The finale…. poison, death and departures – Versailles episode 10

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, SixSevenEight. and Nine. Also I have to add – SPOILER ALERT!!!! for all of these.

EPISODE TEN

louis xiv et philippe - charles beaubrunThe 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))

versailles - ep10 for blogSo 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.

versailles - ep10 for blog2We 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.

versailles - ep10 for blog2bFinally, 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!)

versailles - ep10 for blog3Back 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.

versailles - ep10 for blog5Bontemps 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!)

versailles - ep10 for blog4Claudine 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.

versailles - ep10 for blog6We 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.

versailles - ep10 for blog7Off 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).

versailles - ep10 for blog8The 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.

versailles - ep10 for blog9A 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?”

versailles - ep10 for blog10“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.

versailles - ep10 for blog12Philippe 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.

versailles - ep10 for blog13The 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…)

versailles - ep10 for blog14We 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.

versailles - ep10 for blog15UGH, 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.

versailles - ep10 for blog16bAnd 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.

LORDY.

*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.

versailles - ep10 for blog18Back 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.

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versailles - ep10 for blog21The 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.

versailles - ep10 for blog22Aaaaaand 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.

versailles - ep10 for blog24Then, 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*

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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!”

versailles - ep10 for blog28We 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.

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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!

33 thoughts on “The finale…. poison, death and departures – Versailles episode 10

  1. Heya,

    Really enjoyed reading your reviews, which I found halfway the show. Enriched my enjoyment of the show, and got a bit more educated on the courts history as well 🙂

    Sad to hear we’ll have to wait a year for the next season 🙁 Are there similar shows to this you could recommend?

    I have one comment / correction on what you wrote on Henriettes death scene. You said
    “Henriette says to Philippe: “I’m sorry. I could never love you more.””
    She actually says “I’ could never love you well” which does change the context somewhat. And in the context of the show, I did find it a nice touch, the apology to him.
    Also, Louis’s eyes are wet earlier than you recount, namely in the first shot after she says “can you hear the flowers? They are singing.” Minor detail maybe, but not sure if that doesn’t change the meaning of the next bit somewhat?

    “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. ”

    Question, did real Louis also love Henriette, or was it unrequited? (since you mention here she is his love)

    Oh, and was it common in this era to talk about new marriages literally 2 minutes after your wife/husband died?

    Thanks for your great reviews! Are there more shows you will review?
    Toodles.

    1. Hi Aly!

      Thanks for the correction – I listened to that audio over and over but couldn’t quite get the last word! I believe Louis did love her. He was distraught when she died, and was fully intent on punishing those responsible (as poison was indeed thought to have killed her)…. even if it turned out his brother was the poisoner. However, the court (and her brother, Charles II) was told she died of ‘natural causes’ so he could hardly behead anyone for murder after that.

      Yes, it was common to talk about marriage that soon! It can be quite shocking to us, but pretty much most children died before adulthood – people mourned, mirrors were covered and a service held, but some didn’t wait more than a few days before picking themselves up and going off to the next party or ball or soiree. It was just how it was. You died of a cold, or a simple infection or someone sneezing on you. The mortality rate was very high, that’s why people had so many children so often. You couldn’t guarantee any would survive. Philippe had stillborn twins and a daughter, a son who died at 2 and one at 4, plus two miscarriages. Only 4 of his children grew up, and even then, another died at 27. The three remaining lived to be 59, 49 and 68.

    2. forgot to add the bit about similar shows. There are a few movies I enjoy that are fairly accurate. Vatel (with Uma Thurman and Gerard Depardieu). Ridicule. Le Roi Danse, which is all about the rise and fall of Lully, Louis XIV’s court composer (French, but hard to find with English subtitles). The French musical Le Roi Soleil is always great to watch. The Angelique series of movies from the 60s are highly camp, and put Philippe in a terrible light, but they are funny. And there is also Dangerous Liaisons, but that is set in the 18th century. As to fiction – I found the ones I did read ended up thrown against the wall. I was highly frustrated with the ‘artistic liberties’ the authors took, and some just pretty much made up shit, totally contrary to history 🙁

  2. Hi Jules, I must thank you for your detailed writeup of all ten episodes of Versailles. I was searching online for reviews/explanations of this show – I was never educated about France’s history because I come from the other side of the globe – and coincidentally stumbled upon your website, much to my delight. The historical notes you added were my favourite of all, I love knowing what’s accurately portrayed and for the parts that were tweaked, what the actual history was. I am waiting eagerly for the second season and I really hope to see you write about it then. Merci!

