Read my previous reviews in order – One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Six. And remember, every one of these has major spoilers, so if you haven’t watched them yet (or deeply care about having story details revealed), consider this a warning.
I have to premise this review with a confession – this ep and the next were the two most emotional ones for me. As me and my bien-aimé watched these (on line and in sync, being at opposite ends of the world) our DMs were full of “NOOOOO!” and sobs and general expressions of disbelief and upset, such was our emotional investment. Because these historical figures are a big part of our lives. You could say we are obsessed. Anyways, on to the review.
So our Majesty, Louis XIV is sick. I mean, full-on flop sweat, hallucinating sick, to the point where he imagines a painting (Nicolas Poussin’s Landscape with Saint John on Patmos) comes to life and is talking to him. Saint John says: “And the fourth angel poured out his vial onto the sun, and the power was given unto him to scorch men with fire. And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast. And his kingdom was full of darkness.” He ends with a line from the previous episode: “the enemy is closer than you think!” and Louis looks horrified and struggles, finally waking up to Bontemps, who holds him and yells for the King’s doctor.
This is interesting, because when we look at Louis’ history, he was actually majorly sick with a massive fever, to the point where the priest was called and succession was discussed. Medicine was little more than guesswork, superstition and trial/error at the time: doctors believed the human body had four ‘humors’ that regulated and directly influenced temperament and health – black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood. To have one out of whack was to be sick, and this belief stemmed all the way back to Ancient times until modern medical research came along in leaps and bounds in the 19th century. Needless to say, the course of action of the day was pretty horrific and pointless, i.e. bleeding (where cuts were made on your body in order to ‘get out the bad blood’. No wonder people died at a great rate of knots back then).
So in come Masson and Claudine, and Masson declares “his humors are out of balance” and recommends a cordial to help him sleep (which is the same evil bottle that the masked man planted in the previous episode). Then Louis asks Claudine’s opinion, if she has ever had a fever. Yes, she has. What measures did she take? “to permit my body to cure itself, it was necessary to purge.” Then she lists a few herbs while her father gives her the most evil eye ever. Totally unimpressed with her going against his advice. Bontemps takes control, telling her to go fetch the remedy and “no one must know of his Majesty’s condition.” Masson, quite a bit shitty, packs up his bottles and huffs past Claudine, who is looking guilty. It’s not exactly her fault she’s smarter than him, is it?
Next scene and we see the Chevalier and Philippe lounging in bed as an unnamed randomer strolls over, butt naked, and takes Philippe’s hand. “There is love in your future. Twice as much as you might think.” Okaaaay. Not big on the subtlety, is he? The Chevalier scoffs and declares “I’m off to water the garden,” as Philippe leans over and murmurs, “I think that’s a no.” LULZ. This is lovely – a random naked boy pretty much saying ‘yay, threesome!’ and the Chevalier showing his contempt for that idea. AND Philippe agreeing. So sweet how they’re being more of a couple now.
As the Chevalier staggers out into the antechamber and relieves himself into a pot (quite an expensive one, it looks like), the masked man accosts him from behind and says: “you did not respond to my last message.” The Chevalier: “Well, to be perfectly honest, it didn’t seem very pressing.” The man threatens, hands the Chevalier another note, “read and follow to the letter,” shoves him into a wall and disappears. As the Chevalier is reading the note (with a funny little annoyed/frustrated face), a King’s guard bursts in and goes straight to the bedroom. The Chevalier remembers himself, storming in as the guard looks to Philippe and says: “you must come at once. It’s the King’s Circle.”
Something is going down, and we know this not just by the urgent mood music. Philippe says, “wake my wife. Do it now.” And yay, we are awarded with a flash of princely backside.
Cut to another scene with Marchal and de Clermont having rough sex (I reeeeeally don’t like her. Fabien deserves way better. I am waiting in anticipation for him discovering her true nature). As they relax, she asks what he thinks we see before the end. Marchal replies: “The face of my enemy.” More naked ass – this is the episode for them! – as de Clermont says: “I’ve always dreamed the same dream. I’m in a great avenue of evergreens. Sitting in wet grass. Gazing through the pine cuts in a canopy of sky.” Marchal replies dryly as he dresses: “if I was you, I’d stay indoors.” In fact, his whole expression is all a bit *roll-y eyes* as she tells him this, it’s quite amusing. Then comes the knock on the door. Another King’s guard, another “The King’s Circle.”
