagrees frequently and loudly with the King’s decisions. Why is this so? Okay, is Louvois just being a dick? I thought so… but no. Wow. Did not see this one coming! Louis walks in and replies: “because I ask him to do so.” Ahhhhh-HA! Louvois has been a kind of double agent all along, directed by Louis himself to assume the role of critic and conspirator. You clever, clever bastard. Marchal is surprised but pleased: “attracting the flies to the paper.” “You are both the angels at my shoulder,” says Louis, which reminds Marchal of the Parthenays and Montcourt. So he tells Louis he will now deliver the man responsible for their deaths.
Off they stride with purpose and a couple of guards, through the gorgeous corridors (shot in the gorgeous Vaux Le Vicomte) and with ominous background music to set the mood. They walk into a salon, where Montcourt is playing cards, and everyone suddenly stops talking when Marchal meets the man’s eye. He looks nervous and steps to Cassel, but Cassel rises and bows, along with everyone, as Louis enters. Marchal commands to clear the room, Louis adds: “Not you, Montcourt.” and the doors are sealed: no one enters. This is Louis in control, in power, and he delivers a malevolent, threatening banter that is fabulous to see. “What about the angels?” he asks, after Montcourt nervously says he’s been praying for Henriette. Montcourt is confused. Louis persists. “Do you see them now? I have heard many say they see angels before they die.” (Ahhh! I knew he’d say that line! Called it!) Louis strolls over to the fireplace and picks up a poker, calmly summarising what’s happened on his roads, his people dying, attempts on his own life, and now his ‘beloved Henriette’. Montcourt looks nervous, says he doesn’t know what he means. Louis: “And that makes you a liar.”
Montcourt denies it: “No, Sire. I am a friend. I am a true friend of the king.” but Louis knows. And then Marchal throws Montcourt’s words back at him: “and when we are the King’s enemy, we must make him believe we are his friend, right?” Yessss. Montcourt to Marchal: “You are a fool.” Louis replies: “And you are a MURDERER!” Montcourt continues with the ‘wrong man’ thing, but Louis will have none of it. “I let a wolf back into my barn!” Montcourt’s hand slides to his hip, Marchal sees this (good Chief of Police *pets his pretty head*) and Montcourt still denies, Louis accuses him of poisoning Henriette. Such an angry king, and rightly so. His grip tightens on the poker, even as Montcourt looks actually shocked at that accusation. Pretty sure he was not the one who did the poisoning thing. Montcourt’s eyes drop to Louis’ hand… and suddenly he pulls a knife. AAAAAAHHH. Louis smacks it away with the poker, Marchal steps in, Montcourt grabs a candlestick. It’a all so quick, and beautifully choreographed. OMG he hits Marchal across the face with the candlestick, Louis lunges, Montcourt throws him off and the King smacks his head on a table. Marchal picks up the dropped knife and lunges and he and Montcourt trade a few blows, with Marchal blocking then delivering a punch. Louis meanwhile, is disorientated (and by this time I am wondering where the guards are with all this noise, despite Marchal telling them not to disturb them).
The two Ms still fight, and Louis approaches, holding the poker. When Marchal goes down and Montcourt takes the knife, Louis lunges, some more fighting with Marchal again entering the fray….. and then… OMG Marchal is stabbed!!! Louis pauses, shocked, Marchal grabs his belly, echoing that look, and I’m all NOOOOOO! Not Marchal! Louis drops the poker, approaches Montcourt. “Good idea,” he says breathlessly. “Kill him, then me, and blame it on him. That is exactly what I would be thinking.” He advances on Montcourt, who is looking a little shell shocked. “But your first strike would have to be true. And that is the problem you face, Montcourt. You have never been a man who’s true. Today you get the chance to kill a king!” While he’s saying this, Marchal behind them is taking out a knife, and suddenly he slides it across the floor, and Louis picks it up, and Montcourt lunges… another candlestick is involved….. OMG And then Louis grabs Montcourt from behind and sinks the knife into him! YAAAAAY! Louis staggers to his feet, Montcourt bleeding out on the floor, and he goes to Marchal, who has collapsed near the fireplace. Then he calls for the Guards. And the next shot is Louis in slow-mo, walking out.