  3. I’m genuinely curious to know why you consider Philippe the victim and Henriette the “traitor” in that relationship. Anything Henriette had done to Philippe, he had done to her–and worse. Both of them were in love with other people when they were forced to marry and they both were aware of that. Neither of them showed much interest or affection for the other, both clearly preferring their lovers. Both felt neglected by the other. In this respect, they are both on fairly equal footing. But unlike Philippe, Henriette never snogged her lover obnoxiously right there in the same room with him. And, more importantly, Henriette NEVER RAPED Philippe. Is it any wonder she couldn’t work up any concern over the possibility that her rapist might die in battle? The fact that she could feel anything at all for him (beyond disgust) by the end surprises me. I know times and attitudes were different then, but a person violated still feels violated, whether they are allowed to acknowledge it or not. But for that one unforgivable act, I could have felt real sympathy for that walking, talking mess of dysfunction. I’m no Henriette fan, but I’m so sorry, no, Philippe did not win the victim sweepstakes in that marriage. (For the record, I am speaking strictly of the characters in this drama, not the historical characters).

    While your character and scene analyses tend to differ quite a bit from my own (perhaps because of that??), I think your recaps are wonderful and I enjoy reading them every bit as much as I do watching the programme! I look forward to reading your reviews on the next series, when it comes out.

    1. Hi Theresa, and thanks for your comment. Okay, I’m gonna walk you through what I see, so bear with me.
      – The first time we see Philippe is with his lover. No context is provided about who he is, no indication he is married. He’s just having some fun.
      – the first time we see Henriette is with Louis, and Louis mentions her husband. She doesn’t want to speak of him. Says ‘you made me marry him’. Louis replies ‘how else was I to keep you close’. Right away, I am feeling negative towards them both, and yes, judgey about Henriette. It is clear these two have a long relationship and are not allowing a small (read: large) thing as marriage get in the way.
      – we then learn Henriette is Philippe’s wife. Now, seeing as sister-in-law wasn’t even a thing then, this would be like actually shagging your sister. NOT AT ALL acceptable in the eyes of pretty much everyone. Is it a bigger crime than boy love? It is not clear in the show.
      – throughout the show, we see Louis’ attempts to belittle and emasculate Philippe. We see this SO MANY TIMES it becomes frustrating and sad. The Henriette thing is just one more on the heaping pile of shit. Henriette is Philippe’s wife, his property, his to do with as he wishes. Just another way Louis is emasculating him, making him a laughing stock in French society. No wonder Philippe feels the need to claim what is his. You see it in Ep3 where he yells “where is MY wife?” You see it in Ep2 with his angry speech to Louis: “do you tell yourself that when you are fucking MY WIFE?” In so many subtle ways Philippe is being demeaned by Louis.
      – Henriette says a glorious death in battle would not displease him. Louis and her smile about it. Charming.
      – again, another shagging time between Henriette and Louis, when Louis’ friends have been murdered and she mentions the fact she was jealous of the dead woman. Totally inappropriate time to mention it.
      – Henriette mentions the issues she has with the Chevalier. Even Louis at this stage is getting sick of it and announces he is going to war.
      – Louis asks Henriette to spy on her husband and she does not refuse. Admittedly, it’s in the middle of a shag, when she is distracted, but still.
      – when Philippe asks if he were to die, her troubles would be solved. What does she say? NOT “I don’t want you to die,” (that comes later) – she says “my problems cannot be solved, you know that.” Way to avoid his question.
      – the kiss between the Chevalier and Philippe happens after the war, after Philippe has seen Louis bring Henriette to the front. After their conversation about stealing Philippe’s glory and the fact that Louis never liked sharing. Henriette is just one more thing Louis takes from Philippe. He is genuinely happy to see the Chevalier and shows it. Hell, HIS WIFE is shagging his brother.

      Even if I ignore the historical figures behind the show and what I know of their real lives, I can’t ignore the historical setting or the social arena in which the show is played. We are shown much more of Philippe’s inner mind and his relationship to Louis than anyone else. We see his offer to help refused time and time again. We see Louis take what is rightfully and lawfully his – his wife. The marriage was doomed from the start, because Henriette was already in love with Louis, it seems. But Louis, he just wanted her close, and so married her to his brother. Seriously, he could have married her to any noble and they would have looked the other way at the cheating. But to his brother…? I cannot even imagine his reasoning for this, however I do know historically, Henriette desperately did want to be Queen of France, as did her mother want it, but at the time, she didn’t have the pedigree, being the sister to England’s heir who wasn’t even on the throne at the time. Henriette was more than happy to become second only to Marie-Therese.