Something is really going down.
Then we see Philippe on his way to this King’s Circle, the Chevalier racing after him, saying he must speak to him in private. Philippe believes he’s still drunk, that it can wait. The Chevalier, quite out of breath, says: “I do not think you understand the gravity of my need.” Philippe, calmly: “Every need of yours was exactly the same.” The Chevalier manages to stop him, trying to form the correct words: “A great… tide is stirring. It pertains to your future. In the court. Yourself at its centre.” Philippe, darling Philippe, kisses the Chevalier and tells him to go to bed. Noooo. The Chevalier is totes trying to tell him about the notes and the masked man here, but Philippe obvs has his mind on other things. The Chevalier calls after him, looking quite a bit desperate, but the King’s Guards bar his way. UUUUUUUUGH.
Now we are in a private room with Bontemps, Philippe, Henriette, the Queen, Marchal, Louvois, Colbert and Rohan. Colbert informs everyone (and us): “In the King’s book of names, you will find a circle of trust. A list of those he believes in his heart are the most loyal, faithful and true. You are the names on that list. This circle of trust will not be broken. We all know here what is at stake.” Everyone looks a mix of upset, worried, concerned, stoic…. except Rohan, who looks mightily pissed off and suspicious, for some reason. That look irritates me. It’s not right. The Queen asks how Louis is; Bontemps replies that the fever is consuming him. Colbert then says protocol demands they begin work on the issue of succession. Yes, it is that bad that they’re talking about the next king to take over the throne. Philippe is quite in disbelief: “I will not hear it!” but Rohan says: “he is stronger than a malady. Stronger than a hundred fevers.” “Not this one, clearly,” adds the Queen. Colbert says: “As we hope for the best, we must nevertheless, plan for the worst.” Poison is suggested – Marchal is on the case. A bit of sniping between Marchal and Bontemps, then Louvois with his mind ever on business, interjects with: “the Dauphin is the direct successor but it will require a regent.” (this happened when a King was too young to rule, as was the case with Louis – his mother and Mazarin ruled France until he was old enough). Rohan is gunning for a council of elders, “men with true experience of government.” Colbert interjects. If the king dies or is incapable of exercising his duties, a Regent shall be appointed. Throughout this, we see Philippe’s face, a mix of incredulity, sadness, resignation. He really does not want to entertain the thought of his brother dying. The council must choose a Regent. I know what Philippe is thinking…. he knows the others think him unworthy of the position.
Cut to the Queen exiting, Montespan follows her, practically demanding to know what’s happened to the king. “Hunting accident, a broken leg… will take weeks to heal.” Rumours are flying, you see, and she claims knowing the truth would make it easier to stop them. Hmmmm… not entirely sure that’s the reason Montespan wants to know. “why the secrecy?” she says. “So that rumours do not start,” answers the Queen. “He will be well.” Montespan does not look convinced.
And now we are back with Claudine and her father, she gathering the ingredients for the king’s medicine and him brooding and looking extremely shitty. “Jezebel,” he says, and pushes over a bowl she was preparing. “Delilah,” he adds, pushing over another one. “Stop!” She demands. Man, he looks so angry. He whispers, “You may have severed my locks, and sold me to the Philistines, but I am not yet on my knees.” Then suddenly he smacks her across the face. She goes down, hits her head, crumples. He doesn’t seem to care at all…. he stumbles to the case of potions and withdraws a vial then lurches away. We all know which one he chose, don’t we?
