The one where I write something for Philippe de France’s birthday

Philippe de France, Duke of Anjou, wearing the clothes to his brother's coronation and holding the crown of a son of France. Unknown artist, c1654, Château de Versailles

The 21st of September marks the 377th birthday of Philippe de France, duc d’Orléans, and brother to Louis XIV.  And so I wrote a little something in his honour.  Enjoy xx


Philippe de France, frère unique de roi

 

I stand here, just like all the others, a mere observer to the glorious miracle that is our Sun King. Louis Dieudonné. By the grace of God. The chosen one. My brother.

He wears the best France has to offer – lace, satin, brocade, jewels. Red heeled shoes. A wig of exquisitely coiffed hair, curling regally over his shoulders. I watch him postulate, perform, command with his words, his gestures, his looks. A brief eye contact to one noble, an ever-so-slight passing over of another. This is the difference between favour and disapproval. The former will bask in the attention and gossip, be safe for a week or two, maybe a month. The latter will be gone within the hour.

Every single person in the salon watches him, noble and servant alike. Not one face is averted. He is the ultimate skilled performer, demanding attention and awe. And his subjects give it willingly. The demoiselles, almost slavishly so. They throw themselves in his path with such regular abandon that the morning coucher has barely passed and you have fallen over at least a dozen fluttery, fawning creatures.

He is denied nothing. Wants for nothing.

How strange that must be. To get every single thing your heart desires.

There are many who think the king’s brother is also free to take what he wishes. To have anything and everything.

They would be wrong.

Once, deep in his cups, frustrated by the restrictions of his kingly burden, he declared a desire to be in my shoes, to live my life for a day. I laughed and laughed until the tears made small rivers down my cheeks.

“Oh, mon frère. You, exist in the shadow of the sun? You would never survive the dark.”

To always be told you are not good enough, that you must be less in everything: intelligence, charm, wit. To give up, give in, acquiesce. You are never right, never favoured, never in command.

The flame of humiliation and abject frustration burns in me still, even after all these years. I know it is my place, my duty, my position as brother to the king. I have been told so for as long as I can remember. It has been beaten into me with words and with straps, until I finally learned. It is now a deep, dark part of me, the scars still faintly marring skin and soul. Forever present. Never allowed to forget.

He excludes me from any responsibility. I have no role, no part in making laws, consulting with ministers or commanding an army. He takes my glory and my dignity. Once, he even took my wife. And I smile and perform without complaint -mostly. But it does not mean I happily wear the yoke I have been burdened with.

I am deemed a decoration, a wicked and lecherous prince of pleasure. So I steal tiny victories when I can – flaunting my treasures, my mignons and the lavish debaucheries at Saint-Cloud, pleased in knowing it rankles him. He sees the precious things, the style, the attention… and he seeks to imitate. Moreover, he knows I know and that brings me joy.

My gaze slides to the tall figure standing so correct and to attention by my side and unbidden, my heart thumps a little quicker.

The Chevalier de Lorraine. Warrior, noble, skilled fighter. Gifted with weapons, flattery, scheming and vicious wit. A prince étranger. A brother to a king, if fate had turned differently years ago. An Abbé…

My mouth suddenly twitches.

Philippe de Lorraine is as far from a man of the cloth as I.

He is my joy.

As a young boy he was a mystery to me. Commanding my attention, my curiosity… then my ever-increasing thoughts. At first it was innocent – he was so aloof and with a tongue as sharp as his blade. And then, one summer, it changed forever.

My breath catches in remembrance, and I feel his eyes upon me, curious and questioning. Hidden by the profusion of a lace cuff, I brush a be-ringed finger across the back of his hand, so brief a touch, yet conveying the world. All is well. I am fine. I give him a look, my lips forming a smile, and he gives the barest of responses. To do more would invite the whispers and gossip and here, in my brother’s glittery domain, in his presence, it would not do to steal light from the Sun King.

Yet I cannot look away.

His little finger curls around mine and I blink, this slightest of gestures still rife with understated command.

Beautiful as an angel… devoid of morals.

This man holds my attention like no other. He draws my gaze unerringly, again and again, and I know that my years of doubt and insecurity need every tiny constant confirmation of his interest. He makes me as giddy as a young boy addled with wine. My tongue tangles, my voice cracks… when I can speak at all.

He is, quite simply, the most stunning creature I have ever seen.