      Does all this excuse Philippe raping Henriette? Of course not. I’ve said this before in comments. But in context, with everything else going on in the show and with what Philippe deals with, I can understand why he did it.

      I guess in summary, I saw more nuance and non-verbal cues with Philippe that made him a more sympathetic character. I also saw the subtle ways in which Henriette (and Louis) talked about him, how they wished he was not there.

      1. Thank you so much for your in depth response to my question. I’ve addressed each of your points, but it has run very long and I don’t know if it will post in the comments section or not. I will try, but I trust you won’t publish it if you find it too long.

        First off, let me preface my response with the qualifier that I know very little about the historical figures on which these characters are based. Therefore, my thoughts are strictly about the characters.

        Points 1 and 2: We establish that both people are in love with someone else. Henriette, however, happens to be in love with the king and, more importantly, it seems he with her. She is a woman, she is his subject. Are you suggesting that she would have the power to deny the king even if she wanted to? We establish right from the start that she has no power–she was forced to marry a man she did not want because the king wants to keep her close. What the king wants, the king gets. Does she want to end things with Louis? No, of course she doesn’t. She is in love with him and, as you say, it seems it’s been going on for a long time. We learn that she has loved Louis since they were children. Now she is in a marriage that will never give her any joy with a man she does not love and she should risk displeasing her lover, the king, by rejecting him? Do you even think he’d allow her to end things? I’m thinking no. Even if Louis were to let her go, she would then be relinquishing the love of her life to sit lonely and chaste in her apartments waiting for her husband, a man who feels no attraction or interest for her at all. Except, when he’s really angry and he rapes her. Lovely.

        Point 3: Good question, which is the greater sin? Incest or homosexuality? I’m guessing they were pretty equal. However, the bible does say something about a man being expected to marry his brother’s widow. So that would perhaps put affair-with-sister-in-law a half tick closer to pardonable than homosexuality, which is wholly and completely condemned in the bible. However, let’s assume they are both equally dire sins. Why should we fault Henriette for not ending her incestuous relationship with her brother-in-law, the king, but Philippe can be forgiven for continuing his homosexual relationship with the Chevalier? Arguably, as a man, it was within Philippe’s power to end his relationship easily enough whereas Henriette, a woman, would very possibly not have had that same power. Especially as her lover was the king.

        Point 4: This point actually supports my own. Henriette is viewed as property. She is powerless. She is used by the king to hurt his brother. And the only reason she is such a powerful weapon against Philippe is because Philippe views her as nothing more than his property “to do with as he wishes”. Philippe has no interest in Henriette, is not attracted to her or in love with her. She is a toy left to gather dust on the shelf and which Louis has taken from him just to prove that he can. Does Henriette mind being used by Louis? Not so much. And who can blame her? Philippe has done as little to win her affection as she has to win his and Philippe certainly flaunts his lover in her face far more than she does hers in his. And then of course, Philippe rapes her (only the once? I kind of doubt it). I will also add that while Louis uses her to hurt Philippe in a very deliberate and calculated manner, I don’t believe that is Henriette’s intent at all. She is simply besotted with Louis, so in love, that she’d do anything he told her to. Her intent is not to hurt Philippe by sleeping with Louis, she simply doesn’t care (and I don’t blame her).

        Point 5: Ah, Henriette’s remark about Philippe’s “glorious death in battle”. As she said, she was only voicing what they were both thinking. I was more appalled at Louis’ seeming lack of concern for his brother’s life. Henriette feels nothing for Philippe, he not having put any more effort into endearing himself to her than she to him and he also complicating things for her where Louis is concerned. Remember, Henriette, as a woman, is completely powerless. For her lot to improve, she could only hope for things to happen. She could not affect change herself. And here is where I’m a bit uncertain, but didn’t she make that remark after Philippe raped her? In which case, I don’t blame her one bit! And even if not, we see what Philippe is capable of when he’s in a jealous snit. I think it would be naive of us to assume that was the first (or only) time that happened. Henriette wasn’t asking the king to hire a hit on Philippe. Only honestly acknowledging that Philippe’s “glorious death in battle”–something that would not displease Philippe, himself–wouldn’t necessarily break her heart.