Back with the Chevalier, staring pensively out the window with a glass of wine as Philippe enters. Straight away, the Chevalier is up to his mouthy best: “if the king’s head hurts, perhaps it was the wine last night. I know they say eat the fur of the beast that bit you, but who wants a mouth full of fluff for breakfast?” Philippe meanwhile is silent, then throws his vest across the room. The Chevalier is quite a bit surprised. “Did I speak out of turn?” Philippe sits on the bed, looking quite alone and lost, his hands on his knees like a child. He is so sad, I just wanna give him a hug 🙁 The Chevalier persists: “how is our King? Speak!” Still silence….. “Please…… why all the secrecy? Speeeeak.” OMG Philippe! You kill me with your sad puppy eyes *cries* A look passes between them, one of such seriousness, and Philippe says: “you must vow to me.” The Chevalier places a hand on his heart: “on my father’s life.” Philippe: “Your father’s dead.” The Chevalier: “…….my mother, then.” Philippe: “Forget it.” How they can still make me smile in this moment of seriousness I have no idea XD The Chevalier says lightly as he pulls off Philippe’s boots: “I cannot help my tongue. I see you in distress and it pains me. Allow me to share your burden. Speak.” And you know, I think he is actually sincere about that, not just fishing for information. And Philippe, adorable Philippe who loves him so much, defies the secrecy of the King’s Circle and says: “my brother is very sick.” The Chevalier replies flippantly: “Well I always said you’d make a marvellous king.” “SHHHHHH! Stop.” commands Philippe. The look on the Chevalier’s face. It’s serious. He’s gravely ill. “And if he were to die…. it might be possible… that I be Regent.” Of course, the Chevalier had no idea and of course, Philippe demands his silence. “Not a word. To anyone. This is a testing time. But I know with you by my side, I can overcome anything.” “Yes. Of course,” answers the Chevalier, and oh, my dear thing, Philippe looks so relieved that he doesn’t have to carry the burden himself. Off the Chevalier goes for a walk, Philippe needs to think but then remembers something…. he asks: “What did you mean when you said ‘a great tide is stirring’?” “Did I say that? Must’ve still been drunk.” replies the Chevalier.
Okay, this. I have been going over this in my head, trying to work out why the Chevalier would keep the masked man’s appearance from Philippe. Because historical Chevalier would have most likely used that to his advantage, maybe told the king, possibly played double agent to gain information then have the bad guys thrown in jail. But we see him going from ‘OMG I have to tell you something!’ to ‘huh. must’ve been drunk.’ So what changed? Well…. mainly, Louis is now apparently at death’s door. Is there any need for the Chevalier to tell Philippe….what, exactly? He really doesn’t have a lot of info to go on. And it looks like the bad guys may get what they want anyway, without a rebellion or a rising up of the masses. So maybe the Chevalier is going to see what happens, maybe see what he can find out. Maybe he doesn’t want to burden Philippe with more issues. There really is a multitude of things he could be thinking right now. But whatever the reason, I still yell, “Nooooo! JUST TELL HIM!” every time I see this scene 😥 😥
Anyway. We are back with Claudine, still unconscious on the floor, and Masson in the next room, downing the vial’s contents. This will only ends in tears, you can see it. But you know, I kinda don’t feel sorry for him (well maybe just a little – poison is a harsh way to go). And there we go, the poison does its thing, he crawls over to Claudine… for help, I’m assuming? Bit late now to be showing your faith when you hated on her.
So Bontemps comes along, wanting to know where Claudine is with the remedy, Claudine wakes up and is distraught, asks Bontemps for help, says he is dying, he will perish. You can see the conflict on poor Bontemps’ face when he says: “As will your king. Save your father or save France. The choice is yours.” God, what a choice to make… and what a choice to give someone.
She choses the king.
They return to the palace, but Louis is not in his bed. Bontemps finally finds Louis in the Atrium (or observatory… Not sure) in his nightshirt, in a trance and performing a dance, being watched by curious courtiers from the door and windows. This is such a tender scene here, with the father/son relationship really showing through as Bontemps orders the doors and shutters closed, then tries to talk Louis through a delirium and back to bed, the emotion so clear on his face. Louis says he has created a new dance, he demands his whole court learn it, he imagines it performed in a garden, an orangery. He demands Bontemps dance with him, then… I admit I cried here. Louis turns to his most trusted valet and says: “you are a man of quality, Bontemps. But I do not trust you. I do not trust you at all!” And Bontemps….. you can see him just break down a little, he pleads with him, his voice shaky: “Your Majesty, please…” And Louis goes a little crazy, running to all the guarded doors, calling out for his gardener, Jacques, screaming “they mean to kill me!” Lord. Such a powerful scene. It was simultaneously awful and yet magnificent. George Blagden runs rings around any Louis XIV I have ever seen with this one scene. And Bontemps holds him as Louis finally goes into a fever, mumbling “my gardener will know what to do.”
