Versailles Series 2, episode 1 – The one where it’s all in French

Oui. As I watched the first two eps of Versailles in the early hours of 28th March and cursed my 13yo self for not paying attention in French class, I suddenly realised I could still write the review because a) I kind of know the story and a few words of French, and b) the actors are so expressive, it is easy for me to interpret mood.  And clearly, waiting until mid April for my DVDs is just NOT ON.

So here we go. Some scenes may be out of order, and I can only give my best guess as to what they are saying (this is a tragedy because I live for the dialogue in this show!) and some names I do not know. Also SPOILERY MCSPOILFACE. E-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.   Now I’ve warned you…. *correction: I have amended some things in red.

We open with Louis in his nightdress in the snow. He is being driven by voices and it sounds like Henriette. He enters a freezing lake in the gardens and we see Bontemps following with guards in the dark. He enters the lake after his King, wraps his coat around him and says lots of soothing French words. It is clear Louis is distraught and still grieving Henriette’s death on some level.

Next scene… Marchal is storming through some woods, as we see Rohan hiding with a pistol, looking a bit rough and quite a lot attractive. Marshal is with guards and we hear one yell “the Dauphin!” Marchal charges into the shack… Omg there he is. Four years later, is it? That’s what we were told by the series people. The dauphin looks it, too. So yay! Rescue! Marchal says “I am Fabien Marchal” and I am torn because sexy French voice but also not Tygh Runyan’s which is delishus, droll and totally makes Marchal who he is. You can see my dilemma.

Now we cut to Louis William of Orange who is asking about Rohan and also where everyone is, and this is a good method of orienting the viewer from season one and bringing them up to speed. We see flashes of scenes – Philippe in bed with sleeping naked boys, Rohan in jail. Everyone at Versailles being controlled by etiquette and a pregnant Montespan as the favourite. Louis is reunited with his son the dauphin, and he looks emotional but not overly so but I am sure there was more to that scene than I remember. I think this was the moment I decided to start making notes. Stupid scant notes. We learn the chevalier de Lorraine is in exile (why and where, I do not know) :cries:

We are now with Montespan in a carriage…. aaaaaand that’s all I have on that, so obvs not that exciting? *they are off to Paris, to a play by a rather talented Thomas Beaumont (Mark Rendall). They talk of Louis acquiring a historian, to chronicle his life. 

Back in Versailles, with Louis’ council, and we see Louvois and Colbert (yay!) My notes say here ‘blood poison’ and I think this is the scene where they are all eating then one of the ministers suddenly vomits blood all over the documents. *his name is de Reynard and he was Minister for Justice.

Now to a play in some makeshift opera because the actual Opera at Versailles did not commence construction until Louis XV’s time. I am not sure which play they are watching…. I am assuming Molière. He is looking well and young for a man who should be 48 years old in 1670 and was already ill. But forget that because OMG chairs with arms for Montespan NONONOooo! *head asplodes* Marchal strides in, whispers ‘poison’ in Louis’ ear and Louis delicately spits out the macaron and swiftly leaves. *Not Molière, but the new Thomas Beaumont dude.

Another scene as Louis storms back to Versailles and rants about William of Orange. Much talk of poisoning of wells, taking his son, his sleep, his peace and his minister. He goes to Rohan and demands if the Dutch paid him when he fought for France. Rohan says pretty much everyone hates Louis. And there is the mention of an eclipse and when Rohan’s fate will be decided *historical note: there was actually an eclipse in 1670.

There is now a scene with Montespan and Louis and a full frontal shot of Montespan in glorious pregnancy. Hats off to the make up team. *He tells her not to eat the food, that there is poison about, and summons Bontemps to organising checking of the food. There is discussion about who will be Philippe’s next bride… nooooo! (but also, yes 🙂 ) 

Woo! Finally we see Claudine and Marchal, and they are having a chat. Most likely about poison… I hear the word ‘aphrodisiac’ and I wonder if Claudine is trolling Marchal for his stupidity in S1. I hope so.

Next scene – a discussion between Colbert, Marchal and Louvois. Much French, not clear what it’s about. Most likely war stuff. *they talk about the dead minister and who would benefit from his death. We learn that he acquired a lot of Cassel’s lands and his wife is much younger than him. Obvs, this means she is totally a suspect. 

Marchal then interviews a woman, and she could either be a) a suspect or b) a potential to fill the role of Lauren, Marchal’s departed assistant/personal stalker from S1.  *the woman is Madame de Reynard (Crystal Shepherd-Cross), the wife of the poisoned minister. Marchal already has Sophie to fill Lauren’s role, remember? UGH. Oui. I remember.

The Queen has a major issue about something and I would bet money it’s about Montespan. I guess your husband shagging his pregnant mistress would put anyone in a bad mood. Louis sounds like he’s flattering/placating her… and then Montespan walks in and God, Louis is a bit of a shit, with his queen and his pregnant mistress in the same room. And Montespan delivers her (French) lines so elegantly, it is clear she is borderline rude, confident in her position as maîtresseentitre. Servants suddenly walk in with a lovely table, adorned with portraits, and they all discuss them, Bontemps included. It wasn’t clear to me that this was anything more than an interior decorating crisis until much later. The portraits were of eligible women and they were all discussing Philippe’s bride-to-be. While Philippe, bless him, is at home, happily (kind of) shagging and doing debauched things. Ugh. But that’s the way it was – if you were a prince of France, the king could decide who you married. It wasn’t about love: it was about power and gaining wealth and alliances. Bontemps sounds diplomatic, as he always does.