        Point 6: Not her greatest moment, no. But she is human and she can feel jealousy and make inappropriate remarks at inappropriate moments. But let’s compare: Henriette is jealous. She puts her foot in her mouth. Philippe is jealous. He rapes his wife. Hmm. (We won’t even go into whether or not that maid wanted to be drug into the bedroom by Philippe after his jealous strop with the Chevalier or his sneaking into Louise’s bed. Let’s just say, Henriette’s jealous behaviour is a far cry less despicable than Philippe’s.)

        Point 7: Chevalier moves in on Henriette the moment her husband’s back is turned. Eww. He goes on to make threats and trouble for her. She has no one to keep him at bay but the king, if he chooses. See above comments about Henriette’s powerlessness as a woman.

        Point 8: Again, refer to comments on Henriette’s lack of power as a woman and as a subject of the king to say no to said king.

        Point 9: And again, who can blame her. She can’t honestly say that the death of the man to whom she is shackled in a loveless marriage, who feels no attraction for her and never can but can easily enough rape her, who stands between her and the man she truly loves…wouldn’t be entirely unwelcome. For the record, I don’t think Henriette would actually like to see Philippe die, but she would like to be shot of him. But of course, she has no power to rid herself of him, so his death would be her only chance. She could have answered with an honest “yes” but she evades the question. To spare his feelings? Or because she can’t look him in the eye and admit it? I couldn’t honestly say. If I’d been in her shoes, I think I’d have given a flat affirmative.

        Point 10: The abnoxious snog in front of Henriette. Yes, of course it’s common knowledge that Louis is shagging Henriette. But it is kept behind closed doors. At least there is a modicum of decorum. Is Philippe such a child and so lacking in self-restraint that he can’t wait a few extra moments until they, too, were behind closed doors? Why is his passion for the man he loves to be forgiven and Henriette’s passion for the man she loves to be used against her? Pot, meet kettle.

        In summary, of the four people involved in this sad business–Louis, Philippe, the Chevalier and Henriette–Henriette is the most powerless, the one with the least choice in anything. She is subject to the whims and wishes of her king and lover, of her husband and even of her husband’s lover. That she could feel no affection for the man she was forced to marry, a man who could never feel anything for her and who also raped her, is not at all surprising (even while considering that marital rape was acceptable at that time). Nor can I hold her responsible for the fact that Louis uses her as a weapon against his brother. She coudn’t have said no if she’d wanted to. The fact that she doesn’t particularly want to anyway (to say no, that is) is because she is deeply in love with Louis and always has been and because her husband makes zero effort to endear himself to her. Moreover, we can’t fault her anymore for continuing her relationship with Louis (as if she would have had the power to end it anyway) than we can Philippe for continuing his with the Chevalier. I realise a woman was expected to stay faithful to her husband even while it was acceptable for him to have mistresess (ha! the court was rife with extra-marital affairs involving married women as well as men, but still…) but that does not mean Henriette could turn her feelings for Louis off at the touch of a wedding ring from a man she didn’t choose or want.

        Is Philippe a victim? Yes, absolutely. But not at the hands of Henriette, who really had little power in the situation. She was merely being used by the man she was in love with. It could also be argued that Philippe is relatively powerless, but only where Louis, his older brother and his king, is concerned. Philippe is most definitely not the victim in his marriage. It is Louis who victimises Philippe and he does it in every way he can think of. That Henriette was such an effective way of hurting Philippe is down to Philippe’s viewing her as his property, not because he felt any true affection for her (at least, not until closer towards the end, when I do believe he really does care). It is Louis, and not Henriette, whom I see as the one who does the greatest harm to Philippe. Philippe and Henriette are quite possibly the two people Louis loves most, and yet he uses and hurts them both repeatedly to get what he wants and because he is paranoid about his brother. He is beyond selfish and his cruel behaviour is at the root of all of their misery. I think he has done his younger brother irreperable harm and, at times, I wonder if he wouldn’t throw Philippe to the wolves if it suited him or France. On the other hand, I’ve never doubted for a moment Philippe’s loyalty to his brother or his love for him. Louis’ paranoia about his little brother is completely unfounded. Philippe is the complete dysfunctional mess he is thanks to Louis (and their mother) and he would have my complete sympathy, were it not for his raping his wife in a fit of anger and jealousy. In any case, Philippe is Louis’ victim but definitely NOT Henriette’s. Henriette drew the worst cards of all four players in those stakes.