Now Louis is back in bed and Claudine is tending him, saying his fever grows stronger, when Jacques is brought before him. Louis weakly asks Jacques to tell him a story about his father. And Jacques tells of an emissary from Japan, bringing an ancient text (The Art of War, which is still in print today) for Louis’ father. He quotes: “Appear weak when you are strong. And strong when you are weak.” Louis goes into a coughing fit and Jacques is ordered out. Suddenly the priests are ushered in through the gathering courtiers outside, and Louis is given his last rites.
We cut to de Clermont, who is writing on parchment, dirtying it up to appear as if it is old, then uses the royal seal. She will have her papers any way she can, even forging them. She then goes to Colbert (who has set up a desk outside Louis’ bedchamber) and presents him with the papers. Philippe enters, gives her a look (does he not trust her, I wonder?) on his way to Louis. Unimpressed with Claudine attending him, he says Louis should be in Paris, he will take him there himself in his own carriage, an hour at the most. Of course, Louis cannot be moved. “it will kill him,” says the Queen. “It is this palace that is killing him,” Philippe replies. Such an angry bundle of rage, he is. Poor thing.
Now we are with the Duc de Cassel, in his dingy little room, bundled in a blanket and reading through glasses as the roof leaks. Another note appears under his door.
Back to Marchal, and his assistant rushes in with a secret note she found in one of the pockets. he deciphers it and off he goes to a ‘meeting’. Of course, it’s a massive red herring and the real meeting is elsewhere, with Cassel, Montcourt and the Chevalier all summoned by de Clermont and her band of men. It’s interesting the way she looks at this moment, in a plain dress, no makeup, her hair scraped back. Totally means business. And the Chevalier looks so surprised his cousin is behind it all…. when she goes into her spiel to rally the troops, talking about powerful allies and the need to strike soon, the look on his face is frankly stunned. You can see his mind working through the scenario, wondering what to do, who to tell. When de Clermont says they have support from the Dutch, that William of Orange will aid them with money and material, influence, arms, the Chevalier has finally heard enough. His departure, however, is stopped by an angry de Clermont, telling him to go to Paris and canvas his supporters. Again, the Chevalier just seems quite stunned by it all. Rather like a kid in the playground, forced by the school bully into doing something he doesn’t want to do. You can see the “DO NOT WANT” written all over his face.
Now it’s night and we are back in Louis’ bedroom, Bontemps asleep, Claudine asleep… and the dawn breaks, the sun spears through the shutters and straight onto a sleeping Louis. Symbolism at its best, with glorious Apollo shining bright on the Sun King. Louis wakes, the fever has broken. And tells Bontemps no one must be informed, not even Philippe. Louis has some kind of plan.
The King’s Circle meets again. Everyone watches Philippe. The issue of Regent remains. Philippe looks so very sad, I want to cry when he says: “will no one vouch for me?” Colbert replies: “’tis not you who lack merit, your Highness. Our concerns lie instead on those who place themselves around you.” AHHHHH. The penny drops for Philippe and he leans in, says dryly: “Why don’t you just say his name?” The Queen interjects: “We need someone whose behaviour is more becoming of a monarch. Someone who is his own man.” Ouch. The look she gives Philippe… .the look he gives her back. Tension. Now Philippe knows who is on his side: no one. Bontemps (remember he is the only one there who knows Louis is well) adds he thinks her Majesty and Colbert would ensure a resilient transition. Furious, Philippe stands, gives everyone such the death stare…. I was so angry and upset for him! Then he pauses, smiles bittersweetly, then silently leaves.