Now there is a new council meeting, and a new dude with curly hair and no moustache… I think he could possibly be called Gaston? *Yes. Yes, he is, played by Harry Hadden-Paton.

Meanwhile, Marchal is on the search for something and does a Louis-walk in to the duc de Cassel’s tiny broom cupboard. Oh, look. He has a rat in a cage. I would love to know what they are saying… clearly, is it not Cassel saying “behold, look at my magnificent rat.” *you know, it kinda was.

We are back to the table and the portraits and there is some argument, with Louis picking out one (which I am assuming is Liselotte) then striding out in anger.  Ahhhh. Liselotte. Or Elisabeth Charlotte von der Pfalz, Princesse Palatine. Philippe’s real-life second wife. We will get to her later. Or you can read about her here.  *Louis is such a manipulator, letting both the Queen and Montespan think they have convinced him which woman Philippe is to marry, when all along, he wanted Liselotte. 

We see the new dude again (I am gonna call him Gaston until I know better) YES, GASTON and he is at the gaming tables. There is Cassel, we see Sophie drifting about and talking to women (remember she is now Marchal’s spy).

I has the major heart eyes for you, Marchal….

Sophie and Marchal have a discussion and I like to think it goes something like: Marchal “you look very nice. Come and admire Cassel’s rat.” But I could be mistaken.

Now we see Philippe at the empty opera with his mignons, and he slams his walking stick on the floor, summoning Molière Thomas. Another man appears and says stuff Philippe does not want to hear, because Philippe flies into a rage, throwing and breaking the armchair because it is obvs he is as disturbed about the incorrect protocol as I am, with lesser nobles parking their derrières on a chair with ARMS. *rage face* Sames, Philippe. Sames. *Philippe wanted Thomas to join his troupe, but the man said Le Roi had commanded him to Versailles. I like my chair rage theory better, tbh. 

Oh, now we see another new dude FFS. THOMAS. You are so bad with names! enter the golden gates of Versailles which is funny, because servants were not allowed in the front, but hey.  It is clear he has a story to tell and he is quite cute and has a nice looking moustache so I shall call him Mo until I know his real name.*T-H-O-M-A-S.  He is ushered in to see Louis.

There is a science dude now, talking about science things in a darkened room with mirrors all around and at first I thought it was Cassini, but I doubt it because he starts flicking some mirrors, aligning then with a beam of sunlight and everything is not so innocent. Bontemps surreptitiously shuffles behind Louvois, out of the path.  A piece of driftwood is burned to a crisp from the mirrors’ reflections. Everyone looks impressed.  Then Montespan sails in, straight over to Louis, looking all regal and smug and she appears to be quite the bossy boots, asking/demanding Bontemps to order her some more soap.And from her attitude, it is clear she feels she has a certain amount of power and influence. wtf, lady. Everyone knows you don’t treat the servants like that because it will only end badly. But anyways, she wants Louis to attend a fortune teller. Some of the men share a look…. then Louis tells Bontemps to “give her what she wants.”

We see a small antechambre now, adorned with familiar portraits, and a hooded, cloaked woman who I am informed is Madame Agathe (Suzanne Clément). Montespan enters the room and goes over to Agathe and it is clear they are friendly acquaintances, with Agathe probably going “oh, Athenäis, you have done so well for yourself” but then there is pregnant belly rubs and Montespan appears to be a bit aggro. Louis appears and it looks like Agathe is a fortune teller. Louis sits in an armchair and Montespan gets a stool (finally!) and there is mucho ominous music playing as cards are turned. We hear the word “impossible” and damn, I have never wanted to hear a fortune so much since the time I was sixteen and Madame Zelda told me she could ‘see’ me on a stage and talking to a massive crowd of people. What does it all mean? What is Agathe saying? What do the cards foretell? Something very, very bad because Louis becomes mucho shitty and storms to the door. Agathe, stupid woman who has no idea how to address a king, shouts ominous things and Louis grabs her face, shoving her backwards, then strides off. Bontemps awaits…. what does this meeeeeean???

We are back with Marchal, in his office, at his desk and it is lovely seeing the man work. He takes out what appears to be a locket and dips a bit of rat noms in it, then drops it into the cage. It appears he is unimpressed with Cassel’s magnificent rat. The woman Madame de Reynard walks in and I am still thinking this could be Lauren Version II *NO! but whatever they discuss she doesn’t believe him and reaches for a pinch of the locket poison but before she can eat it, Marchal knocks the powder away and is all, “behold. Cassel’s magnificent rat. now dead.” Poor rat. Cassel didn’t deserve the creature.

Oooh, now we are in a glorious bathing room, with a Roman-style sunken bath, all lovely tiles and foliage around. Montespan is wallowing, Louis walks in and there is some chit chat but wha-hey there is undressing and smexy times.

Another scene with Marchal and Sophie, much talking and Sophie looking lovely. Can Marchal not see that? An aphrodisiac is mentioned again and damn, everyone just seems to be trolling poor Marchal for that one stupid lapse in judgement four years ago.

Marriage? errrr…..non.

Montespan and Louis are now wallowing in the bath together and we hear the mention of Philippe and Versailles.

Somehow I don’t think Philippe is pleased with the offer

Montespan then goes to see Philippe at Saint Cloud (ahhhh! The role of Saint Cloud will be played by the very talented Vaux le Vicomte). They exchange words and Philippe is condescending, flippant and sarcastic. So, normal then. Pretty sure Philippe asks where everyone is, and Montespan says “Versailles”. What is Montespan negotiating now? Sweetening the marriage deal for him? Will the Chevalier be returned to him? Okay, so I was told later that Montespan offered Philippe a deal – marriage, return to Versailles and you can have your chevalier back. One guess as to what he chose. *Louis commanded all of Philippe’s friends to Versailles. What a bitch. Can he not pay for some friends of his own without taking Philippe’s?

I will enjoy this sandwich you feed me, Sire.

Now we are back at Versailles, in the salons, where gambling and gossip is happening. We see both the new dudes, Gaston and the Mo guy. Thomas.  Louis is announced. Cassel performs this truly horrific smirk, like he’s just been told he must eat a shit sandwich and pretend to like it. Louis touches Gaston on the shoulder – a telling sign, indicating his favour – then leaves.

Now we see Marchal in the multi-mirror room. A man kneels on the floor, *this is Rohan and I cannot believe I didn’t recognise him. But in my defence he is bloody and bound, some kind of metal contraption on his head which forces his eyes open. Oh.

This is bad.

Marchal does his monologue and I cries because French accent is dubbed over the smexy Marchal drawl. The camera goes to Louis who appears to be on the other side of the door, *Nup, he is inside the room, observing everything his face a mask. Marchal turns the huge mirror. Louis’ expression is still blank. The sun starts to burn out the man’s eyes. Louis does not flinch at the sound of the terrible screaming.

Now we are with Montespan and Agathe again. Did…. did Montespan spit on the floor by her feet? Then Agathe speaks and whatever it is, it seems to put the fear of God up Montespan. She looks worried. Agathe does a familiar “oh, my poor dear, I am here to help you” thing and offers Montespan a vial.

This is not good. But I expected that.

Another Council meeting. Louis enters and we see the new dude Gaston, very clearly assuming he will be offered some kind of favour or position…. the word ‘Justice’ is mentioned so I am thinking Justice Minister. Which goes to (drumroll)………………….. Cassel.

Yep. Fucking Cassel. And Gaston is MEGA PISSED OFF and I am totally with him on that.

Now we cut to the courtyard with Marchal, the man with the Burnt Out Eyes Rohan and Cassel, wearing a natty white collar that kind of suits him in an evil, puritanical “stop doing everything enjoyable, it’s a SIN!” kind of way. This scene is intercut with a group shot, with Louvois, Colbert, the Queen, Louis XIV et al, wearing cool John Lennon sunglasses with long handles, like opera specs, staring at what I assume is either the sun or an eclipse (there was one recorded in 1670). Marchal lifts his sword and, on Cassel’s nod, beheads Burnie Eyes. Rohan.

Cut back to Louis, who slowly smiles.

Aaaaaand end of episode 1.

So, I have questions. Why does Cassel now have an important role in Louis’ ministry? Easy – to keep him close. Give him a task, so he won’t have time to plot against the king. And frankly, if you had Marchal looking over your shoulder every day, you would want to stay out of trouble, wouldn’t you? *I also have another theory on this and it could be twofold: 1. To deliberately piss off Gaston – because when Louis calls for a blessing from Bossuet, everyone bows their head, then he glances over to Gaston and smiles to himself at the man’s furious countenance. And 2 – as a mind trip for Rohan, a last small dig at his enemy, because Cassel (as Justice Minister) is present at Rohan’s beheading, he even speaks to him. A final poke at the open wound before Rohan meets his maker. Also, as a subtle warning to Cassel, a “look, but for the grace of God” thing.

Why is the Chevalier banished? Historically, he was already in Italy at this time, after being released from d’If AFTER being arrested in Monsieur’s apartments for gossiping about ‘state secrets’ i.e. Henriette’s Dover jaunt to organise the treaty with England.

Oddly, I didn’t mind watching the show this way, without the dialogue to guide each scene. It made me pay attention to the gestures and facial expressions much more, plus I was more aware of the mood music.  Still, I missed all those lovely Philippe lines and I cannot wait to get my DVDs so I can hear it properly!

27 thoughts on “Versailles Series 2, episode 1 – The one where it’s all in French

  1. silke_chan

    The man with the burned eyes, was he not Roan?
    I’m not French, I’m Italian, but I think I can help in the understanding of some scenes, If you have some doubt, please just ask me 🙂

  2. P^2


    Thanks a big bunch for posting this. I’ve been dying for somebody to post SOMETHING on the new season. I absolutely love your reviews- your commentary is insightful and frequently hilarious. I also thought your theory that Philippe & Henriette’s many stillborn births could have been be due to syphilis was brilliant. You are probably right about that. I had never considered it.