And he is mine. Mine to hold. Mine to boldly touch in the gardens of Saint-Cloud or the salons, far from the judgement of my brother’s court. Mine to enjoy in the privacy of my apartments. Mine to explore with hands and lips and tongue. With soft words of adoration and a warm breath that never ceases to shake whenever he is near. Mine to possess and be possessed by.

He is my obsession and I gladly give my heart. Willingly. Intimately.

With total and complete abandon.

 

10 thoughts on “The one where I write something for Philippe de France’s birthday

  1. After the first words I knew I had to wait. I cannot read it surrounded by twitter chats and jokes. I have to give him all my attention. And here I am, it’s 3:40 am, and I have the feeling that I just heard someone’s confession. Confession of a man conscious of his virtues and faults, his place in life and in the world, but above all full of love and passion. I almost heard his whispers, thoughts, I almost saw his flushed cheeks and twinkly eyes…
    Thank you for this little brilliant on this special day <3.
    P.S. I know that the alpha/beta reader position is already occupied, but if you ever look for an omega reader, you know where you can find me 😉

  2. OMG Jules! This is the most beautiful thing! The best way to start my #MonsieurDay. Thank you so much for this and congratulations for your inspired writing. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

  3. Jules, I imagine you have captured Philippes’s thoughts & feelings a per pro his situation completely. Thank goodness he had Lieselotte, whom he could totally trust, to confide in. The poor man, despite his position, privilege & wealth must have felt desperately alone for a large part of his life. If there is such a thing as an afterlife I hope he knows that he has many people who still think about him with love in our hearts. PS I can’t wait to read your new book

  4. This is wonderful. Thank you so much for this.
    ‘Versailles’ the series has brought out of the shadows this intelligent, talented individual, so.painfully and deliberately diminished by both mother and brother.

    I.enjoyed your commentaries on the episodes very much. May I ask for your opinion on.a scene
    from.season 1?

      1. Thank you :))
        There are some s3 spoilers I’ve read: that whilst Monsieur is away, the Chevalier incurs debts in a gambling den and seeks the company of
        ‘like-minded’ men. Which I assume refers to his sexual inclinations and thus infidelities.

        In s1, he also committed infidelities whilst the prince was away campaigning. He justified it to his cousins in the conversation in which he asks that if someone he adores has sex without his permission (Monsieur had forced himself on the unwilling Henriette), shouldn’t he restore parity by having sex with others? And it’s obvious that he does so from Rohan’s remarks to him.

        Later, in the cabbages/hair scene with Montespan, his smile falters when she says that they’re returning from campaign, and she hopes he waited.

        Still later, when he’s waiting for Monsieur’s return, with the sound of the guards stamping their halberds in salute, he seems troubled at the start of that scene. He’s first shown leaning heavily on a table with his head bent low. Then he straightens, pinches his cheeks and affects nonchalance. It could just be a poor edit with a previous scene cut. But I always wondered if it was intended to show his apprehension that if Montespan knew, then so did others who might’ve informed Monsieur of his infidelities

        And, of course, they have, since Monsieur has brought with him, pointedly,the book of anthems by men of chastity.
        It’s also, for the first time, that the Chevalier’s cool confidence is revealed to be sometimes just a facade, even to his lover.

        It was this scene that I question my interpretation. I know I’m over-thinking it, but with the strange bedchamber scene that follows (Evan and Alex said they had to work out what it meant), it’s a real oddity. I’d value your opinion. 🙂

        (What I love about s1 Chevalier is that he brazens it out so often and he does here.

        Even newly released from prison, he first attempts to brazen it out rather than apologise. Later he does so, with a very nice declaration of love, spoiled for me by the inclusion of the ad-libbed: If you don’t love me, then no one loves me. That sounds horribly, uncharacteristically self-pitying for s1 Chevalier to me, although I know many liked it. And it’s a portent for s2 Chevalier and the way in which the plot so often robbed him of his dignity.)
        Sorry, didn’t mean to go on at such length, but what they did to s2 Chevalier left me aghast at times, in spite of Evan’s fine, bold, detailed performance.

  5. As a french, strongly interrested in the 17e french centuries, especially the “cours de France” of Louis the XIVe, I can do nothing but congratulate you for that website, and thank you for your interrest in “Monsieur, frère unique du roi”. I enjoy the reading of that article so much I couldn’t find the “english” words to thank you.

    Nat.

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