Versailles Series 2, Episode 3 – The one with the marriage bed

Mes amis, before we get on to the review, I have to tell you I have now watched the entire Season 2 and I have issues. I have feels and rage and conflict. And boy, do I have OPINIONS. Opinions like I have never had before about a TV show. (okay, maybe except Firefly…. #NeverOverIt ) But I will not go into detail, not until we get to the scenes of the Big Issues, and not when I have a review to get through. So let us begin.

We see Louis on stage in a small opera, in his glorious Sun King costume from Series 1, and he gives a monologue as everyone looks on from their seats. “There is a traitor in your midst, seeking to destroy everything I have built. A minister is murdered. And now, his wife.” Suddenly, from the balcony, Philippe chokes back a laugh and the Chevalier smacks him on the chest, indicating he get a grip. Louis continues, wielding a prop sword: “If you have any courage, stand up now and show me your face!” Philippe interrupts with giggles again, which prompts everyone else to join in. It is an odd scene, with Marchal behind them, giddy with laughter, then we see Colbert, Bontemps, even Cassel… all laughing. Louis is livid. “How dare you insult me!” Do you know who I am?? And am the king! I am LOUIS THE GREAT!” And everyone just keeps laughing and laughing and I know beyond a doubt it is a dream sequence. When Louis asks Bontemps what is the matter, Bontemps replies: “You are not the king. We pretended you were because we find it amusing!” Then who is he? Apparently, a foot servant to the second chamberman. Then who is king? The doors open in the balcony and a figure walks through, the sun illuminated behind. It is Montespan, dressed up like Louis, and she says “it is customary to bow to the king.”

Louis wakes in his bed, bleary-eyed and alone. He looks exhausted. Montespan is stood at the window and we see mucho nakedness as he gets his robe and Montespan looks sad and resigned. She believes their union will end soon, and gives him all the reasons why – scandal, the queen, the church. But Louis has duties to attend to, and so does she, implying their newborn child. Montespan does not care because “my duty is to attend to his majesty.” We already saw the seed being planted last ep, of her dislike of being pregnant, and now we are seeing it further. When Louis asks about their daughter, Montespan says, “I am told she is in fine health.” Yep, no mothering instinct there. Louis kind of reassures her pessimism in a ‘ugh, seriously I am king, everyone will do as I say’ kind of way.

We are with the queen now, and Father Pascal (James Joint), and the queen Is. Not. Happy. She is screaming about having a child under her own roof. She says Pascal must speak to Montespan. The Queen knows Montespan has people of her own at court, and will turn everyone against her. *Historical note. Marie-Thérèse did not like Montespan at all. Montespan did not show deference or respect to the queen and openly flaunted her and Louis’ relationship at every turn. Considering Montespan was the queen’s lady-in-waiting while Louis was shagging her, and the queen did not find out for a while, Montespan thought the queen clueless and stupid. The show portrays the queen to be quite a bit smarter and manipulative than she actually was.

Louis, Bontemps and Marchal are walking through a tunnel and Louis is disappointed with Marchal, demands a taster for his immediate family. The social powders are now banned from the salons and anyone caught with them will be punished. Deliveries into the palace must be checked, workers searched. Bontemps says poison can get be introduced in many ways via numerous people and it is impossible to block all points of entry. Louis says people who wish to harm him must know that they are “no longer setting foot inside a palace, but a fortress.”

(PLAY GLORIOUS INTRO MUSIC that has rather insultingly been hijacked by stupid advertising execs for a washing detergent and a bank here in Australia)

Marchal goes to see the tonic and herb supplier dude, who declares they do not deal in poisons, only tonics and herbs. His supplier has gone to the colonies and he has not yet found another. If Marchal thinks that by stopping him, he can stop the nobles from poisoning each other, he is fooling himself.

We are out in the gardens now with Cassel, Bontemps, Colbert and Louvois, who is showing off a sad cannon to Louis. There is much battle talk and Cassel has a solution to feed the army, dobbing in the comte de Épernay as a well-abled noble who is faking at being an invalid. Louis says the comte is to be reminded of his duty, his grain will be taken and he is not to be paid. Louvois looks a little concerned, looking at Cassel then Louis, but Louis’ word is law. I can see what Cassel is doing, ingratiating himself with the king. I am amused by this and am getting a bit of a soft spot for bad egg Cassel.

Back inside Versailles, with Louis and Bontemps doing the walk-and-talk through corridors. Louis knows Bontemps does not like Cassel. “No sire. I wish I was a blind to his vices as I am to his virtues.” Cassel gambles and whores which is unseemly for a minister, and Bontemps fears he does not merit the trust Louis places in him. They come upon Sophie and some ladies walking the other way and Louis pauses and smiles, indicating she pass him. Is this an interest in the fair mademoiselle de Clermont, perchance? oh nooooo….. Louis says the best way to rein in a wild horse is to “put it to pasture with a tame one,” and his gaze lingers on the departing Sophie.

Oh, dear. Messieurs Mirren and Wolstencroft really like to torture their fictional characters, don’t they?

