Versailles, social attitudes and the one with ‘that’ scene in Episode 5

Which scene is that, I hear you ask? Ohhhh, this one:

Ep5 - louise and philippe

I have read a few articles and comments now about this scene. Some say it is rape and without consent, others say it is a forced seduction, others see absolutely nothing wrong with it. Others have analysed it from a modern perspective and still others discuss it in historical context.

So let us deconstruct and explain this from a storytelling point of view, shall we? First of all, we must put aside our 21st century outrage and lack of consent, because (if you haven’t already realised) we are in the 17th century here. It is a COMPLETELY different landscape when it comes to sex and relationships and fidelity.

Now, I will break the scene down to the dialogue and provide commentary. Please note…. This is MY take as a writer: I do not presume to know the inner workings of David Wolstencroft’s writing mind.

Scene opens to a sleeping Louise de La Vallière in a nightdress, a man enters with a candelabra, brushes her hair from her neck and kisses it, then slowly kisses down her clothed body. She sighs, smiles as he turns her legs, then parts them, then puts his face between them, his hands caressing her body, she makes soft groans and sighs.

Louise: (whispers, eyes still closed and smiling, the man’s head between her legs) I was not expecting you tonight. (sounds of kissing from the mystery man) Oh, my king. I do recognise your caress anywhere. (more sighing)
Philippe: (sitting back) it runs in the family, my dear.
Louise: (shocked gasp and scrambles back on the bed) Christ have mercy! (huge look of outrage and disgust)
Philippe: (calmly) I will say this for my brother. He has great taste.
Louise: (looking ill and more outraged) Get out! Get out! I will tell the King!
Philippe: Tell him what? (tilts his head) My dear heart. (the camera cuts to Louise, furious and outraged, then back to Philippe). I am his brother. I will always be his brother. You are just merely passing through. (camera to Louise, pressed up against the bedhead, still angry, still outraged, then back to Philippe again). So if I were you, I would enjoy it while you can. Because it feels warm when the sun shines. Believe me… as soon as he’s done with you, all the lights will go out. (snaps his fingers)
Louise: (angry, disgusted look, spits out) You are based in sin!
Philippe: (studies her a second, then glances above her, to the crucifix on the wall over her head. She follows his eyes, then her gaze returns to him, her breath heavy) Forgive me. (silently studies her for a moment, expression blank, then a small smirk appears on his lips. Then that smile falls. Louise gives him a filthy look, then we hear the door open as Philippe leaves)

And now my interpretation of this scene, based on the actors’ expressions, dialogue and story.

Scene opens to a sleeping Louise de La Vallière in a nightdress, a man enters with a candelabra, brushes her hair from her neck and kisses it, then slowly kisses down her clothed body. She sighs, smiles as he turns her legs, then parts them, then puts his face between them, his hands caressing her body, she makes soft groans and sighs. It is obvious she is enjoying it from the sighs and smiles she makes. She is totally of the belief it is Louis in her bed.

Louise: (whispers, eyes still closed and smiling, the man’s head between her legs) I was not expecting you tonight. (sounds of kissing from the mystery man) Oh, my king. I do recognise your caress anywhere. (more sighing)
Philippe: (sitting back) it runs in the family, my dear.
Louise: (shocked gasp and scrambles back on the bed) Christ have mercy! (huge look of outrage and disgust) This is so clear, from her expression to the way she scrambles back on the bed. It is unwanted attention and she will have no part of it.
versailles ep5 - louise and philippePhilippe: (calmly) I will say this for my brother. He has great taste. Here, Philippe makes no further attempt to touch her or resume his attentions. He is merely sitting on the bed, talking to her. And from what we know of Philippe, this is his modus operandi: staking a claim on Louis’ women to get back at his brother. He did it with Henriette, he does it now with Louise.
Louise: (looking ill and more outraged) Get out! Get out! I will tell the King!
versailles ep5 - louise and philippe2Philippe: Tell him what? (tilts his head) My dear heart. His tone is very much condescending, like he’s saying ‘oh, silly girl. He will not believe you’,  which is reiterated in the next sentence… (the camera cuts to Louise, furious and outraged, then back to Philippe). I am his brother. I will always be his brother. You are just merely passing through. This is Philippe laying it out for her plainly. She is dispensable, a fancy. He, on the other hand, is the King’s brother and infinitely more valuable to Louis. (camera to Louise, pressed up against the bedhead, still angry, still outraged, then back to Philippe again). So if I were you, I would enjoy it while you can. Because it feels warm when the sun shines. Believe me… as soon as he’s done with you, all the lights will go out. (snaps his fingers)

versailles ep5 - louise and philippe4

This is all about Philippe warning her she will be discarded by Louis too, just like all the women before her. He has seen it happen, it will keep on happening, because that is what Louis does.
versailles ep5 - louise and philippe3Louise: (angry, disgusted look, spits out) You are based in sin!
Philippe:(studies her a second, then glances above her, to the crucifix on the wall over her head. She follows his eyes, then her gaze returns to him, breathing heavy) Forgive me. (silently studies her for a moment, expression blank, then a small smirk appears on his lips. Then that smile falls. Louise gives him a filthy look, then we hear the door open as Philippe leaves)  This moment starts out as Philippe appearing to be contrite, even apologising for his actions, but then his eyes drop and he gives a little smile… and it’s like he is remembering just what he was doing moments before, touching and intimately kissing her, and he is enjoying her anger and discomfort.  That smile is almost malevolent. And yes, a little gleeful.

forgive me

As I mentioned in my review of Episode 5, what is Philippe’s point of claiming his brother’s soon-to-be cast off? I believe it’s:

  1. to show the slow spiralling downfall of Philippe’s mental state and the affects the war had on him;
  2. to indicate how Philippe deals with his overbearing brother, and his own frustration, which is to strike back at Louis through his women, showing his male dominance. This frustration is reiterated through Philippe’s bitter little dialogue: “It feels warm when the sun shines. But when he’s done with you, all the lights will go out.” He knows how this feels, how Louis uses him to his own ends.

At no stage during that scene is Philippe forcing himself upon Louise. As soon as his identity is revealed, he does not touch her again. All his dialogue is focused on him telling her what it is like to be in favour one moment, then dropped the next. He is warning her of Louis’ fickle affections, telling her like it is. He is not threatening her. He is not saying ‘shut up and say nothing’.  He does say in a matter of sorts ‘who would believe you?’ which is true. A king would publicly side with his brother.  Any kind of retaliation or punishment would be privately meted out.

This is an issue historical writers face every time they want to remain true to their time period v’s acceptable to today’s standards of decency. Write a character with 21st century values in an historical setting and you run the risk of not being accurate.  Write them as a true historical figure and this is fraught with the dangers of alienating your audience.  The bottom line is, everyone is multi faced and reacts to their world and those around them within that time period. Historical people acted/reacted/socialised and lived their lives differently to ours. You might not like what they do, but at least you can understand where they are coming from if you appreciate the different social boundaries and attitudes of the time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *