The one with the massive war, the porridge and more dead people – Versailles episode 4

If you haven’t already, read my reviews of Episode One, Two and Three.


Enter Louis (with a cut on his forehead – “from a hunting accident” we learn later.  Very curious but we never actually find out how/why this happened).  He is absolutely livid with the news that his friends, the Parthenays have been brutally murdered on his roads.  “If a child of France is not safe on royal lands, what chance is there for anyone else?”  Indeed.  “An attack on my roads is an attack on me.”

Next we see a man carrying a sack through the dead bodies of men and horses, clearly the aftermath of a battle. Monsieur stops him: “where are you going? The siege is broken.” The man explains he had promised their mother he would bring his brother home.  He is in the sack.

Okay, so it is not clear which actual war Philippe is fighting in, even though there are Spaniards and Louis has mentioned prior that he is fighting for the lands he was promised when he married the Queen, the daughter of King Philip IV of Spain.  So this is likely the War of Devolution, even though historical Philippe’s major battle glory comes much later in history, against the Dutch (and after which Louis was so pissed with everyone going on about how awesome and fabulous and what a brilliant warrior his brother was, he forbid Philippe to ever fight again, cutting short what could have been an excellent military career).

Louis has his physician Masson tend to him, and Bontemps reads of the news that a battle has been won, and Philippe has distinguished himself, brought glory on France. “Enough!” Louis demands.  Obviously major displeased with his younger brother not only getting what he wants but also succeeding far beyond expectations.

Louis then goes to visit his dead friends and he asks why Francoise, the mother, has bled more than her husband. A brief education on the way wounds work ensues, with Masson stumbling over the whys and hows, until Claudine, his daughter, steps in to explain it better.  Of course, she’s doing this to answer the king, but I know where this is going – her father will see it as an undermining of his authority and knowledge.  Louis then realises Charlotte, the girl, is missing.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 1.09.49 AMEnter Fabien Marchal. We see his mind at work out on the road, calculating the angle of shots, working out where the girl could have fallen.  He finally finds her – too late – and OMG such an excellent scene where we are shown the compassion behind this outwardly brutal man. He holds the girl as she dies in his arms, saying she “saw angels.”

Cut to a drunk Montcourt and his leather sash, decorated with a row of silver angels (ah-ha! A clue that comes back to bite him in a later episode). Cassel is furious, saying he has killed a noble family. Montcourt says the girl survived but that Cassel wanted chaos – who would follow the Parthenays now that blood has been spilled?  Soon Louis will tie up the project and move back to Paris and things will be good again. Okay, then.

Louis is furiously sketching a plan for the gardens of Versailles, with Colbert in the background helpfully telling Bontemps: “he only sketches when he is upset.”  He gives up, stomps off and asks who else delays on their journey to bring their noble papers to Versailles. Fourteen families in all await assurance of their safety…. it seems Cassel’s evil plan has succeeded in scaring people away.  Marchal enters and from just a look, Louis knows the girl is dead, and is absolutely livid, saying Marchal has failed him and his continued presence at court requires nothing less than his absolution. Marchal says he believes a noble is responsible, that the musket firing the shot was someone atop a horse.  “Bring them to me,” demands Louis.

And now we have Sophie passing notes to the charming builder, and de Clermont is furious, saying her daughter has no comprehension of what is at stake. Sophie is becoming suspicious and says she believes her mother isn’t telling her everything. You and me both, Sophie.

Back to Bontemps and Marchal.  It is clear that Bontemps holds a huge dislike for Marchal’s methods, maybe even a dislike for the man himself, and they discuss the lack of safety on the road, what with the soldiers off fighting the war.

Back to Marchal talking to Claudine where he says there’s only three people who know the girl is dead – him, her and the killer. And he believes the killer will make a mistake that will allow Marchal to catch him.

A brief flirtation between Madame de Montespan and Louis, and Louis walks away in better humour.  Then a bit of verbal sparring between Montespan and de Clermont, with Montespan saying if she does fall from her cousin the Chevalier’s favour, Sophie will no doubt support her: “beauty unlocks many doors.” To which de Clermont replies: “you of all people should know that first hand, Madame. And beauty without wit is merely vanity.” We learn more about the ruthlessness of the court and its people thanks to de Clermont: “when you pass through the doors of this court you are not entering a room, you are entering a market place.  Transactions mean contacts. Contacts mean credit. Credit means power. And power means everything.”  A brilliant show of the court’s underbelly from a clearly ambitious woman who is desperate to stay in favour and climb the social ladder.  Sophie says “but we have our papers.” ……not yet, you don’t.

Cut to Louis and Rohan reminiscing about the recently deceased Francoise Parthenay, with Rohan eyeing Montespan from the window and Louis saying: “Her, you do not touch.” Louis then offers Rohan a position….. Rohan thinks it is as head of the stables but no. He is to go to war and shadow Philippe, to see that no harm comes to him.  Rohan’s disappointment and frustration is so very clear, it’s hard not to believe Louis can’t see it too.  Or maybe he does. And there is something in Rohan’s eye and that expression that I do not like….

Ahhhhh! The Chevalier de Lorraine interrupts Henriette at her toilette: “You know, misery suits you. You wear it so very well.”   And what is he up to?  Oh, he has found a necklace in one of her ladies’ rooms, and by his implication, it was stolen from her mistress. Of course, it is a frame job.

And so, the pious Louise de la Vallière begs Louis to release her to a convent, before Louis tires of her. Louis refuses: “God wishes us to be together.”  He cannot let anyone or anything go. Rather like a spoilt child at times.

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 3.03.03 PMWe are in a salon now and the Chevalier tells de Clermont that he has created a position for Sophie as a lady to Henriette. De Clermont is less than impressed but the Chevalier is irritated: “My decision is made. I am the head of this household, in case you’ve somehow forgotten, cousin.” He then takes Sophie to dance: “a dance is a form of conversation… with rules, restrictions… just like that dress you’re wearing.” Then he asks if she is ‘intact’  and a rather risque exchange happens, all the while eying a rather sweet-looking cellist. (Noooooo! Don’t!)

Then we go back to Louis, this time dressing as Henriette lounges naked on the bed. A little reminiscing about their time as children, then she has a bit of a complain about the Chevalier, to which Louis replies, irritated: “Is it not enough that I protect you that I now must protect your ladies?” She bitches about the ‘theft’ the Chevalier made up, says she was jealous of the dead Francoise (riiiiight. Great time to bring that up!) and Louis declares “I am going to war. Where it is safe. And you are coming with me.” He leaves, quite a bit shitty with the whole exchange.

The Chevalier meets the pretty cellist in the gardens (NOOOO!) but the poor thing gets his throat cut – the cellist, not the Chevalier. A masked man threatens the Chevalier: “from this moment on, I will tell you what to do. Deny us, and you will die. Apply yourself and your lover will be king.”  (yeah, I do not like this scene AT ALL, because it clashes so badly with my historical knowledge of Lorraine…. in reality he would certainly not panic or frantically declare “please, please, I’m rich!” to a would-be mugger. BUT…. this is story Chevalier and they are setting him up to follow a certain path that I can see coming. They are certainly making him more vulnerable than he appeared to be in the first two eps.)

A few quick scenes follow: de Clermont in her room, and she has lots of parchment and a quill, apparently “writing letters.” Oooooh, no she’s not.  Louis and Montespan in the salons flirting, a skilful exchange of words with a subtle sexual subtext.  Louise de la Vallière paying a visit to the Queen, where the latter is privy to Louise’s self hate and flagellation. Cassel with Montcourt, telling him there is cargo to be intercepted on their way to Versailles.

And now a secret meeting with Louis and a rep from the house of Habsbourg, agreeing to sign a treaty to end the war, with the territory to be divided on the death of the Spanish king. Interesting… Oh dear, Louis’ wound starts to bleed and he tells Bontemps to fetch the girl doctor.

Claudine is an interesting character: a woman way ahead of her time, who studies in secret, dissecting body parts and working out how the body works, illnesses and treatments.  Very dangerous indeed because in 17th century France, just the hint of this kind of thing would have you branded as a witch.  It’s fortunate Louis is quite the forward thinker, and seeks her opinion on treatments.  We can see her father is getting rather angry at this, and I suspect most of it is due to the way it undermines his (supposed) expertise, which is still very much in the dark ages.