Philippe is being dressed in his rooms, while the Chevalier wakes in bed. Philippe is worried about his wife. “What, her face?” replies the Chevalier. “I know what you mean. Perhaps some sort of mask would be in order.” Okay, so here comes the salt. Philippe needs someone to show Liselotte the ways of court and suggests Sophie. Done. Now Philippe asks if the Chevalier will be here on his return, but no… the fitting of an overcoat is happening. With one snap of his fingers, the valets depart…. Philippe is deeply unhappy his money is being spent. Wives cost money. And Liselotte came with lands but no dowry. The Chevalier turns on his charm and kisses Philippe, cajoles, “What use is ten thousand acres of German forest if I need new coats?” then drops to his knees. Then Bontemps walks in. DAMMIT, MAN! Why must you cockblock?! Well, at least Bontemps looks uncomfortable and gets this look ↓ ↓ for his trouble. But wait, he tells Philippe there is a bedding ceremony being organised, Louis has sent out invites and yeah, Philippe is unimpressed.

*Historical note. I am surprised Philippe has not heard of this, although I am uncertain if it was still practiced in 17th century France. In medieval times, it involved a select bunch of people gathering in the bedchamber of the wedded couple and staying for the act to ensure the woman was a virgin, then proudly displaying the bloody sheets as proof. This kind of intrusion lost its attraction (rightly so) with couples and so evolved into a sort of laddish, cheering-them-on crowd who hustled them both to the bedroom before leaving them to their duty.

yes, may we help you?

So, the Chevalier, still on his knees, looks up at Philippe, who just hisses “Delicious!” at Bontemps. Then the Chevalier gives Bontemps a smug smile and a little finger wave and off Bontemps toddles. Then Philippe moves away, and the Chevalier is left on his knees and now we have a snarky exchange as Philippe puts on his coat.

Le Chevalier: So (leans against the door in his nightshirt and casually plucks at his fingers) You will share the same bed as your wife.
Philippe: Why wouldn’t I? I actually think she’s rather attractive.
Le Chevalier: (scoffs)
Philippe: You’re jealous.
Le Chevalier: (still scoffing) Of a woman. How we laughed.
Philippe: I shared a bed with Henriette and that never bothered you.
Le Chevalier: (gives him this look >>>) That was to annoy your brother.
Philippe: The king wishes to build an alliance with the Palatinate. My duty is to seal that alliance by making lots of children.
Le Chevalier: (snaps back) Your duty, darling, is not to your brother. It is to- (flourishes theatrically in the air) –glamour! And beauty! And me!
Philippe: (snorts, gives him a ‘uh huh, yeah sure’ look then turns to the door) Who knows. I might even fall in love with her!
And the camera lingers on the Chevalier’s face and oh, Lordy he is thinking just that. (also, I am LOVING his bed hair)

*historical note SO MUCH. In the spring of 1670, after being released from the prison of d’If, the Chevalier was in Rome in exile, as I have mentioned previously. He was finally allowed to return to court in 1672, although Louis initially did not want him back. In his absence, Philippe and Liselotte were married by proxy in November 1671 and were living as man and wife. Philippe and Liselotte were very much aware of their duty and Liselotte’s letters clearly state she did not enjoy ‘the act’ much… I am guessing as much as Philippe enjoyed performing it. Still, they seemed to be getting along, and Philippe also had a new favourite, the Chevalier de Chatillon, who was apparently well built and beautiful, and whom Le Roi did not like much. I guess the Chevalier was the lesser of two evils. Nancy Barker’s book, Brother of the Sun King, is a good go-to for understanding more about the relationship between Louis and Philippe, but I do not agree with her psychoanalysis of why Philippe chose male lovers. She concludes that whenever Philippe was having a bad time in his life (wife issues, conflict with Louis, war stuff) he got his gay on. Then when he was happy, he had the happy married time with the wives, until something happened – like the reappearance of the Chevalier – to turn the gay back on. I find this quite a bit patronising and too simplistic for such a complex man who lived in complex times, which are so very different from ours. Being ‘gay’ was not a construct until the 19th century, and people engaged in what was pleasurable, which was either sanctioned by the church or not. Many believed one should not enjoy the marriage bed, and sodomy was associated with evilness, corruption, loose morals, a weak mind, willingness to commit a crime, devil worship…. pretty much everything bad. Anyway, the bottom line is, Liselotte was already established in Philippe’s household by the time the Chevalier returned, so I assume the writers changed it up to create more emotional conflict. The intrusion of a wife for dynastic purposes, Philippe taunting that he ‘might even fall in love with her,’ the possessiveness of the Chevalier. All human nature and understandable when the person you love has to engage in physical relations with a third person in the name of duty.

So on to the next scene. Sophie enters a salon and a bit of a squee moment as I recognise the painting on the far wall (*Historical note: it is René-Antoine Houasse’s Equestrian portrait of Louis XIV painted around 1674 and which currently sits in the Corps central, Grands Appartements salon de Mars in Versailles). Suddenly Philippe is in her face and snaffling her for his wife. They exit and we see Gaston de Foix enter the room and bow, his mother Madeleine with him. Apparently they are bankrupt but his mother doesn’t want people to know. They approach Cassel, whose hair (or wig) has had a good wash and looks actually quite presentable now. He turns his back on the de Foix, obvs remembering the nasty repartee they shared the last time at the gambling table, and Gaston says they have no choice but to leave. His mum will not hear of it, they have to stay, but of course, it is her fault she doesn’t try harder. She must ask her friends, her connections. “Of course, my love,” is her answer to her dear darling boy who is still banging on about how Cassel stole his position in the ministry. Jebus, Gaston, build a bridge and get over it, k?