Now we are back in Philippe’s rooms and the Chevalier is packing. “All this rumour makes a man giddy. I’m going to Paris for a few days to… ungiddy myself.” (NOOOOOO! Don’t leave Philippe!) Philippe says quietly: “You told me you thought I would make a great king.” The Chevalier replies casually: “And you would.” Philippe, quite a bit more angry: “This is not idle chat. What are you up to?” Silence. “You made a vow to me.” The Chevalier: “And I kept it.” Philippe (Lordy, he sounds so vulnerable here, just like in Episode 1): “Then be truthful in return.” In quiet deliberation, a stern look on his face, the Chevalier strides to him: “Have you been hiding under a rock these past few months? We are on the verge of great change. There are whispers, growing louder every day. The people are tired of the way things are. They wish to see a change. One that would not deny the monarchy but rather share in its burden. You can see it in your brother, even now. One man cannot rule the land. He’s drowning in it. And you are the man to save him.” Philippe replies quietly, almost scared: “You tread a dangerous path.” The Chevalier: “I say the only danger is smelling smoke and not acknowledging a fire is burning.” Philippe: “you side with the nobles?” The Chevalier, tightly: “I side with you. Just as the soldiers side with you.” He pauses, then asks: “would you side with me?” …..the look on Philippe’s face OMG. So emotional, so torn. He swallows and his answer is a bare whisper, like he is holding back tears: “You cannot know what you are asking.” The Chevalier replies shortly: “I know exactly what I am asking.” Philippe says quietly: “Until death forces my hand, I cannot answer.” The Chevalier…. the look! AAAAGGGH. “Very well. But know this. Our future has changed. No matter what happens now.” And he turns on his heel and storms out.
We are back with Louis, who demands his tailor for new clothes, hands Bontemps ‘the only message he wishes to convey’ to his court. Dance steps. Bontemps presents instructions to the King’s Circle, faking the fact that Louis is still unwell, tells them they need to all learn this new dance, that the King wished it so ‘in his moments of peace’. They’re all a bit stunned and I don’t blame them.
Now we are back with Claudine, who is performing an autopsy on her father (!) to find the cause of death… and she is crying the whole time. Poor thing.
Back to Louis’ bedchambers where Claudine arrives. “Your sacrifice will not be forgotten,” Louis says and offers her the position of chief physician. He is making a bold decision here, appointing a female. But she has proven herself, curing first the Queen, then providing skill and knowledge, and now, saving Louis from certain death. He asks if she accepts, and warns her that her life as she knows it will change forever. Of course she accepts.
Now we are in church, with Marchal’s assistant watching Cassel approach de Clermont. De Clermont tells Cassel the Chevalier rides to Paris, to a gathering of nobles. Off the assistant goes to de Clermont’s rooms, searching through drawers and papers, finding the royal seal. Sophie interrupts and she spins a yarn, escapes quickly.
Louis has Louise brought to him, grants her leave to enter a convent. It seems his near death experience has given him a change of heart about a lot of things.
Sophie tells her mother about the woman in her room…. Then we see the assistant with Marchal, tells him what she’s found out, and they figure out a number of new nobles are talking, leaving for Paris… the Chevalier included. Marchal suspects something, leaves in haste before she can show him the seal.
Then we cut to the scene that caused me the most distress. (Ironically these are either Philippe/Louis or Philippe/Chevalier scenes!) Philippe is praying rather emotionally for his brother (remember, most are still unaware of Louis’ health). Then Louis himself walks in. Philippe looks up, turns… and the look of joy on his face is such a delight. He is genuinely happy to see his brother well and I just want to cry, because I suspect what is going to happen next. “My God,” Philippe breathes. “I was told you were dying.” Louis casually replies: “I was. Then I recovered.” Confused, Philippe says: “You did not think to tell me?” Of course Louis told no one. “Why would you do that?” Philippe questions. Louis, calmly: “So I might see who it is upon whom I can truly depend.” Philippe, in a small voice: “you did not include me.” Louis confirms it: “I did not.” (That look, Philippe, baby, OMG!!) “You do not trust your own brother, then?” And Louis replies tightly: “I do not trust the company he keeps.” With a shaky intake of breath, Philippe says: “The Chevalier may seem blithe and glib, but he has a backbone, truly, brother. I only wish you saw what I do. He is a man of honour.” And Louis deals this first blow: “You are blind to his failings, and dumb to his faults…. a conspiracy in Paris has been uncovered. The nobles plotting against me as I lay in my fever bed. The Chevalier is a ring leader. All of them will be arrested.” Philippe won’t hear it: “he’s not a conspirator.” Louis replies, dealing the final blow: “Very true. He’s a traitor. And will be treated as such.” Then Louis leaves.