        1. P.S. I neglected to include the phrase “in my opinion”. I respect the fact that two people can look at the same thing and see it from completely different angles and come away with completely different interpretations. I was never a fan of the character of Henriette, I just can’t see how she wronged Philippe more than he did her. I blame it all on Louis!

        2. Oh, Louis most definitely would choose France over his brother. He was brought up and ruled as absolute monarch, and believed “for the good of France.” In the show Philippe tries time and again to offer his support and love, but is constantly betrayed or rejected (this happened with the historical figures, too. Louis was deathly afraid of the more relaxed, popular and fun-loving Monsieur, who gave great parties, was social and everyone wanted to be around…. and especially when he proved himself in battle and all of Paris cheered him and adored him. It INFURIATED Louis)

          1. ” In the show Philippe tries time and again to offer his support and love, but is constantly betrayed or rejected (this happened with the historical figures, too.”

            Louis is a shit to Philippe. Philippe loves and is loyal to his brother and only wants Louis to allow him to support him. I think he also wants reassurance that Louis cares for him as much as he cares for Louis. Unfortunately, Louis’ paranoia and selfishness blind him to this. He genuinely believes Philppe is a potential threat. I think we see fairly good evidence in episode 7 that not only does Philippe support his brother, but that he is honestly frightened of the idea of running the country and has no desire to take his brother’s place (his anger at being overlooked for the regency is more due to his hurt that no one supports him or takes him seriously–his experience all his life).

            The sad irony here is, I do think Louis cares very much for Philippe but he cannot let his armour of paranoia down enough to recognise Philippe’s loyalty and the fact that he can trust his brother. Trusting Philippe and involving him in the running of France would make him a better, stronger king. He cripples himself with his own paranoia.

            “My loyalty still lays with Philippe – as her husband, he has a right to lay claim to his wife. Basically he can do what he wants, but she is not allowed to. Is it fair? Nup. But that was the thinking of the time. ”

            Yes, it was the thinking of that time but wouldn’t that make her a victim of circumstances, rather to be pitied than villified? You admit her situation is unfair and certainly, she is powerless where her husband (and Louis) are concerned and yet, simply because of the screwed up thinking of the day, the thinking that removed a woman’s personhood and reduced her to mere property, she is the villain for not being able to love a man who ignores her and rapes her? Slavery was also an accepted practice of the day. Would you villify a slave because he hated his master or ran away simply because slavery was accepted at that time and slaves (much like women, little difference there) were considered nothing more than the property of their masters to do with as they please (again, just as a woman was to her husband)? I realise that you are not a fan of the historical figure but I am speaking strictly of the character. Yes, she says and does little things that hurt Philippe, but he does the same and much–oh so much!–worse to her. He gives as good as he gets and so much worse. Just because the thinking of the day viewed a woman as mere property and not a person in her own right does not mean she isn’t a human being with the same feelings and needs as any other. Philippe is no more vulnerable to the hurt and damage done to him than she is to the hurt and damage done to her, simply because he is a man with rights and she is a woman with no rights. I’m genuinely having real trouble understanding your position here. I do understand you are a fan of Philippe, but I don’t understand why that nessitates that Henriette be viewed as the villian. Your loyalty can lie with Philippe while still acknowledging that Henriette is also a victim and not the villain (the real villain here is Louis). The two are not mutally exclusive.

            Here’s a thought: what is your view to Claudine? Women were not allowed to practice medicine at that time and her father clearly disapproves, particularly as she grows more skilled and knowledgable than him. Should Claudine be villified for showing up her father? Is he justified in his behaviour towards her? Is he justified in knocking her across the room? After all, everything she did was unacceptable at that time for women and it was certainly acceptable to beat a woman, especially if she was a wife, sister or daughter. She causes her father distress, embarasssment, hurt. He feels betrayed. Is she a villain for this because of the thinking of the day?

            “It’s just that his anger and upset (and yes, jealousy I think) affects him so much, because it’s just another way for his brother to control and belittle him, make him less. UGH D:”

            Exactly. LOUIS. He is the “villain” if you are looking for one. He has poisoned all of them.