    I (like you) have done a lot of reading on the actual historical figures. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what Philippe’s relationship with the Chevalier was really like. There is a lot of conflicting information, and much of it lacking in detail. In some references it is portrayed as a grand romance, and in many others it seems very one sided.

    On the one hand, there is the adorable little story about Philippe personally nursing the wounded Chevalier back to health on the battlefield, which I believe wholeheartedly, as well as the story about how Philippe pitched a monumental fit and screamed and cried (literally) until Louis gave him his beloved Chevalier back after he was exiled to Rome. (I can picture him stomping around in his frills, ribbons and high heels until he wore his brother down pretty darned clearly. Go, Philippe!)

    On the other hand, Liselotte in her letters talks about the Chevalier and his mistress living at St. Cloud. Why would the Chevalier bring a mistress if he was in love with Philippe who did not fancy women? I can see keeping her on the side, but in his lover’s home? She also mentioned that Philippe eventually distanced himself from the Chevalier because he felt he was being used for personal gain. Liselotte stated at one point that she believed that Monsieur was never actually in love with anyone during his lifetime. (If I remember correctly, all of this was after Monsieur’s death.) She never made any reference to the Chevalier as being anything other than one of several favorites. The Marquis d’Effiat is mentioned at least as often as is the Chevalier, and it was d’Effiat that Philippe wanted to install as mentor to his son. (Liselotte was positively apoplectic over that one because of his well-known desire for young boys and reputation for debauchery above and beyond the call of duty. She went to Louis to stop it despite Philippe’s claims that d’Effiat had reformed years before.) Interesting tidbits to be sure. However, you of course have to read her letters with the appropriate filters because she was Monsieur’s wife and she obviously did not want to embarrass either Monsieur or herself. (Her letters are great, especially when she goes off on Madame de Maintenon. She calls that woman a different name in every letter, sometimes several. If you haven’t read them yet, you should.)

    Since as you have pointed out previously, marriages among the aristocracy were arranged, most people had lovers on the side and as long as they were discreet, the spouse generally looked the other way. However, it seems that this was not just restricted to marriage, but included relationships in general (at least for the men). Both Philippe and the Chevalier apparently had quite a few lovers. It has been stated by many that the Chevalier actually preferred women, while Philippe definitely preferred men, and that if it weren’t for Philippe, the Chevalier would have been financially destitute (he supposedly died penniless). They were also, according to Liselotte and others, “on and off” over the years, and not just when the Chevalier was in exile (probably not to be unexpected over 50 years- I’m sure they had their blow-outs like the rest of us). I think the Chevalier was probably special, but Philippe seemed to get on just fine without him.

    So,while I am fairly certain that there was a deeper emotional attachment on the part of Philippe, for the Chevalier I definitely think it could have definitely been more like a “friend with benefits” deal. The Chevalier has been described as, rude, crude, ruthless, manipulative and greedy as a vulture. Philippe has often been described as gullible and weak, but I don’t see him that way at all. I see Philippe as more of a cheerful,loveable little chatterbox who chose to see the best in people and fell in love with a handsome scoundrel. (How many people do we know who have done that? What is it about bad boys that makes them so attractive?????) He was no saint himself – I’ve read some not-so-nice things as well- but who is? It probably would have been fun to know him!

    I understand the argument that their relationship went on about 50 years, but frankly, people will go to ridiculous lengths to keep that flow of money going, and Philippe was lavish with it. Keeping a lover for 50 years, especially if you are not exclusive, is simply a business overhead expense to some. (Trust me on this. I’m from New Jersey. If you know anything about New Jersey, no further explanation is required.)

    The more I read, the more I am coming to this conclusion, which disappoints me to no end. Philippe deserved better. I’d be interested to know if you are seeing what I am seeing during your ongoing excavation of the historical files. Sorry for the long post, but this has been stewing for a while, at least since the end of Season 1.

    Thanks for reading. I eagerly look forward to your next post!

    1. JulesHarper Post author

      Hi and thanks for your comment! The problem historians always have, IMO, is that facts are often coloured by the politics of the writer. Historical accounts are written by the victors. Diaries are written by people who have grudges and likes and dislikes. Saint-Simon, for example, really loathed the Lorraine family and his accounts (written long after the events) coloured his writing. And Madame Chevreuse, surintendante of Anne of Austria’s household, adored her mistress, so I highly doubt any of her letters and diaries would contain anything negative about the queen. Even Madame de Montespan’s diaries are influenced with the gossip du jour: she declares the Chevalier de Lorraine poisoned ‘poor Henrietta’ and everyone knew it 🙁