Meanwhile, Sophie visits Marchal’s office/dungeon, where there is a line up of servants, there to be interrogated about the poison. Marchal tells her to go to the salons, to listen to the gossip, but Sophie says it could be difficult, as she is to be lady-in-waiting to Monsieur’s wife. She will continue to report to Marchal. Off she goes, and in comes a maid, Odile, the same one who delivered the food to the dead-minister Reynard’s wife. She is nervous…. she is scared of Marchal. She should be. A guard comes in, says nothing was in the maid’s belongings.

Sophie is meeting with Liselotte, who is eating a meal. Interesting how they show this wife constantly with food, and with Henriette it was her distinct lack of food. Anyway, Sophie is there to help Liselotte “find her feet”, to which the new Madame quips, “last time I looked, they were at the end of my legs.” Liselotte asks about Henriette… if she was beautiful, charming etc etc. Of course she was. “Ugh. How depressing,” replies Liselotte. I hear you, gurl. Then the Chevalier walks in, with a cheery “good morning!” and right away I am wondering what he’s up to. Oh, just come to see how she’s settling in, eh? Yes, Sophie is to explain the ‘official’ regulations, and he is there for ‘the others’. Mmmhmm. Sure. Then he spots Liselotte’s outfit and a cute little hat, he is animated and this… this will get very Mean Girls, I suspect. “A touch of Teutonic fashion,” he gushes. “Are you planning to wear this in the salon?”
Liselotte: What else would I do with it?
The Chevalier: (tosses hat casually to the bed) …..put it in a soup? (flicks at a maid to open the door, then just as he leaves, says) and as for the bedding ceremony…. might I suggest riding boots. And an overcoat.

Everyone is silent after he exits. Sophie looks a little uncomfortable, then Liselotte asks, “What is a bedding ceremony?”

Next scene, and Montespan is at her toilette, being shown some lovely jewels. Louis walks in… and just LOOK at this glorious room. Click on the pic to make it bigger. I love what the set designers have done and I wish, yet again, that the camera would linger a little more on the decor. I feel that Versailles-the-palace is almost a character in its own right, but it gets less screen time to totally satisfy me. I want to see the glory and opulence and glamour that is shown way too fleetingly.

Anyways, Louis enters and is eyeing Delphine, one of Montespan’s ladies, Bontemps observes from the corner but Louis is telling Montespan how the word ‘diamond’ means ‘untamed’ in Ancient Greek. She picks the diamond necklace and Louis puts it on her. Louis gently chides Bontemps with much amusement: “If Madame de Montespan wants something, and I give it to her, it is not because of her influence. It is because I wish it to be so.” Of course, Sire. She will take the necklace. But then Montespan sees Louis’ reflection and how he eyes Delphine, so obvs her possible rival must go. You are fired, Delphine.

Sophie is helping Liselotte get ready for the salons with that cute little hat the Chevalier wanted to cook up. She is not looking forward to it, but Sophie reassures her. “They will appreciate your honesty and openness.” We see Montespan holding court with her ladies as Sophie and Liselotte enter. What do we do now? Liselotte asks. “We wait,” Sophie replies. “To be invited to play cards or be engaged in conversation.”  Montespan eyes her from across the room, making snide comments. “Who is that?” Liselotte breathily asks Sophie. “She is like a Greek goddess.” Bontemps enters the room, telling Sophie that Louis requests her presence. And suddenly Liselotte is alone and Montespan swans across the room with her ladies following, bobbing a curtsy and drawing her in with some delicious gossip about a lady who is shagging a stableboy. Liselotte has no gift for gossip, but Montespan declares “it is not a gift. It is a habit. You will soon fall into it.”

*Historical note. My other half and I watch this together, if you do not know by now. And boy, you should’ve heard our stereo noooooo’s at this scene. Liselotte is a PRINCESS OF FRANCE. She is above everyone in that salon. And she has to wait for someone to approach her? JUST NO. As the highest ranking person in the room right now, the courtiers must approach her, bow and curtsy to her. She does not have to sit on a stool under a window like a Nigel No-Friends.

So Sophie enters Louis’ rooms, with Marchal and a few ministers and Cassel standing by. And it is soon very clear what is happening: Louis wants Sophie and Cassel to marry. Marchal looks discomforted, Sophie stricken. Cassel has “the general demeanour of a sewer rat, with a reputation for licentious behaviour. That is not what I like to see in one of my ministers. You need someone to look after you, put your affairs in order and give you an air of respectability.” Cassel ‘yes, your majesty’s him, and Louis addresses Sophie, says “like all young ladies at court you no doubt dreamt of marrying for position and for love. The duc de Cassel will give you the former, if not the latter.” Dear Lord, I wanna swipe that smug smile off Cassel’s face so badly. Poor Sophie.

Marchal is not happy.

COME ON, FABIEN. DOOO SOMETHING* (*I know this is an empty plea – he cannot do anything. It is the king’s wish). Then Louis clears out Cassel to talk to Sophie alone. Louis knows Sophie is Marshal’s eyes and ears in the salons – now he wants her to do the same with Cassel. As for love…. “if that is what you seek, I suggest you seek it elsewhere.” Sophie is understandably distraught, and she turns and runs through the servant corridors, Fabien running after her. “Sophie!” he calls, and she finally stops. “I cannot marry that! You know what he is capable of! You KNOW!” Fabien is sympathetic but unwavering. She must consider it an honour to serve the king. UGH.