  4. Hi,
    I just discovered Versailles this week and watched it in quick succession!!! Looking forward to Season 2!! 😀
    I came across your reviews and I read each one after viewing an episode. I very much enjoyed reading them and especially liked your additional facts about the historical events and figures. Thank you.
    It was very clear from episode 1 that you were not a fan of Henriette and I found that quick jarring to read in your reviews. I also read your discussion between yourself and Teresa about episode 10. It was really interesting reading both of your viewpoints. 🙂
    In my opinion, I agree with Teresa. Philippe and Henriette were forced into a marriage with someone they didn’t love or care for. Philippe had a relationship with the man he loved while Henriette continued to sleep with the man she loved.

    1. Hi Claire!

      Sorry to jar you 🙁 There are just some things I couldn’t overlook, and I admit I was looking at Henriette’s character so closely, to see if the screenwriters would ‘sweeten’ her up from her historical figure. My loyalty still lays with Philippe – as her husband, he has a right to lay claim to his wife. Basically he can do what he wants, but she is not allowed to. Is it fair? Nup. But that was the thinking of the time. And I see all the little things that Henriette says, her little gestures and actions that bring conflict and sadness to Philippe. It’s just that his anger and upset (and yes, jealousy I think) affects him so much, because it’s just another way for his brother to control and belittle him, make him less. UGH D:

  5. Hi Jules, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your reviews as much as I have enjoyed watching Versailles. I can’t always catch what is being said, particularly if it an aside or a whisper but I know you will tell me . Thank you (and I agree with you on all pints!!! Anne

  6. Hi Jules
    I think Teresa is being a bit naive re. Philippe raping his wife. Husbands have being raping their wives since time began from royalty down to peasants and it was classed as taking their ‘marital rights’ . It is only since the end of the 20th centuary up to present day that wives can now shout ‘rape’

    I know of a woman in the 60s that had a baby and had to be stitched, her husband cut her stitches out and raped her. The midwife and doctor were horrified but there was nothing she could do!!! Anne

  7. Dear Anne, I’m guessing I know a fair bit more about rape, the history of rape, the history of rape within marriage and women’s rights (and lack thereof) than you realise. You don’t get to my age and experience with your naivete still intact. 😉 And if you reread my words very carefully, you might realise that I never once touched on the legality of it. I was merely pointing out how such treatment of his wife would hardly help warm her feelings towards him. Beating your wife was also quite legal, acceptable and, indeed, expected. That doesn’t mean a woman would feel affection for her abuser. Do you honestly think that just because certain abuses–atrocities, even–were acceptable, that those on the receiving end didn’t feel anger, pain, violation, etc. ? Just because women were denied their personhood does not mean they were not human beings who felt as any human being might feel. Women are still being raped today in societies which condone such behaviour towards women and which deny women their personhood. Do you believe these women feel less pain and violation because the behaviour is condoned by the society in which they live? Now that *would* be naive. Societal expectations do not alter basic human reality.

  8. Hi,
    I just found out your site and I must congratulate you for your beautifully written reviews. I enjoyed them very much, I must say…much more than this series, which is good entertainement, but, God, so FAR from being historically correct, in so many ways. It’s my weekly sin, I confess, I’m too addicted to this period to miss it.
    I’ll tell you, though, that, like you, I totally adore Philippe in this series, the actor is great and some King/brother interaction is well done. Pity that they made his character too “emo”, too frustrated and angry with the world, when he actually was full of “joie de vivre”, always smiling, always chattering, always ready to find the good in every person and every sistuation. Also, his relationship with his brother was much less complicated than we see in this show, Philippe was a very simple person when it came to feelings, he was affectionate and friendly. I think the problem with him is that we still miss a decent biography, taking into accounts ALL sources and not only the same, always the same stuff as Saint-Simon and such. I’ve found some interesting, unedited sources about him and I hope to write very soon a book to make some justice to this very, very mistreated character.
    But enough with this. I just wanted to tell you that I enjoy your reviews and will keep reading them through saison 2.
    elisabetta

  9. First of all, ladies, stop spewing vitriol. You sound worse than Montespan and de Clermont sparring over the card-tables! My thoughts on that notorious Henrietta/Philippe scene in episode one is that it is entirely out-of-character for Philippe as we get to know him through the rest of the series. But his treatment of her does make me think, rather than an actual person, the writers have quite subtly used her as a tool: she is the only person Philippe can take his frustrations out on – he knows she loves Louis, and at that point Louis is still very much in love with her – Philippe knows this, and punishes Louis the only way he can, but punishing his mistress. I do think it is out-of-character for the Philippe we know and love on the show, not just historically inaccurate, to force himself on her.