Cut to Philippe, with Rohan following, declaring they are far inside the line, that they are in great danger. That he promised his brother he would ensure his safety. Philippe is not impressed.

Back at the pool house with Henriette swimming, and she goes inside clearly expecting Louis but encountering Montespan instead. “I have a scheme that will bring delicious revenge on the Chevalier. Might you consider it?” asks Montespan.  Henriette demurs: “I already know what it is you want and I cannot help you get it.”  Is this because she knows Montespan wants Louis? Or she doesn’t want to hurt Philippe?  Most definitely the former.

Marchal finally tells Louis about the dead girl. Louis is furious: “why did you hide this from me?”  Marchal: “because you have armed me, Sire. Not just with weapons, but with choices.” He has a brilliant understanding of the way a mind works and we see a bit more of his and Louis’ dynamic in this little exchange. Fabulous.

Ugh. More killing on the roads with Montcourt and his band of thugs. Louis is frustrated in his helplessness and finally goes on the attack, demanding soldiers protect his roads. “Their king is going to war.”

Claudine returns home and her father prepares food – the roles so obviously reversed here. Her father demands to know where she’s been. She cannot say. Masson believes Louis is trying to ruin his reputation. He does not like the court and their ways. “The King has his favourites and one day he tires of them. And we don’t see them anymore.”  At this stage I do feel sorry for Masson, as he is so clearly feeling undermined by his own daughter, plus he is quite concerned for her wellbeing.  But he eventually ends up being an asshat and after that, I don’t feel sorry for him one bit.

De Clermont is about in the corridors, and ‘casually’ meets Marchal on the way to her rooms, asks him to walk her back. They talk about the Parthenays and she suggests a walk in the gardens on another day. She’s up to something, most def.

Louis calls for a priest and confesses he has sent his own brother to war, and they discuss appropriate penance. You can see he struggles.  And yet, off they go the next day – Louis and Henriette – to war.  She gets a bit touchy-feely and he is distant. She is not happy. Clearly his conscience is niggling him.

Now we are at the front, where we have the best scene of the episode. Philippe is discussing battle and Louis arrives to declare: “The war is over!”  Philippe is confused then angry: “we have battled hard for this moment – many men have died to retain it.” Louis demands a private audience. He seriously does not understand – or if he does, he simply doesn’t care: “I’m here to bring you home.” Philippe: “And I came here to fight.” Philippe is suspicious, and with good reason. He thinks it’s a massive PR exercise, to show how glorious Le Roi is: “all hail King Louis, who went to war and won the peace.”  Yep, Philippe, sames.  Louis admits their spies have discovered a Spanish plot: mercenaries hired to seek Philippe out on the field and capture him: “to use you to get to me.”  But Philippe soooo has his brother’s measure: “This is about the porridge.” Apparently as children, they got into a fight, Louis first flicking porridge, Philippe flicking back, Louis tipping the bowl over Philippe’s head.  So Philippe retaliates by pissing on him.  Pretty soon they were rolling around on the floor, pissing on each other.  Louis says, a little amused: “well you started it,” and Philippe replies, deadly serious: “You flicked the porridge. But guess who got the blame.”

It was SO awesome they included this little boyhood tale because with a slight tweak or two, it actually did happen (but with soup, not porridge, and there was pissing on a bed, not each other….)  Philippe finally says: “you pissed on your brother. But I pissed on the King!”  Clearly angry, Louis says: “This will be your last battle. It will not be your last act.” And Philippe…. ahhhh, such excellent dialogue, spitting out a declaration that “On the field, there are no kings, no nobles, no peasants. Every man is an equal fighting to survive another day. Tomorrow I will have more in common with the enemy than my own brother.”  Louis warns that the Spanish mean to seek him out, and Philippe replies jauntily, “Well, then. I’d better wear something fun. Or they might not know who I am.” And with that he gives Henriette a hard kiss – clearly a dig at Louis and staking his claim as her rightful husband – and removes the colourful feathers from her headdress.

Again, such interesting dialogue between the two brothers, excellently written and showing deep rivalry, frustrations and setbacks.  Rather than one massive info dump, the writers have given us a slow drip-drip of backstory intricately woven, which tells us this is not just an argument between king and prince, but rather a deep, snarly, multifaceted bundle of humungous conflict and emotion and angst and all that good stuff, revealed over time and in every verbal clash.