Now we are outside, walking through the trees, and Louis is telling Thomas the scribe about the history of Versailles, how it soon will be the heart of an empire. Surely there are many that stand in his path? Yes, there is one. But Louis doesn’t fear him – he admires him. Why? Because he does not fear Louis. And he should fear the king of France because “the finest army in the world is about to destroy him.” And now Louis wishes Thomas to meet someone and noooooooo this is not happening because I had blocked it from my mind but yes, dammit, it is. Louis asks where Jacques is: the gardeners have not seen him for several days. He is not at home sick, either. Louis is perturbed. Thomas asks “Sire, when you were a boy, you dreamt of being a king. Now you are king, what do you dream of?” Louis points to the note paper: “To be remembered.”

This ties in quite nicely with the real Louis’ pursuit of glory and grandiose things, the desire to do everything bigger, better, more impressive than anyone else. It also touches back on the conversation he had with Rohan in jail, where he said all traces of Rohan will be wiped from history, that no one will remember him. That didn’t bother Rohan, and I knew that Rohan’s ‘meh’ attitude would disturb Louis, because Louis is, as the show has built up nicely, obsessed with his legacy for future generations.

But I have AN ISSUE and here is where we begin to list them, because I intend to address them in a later post. Issue #1 – the pointless killing off of characters.

Back in the palace and Thomas hangs about near a servant’s door, then sneaks in and follows the shadowy corridors to hand over a missive to a courier.

Ahhh, a carriage leaves at the entrance of the palace and we see the introduction of Madame Scarron, who is to be the governess to Montespan’s child. *Historical note. The widow Scarron will eventually become the Marquise de Maintenon, then Louis’ second wife. If we are still in 1670 – I do not know… we are never told and this is particularly annoying to me – Montespan’s newborn daughter Louise Françoise is actually a year old and their son Louis Auguste, was born in March 1670. A house was purchased in Paris and Scarron installed there, with Montespan and Louis discreetly coming and going to visit their children – if Montespan’s husband ever found out about the babies, he could rightly claim them as his own. This is slightly weird, because EVERYONE in the palace knew Montespan was Louis’ mistress and when she was pregnant. The Montespan/Louis union produced a total of seven babies but only four survived childhood, and it is telling that their son Louis Auguste, later the duc de Maine, did not mourn his mother when she died in 1707 – he considered Scarron/Maintenon more of a mother to him.

Right, so we have Scarron finally at Versailles and Montespan appears delighted to have a ‘trusted friend’ by her side, even though Scarron points out Montespan already has a lot of friends, apparently not all can be trusted. Yeah, well, that’s what happens when you are a bitch to everyone. She sweeps in to introduce Scarron to Louis, who is behind closed doors with Bishop Bossuet, arguing about the inappropriate nature of Louis shagging a married woman. Tension fills the room, Bossuet leaves then Montespan intro’s Scarron. “Welcome to Versailles,” Louis says curtly then abruptly leaves. Not the warmest of welcomes.

Now we are back with the Chevalier, who is entering a dingy hovel/room to meet a rather attractive mignon last seen in the salons having a gay old time with drugs, plus the powders dealer Marchal interviewed at the start. The king has put a stop to their little trade, and the Chevalier hands over a coin or two.

We are back in Versailles again, and Bontemps is walking through the servant access corridors when he passes by Odile the maid (she who delivered the last meal to the unfortunate Madame de Reynard) and Gaston, who is forcefully shagging her up against the wall. She sees Bontemps, doesn’t say a word. He tells Marchal and Marchal demands the guards search Gaston’s rooms again. Now Marchal is interviewing the teary Odile, who says Gaston is not the poisoner and that he promised to marry her. Dieu, what a stupid girl. Marchal thinks so too, and tells her Gaston said she smelled of pig shit, which is just a ploy to get her to admit Gaston poisoned the food.

In the salons where Gaston is gambling with happy abandon, when Marchal appears with his guards and offers to remove him quietly. Gaston does not take him up on it and it is quite satisfying to see him dragged from the rooms, his horrified mother looking on. I wanted to like Gaston, mainly because he is a creature of court and awfully good at throwing insulting bonmots at Cassel. Yet he has a certain smugness and cruelty about him that annoys me greatly (I think his attitude and air is pretty much what actual court life would have been all about). Marchal starts roughing him up in jail and of course, Gaston denies being the poisoner, which they all say, except he looks so confused and I actually think he is telling the truth. Which means the real poisoner is still out there.

We are now in Le Roi’s rooms, in front of a mirror, and Louis asks Bontemps if he believes in his dreams and nightmares. “I built these walls to protect myself against threats from outside,” says Louis. “And now I find that a greater danger lies within them.” Bontemps replies: “No ship has ever sailed the ocean without encountering storms, Sire.”

Into the queen’s rooms with Father Pascal and apparently she has invited to all the women to attend midnight prayers: Montespan declined, saying she would be otherwise occupied. We all know what that means.

Cut to Montespan asking Scarron if she thinks her looks are fading. “You are more beautiful than ever,” is the diplomatic reply. Montespan says, “but for how long?” and Scarron asks “You fear losing him, don’t you?” Montespan does not answer, just touches the new diamond necklace at her throat.

Aaaaaand now we are back with the Philippes, with Monsieur trying on waistcoats and the Chevalier on a druggy high, watching him. “Why do you keep taking that stuff?” Philippe asks. Medical necessity, is the flippant reply. But he is setting a bad example. “On the contrary,” the Chevalier says, laying on the bed and sing-songingly kicking up his heels . “I am setting a very good example. People are bored to death here and I am showing how not to be.”
Philippe: (unimpressed) The king has banned these substances from court.
The Chevalier: Which makes the experience all the more titillating.