    My greatest issue with Henriette is that she seems to lack any personality. She is only ever Louis’ sweet, nubile mistress or Philippe’s overlooked wife, never her own person, she isn’t seductive and outgoing like Montespan or scheming like de Clermont or genuinely sweet with a backbone like Sophie, she’s just a soft-spoken waif who huffs when she doesn’t get her way, cries when she’s put in a difficult position, doesn’t seem that clever but knows exactly where to strike that’ll heart the worst – mentioning Francoise Parthenay when Louis has refused to talk about the Chevalier, for one. She seems like she has genuinely been brought in as a main character simply to drive the wedge deeper between Louis and Philippe, but not contribute anything herself to most of her scenes!

    A side-note: On Sophie. Is anyone else hoping Fabien takes her under his wing? A begrudging father/daughter mentor role, and she eventually warms him up a bit? She’s genuinely quite sweet, but tenacious – something I’m sure our Head of Security will appreciate). Romantic wouldn’t work, but she could become a protégée of his. I did have a thought, though, why the writers didn’t build up to her being the young version of one of Louis’ mistresses, he had so many. And what better way to keep Louis safe than have his Head of Security plant one of his spies in his bed?

    *Another side-note: When the Chavelier mentions that Louis does not look “for beauty so much as character”, um…was he talking about Henriette? Because Sophie steals any scene she’s in with Henriette, hands down, and she even maintains a presence with Montespan, too, though Montespan is clearly the dominant one in most dynamics (the Chevalier excluded, of course – swan’s “fat flippers” come to mind!) I could see the Chevalier – if not Philippe – taking on Sophie as a sort of pet, his project, I imagine the Chevalier would have adored trying to corrupt a sweet young thing like Sophie.

    Thank you for the recaps, I am with you on all things you write about Monsieur Marchal, he is everything! He deserves a truly powerful, unpredictable, fun, intoxicating woman who pulls the rug from under him, and he enjoys it. I do like that though they have their disagreements, Bontemp genuinely respects Fabien, and despite his anger, I think Louis does too.

    I’m going to be stalking these recaps in the arduous wait for season two. I wonder what they’ve got in store for us.

  10. First off let me say that I absolutely love your reviews of Versailles, Ms. Jules. You really point out a lot of details one might miss when watching the episodes for the first time.
    I’m actually in the States where episode seven will be airing tomorrow night, but I read ahead because I know history so nothing coming was really a spoiler (just a condensed timeline). After reading your review on epsiode 10, and reading that it ends with Philippe leaving Versailles, I thought back to epsiode one and the moment he finds Louis at his favorite spot in the woods.

    After Philippe shoots a couple rounds into the air he tells Louie, “Brother we must go, the wolves will come back and there will be more.” Did you have the same thought as I; that while in the moment the characters are talking about the actual wolves, the underlying message is about Louis and the traitors in his midst, starting with Moncourt. Philippe was there in the woods and saved Louis from the wolves, but at the end of season one he’s left Versailles. I know historically Philippe did leave Versailles for a time, but season two Louis without Philippe will be interesting because while Louis takes shots at him every chance he gets, at the end of the day Philippe is the only true person around him besides Bontemps.

  11. Absolutely enjoyed your recap of the finale. Just airing in the U.S. and I’m having surgery Friday so I don’t know if I’ll catch it. Mainly wanted to know about Chevalier after last weeks tearful declaration of love. Glad to see he lives on, at least for awhile.

  12. The rape scene was repugnant and Phillipe’s actions were out of character with the Phillipe we saw in the rest of the season. The characters almost act as it never happened. The writers could have written a scenario where Henriette willingly sleeps with Phillipe to make Louis jealous and to provide in an explanation in the event she becomes pregnant. There could have been some anger involved without resorting to rape. I choose to believe it was a mistake on the writer’s part and will simply fast forward over it when I rewatch.