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 4.24.05 PMThe final scene sees Philippe atop his warhorse and with the feathers in his uniform, stoic as he faces down the enemy lines, the calm before the storm. Then he draws his sword, gives the signal, cannons fire and the charge is on.


So is the end of Episode Four.

10 thoughts on “The one with the massive war, the porridge and more dead people – Versailles episode 4

  1. Millie

    these reviews are amazing, I love reading them they make me giggle. And its not just you, I live for any scenes with Monsieur and Chevalier together they are so adorable when they are with eachother. This series is turning out to be one of the best for this year. Will you post reviews for the next episodes, have they come out yet?

    1. JulesHarper Post author

      Hi Millie! Thank you! <3 Yessss, I loooooove those Monsieur/Chevalier scenes too! It's clear the actors had heaps of fun doing them (Alex and Evan have said so too:)) I am working on the next reviews, trying to catch up to the screening, so yes, more are on their way. I believe Canal+ are showing eps 7 and 8 on Monday 7th in France and I hear the UK will show it in the New Year. Thanks for reading!

  2. Re

    I think it’s abundantly clear that Philippe gets the very best dialogue. Of course, I’m a huge Vlavla fan, so I’m a bit biased, haha.

    Thanks for the reviews! They’re a fun read.

  3. Emy

    I love your reviews! I’ve only been recently introduced to the series but have now binge watched all ten episodes. So interesting that the porridge / soup stories is based on truth – can you tell me more about it? I can’t seem to find the story online – and did poor Philippe really get all the blame? 🙁
    I think I’ve fallen in love with Philippe (both story and historical) and love every scene he’s in.

    1. JulesHarper Post author

      Hi Emy! Yes, Philippe has that affect, doesn’t he? Such a fascinating figure, and yet no one seems to know about him at all. I didn’t even know Louis had a brother :/ The food throwing story is detailed more in Brother to the Sun King by Nancy Barker. I know Aurora has more details on her website – if you love Louis and French history her site is a gem 🙂

  4. Christine L

    I’ve been watching this fantastic series on the BBC and am totally hooked, hence me trying now to find everything about it on the internet – and your blog is a great read.
    I actually got the impression Louis’ head injury was self-inflicted after hearing about the Parthenay murders and that Bontemps quickly said it was from a hunting accident to quell any gossip.
    Also when Beatrice de Clermont answered “writing letters” to Sophie’s question “what are you doing?” She was not in fact lying as she was repeatedly writing what looked like a ‘letter’ B, obviously honing her forgery skills.
    I seem to have gradually become besotted with Fabien Marchal. I love his voice as well as his looks and definitely the long hair which also suits the actors playing Louis, Philippe and Chevalier. Oh for the fashion to be on trend again today.

    1. JulesHarper Post author

      Hi Christine!

      That is an interesting thought about Louis’ head wound. Had not thought of that.

      And I too, am fascinated with Marchal 😀 He sounds so calm and that look he gives – menacingly blank, so you have no idea what he is thinking… but you know it’s gonna be bad!

  5. Andrea

    Dear JH,
    I have enjoyed reading your witty, informative, and colorful reviews of Versailles nearly as much (if not more so) than actulaly watching the show itself, which is saying a great deal because I adore the series. It’s a lot like sitting over cups of tea swapping “dish” with a friend and debriefing over the scanalous, delicious doings of the people we know. Your rich historical background adds a really brilliant dimension to your observations that most of us lack, but it doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate your insightful additions that help to fill in the gaps for those of us not nearly so well-versed in this historical period. In addition, your writing style is chatty, consipiratorial in the best sense, and so very conversational that it’s almost like listening to you speak instead of reading a review. I’ve watched the first season twice. Your commentary–which I came upon entirely by accident when I tried to ascertain the true father of the Queen’s baby daughter–adds considerably to my understanding and appreciation for the nuances of the action. It’s also gratifying to find someone who appreciates the brilliant characterizations of the Duc and the Chevalier as much as I do. Those two own the screen whoever they appear, either alone or together. Much appreciation for providing such a delightful and sparkling dimension to my appreciation for this singular show. I’m very much looking forward to what you have to say about season two.
    All the best,


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