And Philippe, poor baby Philippe…. he loses it. His face slowly crumples when he realises just exactly what that means, his expression going from one of disbelief, to horror as he sinks to the floor, weeping if his heart has been wrenched from his very chest.
I CRY AGAIN. DAMN YOU, LOUIS.
And now we are in Paris, watching Marchal collect the Chevalier from a tavern…. and then he is thrown into prison. Still defiant, he stands and declares angrily: “The Duc d’Orleans will have your head for this! I can assure you of that.” Marchal punches him in the face and tosses a piece of paper at him: his death warrant by
drawn and quartering. I had an actual real French person translate the warrant and it reads: “Louis, the God given one, King of France and of Navarre, orders the named Chevalier to be taken to the Castle of la Bastille, to be held and sentenced to death by hanging. Done at Versailles on January 13th, 1669” So, hanging it is. (Incorrect titles and addressing of the Chevalier aside – though kudos for using Louis’ actual signature, prop people!)
We are back with Marchal’s assistant doing laundry, and de Clermont sneaks up and strangles her with a length of ribbon, spits on her and whispers viciously: “burn in hell you Catholic c*^t.” Next we see her eat… something that I realise now is charcoal. She is in Marchal’s bed, offering him a ‘love potion’. She takes a swing, offers him some and off they go like rabbits. And I am screaming at the screen, yelling NOOOOO! I thought Marchal was so much smarter than that! He most def. had his suspicions about her. Then we cut to her quickly leaving, then forcing herself to vomit up what is obviously poison.
Louis has everyone assembled in a salon, the music starts… and he appears like a golden glowing sun god he is. Historically, Louis was quite the accomplished dancer, he composed ballets and dances designed to show off his prowess and skill, brought the Académie Française under his patronage, founded the Académie Royale de Danse and the Académie d’Opéra. He encouraged literature and writers such as Moliére and Racine, funded and commissioned now-famous artists such as Le Brun, Mignard and Rigaud. Music flourished with Lully, who is generally acknowledged as the grandfather of baroque music. Louis’ plan was also to keep his courtiers so occupied learning steps and dances and trying to win his favour that there wouldn’t be any time left for them to plot and scheme. More on this in another episode, because it’s quite brilliant, really.
So we have Philippe sobbing his poor heart out in the chapel. The Chevalier is cold and bleeding in a cell, preparing for certain death of the most horrific kind. Marchal has poison coursing through his veins right about now. And Louis dances. Louis in his golden finery, commanding the oohs and ahhs of his subjects, the Sun King who has demanded everyone learn the new steps to a dance which they eventually fall into with grace and style and dedication.
The juxtaposition of these scenes is almost obscene. Superbly done.
And still Louis dances. Everyone dances. Like a homage, a worship to the great Louis Le Grand, who has overcome death itself to shine once more on his subjects.
Now we see Louise in a church, her hair shorn in preparation for her vows and with such a look of gratitude on her face. Louis is stoic but the death grip on his cane gives him away. Furious? Anguished? Or just majorly pissed off Louise wanted to leave him before he could send her away? Interspersed with this scene is one with the Chevalier in his cell… *sobs* and the sounds of a prisoner enduring a drawing outside, his horrific screams rending the air, and our dear Chevalier shaking and covering his ears, desperate to block out the sounds of the man’s most excruciating death.
Finally Louis has had enough – he turns and strides out of the church, the Queen following in his wake.
And there ends Episode Seven.
Such an emotional ride… but wait! Episode Eight is much, much more. Stay tuned.