      As to why Lorraine would bring a mistress into Monsieur’s household…. after reading many accounts and many takes on their relationship, I do think some of it was based on control. Monsieur was known to be incredibly jealous and after an argument, Lorraine’s modus operandi was to go out and shag a woman as revenge. So this mistress could have been for show, or to use as a stick with which to poke Monsieur. Monsieur’s anger could be explosive and sudden, and I expect they had a lot of screaming and dramatic rows. In many ways, Monsieur was a child, with a child’s penchant for joy and anger and fascination with things (bells and jewels and pretty geegaws). I feel incredibly sad for him and the position he was constantly put in, and also knowing he was beaten often as a child just makes my heart break. But in many ways Lorraine did make him happy and he had more freedom to express his sexuality than most people of the time. At one stage, they stopped sleeping with each other and became more like companions (like Pompadour and Louis XV did later in life) and Lorraine performed a ‘procurement’ service to find Monsieur bed partners… but I prefer not to think about the sordidness that path would lead me down 🙁

      1. elisabetta

        Hi, finally I’m just now reading all your reviews (I picked them up at times but never read them in all their extent) and I’m enjoying them very much, mostly because they help me to clear up some point of the show which I find a little unclear.
        I have some question, though, about something you point out here:
        – Which diaries of Madame de Montespan are you referring to? As far as I know, no diary of Madame de Montespan exists, actually her letters seems also very rare (I’m speacking about original documents, of course).

        – I don’t think we need to feel sad for Monsieur because he was beaten as a child: he was beaten like every other child back then and the governors had the right to beat princes until they were ten years old. Louis XIV was beaten as well, probably no more and no less thant his brother, and I guess no one feels sorry for him. So, I don’t understand your point…I actually don’t understand all this pity people seems to feel for Monsieur here (well, if we look at the show, I can understand, but regarding the historical figure I can’t).

        1. JulesHarper Post author

          Hi Elisabetta. I am sure if we got ten people together and asked them how they feel about Monsieur, we would get ten different answers. And that is the beauty, complexity and yes, the frustration of being individuals. Sorry you feel confused about me being sad that a child was beaten: I also feel sad and angry about women who were abused, prisoners who were tortured and the horrors of the Revolution, too. People who inflict pain and suffering upon others always pushes my buttons, regardless if it was yesterday or centuries ago. Telling me I should not feel that way won’t change the fact that I do, sorry.

          As to the Montespan diaries, I have a rather slim POD book titled “Memoirs of Madame La Marquise de Montespan: Being the Historic Memoirs of the Court of Louis XIV” that I thought were her complete ‘memoirs’ (the entire volume is over 400p) but it appears I was ripped off 🙁

          1. elisabetta

            Hello, thanks for your answer.
            I agree with you about the ten different opinions about Philippe of Orleans, everyone is entitled to their own feelings. On the other hand, I think we should be well aware that every psychological assumption about him is pure speculation. For what matters, I highly disapprove historians adopting psychological approaches to historical figures, which tell us much more about the wishful thinkings and culture of their authors than about life and thoughts of people they’re writing of. Monsieur had been “psychoanalized” so heavily, starting from Saint Simon to his modern biographers, that I feel they have just created a figure which actually never existed. And the way his character is written in the series only confirmed my feelings.

            As for the diaries of Madame de Montespan, I guess I know now which book we’re talking of. I feel relieved actually, because I had read some mentions of that book here and there on line, and I was starting to wonder if I was missing something 😉

  3. Mary-Anne Bourke

    Wow Jules!!! Great to read you again. I like you also failed to pay more attention at school re French lessons!!

    Mme. de Reynard?? This character is clearly the link into the poisons affair. The head of police who was responsible for investigating the rise in deaths from poisoning mainly in Paris wasNicholas Gabriel de La Reynie (similar name???)

    Nancy Mitford. In The Sun King gives him a huge wrap for work he undertook during his 30 years in office to take Paris from a ‘filthy medieval town, a cesspool of vice and left the best administrative city in the world’. He took up the support of beggars, abandoned babies and children, and after the revocation of the treaty of Nantes, saved and protected Protestants. Instead of being loathed as most police were he was universally admired.

    Total digression!!

    Liselotte of the Palantine is another great woman of Versailles. I get the sense that she would stand up to Louis, within reason, and was very protective of her children especially Phillip, Duc de Chartres.

    Looking forward to your additional posts.



    1. JulesHarper Post author

      Yes, Reynie is someone we do not hear about in the series, though it is clear Fabien Marchal is based on him. He was responsible for pretty much cleaning up Paris, both literally and figuratively. I have read a lot about him for research and pleasure and am currently making my way through Holly Tucker’s new book about Reynie and his role in the Affair of the Poisons.
      As for Liselotte, you will see more of her personality in the next few eps. Historically, Louis was quite fond of her, because she enjoyed riding and hunting as he did, and she was not afraid to speak her mind.
      Merci for reading!

  4. Paulette Young

    I love these discussions and you are absolutely right that the prejudices and perspectives of some of the contemporaries and diarists put a negative spin, especially on the Chevalier de Lorraine. As it is always said, consider the source and what would motivate that source to either over praise or condemn an individual. I’m a romantic so I look upon the fact that the Monsieur and the Chevalier de Lorraine sustained a relationship for over three decades until their deaths. That says more to me of essence of their lives together than the gossip that continued to put them down. Since sodomites were looked upon as murderers, poisoners and believed to do anything that could be construed as wicked or evil, it is no wonder the Chevalier de Lorraine and Monsieur didn’t get good press. I’ve been reading more on these two and playing detective as I piece together some of their story because it’s there, one just has to keep plugging away, which is loads of fun. History nerd here;) Thanks, Jules!