 Issue #2 – The Chevalier as a druggie? Just. No.

Philippe cannot make a decision about the colour he should wear… green? blue? But he likes all of them! The Chevalier slurs, “then try something different.”

And the next scene in which he enters Liselotte’s rooms, we actually do see him in something different. A glorious dress, coiffed hair and make up. “ready when you are,” he casually throws out, and then they are slow-mo walking into the salon, side by side and both in dresses, a victorious smile on Philippe’s pretty face and an “omggggg” one on Liselottes.

Issue #3 – Philippe-in-a-dress just for the shock value, with nothing more AT ALL about it for the rest of the season.

They enter the salon to great ceremony and Liselotte looks a little lost, but the courtiers are bowing and the Chevalier murmurs to Louvois, “Monsieur is more madame than Madame” and he is so incredibly amused by it. Then Bontemps enters, announces the king, and Louis sweeps in with the queen by his side. All bow and curtsy and he walks to Philippe and Liselotte, his smile indicating nothing is at all amiss, with his brother all done up and laced into a fancy dress in front of him, next to his German wife. Then Liselotte quickly removes her hand from Philippes’ and Louis’ expression drops, whispering, “you’ll make a laughing stock of the court.” and it is on.
Philippe: (cheekily) I believe I already have that honour. (Louis remains silent) When they look at me, what do they see?
Louis: A woman. One of many.
Philippe: In case you’ve forgotten, the women in our family tend to outlast the men. (they both smile, but it is strained)
Louis: Is something bothering you?
Philippe: Don’t expect me to follow your every rule with a smile on my face.
Louis: Right now I expect you to be my brother.
Philippe: Mmmm.
Louis: (removes his hand from the queens and leans in to Philippe) In case you haven’t noticed, the nobles have started to kill each other.
Philippe: (whispers) that’s what happens when you lock them up.
A bit of a staredown happens, only for a few seconds, then Philippe turns to Liselotte and asks if she cares to dance. She would love to (read: get me away from this incredibly uncomfortable scene). Meanwhile, through the whole exchange, Father Pascal has been creepily staring at Philippe over his left shoulder like some weird kind of owl. Philippe tells Louis he will do his bidding, but “I will do it my way.”

There is a dance, a very elegant minuet, while Louis and the queen look on, then Montespan sweeps over and makes small talk. Louis is having none of it and excuses himself. Then the well-dressed claws come out, with Montespan offering ‘humble apologies’ for any insult she may have caused the queen that are neither humble or apologetic, just full of flippancy. Oh, for what, seducing her husband? Montespan will have none of it: “It is hardly my fault that your husband finds my company more stimulating than his wife’s.” And then the queen goes there, bringing up Montespan’s own husband, asking if he is aware of her infidelity. “A shooting star,” the queen says. “That is what you remind me of.” Montespan claps back: “Well, at least I will die knowing I have sparkled and shone.” But the queen has the last parting shot, drawing Montespan’s attention to Louis flirting with her ex-lady Delphine.

Oh, the look Montespan gives the queen before she storms off.

TFW you get the last jab in at your husband’s current mistress

And we just know the queen is doing a fist-pumping “yesssss!” on the inside. Louis sees his mistress storm off: he is not impressed. The queen just smiles at him serenely. La Reine: 1, Montespan: 0.

So as the party gets going and people dance and gossip and eat and drink, Cassel approaches Sophie and mouths some obviously fake words about not being judged by his past, hoping he could undo past offences, blah blah. Dear innocent Sophie looks a little confused, thanks him for his honesty. We see the Chevalier in a bit of a drug haze, paying overly-focused attention to Louvois’ lace collar in a way that only those who are high can, Thomas approaches Sophie and asks her to dance, and Cassel (whom she refused on the pretext of a hurt ankle) watches sourly, knowing she lied.

We are back in jail, with Marchal doing his interrogation thing with Gaston. The man is looking worse for wear, strung up from the ceiling and bloody, but sporting an ill-placed sense of bravado. He calls Marchal a- “shitty coward. Where would you be without your metal bars, your armed guards, your instruments of torture? Nothing.” Ugh. Marchal is more than that, we all know that. He can take down a man with his fists if he needs to. Marchal wants to know who gave him the poison and Gaston says “if I wanted to kill someone I would use a gun or a sword. Only women use poison.” (this is actually true – women tend to use less ‘personal’ ways of killing, preferring to keep a distance).

Back in the salons and Louis is holding court, about to launch into one of those glorious speeches he enjoys so much, when Gaston’s mother breaks ranks to plead for the release of her son, throwing herself at Louis’ feet. She knows her son to be innocent, and he only wants to serve his majesty. Louis has a bit of a “ugghhh, this is not proper etiquette” look and regally replies: “Your son has brought shame on the court, on you, and on your family. You have no place here.” She is removed, pleading “he is innocent!” and Louis’ expression goes from a “tut, tut, so unseemly, I pity you” to a beatific smile as he gets back on track with his little speech to congratulate his brother’s marriage. Now they are to retire for the bedding ceremony, to consummate their union and Philippe takes Liselotte’s hand, whispers to the Chevalier, “wish me luck,” to which the latter gives him a simpering smile and the couple start to move off…. and then…  He grabs Philippe’s hand and pulls him back, forcefully cups his crotch and hisses, “Remember. It belongs to me.”

