We open with Louis talking of reflections and a rather substandard mirror in which he dresses. This is the first mention of what is called the Power of Three, which is basically a subliminal way to get something of importance across to your reader/viewer by mentioning it three times through the course of the story. It’s a method that’s used to excellent effect in novels and this is a prime example in a TV series. So the mirror and reflection – showing Louis who he is, the facade he displays to his court, all dressed up in his finery – is this episode’s Power of Three.
So now we have Montcourt, now disgraced, seeking help from a Louis hater, the Duke of Cassel (Pip Torrens), who apparently is strong in the North (interestingly when they talk of loyalties, they talk in areas – the North, the South… very Game of Thrones-y) He needs protection and Cassel is using this to his advantage and whipping up dissent within his people, saying Versailles is a ridiculous pursuit, how terrible it is that Louis strips his nobles of their titles and rights, and that they need to convince Louis by force that he is not “France”, rather his people are the true builders of the country. A line has been drawn.
We see a little more of Bontemps-the-advisor to Louis as he gets dressed, when the King asks his valet what kind of man he is. Interesting dialogue that reveals more of Louis’ deeper thoughts. Louis finishes with: “I do not like this mirror” and we see his reflection as fragments – the second mention of the mirror (Power of Three #2)
Louis strolls the gardens and we are introduced to Rohan (Alexis Michalik), a good friend, apparently. Charming, good-looking. An officer, I think, although that is not clear to me. He has, however “returned atoned and anew and at your service, Sire.” …………..I notice he also appears to want a hug from Louis, has his arms open just a little too long, but Louis does not respond to that. What is this dude’s story? Atoned for what??? Ugh. I need to know. More on him much later.
Louis visits his Queen, passing by a portrait of two noble women and a slave (Historical note: the painting is Philippe Vignon’s portrait of Louise Françoise de Bourbon (right), and Françoise Marie de Bourbon (left), both legitimised daughters of Louis XIV and Montespan…. both of whom have not actually been born yet, according to the show 😆 Louise Françoise was married to the Prince de Condé, and Françoise Marie was married – unhappily – to Philippe’s son, Philippe II, regent of France after Louis XIV died and Louis XV was too young to rule).
Louis says curtly: “change your clothes. The season for mourning has passed. You are to resume your official duties.” Apparently they are to receive guests at court, Louis says. “you are to receive him personally. Shower your attentions on them with your.. *slight pause* customary warmth and grace.” This is said with much sarcasm, delivering the verbal slight so skilfully. The guest? One Prince Annaba (Marcus Griffiths). This scene is a great example of ‘show not tell’ – the Queen nods as Louis leaves, but her mouth curves into a smile… which says much. Then Bontemps tells Louis as they walk: “I believe our Majesty has met our visitor once before.” Louis replies simply: “Yes. In Paris.” Bontemps is confused because he knows obvs that this prince is the father of the baby… so why throw them together again, in private? Louis: “the lands of Africa are a locked room. Our Prince Annaba may provide the key. We have learned from our missionaries to the Senegal River. There is wealth in these regions beyond all measure. Its people and its trade will be the foundations of our future. And fund a thousand wars. A hundred palaces.” Bontemps: “Then we must win Africa.” The only question is how. And the Queen? Bontemps asks. “..is helping us,” Louis replies.
A Monsieur/Chevalier scene (yessss). The Chevalier dresses Monsieur and they gossip about the drowned Queen’s servant boy, Nabo, found in the drains. The Chevalier has the best lines – witty, sarcastic and so very precise: “If the little man was sad, he might have done it himself. Or do you think the Queen tired of him. Perhaps he was trying to mend the king’s fountains… restore himself to favour? Shoved himself in there like a cork only to pop up and float and scare the young people.” 😆 Monsieur says he has way too much time on his hands and he should come with him to the front. “Are you inviting me? To a war? Oh. How romantic.” is the Chevalier’s reply 😀 Henriette asks if there’s news as to when he will depart (and the cynic in me is going “UGH. She can’t wait for him to leave…”) Another catty exchange between the Chevalier and Henriette…. Henriette: “Do you not think he sees you exactly as you are?” Chevalier: “Oh, he sees me. And he enjoys it. That, my dear, is what divides us. (*screeeeeeches*) At least when your husband is gone I will know where to find you.” Henriette: “If you come to my rooms, I will not answer.” The Chevalier: “Naturally. I would not think to seek you there, as I would not seek the king in the chambers of her Majesty. I know how you very much enjoy swimming. I might find you at the pool house.” Oh, the sarcasm and wit ❤️ It also shows the Chevalier knows exactly what’s going on with her and Louis.
So…. Monsieur is eager to go to war (“not any war – my war.”) but doesn’t know when. In the meantime, Prince Annaba shows up – a glorious, regal African prince who looks totally out of place in the splendour of Versailles… and yet, is quite above it with his own noble air.