  5. P^2

    Thanks for the reply. I’m about to blow up the comment space again but I promise I won’t make a habit of it.Thanks for letting me post.

    I completely agree with your comments (and Paulette’s) regarding the “spin” put on events by individual writers. It does make drawing any solid conclusions around any of this pretty difficult. Actually, it is a “double spin”, because you have the mindset and opinions of the original writer, and then the opinions of the historian who interprets their writings. I have a pretty good bias of my own, I know.

    I also think that this all has to be viewed in the context of the times. Romantic relationships were probably not quite as they are today, since you could literally die with a hangnail. I imagine love affairs were pretty torrid given the social conventions of the day (especially any “forbidden love”), but realistically speaking, there had to be some form of emotional insulation involved since your precious one could be skipping through the clover with you one day and pushing up the daisies the next. This would probably have to factor itself in somewhere. (Perhaps the multiple partners everybody seemed to have then?)

    You are right that it was through the Chevalier (and his minions, really) that Monsieur was able to live his life as he was born to. It’s also true that the Chevalier did make him happy, but I think he caused a lot of pain as well. I just not sure he was as emotionally invested in Monsieur as Monsieur was in him. I’m not saying the Chevalier did not care for Monsieur- I’m sure he did-just maybe not as much or as deeply as Monsieur cared for him.

    In defense of the Chevalier, people jockeyed for power and favors when dealing with any member of the aristocracy. Everybody did it, and it certainly was not limited to members of the Louis’s court. (The mistresses of Charles II were a perfect example.) I’m sure the Chevalier had pressure from his own family to stay in Monsieur’s good graces as they would have benefited from that socially, if not economically. There was a LOT of incentive for him to do this, and he would probably have been expected to take advantage whether he really wanted to or not. Even Louis apparently found him valuable in getting him to manipulate Monsieur for his own ends, as did Monsieur’s minions.

    I also think you summed up Monsieur’s personality pretty well. It’s tragic, really. He remained a child because he was never allowed to fully develop himself. He had nothing else but his jewels and ribbons and shiny things to call his own. Over his entire lifetime he was prevented from achieving anything meaningful. I haven’t read about him being beaten yet, but it doesn’t surprise me. His mother left him to go off with Louis when he was deathly ill as a child. That must have felt nice. I often wonder if part of the reason Louis tolerated Monsieur’s openly gay lifestyle and protected him as he did was because he felt some guilt or remorse regarding how his brother, whom he clearly and dearly loved, was so badly treated during his lifetime…especially after he married Madame de Maintenon, donned a cape and turned into “Captain Piety”.

    I think Philippe was desperate for to anyone who could make him feel that he was truly loved. I’m sure he longed for someone he could fully trust as well. He wanted to be the pearl in somebody’s world. I doubt he felt any of that for most of his life. He most certainly didn’t feel it growing up. Therefore, I think he was extremely vulnerable in this area as an adult. I see this in the way he lavished money and gifts on his favorites- as if he felt he needed to do it to keep them there. It would also explain why he was so jealous, as you have pointed out. Whatever affection he got, he probably fought to keep. This would have made him the perfect target for any manipulator. Look at today’s celebrities. They live in a swamp with more snakes than a Louisiana bayou on a hot summer day. I think it was no different in Louis’s court. Philippe was anything but stupid, and must have clearly understood that he was being used by most of his favorites and that this was part and parcel for someone in his position as the king’s brother, which makes the situation all the more tragic. He knew.

    I do think that the Chevalier (and his minions, particularly d’Effiat) manipulated Monsieur to get what they wanted. I agree with the point made about disgruntled authors, but I haven’t read anything yet written during that period who said the Chevalier was a good man who really loved Philippe. If you have, could you please point me in the direction of that reference? I’d appreciate it.

    Most of what I have read tends to focus on the duration of their relationship as the main evidencefor their bond. (Regarding your final comment about the Chevalier pimping for Philippe near the end: you need one of those isolation suits they wear in Ebola-stricken zones to go down that dark and dirty path. Philippe wasn’t the only one he pimped for. And that club…oh…my..god….)

    A personal disclosure…

    I have someone in my family who is pretty much the reincarnation of Philippe in every respect (except that he does not cross-dress, at least as far as I know). He was also basically “emasculated” by his parents throughout his entire life. He is utterly dependent on his wealthy dad for pretty much everything, as Philippe was on Louis. My family member is a kind and gentle soul who also likes pretty, expensive things. His father buys them for him. He was never encouraged to do well in school because he would never need to get a real job, so he’s basically incompetent in the real world. He has accomplished nothing noteworthy on his own and he is in his early 40s (his father pretty much supports him and his partner financially). He has nothing he can point to of his own doing that he can be proud of. He has put up with (and continues to put up with) an unbelievable amount of crap, lies and betrayal from the one person in his life he adores above all others, who is clearly with him for what he is likely to inherit from his father. It’s positively heartbreaking. Every time he is betrayed, instead of kicking his partner to the curb with the rest of the garbage, he turns his head and hangs on tighter. This has been going on for at least 20 years with no end in sight. His partner meanwhile just keeps their eyes on the prize. Whomever said that money can’t buy happiness obviously read this story.