#JesusTakeTheWheel What a scene. It was so good.
A brief scene follows, showing Rohan and the Dauphin sword playing and pretending a jolly game of war in the forest, then we are back to the King’s bedchamber where Henriette sleeps and Philippe is outside in the antechamber, brooding by the fireplace as Louis walks in. They exchange silent looks for a moment, then Philippe says quietly, “Do you remember our fort?”
“Which one?” Louis asks. “The first one we ever played in,” says Philippe. “A hundred years ago. Or twenty, I suppose. And we came here for a visit. You, me, Henriette. We were taking the air with our governess when we made a break for freedom. You went north, I went south and she went west and by the time they righted themselves we found our way down by the mill stream. And then down by the promontory. God knows the wolves might have taken us but what did we know? We were young. Cats with nine lives. We found an old building – a sorry shack made of stone and moss. you wanted to make it your castle. But I said ‘let’s make it our fort.’ For once in your life you played along. We defended our position from the Spanish all morning and in honour of your distinguished service…. she was the one who found it, actually. A yellow Spanish topaz, buried in the mud. We awarded it to you for bravery. In the days when it was only you who /truly/ had my back. Like only a brother can.” Philippe looks into the fire, whispers, “I was so proud of you. And so was she. It felt like if the whole world came running for us…” his voice thickens with emotion, “we might fend off all who would take us ill.” He finally looks up, at Louis. “‘Hold onto this moment,’ I told you. Never forget.” They look at each other for a moment, until Philippe looks away and mutters, “Not that you’d remember.” Louis thinks, then slowly reaches into his jacket pocket, steps forward and takes Philippe’s hand… then places that stone in the palm. And silently walks to the window.
Philippe is clearly shocked and my heart is just going HHHHHHHGGGGNNNNN. Such a beautiful moment, with Philippe building on their complex relationship, reminding Louis of a more simplistic time. And Louis coming out the good guy. He remembers too. Philippe and Louis have all the best monologues and the writing is brilliant, so in character.
The door suddenly opens, Claudine walks sombrely in. The moment stretches… and Claudine shakes her head: “she will not survive the poison.” We see a shot of Philippe and Louis: Philippe is stunned and mega sad. Louis looks mega pissed. These reactions perfectly suit and says a lot to their characters, plus George Blagden and Alex Vlahos as hugely talented actors. Claudine doesn’t know how long Henriette has left, but “it is her wish to see you both.” Also, Henriette has asked to be carried to the garden so that “she might be surrounded by her favourite flowers.” (Philippe’s gentle smile is so bittersweet here!) but it would cause her too much pain. “Bring the garden here,” Louis commands * (YES I called this line too – I am KING OF THE LAB…! oh sorry, wrong show…)
We see a lovely shot of Versailles outside, then cut to the King’s bedchamber, where the flowers and hedges are neatly arranged around to the bed. The camera pans up and it is a truly magnificent sight, flowers everywhere. Louis and Philippe approach the bed, to the dying Henriette who looks really bad. “Is there anything more beautiful than the scent of blossom in the air?” Henriette gets out softly. “There is,” replies Louis. “I am looking at her now. Her breath falters: “I’m scared.” And the look on Louis and Philippe’s faces as they both lean in to comfort her *sobs* Philippe says gently: “There is nothing to fear.” Henriette: “How do you know?” Philippe: “do you remember before you were born? How can you be scared?” (sweet Philippe!) Then she says: “can you feel my skin?” And reaches out first to Louis, then Philippe. They take her hands.
UGH, Henriette. Philippe has been by her side throughout this. Louis has not (even though yeah, okay, protocol). Yet even on her deathbed, she reaches for Louis’s hand first. The one she loves the most. And Philippe is the one who looks tortured, he is the emotional one, while Louis remains stoic. Revealing nothing. He is always the king, while Philippe gives his emotions (somewhat) free rein. They could not be more different in this moment.