Cut to Montcourt and his band of evil doers and it is clear they are about to intercept a carriage on its way to Versailles.
At this stage, I have to mention the scenes, which are very short. In this episode I stopped counting at 36. I understand the purpose of short scenes – they move the story along, impart important information and show pace and urgency, etc but there were some moments where I wanted to linger a little longer, maybe soak up the atmosphere or have a bit more of the story revealed. The changes felt almost a little rushed. But this is a minor niggle compared to the episode as a whole.
Anyway, back to the story. We are in Versailles and see Prince Annaba with his entourage that includes a brother and women… (two wives? It isn’t clear). The prince is to meet the Queen alone, the brother goes with Marchal and the rest will “bask in the King’s full hospitality”. Cue suspicious looks. Louis wants to make them wait, obvs. The Vignon portrait appears again in the antechambre where Prince Annaba waits, and he does not appear to be impressed. We also learn that the Parthenay family, Louis’ good friends from the South, are arriving at Versailles to submit their noble credentials as an example to all and a favour to the King. Notices in The Gazette are to be announced. A medal will be struck. I know this will not bode well because of the emphasis this little detail is given. And as Louis strolls the gardens, leaving his guests to await him, Jacques the gardener informs him about an old man in the woods, a former soldier who fought against his father in the Fronde.
It is very interesting the way gestures and looks are given so much emphasis in a time when it fuels so much gossip, both negative and positive. A tiny flick of the hand to indicate the guards hang back from Louis. The look the Queen gives Prince Annaba when she receives him, then their subtle circling each other and the lingering looks they share. So much restraint yet you can see there is much that is said. A testament to the brilliant cast.
More sexytimes with Louis and Henriette in between the short scenes of the Queen and Annaba…. and she mentions she is scared of the Chevalier. But Louis says she has nothing to fear, that he is her safe harbour. Why do I automatically think this is all manipulation on her part?
Bontemps arrives to present Prince Annaba, with the prince’s gaze lingering mucho on the Queen… Bontemps notices that in a brief look. And then Annaba is presented to those who matter – Philippe, Henriette, Colbert, Louise. Louis is seated, rising only to take the Queen’s hand with an expression of smugness, it looks like. Louis’ direct eye contact when he says “you’ve already met my wife,” is more scary than if Louis had yelled “you shagged her ahhhhgggrrrhhh!” outright. A staring match and awkward silence falls and we get the feeling the negotiations have already been underway since the prince first arrived.
So Louis shows off Versailles to the visiting prince and Annaba is keen to ‘start negotiations.’ Of course, this is France and they do things different there, but Annaba does not like: “perhaps I should go talk to the Dutch. The Spanish. The English.” Louis: “you are not enjoying our hospitality?” Annaba: “there is much of it.” Louis then dangles the ‘later’ carrot, saying he will sit down with him that night.
Marchal is told shipments are missing – gold, stone, marble and wine. Louis is informed and is naturally furious. (“Missing? Did the marble dispatch itself into the woods alone?”) He declares it’s sabotage. I feel his frustration: not only is he being stolen from, but he cannot show his guests the full glory that is Versailles. It’s obvious he feels his reputation is being damaged. The builders can’t work without materials and dammit, his roads should be protected and the carriages safe. “The king’s road is sacrosanct. Protected and secure. And if it is not, the fabric of the country is torn.” Marchal must see to this issue.
Louis is now alone in his rooms, and has a flashback to when he was a boy. A secret door opens, a woman in a robe enters. She introduces herself as Madame de Beauvais, and says his mother sent her, that she is his new tutor. “What will you teach me?” Louis asks. In answer, she drops her robe and stands there butt naked. (Historical note: Louis’ mother, Anne of Austria, did not like the thought that a pretty young thing could catch Louis’ eye, seduce him and then have Louis fall in love with her because of the whole de-virgination thing. So she told one of her friends, Madame de Beauvais, to teach him the ways of the bedroom. Louis was fifteen, she was nearly 40. You can read more about it here.)
Another scene with Monsieur and Henriette: “when you do leave, make sure to come back.” (Just. Wat. Srsly?) Monsieur: “If I were to die your life would be simple, would it not?” Henriette: “My problems would never be solved. You know that. And in any case, I would rather you did not die.” (U. G. H.) Of course, she says she means it. But Monsieur has her measure. “Since we were small, my dream has been war. Yours has been my brother. Look how lucky we are. Perhaps one day we will both live our dreams.” He walks and annnnnnd Henriette cries. Call me cynical but… okay. Just call me cynical.