    I know that my relative and his partner are not Philippe and the Chevalier, but the parallels I see between my relative and Philippe in terms of their upbringing, personality, temperament and love lives are ridiculously unmistakable. He can’t help himself. His partner rules every aspect of his life, and basically just took over from his mother. All I can think of is the comment that was made about the Chevalier hooking Philippe “like a harpooned whale” when they were both young. Same exact story here- and at about the same age, about 18 or so. He’ll probably piss right through his inheritance if his partner doesn’t beat him to it, and then his partner will most likely leave him. You can’t tell him anything. He knows. He just says, “There will never be another”. It’s beyond sad. There are no words, really

    Sorry if this is TMI.

    I swear I am not making any of this up. I wish I were. It’s pretty hard for me to remain objective at times as I research all of this, but I think you can see why. MY personal bias.

    I wish Liselotte hadn’t destroyed all of Philippe’s letters- we would have learned so much more, but I can see why she did. I would especially love to see the ones from the Chevalier. Those could possibly have vindicated him completely. I’d like to think they would have, but if Philippe and the Chevalier were anything like my family member and his….partner….my heart just BLEEDS for Philippe on so many levels. I want a well-documented happy story for our boys.

    Can you suggest any more solid, positive references that perhaps I have not found yet? Somebody that did not hate the Chevalier? I would greatly appreciate any direction you could point me in.

    This will be the last monumental posting, I promise.Thanks again.

  6. Dian Duncan

    Hi P^2
    I feel positively wrung out having read your last post. So much feeling in it on so many levels. I really hope your relative survives or comes out of this relationship intact.
    Between you & Jules I’m gaining a whole new insight into the reign of Louis X1V.
    Thank God for Versailles it might not be 100% accurate but do we care? As for Philippe (Alexandre) I fall in love with the character more & more. Alexandre brings the character to life, his disdain, sense of humour & twists of irony add to the feeling that you’d love to be his mum (I’m of a certain age so could not possibly think of him in any other way) shame his real mother looked upon him as a threat to Louis so deliberately brought him up in the mode of Princess regardless of the fact that he was in reality a more courageous warrior than Louis could ever hope to be. The irony. Look forward to reading more insights ladies
    Thank you

  7. P^2

    Thanks Dian. I sincerely appreciate your kind words. I really shouldn’t have posted that as this is not really the place for the discussion. I was totally dialed in to the psychological impacts that I think the historical Philippe must have dealt with. I NEVER expected to find that in my research of the historical characters, and my emotional reaction quite frankly caught me completely off guard. So, I’ll apologize to all for the drama (especially Jules, as I’m pretty sure I have annoyed him). Rule #1: never post when you are upset.

    I think the actors (all of them, really) have done the most incredible job. Philippe is my favorite also. I think I may be of your age as well as he brings out all of my motherly protective instincts. (I think that is pretty clear!) I think that does put a different spin on it. We view the characters through a very different lens.

    As for my relative, he has a strong family around him who loves him and will stay in the saddle for the long haul. We won’t let him fall through the cracks.

  8. Dian Duncan

    If we’re on an honesty thing here I’ll tell you mine which might annoy Jules even more than yours.
    Until you said “him” I had never thought of Jules as a male author. I don’t know why except that Jules dialled so much into my female side I just thought of him as her. Jules is a name picked by an author with no sexual connotation. Hopefully Jules will forgive me for that & not be offended. Fingers crossed.
    It seems Jules is getting an audience that is “rather difficult to deal with”.
    Sorry Jules. We really do love you & appreciate your insights into this most delicious series

  9. Seamus

    Hi Jules,

    I recently binge watched series 1 and started reading your episode recaps about half way through, a perfect accompaniment to a most enjoyable show! Thought I would drop you a line when series 2 started so I could get your views on any ambiguous points (it’s a funny old show, seemingly straight forward but littered with myriad twists and quirks) and the historical veracity of the plot. Couple of thoughts on episode 1 were;

    Why kill off Rohan? His history with the King, genuine creepiness and awesome killing abilities implied he would be a nemesis for Louis and Marchal for some time to come but no! As grimly enjoyable as the mirror torture scene was, I was most disappointed by the rapid and uncomplicated denouement of that whole thread. It seems they have simply re-loaded the ‘guess who?’ plot line and Rohan is forgotten. Why not have a new spy at court while Rohan lurks in the shadows? At least for a while anyway.

    Had Rohan just been bungling about in the woods with the Dauphin for 4 years while Marchal hunted him down? Not much of a plan from a seemingly endlessly dastardly bastard who could have slain the King and his guards with a tea spoon and leapt out of the nearest window at any moment in series 1.

    I miss Montcourt already. He really stood out toward the end of series 1, particularly in his interview with Marchal. I suppose he had fulfilled his role plotwise and his demise contributed to the big finale, but Anatole Taubman stood out among a generally excellent cast in series 1.