In front of everyone.



This is not AT ALL proper etiquette or what the Chevalier would actually do. Or even what anyone would do in front of the entire court of Louis XIV. They would not dare, not even the lover of the king’s brother. There is protocol, there are rules. This is just…. UGH. Episode 3, this scene, is the point in which the Chevalier’s behaviour goes downhill for me.

Issue #4. Public groping in the presence of the king.

Philippe grips the Chevalier’s wrist then pushes his hand away, giving him a look. The Chevalier looked shocked, hurt and just stands there as Philippe continues on, glancing to Louis who remains silent, then briefly back towards the Chevalier as he and Liselotte walk out, under a rain of rose petals being silently thrown at them. It is all very awkward for everyone involved but Liselotte manages a small smile at Philippe and they walk off. Meanwhile Sophie smiles at Cassel as she too leaves, and Cassel turns to Thomas to say, “If you lay a hand on her again, I will have you castrated.” Yeah, okay, but Thomas doesn’t think he will. And why not? Because it seems Thomas The Spy knows all about Cassel’s past. That gets Cassel’s little brain working.

Into the bedchamber with Louis and the ministers, and Philippe is dressed in a simple nightgown and awaits his bride. Liselotte eventually enters and actually looks quite lovely, they get into bed and everything is so incredibly awkward as they wait for their observers to leave. Then Louis says, “you haven’t forgotten what to do?” and he is being such a troll and Philippe gives him this silent “I cannot believe you just said that” look. Everyone leaves and now they are alone. Liselotte waits a moment, looking highly uncomfortable, then slides her hands under the covers, over Philippe’s crotch.
Philippe: (calmly) I’m sorry, I don’t think that will work.
Liselotte: (withdraws her hand, looking pained and adrift and confused) ….why am I here?
Philippe: Because your father and my brother saw a mutual benefit in our marrying.
Liselotte: And if there are no children?
Philippe: Then my brother will be disappointed, the marriage annulled and you will return to Germany.
Liselotte: (thinks about that for a moment) I was beginning to like you.
Philippe: The feeling will pass. Good night.
Then Philippe rolls over and Liselotte is still sitting up, visibly distressed and with tears in her eyes.

I am sad. I do really like Liselotte, who reminds me of myself in a lot of ways, and Jessica Clark is making her a highly likeable character.

Is it a kiss..? Is it…? It IS… It could be… OMFG IT’S NOT!

The camera pans to a tavern, where the Chevalier sits alone and indulges in some more liquid drugs, then to Montespan alone in her bed, brooding about the queen’s snub. The door opens and Louis enters, looking a bit annoyed. Montespan admits being jealous and possessive, “like a little girl.” But Louis likes her like that. They kiss and we move onto the next scene, and it is Marchal at Claudine’s door (she is still dressed in man clothes and it suits her). It is too late for supper but not too late for Marchal to enter, admits he is adverse to veggies, does not usually drink, but let’s talk about the powders in the palace that are not poisonous, but rather stuff to increase beauty or pleasure. An undetectable poison, then? Marchal moves about, restless as he thinks, going over things in his head. Takes wine from Claudine anyway, and talks about the differences between men and women. Claudine says, “We are complex creatures. While you use the sword, we use our wiles and our potions. We have the power to create life. We protect our young. We can withstand more pain.” And then Marchal is touching her hair, very gently for a man who can be so cold-blooded. They lean in for a kiss and I am cheering inside because yay, Marchal and Claudine! and suddenly he pauses and says “what did you say? About women?” and we know he has thought of something of Great Importance. FFS, Claudine is SO READY for that kiss and cannot think straight (obvs), tries to recall what she actually said… “I was just teasing,” and then Marchal stomps out and UUUGH dammit Claudine didn’t get her damn kiss, one we’ve all been waiting for since she nursed him back to health in S1. Marchal just pretty much cockblocked himself.

We then see Marchal back in the palace, going through drawers and cupboards in someone’s rooms. A female voice behind him says, “it’s in the green bottle,” and then Madeleine de Foix stabs him in the chest and rushes away. Marchal gasps, grips the knife and looks down at it, as much to say “ugh, FFS not this shit again.”

And there is the end of episode three. Merci for reading.

27 thoughts on “Versailles Series 2, Episode 3 – The one with the marriage bed

  1. Paulette Young

    Thanks again for your review of season 2, episode 3. I’m in the States so I shall not see the second season until the fall, but I can agree on your statement about Nancy Nichols Barker’s book, painting homosexuality as pathology. It was published in 1989 and therefore there was no need for her to spread this false “armchair” psychoanalysis. As a professional in that field, I was appalled. Ok, off my soapbox. I am hoping the series’ producers and writers explore more of the fun side of Philippe. Yes, I know his self-esteem issues were not so great but his loving, jovial side, unless I’m missing something, seems to be lacking. After all, I haven’t viewed season 2. Is there any explanation as to why he’s treating one of the few people who support him with such animosity? I can understand the pressure he’s under with the king controlling his life and in real life the Chevalier de Lorraine doing somewhat of the same. That scenario I can buy with Philippe being testy, shall we say. Guess I’ll patiently wait. Oh and I agree on the other issues you pointed out as well. I usually shout “noooo!”, at the television.