Henriette says to Philippe: “I’m sorry. I could never love you
more well.” And Philippe replies gently: “You did the best you could.” Tears now from Henriette: “how handsome you both are.” And now we are in the last throes of her last moments… it hurts and she cannot breathe, they move the pillow. She gasps and the priest enters silently. “Get him out!” Henriette cries. Claudine tries to give her something for the pain but she won’t swallow, her throat is closing up. “Something must be done!” Louis demands and now… NOW he is looking scared, helpless and not at all like the King. And suddenly Philippe is the calm one, says gently, “brother…” and the look on his face, as the tears trickle gently down his cheeks… the quiet sadness as Louis stares at him, then his realisation that this is it. *insert sound of breaking heart here*
It is fascinating to compare Philippe’s two moments of deep anguish side by side: when the Chevalier was arrested, we saw his total and complete breakdown, the slow crumple of his expression from shock, to horror, to abject grief, then as he collapsed to his knees and rocked while he wept…. Lord. It was all out there. It was total and raw and real and I wept long and bitter tears for him. But here, now…? It is a controlled grief. More of an extreme sadness at his wife’s pain. Because he did feel something for her, despite her repeated betrayal of him, over and over.
Henriette gasps, crying and in pain. Philippe weeps. “Oh, Lord… receive me…” she softly says, opens her eyes… “can you hear that? The flowers… they’re singing.” and she is gone.
Dieu. Such emotion. Much kudos to Noémie Schmidt for a brilliantly sad scene, aided by the backing music and the strength and emotion of George Blagden and Alex Vlahos. We now see Philippe, so resigned, with tears down his cheeks, then Louis with a “no, this is NOT happening.” look on his face, eyes still dry. The camera hovers over the prone Henriette then pans up from the bed, like we are her soul being released from her body. Philippe looks up to Louis with wet puppy eyes, Louis looks at Philippe, his all flinty and hard. THIS. This is who they truly are in this one moment of grief. BRILLIANT acting.
And before we can check ourselves and reach for the tissues, the priest murmurs, ‘Amen’ and Philippe’s expression tightens, his head gently shaking before he steps away from the bed, leaving Louis there. We see Louis’ expression crumple, and he blinks, almost disbelievingly, and then Philippe is out the door.
And Louis weeps. Finally, the king weeps for his love, when he is alone. He weeps for the loss and I am sure he also weeps for the helplessness he must now feel, a man so powerful and commanding, who rules a country and its people – a true King – and yet, still unable to save her.
*Deeeeeep breath* Okay. Right. Not long to go now, and we are with Marchal, who lies in bed, wakes suddenly and touches his stomach wound, which bleeds through the bandage. he is troubled, hearing Montcourt’s whispers in his head: ‘When we are the king’s enemy, we must make him believe we are his friend.’ and so on. And suddenly Marchal has his ah-HA moment.
We see a quick shot of Montcourt’s body being dumped from a cart into the muddy swampiness, to join other rotting, decaying bodies. Ugh. Such was the hygiene of 17th century France.
Back to Henriette, who is now laid out on a bed, hair done, powdered and dressed in her finest gown. The camera pans up to show the Queen on her knees in prayer, then a select few further back (I see Colbert, Louvois, Montespan, Sophie, Cassel). She rises and silently leaves, then more people walk in to pay their respects – the Chevalier included.
Now this is fascinating. We see him silent and sombre, a blank expression on his face. Cassel passes him and bows. The Chevalier is still silent, still focused on Henriette.
The camera pans around him and yet still, not one muscle is out of place, not one twitch of emotion. His contemplation is silent. It’s stoic. It’s emotionless. If anything, his expression pays deference to her status as a princess, he’s contemplating his own mortality…. plus it’s almost as if he has something to say, to hide. It is so interesting to watch, given a discussion I had on Twitter earlier with some fellow fans. Then the camera pans to the door and Philippe enters, says to him quietly, “we’re leaving. And we’re never coming back.” The Chevalier makes the sign of the Cross (like the good Catholic he is), sweeps a look across the room … to Cassel? Not sure – and he leaves.