    My guess is the young and talented new spy is Sophie, who has a genuine beef with Louis and was away for a while (ostensibly with the strapping lad from the scaffolds but could have been tapped up by the Dutch). Though that seems too obvious.

    Very curious about Monetspan and the grim faced little clairvoyant she has brought to court!

    Look forward to reading the rest of your recaps!

  10. JulesHarper Post author

    Hi Seamus! Welcome and thank you for reading! It is a straightforward-but-with-twists show, isn’t it? The sheer number of scenes is sometimes overwhelming and plays into that.

    To answer your questions:
    Despite me lamenting over and over how much history they twisted/overlooked/reworked, Rohan actually did end up being beheaded after a conspiracy to kidnap the Dauphin was uncovered (it was plotted, never enacted). He lost his head on the grounds of the Bastille, close to the Hôtel De Rohan. I have a link to an interesting article here. My guess is they had to resolve that thread to make way for the new spy…. William of Orange gets right onto that in the first episode. And when Rohan was captured, Louis must show strength and power, so Rohan had to die swiftly.

    Yes, those four years are a head scratcher to me, and I am not sure why they did that, unless it was to show time passing by (in reality, Louis had a few children by 1674, including two by Montespan, and Philippe wasted no time in marrying after Henriette died.

    I really enjoyed Montcourt and his evilness 🙂 Generally with TV series, they introduce some intertwined plot threads that must be solved in that one season, then leave an overarching thread/s loose, so people will tune in next season. The Missing Dauphin and Will Philippe Return? were obviously the main two. Sophie got rejected by the lovely builder boy and she is now Marchal’s spy 🙂 Episode 1 and we see the new spy, Thomas the actor/writer, introduced. And Cassel is still at court… we see some great scenes with him and Marchal

    Montespan’s card reader, Agathe, is fictional, but appears to be based on La Voisin, who was a real person and heavily involved in the black arts and trafficking of poison. The Affair of the Poisons is a fascinating read into real-life events.
    Merci for commenting and sharing your thoughts. Hope you keep reading!

  11. Seamus

    Thank goodness Cassel remains at court! I enjoy just watching him walk around and playing cards and stuff, truly a Duc among men.

    Wait, Thomas is the spy? I totally missed that and thought he seemed genuinely in awe of Louis and his court.

    I also seem to have missed Sophie being rejected by the builder (madman!), though I suppose her returning to Versaille rather than eloping is evidence of that. I definitely sensed some sort of frisson between her and Marchal though. That would be weird but he’s a freaky guy and Sophie also seems pretty steely. Unlikely though because I assume she will attract the King’s favour sooner or later and Fabian / Claudine makes more sense (apologies for prognosticating, I realise I am some 6 episodes behind you! I’ll try to stick to history based plot queries as much as possible).

    Merci for the links! My history is generally ok but I know very little about the Sun King and his court, this is a great way learn stuff 🙂 It will be interesting to see what they derive from The Affair of the Poisons on the show.

  12. Christine Godfrey

    Are the amendments in the other episodes going to be in red as well because that made it very easy to find the original and new writing.

    1. JulesHarper Post author

      Hi Christine! Only the ones I reviewed in French, because half the time I didn’t know what they were saying 🙂 Then when I watched it in English, it made much more sense.

  13. Camille

    How do you get to watch season 2 in Australia? Googled but got nowhere….
    I’m loving your reviews – just finished watching season 1 and I’m hooked!

    1. JulesHarper Post author

      I have the DVDs 🙂 You can order from Amazon France and it comes with both English and French audio. But you will need a universal player for it – most DVDs play all zones these days. My PS3 does (as well as blu ray) so I imagine the PS4 does too. If you want to watch it on the laptop, you can get an external USB disc drive that is multi-zoned. I also recommend the VLC Player app which is free and plays all zones, but for some reason will not play my S2 discs 🙁

      You can also watch it live in the UK via their iPlayer, but you will need an app to mask your VPN (so it tells the website that you are in the UK and not Australia). I use Cyberghost, which is for the Mac.

      1. JB

        I downloaded the BBC iPlayer app but I couldn’t find this show. I just finished Season 1 on Netflix (I’m in the states) and I want to start on season 2. This has been a real bummer to not start season 2. 🙁

  14. Camille

    Thanks so much for your helpful information. I don’t think I have a compatible device, so I think I might try using a vpn. I have been wanting to start using one, since finally getting nbn 🙂

  15. Bailey McWhorter


    I’ve been rewatching the show and reading your reviews alongside with it. I really appreciate the work and effort you’ve put in! Your take on the show and observations have filled many gaps for me.

    I also agree with another commentor-that Rohan’s capture and death seemed a little anticlimactic for all the build up it had in S1, lol. Honestly, I didn’t even realize it was Rohan who was captured in the beginning of E1, S2!! He looks completely different when his hair isn’t perfectly groomed back.

    I don’t get why the dauphin was held captive for four years either. What was Rohan even doing? The boy looked fine—unscathed. I feel like more could have been milked from the effort of kiddnaping him.

    In any case, I just started season 2 on Netflix and I look forward to reading the rest of your reviews!


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