Louis ruminates about going to war with some flashbacks to past conversations with Colbert, Louvois, Marchal, Bontemps, his mother, Philippe… a flash of the portrait with Philippe and Louis as brothers… Meanwhile Monsieur gets impatient and decides to go through the preparations of being blessed in order to sway the King’s decision. (“I await your word, brother. And when I can wait no more, I ask deliverance from my god.”) Cue a verbal exchange where Louis asks what battle piece he is and Monsieur declares: “I think I am a horse… at least that’s what I’ve been told.” (HA!) Louis finally capitulates and says he leaves tomorrow. And Monsieur’s answer? First he is joyous: “I will bring you glory. I vow it.” Louis smiles: “May God watch over you and bring you home safely.” Monsieur then ruins the moment: “Go then. Run to her. You have my blessing. God knows you don’t need a priest for that.” And the look on Louis’ face…… He is shocked but covering it up with a stoic look. But you can tell he is disturbed, even pained as Monsieur exits. I’d hope he would feel guilt here, but it’s hard to tell. What is interesting is that in pretty much every scene the brothers share, even tender ones, one of them ends up snarking at the other, creating even more tension (if that’s possible). It’s a subtle power play that goes on – incredibly nuanced and very well written.
Aaaaaaand a Chevalier scene with the best dialogue of the entire ep. (yes, I know the best scenes pretty much always include him or Monsieur. C’est moi!) To his cousin Sophie he asks her opinion on a moral quandary: “If someone I adore fucks someone else without my express consent, is it not right and just for parity to be restored that I fuck someone of my own choosing?” This is so delicious I could actually see the real Chevalier de Lorraine delivering this. It gives me shivers. Even his seemingly innocent follow up: “I tried to ask Bishop Bossuet on the issue but he was most unforthcoming,” and when de Clermont tells her not to answer he replies: “Oh, she has the answer…. all over her face,” can be taken as wicked innuendo. In this scene we also see Sophie catching the eye of a handsome builder (not good for her) and de Clermont saying so many families are being thrown out of court because they don’t have papers. We get more of a sense of her and the Chevalier’s relationship, where she declares that it is folly to be nice to him, that he will just “use us up and cast us out like all the rest.” He replies that he will “watch out for you in all this madness, have no fear of that.”
We’re now back with Louis and talk of who still defies him – Cassel, who commands great power in the North and East, with half the nobility in his debt. Louis knows the locals are on Cassel’s side (“he is our keystone, then. If we extract him from the wall, the entire structure is demolished.”) and so sends a rather noble portrait of himself as a gift with his personal demand to come to Versailles and provide proof of his nobility.
Prince Annaba and his brother are wary about everyone and everything. De Clermont and Sophie have an exchange and we are privy to the older woman’s judgemental attitude and almost obsessive desire to gain standing at court. Her greatest wish is to see her daughter catch the King’s eye, but Sophie is way too sweet and ‘lacking character’ for that. De Clermont says: “this is not a time for women. This is a time for men. But even the wisest king in the world can be rendered a fool by something so fair. You may never be a queen but with that- (she cups Sophie’s crotch) -you may live like one.” Okay. Now I know de Clermont a little more and I am not liking her at all. She has an air about her that seems devoid of compassion.
Festivities and games, and gambling. Lots of courtiers enjoying themselves. Lots of intriguing power plays going on here, from Madame de Montespan to King Louis. Cassel sends an insulting reply to Louis’ demand, basically an “FU and the horse you rode in on.” Marchal wants to reply personally: “At least let me bruise his face with this insult he has returned to you.” Ahhhh, Marchal. How I do love you ❤️ Bontemps advises discretion. Louis has a plan. But meanwhile, it’s time to express his gratitude to the Queen who has done her duty. Yes, his gratitude is sexytimes. She is suitably grateful.
Louis invades Prince Annaba’s bed chamber the next morning and off they go to the monastery where the baby has been sent. But first Louis stops at the old traitor in the woods (remember, the one who Jacques saw?) He is made an example of, thanks to Marchal. “he thought himself safe, out here in the woods.”
The Parthenays are on the road to Versailles and Bad Things Start To Happen. Montcourt is recognised and now everyone must die – the parents, the boy and the young girl, shot as she is running away. But the bad guys must go before they’re discovered and don’t recover the body. Big mistake for them.
Prince Annaba and Louis arrive at the monastery, Louis explains why France is his best ally, and again much is said that is unsaid, aka subtext. From this we finally understand the baby is Annaba’s and the queen’s, and Annaba will take the baby with him. And with that the agreement between France and Annaba is signed and all is good.
And now we have the glorious Philippe, duc d’Orleans, atop his war horse, the battlefield spread out below him. So magnificent and noble. The music is delicious and perfectly compliments the moment.
The Venetians have been working hard on a new mirror. Louis smiles. His reflection is unbroken. Perfect. He approves. (The Power of Three #3)
And there we have it. Episode 3. Merci for reading xx