    1. JulesHarper Post author

      Hi Paulette!

      You asked about seeing Philippe’s fun loving side. Yes, we will see that…. when he becomes king for the day. It is actually quite amusing – Alex Vlahos looked as though he was having a great time! – and degenerates into something typically debauched. I feel there is less angst with him and Louis this season, and there is also a lovely satisfying scene between the brothers later on.

  2. Paulette Young

    Hi Jules and thanks! And one more thing, are there any books or articles you can recommend reading solely on the Chevalier de Lorraine. I have been stacking up on memoirs: Liselotte, Saint-Simon, etc. I wish I had also paid more attention in my French language classes many years ago;) Any suggestions would be appreciated and keep up the good work!

    1. JulesHarper Post author

      Sadly, there is nothing in English, and nothing (I know of in French) solely dedicated to the Chevalier de Lorraine. I know has spent ten years researching him, going through letters and books and historical records to piece together his life, and has an extensive article on her website. I always recommend Aurora’s articles 🙂 For me, I sometimes read bits and pieces of him in books on Louis and the Mancinis. Also, be aware that Saint Simon’s account of court life was written after the events… he wasn’t even born until 1675 🙂

  3. Paulette Young

    Ah yes, Saint-Simon. As an amateur historian, and having researched LGBT history for nearly four decades, I try to look carefully into the sources;) Thanks again. I thought perhaps I was missing something but I’ll keep on digging. And yes, I did read the articles on Party Like It’s 1660, very helpful for my research. Have a great one!

  4. Patti

    Thanks so much for the in depth reviews–I am impatiently waiting for our fall airing in the USA
    and by the way I Love My Captain

  5. P^2

    Does anybody else besides me wish that Phillipe would be portrayed in the series more as he truly was? I love our TV Philippe, he’s lovely, but he is definitely (at least to me) much less effeminate and emotional than the real Philippe apparently was (although we do see him in the dress, and positively gushing over some pretty fabric). It might have been for the benefit of the female audience (probably), or that they may have been afraid to portray truly accurately. I’m not complaining mind you, but I think the writers missed a golden opportunity here.
    Also, it appears to me that this season they almost have the roles reversed between Philippe and the Chevalier. I have never pictured Philippe in drivers seat, and the Chevalier being the insecure one. I thought last season was more accurate. Any thoughts on this (and please correct me if I’m wrong, since I’m working off of episode reviews and other posts as I am in the US also) ?

    1. JulesHarper Post author

      Same. Not entirely sure of the rationale of reversing the roles of Philippe and Lorraine…. maybe they wanted more of a ‘manly’ foil for Louis? I had a few theories I put into the comments section of my S1 reviews. Plus, Philippe came back from war a changed man. I just know that if it were me, I would’ve written those characters much differently (HG Wells did say “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft”.. which could equally apply to fully fledged stories, too 🙂 )

  6. Paulette Young

    I’m in agreement and I hope the writers and producers rectify that in Season 3. It’s a bit disconcerting that it was well documented, at least for once, that the Chevalier “ruled” over Philippe. And my thoughts are also based on some of the episode reviews. Perhaps seeing the second season episodes in their totality will help me put this “new” Philippe persona into perspective. But I’m still enjoying the show and Monchevy-more romance please;)

  7. Melissa McQuade

    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE, LOVE these reviews!! I’m in the U.S but I have managed to catch some clips online in French of course 🙁 and like you I wish I would’ve paid more attention in my HS French class!! I love the historical side notes you add as well. I have ordered the DVD set from with English subtitles (come on April 27th!!) so I don’t have to wait until this fall to watch it on TV here in the U.S. But until then I will be eagerly awaiting your episode reviews. And thank you for what you do!!

  8. Paulette Young

    Yes, I’m back to pick your brain, Jules;) It appears that when Louis needed the Chevalier’s assistance, he brought him into the fold and as a tool to get what he wanted from Philippe. This I find to be an interesting aspect of Louis’s character, another bit of getting what he wanted by using those around him. I suppose this is why the Chevalier also could be counted on coming back to court exile after exile. Obviously there was a closer relationship between Louis and the Chevalier de Lorraine than has been admitted in some historical musings. Thoughts? [because I’m dying to discuss the history of it all;)]

  9. JulesHarper Post author

    😀 Louis was very close to Lorraine’s brother (also called Louis) – the brother was Le Roi’s Grand Écuyer and a member of the king’s household. The Lorraine family had a long history with Louis’, Anne of Austria and Marguerite were close and their boys played together as children. And yes, Louis wanted someone to sway Philippe over to his way of thinking, someone who would be in Philippe’s ear to convince him to do whatever the king wanted. It was a brilliantly manipulative way to control both the Chevalier and Philippe. I can still imagine that going on in the background of Season 2, tbh. That would be a wonderful subplot.

    1. Elisabetta

      I definitively do not agree with you here. Yes that’s what Saint-Simon and friends thought, as well as Barker and historians who didn’t bother to go more in depth with Philippe and didn’t REALLY read the sorces (yes that’s weird, but too many people work on published sources and don’t bother to visit archives and read documents). I don’t think Louis xiv used Philippe of Lorraine in such way nor that Lorraine manipulated Monsieur to such extent. Philippe of Orleans was much more than a weak, effeminated man.
      But I agree with you about the show ( and I watched the ten episodes).