The next shot is of Montespan, entering her rooms, where she briefly cries then quickly gains control with a deep breath. This scene is barely seconds long, but oh, so telling as to her character. She allows grief but only briefly. She is not indulgent in it.
Aaaaaand now. The best visual of the whole episode. Philippe strides in slow-mo through the corridors, arms swinging, hair bouncing, coat swaying and with a tight, determined expression on his face. Two steps behind him, as protocol dictates, is the Chevalier. In perfect sync. The steps, the swinging of the arms, the movement of the coat and their cravats. Even the bouncing hair. PERFECT. SYNC. HOW DID THEY DO THAT SO PERFECTLY??? UHGGH.
Then, as they both walk through the salon (Vaux de Vicomte again) and to the doors, the guards bar their way and Louis enters. “I cannot permit it,” he says. Philippe replies, almost resignedly: “I’m not asking for permission. I’m leaving.” Louis: “You would defy me, even in this moment?” Philippe: “I know what this moment is.” Louis steps to his brother and the camera frames them between the crossed pikes, a familiar movie making technique that focuses your eye solely on them, and also creates powerful imagery of two strong men, between weapons, taking opposite views. Louis: “you are grieving.” Philippe shakes his head: “I grieve alone.” Louis swallows then says: “You will marry again.” Philippe interjects: “I simply want to live.” Louis: “It is your duty.” Philippe hisses: “I have had my fill of duty. Louis is calm but angry: “then you set yourself against me.” Philippe pauses, looks incredibly sad for a moment, then briefly nods. “Gladly.” Louis is disbelieving: “And sacrifice your future to see me suffer?” Philippe glances around the salon then says: “What does a King know of sacrifice?”
Louis can’t believe it. Philippe turns to the guards, stands patiently at the crossed pikes as Louis stares at his back. Louis finally nods to the guards, the pikes are uncrossed and Philippe takes a breath and walks out without a backwards glance.The Chevalier gives him a few feet head start, then strolls after him, hands behind his back, not looking at Louis, not bowing. Nothing. And Louis is left in the salon, framed by the door, the guards, and looking incredibly vulnerable and alone. *IMAGERY KLAXON*
Next scene – Marchal is riding furiously through the forest , no mood music, no sound, and he then bursts into Rohan’s rooms with guards, only to find the servant Marie on the floor, her wrist slashed with a knife. Marchal, his shirt now stained with his wound, stumbles into the antechamber, to Bontemps and says: “Listen to me. There are only two men in this court who move freely between the outside world and the King’s inner circle, but only one who has never raised a single voice against him.” Bontemps is surprised: “the King’s brother?” NO, BONTEMPS. FOCUS. “he’s a critic, but there is another who has been hidden before us. Rohan.” Bontemps is still confused: “you told us Montcourt was to blame.” How can he be so sure? Marchal: “The King once told me, he warned me quite clearly that his enemies would seek to destroy those closest to him. Montcourt tried to tell me the same. We must get the king and the queen and yourself to safety at once.” And the penny drops for Bontemps, his look of dismay so clear. “The King’s son. The Dauphin. Rohan took him riding.” Then he screams out: “CALL THE GUARD!”
We cut to the forest, to the two King’s Guards in their blue livery, leaning by a tree as Rohan and little Louis still mock fight. The Dauphin hides stealthy behind a tree, looking for Rohan. Then he turns and suddenly a Man In a Mask is standing there. Another grabs him, covers his mouth, and more appear to shoot a guard. Rohan slits the other guard’s throat, watches from a distance as the young prince has a sack put over his head then bundled off. We see about ten hooded figures, along with the Unmasked Man whom Rohan freed from jail.
Last scene, with Louis silent and stoic, standing on a stone that overlooks a glorious view of the forest with Versailles in the distance. It could possibly be the same spot from Ep1, when he confronted the wolf and Philippe rode in to rescue him. Louis turns in slow-mo, the expression on his face revealing nothing.
Aaaaaand there we have the end of the episode and the end of Season One.
Whew! Check back soon for my overview and wrap up of the entire season. Thanks for reading!