    1. I certainly can’t say for certain what the writers’ intent was with that scene, but in this writer’s opinion it is multilayered… a) to show Philippe’s slow growing resentment towards his brother: he says ‘I want a boy, just like my brother’. b) To show a glimpse of vulnerability for Henriette because for all her power, she is still the property of her husband and can be treated as such. And c) to show the resentment Philippe has for his wife, a woman whom he has to share with his brother, and he cannot do a damn thing about it. I’ve mentioned before that his intimate interactions with women in the show are used as a form of punishment towards those who have hurt him – Louis (with Louise and Henriette) and the Chevalier (with the maid). As to it appearing that it seems like it almost never happened…. Well, my thought is Philippe angrily claiming his conjugal rights may well have happened before. Seems likely in the show (historically, this is not so the case at all).

  13. I have some questions. It happened so fast, but did Fabien Marshal shoot Charlotte Parthanay, and if so, why? I really like him as a character, even though he tortures people. Is he for or against le roi?
    I also cannot figure out why Louis and others speak freely in front of the guards when even they are unsure of their loyalty.
    Finally, did the male medicin drink the vial of poison accidentally or on purpose? In one of the episodes did we see Clermont messing with the doctor’s box of bottles.
    Maybe that is where she got the poison she used on Fabien?
    I really enjoy your reviews. All I could find were negative. I like the show, the actors and the plot. Thank you!

    1. Hi Janet! So many questions….. 🙂 let me see:

      “did Fabien Marshal shoot Charlotte Parthanay, and if so, why? ”

      No. Mike did. When you see Fabien going to find the missing Charlotte, you see him visualising the scenario – he holds up his hand, points his fingers in the shape of a gun to see how the angle would project. The flashback of Charlotte being shot is in his head, reminding us (the audience) what happened previously and confirming that Marchal now knows how it was done.

      “I also cannot figure out why Louis and others speak freely in front of the guards when even they are unsure of their loyalty.”

      At some stage, Musket Mike (the masked man) is outed as a King’s guard…. but it is later, after they already speak with the guards in the background. I think this comes down to loyalty – one would assume the King’s guard would be fiercely loyal to the crown so no one would suspect any plotting. It would be an outrageous thought.

      “did the male medicin drink the vial of poison accidentally or on purpose? In one of the episodes did we see Clermont messing with the doctor’s box of bottles.”

      Previously, we see Masson offer the same bottle offered to Louis when the king is sick (and Masson reels off a list of ingredients), and the bottle being secretively replaced, so Masson definitely did not know it was poisoned. He took the bottle to ‘drown his sorrows’ as it were, after he hit Claudine, feeling remorse, I would think. And laudanum as a sedative was much used at the time. To my observation, we do not know who messed with the bottles – I was assuming it was Mike or Rohan, because the hand is gloved and we do not see the face.

      “Maybe that is where she got the poison she used on Fabien?”

      de Clermont went to a brothel to obtain poison and the ‘love potion’ – Lauren (Marchal’s henchwoman) tells him that’s what she observed. Then he says “I pay you to spy on others, not on me.” 🙂

  14. A European history-geek friend told me about this show yesterday, so I binge watched the entire series. I think I enjoyed your reviews as much as the show itself. What a great mix of observation and humor.

  15. My biggest problem with Henriette/Louis is that I find it highly doubtful that Louis would have sex with her. Not only did they grow up together but they were first cousins and Louis was a devout Catholic.

    Now, if she had been his second cousin, and never saw each other until she married his brother, then I can maybe see them having an affair. And she was having an affair with the Comte de Guiche.

    The rape thing was upsetting. They had children. What? The writers want us to think that evrry time they had kids, he had to rape her? They grew up knowing what their duty was as prince and princess. (Same with the Chevalier and his jealousy of Philippe’s wives. Why? He was a noble, he knew the rules.) You’re brought up, it’s your duty. If you have to, just close your eyes and think of France.

    Augh!

    1. Hi Laura! Ah, but not so devout that Louis followed all the teachings. He had mistresses, for example. And Montespan was married too, so in the eyes of the church that was double adultery. We will never know if Louis and Henriette ever did consummate their attraction, but the gossip of the time most definitely swayed in that direction. No doubt those in Philippe’s camp played on that too, to taint Henriette even more (Guiche – UGH. What a total prick 😡 ).

      The writers of the show took quite creative liberty with the relationships – some turned out to be clever and well-written, some I just eye rolled SO HARD. Some were obviously written for massive impact. Especially in S1, I got the feeling that they gave a lot of Lorraine’s personality traits/reactions/behaviour to Philippe. He certainly is darker, more angry and violent than he was in real life.

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