      1. JulesHarper Post author

        I don’t think I ever stated that Philippe d’Orleans was just a weak effeminate man.. so I definitely agree with you that he was much more. He was a complex creature, and it was clear he had many conflicts and desires that clashed with the Church and what was expected of him as a man of the 17th century, a prince of France, a husband, and the brother of the king. From many accounts he had joy in his life, and enjoyed many things. But he also had issues that stemmed from his childhood and his mother’s and Cardinal Mazarin’s influence, the overwhelming power/judgement/acceptance of the church in those days, plus the obvious exclusion of anything that would give him independence and control (aka seen as a threat to Louis). We see this subtle ‘putting in his place’ over and over from the many events that happened and which have been documented.

        1. elisabetta

          As far as I know, the Church hadn’t any issue with Monsieur: they regarded his as an ally, in fact the only one which really could speack out for the Pope before the king, and they had recourse to him more than once, in order to influence the king’s ecclesiastical politics. They never complained about his sexual habits (his confessors obviously did, but that was a private matter and nothing more: and Philippe hadn’t any guilt issue about his own sexuality), nor they ever raised the issue with the king.
          I don’t think that the Chevalier of Lorraine had any sort of “pact” with the king in order to convince him to do whatever he wanted: there isn’t any evidence of such thing and, in any case, Monsieur was not a man requiring any sort of “tutoring” in order to obey his brother, because he was fully supportive of him.
          Also, I think we should seriously reconsider his political infuence and, most surely, his role in Louis XIV private life. But I didn’t mean to be rude, sorry, I really appreciate your work.

  10. Paulette Young

    There is such a fascinating story there. I wish the writers had all the time in the world to explore the relationship of the Lorraine family and its connection with the royal family. But alas, no;) Thanks again for your opinions and remarks.

  11. Tess

    After this episode I certainly will not forget Sophie’s eyes. And not only her. The scene with la Montespan and the Queen could be completely without words. Their eyes say everything. And Alex’s talents in the field of expression deserve a separate article :).
    Besides, have you noticed how many scenes with mirrors are in this episode? Palatine, Montespan, Queen, Louis and Bontemps, Monsieur… Everyone looks at their reflections, but they are not quite happy with what they see… At least I have that impression.

    As for the scene with Claudine and Fabien, you know best that viewers and readers love this teasing (read: I love teasing ;)).

    Thank you for your review *bows low* Next one has to wait a week for its turn *sad face*.

  12. Harriet

    Thank you for this – I missed this episode while off on vacation and was looking for a quick plot summary – you made me feel like I watched the whole episode with you (and your other half!) sitting beside me on the sofa. It was insightful and hilarious. Thank you!!

  13. Nicole

    Here’s what I want to know: Did Philippe really show up to his own bedding ceremony in drag? I realize that he did openly wear women’s clothing, but at that moment?!
    I gather that at some point Philippe and wife #2 will come to an understanding, since in real life they had a bunch of children…

    1. JulesHarper Post author

      There is no evidence he wore drag at a bedding ceremony, Nicole. Although there was one amusing encounter that Liselotte wrote of, involving crucifixes XD You can read it here. And yes, he and Liselotte both knew they had to do their duty. After their 3rd child, they both happily agreed to sleep in separate beds.

  14. Nicole

    Many thanks, Jules. I kinda wish they hadn’t fabricated that. The truth is interesting enough in my opinion!

  15. Berengaria

    Hmm, my impression was that Phillips turned up in drag to piss Louis off, as usual. I have to say I found the scene hilarious and am enjoying the flamboyant Chevalier no end. For someone you say could barely stand to be touched by a woman, Phillipe certainly had a lot of kids. Was it six at total? That leads me to think he was more bisexual than gay.

    I came late to watching Versailles (started last week in Netflix and have been binge watching ever since). Thankfully, they also have season 2. I too stumbled on your site by accident but enjoy your reviews immensily. They are witty, funny and shed light on stuff I might have otherwise missed. Every time I watch an episode, I come here to read what you have to say.

    One more thing, I knew almost nothing about Phillipe d’Orelans but a long time ago, I read the Angélique novels by Sergeanne Golon. In those books, Phillipe is portrayed as vicious, debauched amd depraved homosexual who delighted in tormenting his “innocent” and long suffering wife Minette. it is quit interesting to see a completely different portrayal of him both historically (through your excellent links) and in the series. I have to say Alexander Vlahos is an extraordinarily attractive man in his role as Phillipe.

    1. JulesHarper Post author

      Welcome, Berengaria (love your name 🙂 ) I too read the Angelique novels! Though they were a long time ago and I cannot even remember he was mentioned in them.

      I’ve had the ‘is he gay or bi’ discussion in many places, with many people, and it’s important to remember that those definitions are relatively modern and didn’t exist in the time of Louis XIV. Even though homosexual acts were punishable by death, it was more common than we think and many people (especially those high up in the court) weren’t that hung up on sexual identity. (also, acts that we would now define as abuse – both with women and children – would have been commonplace too). The consensus from historians is that Philippe preferred men, and yet still managed to father children because it was his duty as a prince of France. Trying to define a historical figure, given the historical context and with all those expectations, traditions and psychological issues, does my head in 🙂 I don’t try to define him anymore.

  16. Jean-Carin

    I am a bit late to your blog, as I actually have discovered it by researching fashion history! I love your use of color in your writing as well. Thank you so much for including your historical notes because lord knows, I love a good fact check. I will be scouring your blog and reading every post lol. Thank You again.


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