Huzzah! We are on our way back to Versailles! Louis is gonna kick some ass now! The salons will be reopened, the wine will flow, the queen will have to relinquish her little despot ways and things will be joyous again. Right?
Well, we open with a lovely galloping horses sequence, through water and woods and with a fabulous sense of urgency. I am concerned at how long it takes to get from Holland to Paris… the water defence was in Amsterdam but the nunnery had crosses and Catholic stuff, so would have to be in France. So really, it could be anywhere. And if you are travelling by horse in the 17th century, it would take you maybe eight days to go 250 miles, which is the distance from Paris to Luxembourg. Anyways, we see Versailles from afar and a soldier says he will ride ahead to announce the king’s arrival. Nup. Louis is going to do that himself: “A little surprise will do them a world of good.” Hell, yeah.
We now see Bontemps leading Montespan through the salons to see the queen, with Montespan wanting to know what is going on. Bontemps isn’t saying. She is led into a room with ministers, Bossuet and the queen at the head of the table. Apparently Montespan has ‘outstanding debts’ to the tune of over 100,000 pounds (?? why not in francs? We are in France) and surprise, surprise, the queen wants her to pay up. Montespan says the king will settle any outstanding debts when he returns…. and now we see the camera going to Louis and his guards, galloping though the golden gates of Versailles. He strides through the enfilades, past salons as people bow, until he gets to the queen et al. And he does not look happy. “Clear the room!” he demands. “The Marquis de Montespan will remain.”
The queen is TOTALLY unimpressed but hey, that look Montespan gives the queen… a total ‘suck on that beeatch’…❤️ Now alone, Montespan tells Louis he has been missed. But Louis is not very warm to her and she wants to know why he didn’t reply to her letters. Louis launches into a monologue: “while I was at war, I thought back to the visions I had, when they laid the first stones of this palace. The dream of an eternal empire with Versailles at its centre. And I realised by dream was suffocating. Versailles was dying and I was dying along with it. And the person who had been my companion for so long was blinding me to my true purpose.” Montespan remains cool and calm, suggesting he is weary. “I would be alone,” is his tight answer.
GLORIOUS INTRO – OUTTRO.
Well. This is a turnabout. Montespan storms back to her rooms and Scarron helps her undress for her bath, all the while not letting on she’s been rejected. “He loves me and I will give him all the attention he needs,” is her response. Yeah, but that look Scarron gives her when her back is turned…. not good. I just cannot get a handle on her character. Is she supposed to be playing it as a woman with wiles? Does she hate Montespan and wishes her out? She has said over and over that she is her friend, her secrets are safe, blah blah. But she just seems to be a cold, dispassionate woman.
A bath is being prepared for Louis and Bontemps notices that the last time he saw his king he was…”Lost?” Louis interjects. “Now I am found.” Then he tells Bontemps to organise a banquet for that evening. The entire court is to attend. His whole mood is a bit short and snippy. But then he tells Bontemps to tell him everything that has been happening in his absence: “hide nothing.” Excellent.
Sophie is rushing to Agathe’s place and she is upset and tearful. Cassel is getting sicker by the day and Sophie, poor little thing, is troubled, thinking she will live the rest of her life a murderer. Agathe will have none of that: “you will live the rest of your life a woman who defended herself.” She gives Sophie some more potion and off she goes.
Okay, so something has been bugging me about Agathe. What is her problem? I mean, seriously? I don’t understand why she has so much hate for the king. He hasn’t personally done anything to her, she is not a Huguenot. He hasn’t killed her family. She just has a hatred but it’s not backed up at all by any backstory that I can see. Sure, Louis didn’t like her fortune telling but is that a reason to want to kill off the nobles?
Louis is in his bath, Philippe standing by and OMG that GOBLET AGAIN. Louis thanks Philippe for his efforts with the Sultan, and Louis says he thought he was leaving his foes behind, but they followed him into battle. Philippe welcomes him home and says he can see he has changed… but he cannot yet see how. “You soon will,” Louis replies, then asks after Liselotte. Philippe: “Oh, you know her. Bouncing through life.”
Next scene is Liselotte and she is throwing up into a bowl and yeah, that is gross. She cannot possibly see the king now. Sophie says she must see a doctor. Liselotte says it must have been the pastries she had last night but Sophie insists, considering all the poisoning that’s been going on lately. Liselotte agrees.
A servant walks through the salons, offering rather elegant notes that are invites from the king to attend the banquet that evening. Montespan is in the gardens, telling a servant to send word to her dressmaker in Paris, plus a dude that makes fireworks. What is she planning? “The queen of Versailles, that’s what he called me. And I am going to show him how queens welcome home their kings.” She pauses, glances up to a window where Louis is creeping, she smiles at him then moves along. Louis’ expression is not at all happy.
We are now in a room with Louis and Bossuet and the priest is talking about heartening news. Well, Louis must have buckled under religious guilt, then. Louis: “I shall not be deaf to your advice again.” Oui. Oh, and apparently in three weeks Easter is going to be celebrated…. So we are definitely in late March. The year, I assume, is 1674. But the writers play so loose and fluid with the dates and the historical events I could very well be wrong. Louis is to receive communion and Bossuet is practically clapping his hands at what Louis’ new getting of religion means. He asks Louis what he’s going to do about “the obvious object of his previous affection.” Louis plans to forget her. And hurrah, the Lord will forgive her, Bossuet assures the king. In return, Louis insists on the church’s support with his war against the Dutch. He plans to wipe out the “Protestant scurge” and have a glorious Catholic country of enlightenment.
Back to Liselotte where she is getting bled because yeah, 17th century medicine (as I’ve mentioned in my Season 1 reviews) pretty much sucks. Apparently the blood has been contaminated, she needs to be purged, then given a blood transfusion from another species so the humours can be returned to their normal state.
*historical note Okay, so the first blood transfusion was in the early 1660s and dogs were used. Then Jean-Baptiste Denys, Louis personal physician at the time, performed a sheep-to-human transfusion in 1667 and the boy survived. But the third time was bad, and the man – a Baron Gustaf Bonde – died. Denys was arrested, put on trial and the whole practice outlawed. In 1670. So if I was to nitpick here (who, me?) they are performing an illegal procedure. I dunno, is it just me or are they putting stuff in just to show the audience how crude and behind the times 17th century medicine was? The blood letting, the transfusion, the treating of fevers and ailments with leeches, the smoking of rooms….
Anyway, Philippe grabs the doctor on the way out and the man says that yes, he thinks she has been poisoned. Nausea, vomiting, general feeling of weakness…. OMG COME ON! If Claudine were here she would know EXACTLY what ails Liselotte. And with those symptoms, it ain’t poisoning. Is bleeding the best course of treatment? Philippe asks. Yes, the doctor says. Then Philippe goes suddenly a bit crazy and grabs the doctor by the throat and says: “you better pray that you’re right. Because if you’re not, and something happens to her, I’m going to stick that quill right through your eye.” Then he storms off and through the rooms. Right in to see the Chevalier.
Philippe goes on. “How did you do it? Did you slip poison into her wine?”
Okay, now this is getting ridiculous and I have no idea why these two are continuing to stay together. This accusation is echoing what happened, historically, to Philippe’s first wife. The court gossip was full of it, and the popular theory was the Chevalier got the Marquis d’Effiat to poison Henriette’s chicory water, even though he was in exile in Rome at the time, plus no one could quite agree if Philippe himself was involved or not. Montespan’s memoirs (actually not written by her) even mention it as fact.
But on to the dialogue.
The Chevalier: (abruptly stands) What are you talking about?
Philippe: My wife! She has been poisoned and I think I know who did it.
The Chevalier: Don’t be ridiculous!
Philippe: You yourself said you would declare war on her.
The Chevalier: (disbelieving snort) I may dislike her clothes. I may mock her. I may hate her from stealing you from me. And in the dark of night I have wished her dead. But I wouldn’t go so far as to MAKE her dead.
Then Philippe gasps a little, tears well up and he kind of looks a little shocked and incredulous. He says sorry, and the Chevalier looks pained and hurt and also a bit ‘who are you? I don’t know what you have become’ as he replies: “You should be,” before he slowly walks away and Philippe watches him go, then angrily slams a hand on the table. And you know what? I am TOTALLY with the Chevalier on this one.
Do they not know each other AT ALL? What happened to that understanding and trust they had? The love? What they’d both gone through in Season 1, not to mention Ep2 ? UGH. (it gets worse. So much worse….)
We’re back in a war room then a walk-and-talk with Louis and the ministers. Apparently Bonn has fallen and William has crossed the Rhine. Louvois is advocating peace: Louis refuses. “Do whatever is necessary.” I know this is a scene of Great Importance, because when Louvois is a bit confused about what he means, Louis repeats tightly, “Do whatever is necessary.” This statement will come back to bite him in the ass, for sure. Then Thomas appears, and they all walk into a darkened room that was at the time, just a terrace-styled salon with a fountain that apparently leaked a lot. That is not shown, just a long dark room. Louis is unhappy that “France has been sullied” by events at Versailles and the losses in war. He wants the people to be proud of France and its king so…. ahhh, here comes the propaganda. Whatever setbacks happened in the war, everyone will only hear of victories – and he wants Thomas to describe them. Fine phrases and heroic similes are to be used. So, Louis’ solution to his mistress problem, his frustrations with war and stuff, is to turn to fake news to make the French people feel better about everything. Louis then asks his ministers to look around, what do they see? Furniture, walls, curtains, candles….. Louis gives them an ‘ugh’ face….. “Darkness,” Thomas says. Yep, that’s the one. Louis throws open a window and light pours in. “I dreamed of creating a hallway ten times the size of this room.” He walks, continuing to open windows. “A room without darkness. On one side, windows looking out to the gardens. On the other, mirrors. A hall of blinding light. That would make the palace famous throughout the world and for time eternal.”
And we see Louis’ vision as he sees it, the yet-to-be-built Galerie de Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) and I will never get bored of seeing it without a mass of gawping slow-ass tourists who insist on taking a hundred shots of EVERY SINGLE ITEM UGH. “Let us now turn this dream into reality.” The ministers then clap at this fabulous performance and Louis is very much pleased.
*historical note: The architect Mansaut took over in 1670 when Le Notre died, and the idea for the Hall of Mirrors comes from Saint-Cloud, where Philippe had a massive gallery dedicated to Apollo built, and Louis liked it so much he decided to make one bigger and better and much more golden. This sudden flurry of new construction is in keeping with Louis’ habit of going to war, then channeling funds into building Versailles, and he did this four times to co-inside with each of his war campaigns. So Mansaut drew up the plans and construction on the Hall of Mirrors began in 1678. It was completed in 1684.
But back to the story. The ministers are all clappity-clap at Louis about the awesome plan for the mirrored hall, then Bontemps informs him her Highness has taken ill and he means Liselotte, not the queen, even though he said ‘her Highness’ and that is wrong and it should be “her ROYAL HIGHNESS”.
We are back in Liselotte’s rooms with the doctor checking her out while Louis and Philippe stand by. Philippe says it would stuff up Louis’ plans if she died and Louis is all “she will not die.” Philippe again brings up the fact that he thinks Henriette’s death was Louis’ fault. Then the doctor wants to do one more test, and he needs her to pee in a pot. This is actually quite amusing because… *historical note: without symptoms and no accurate testing, plus unreliable periods, women couldn’t officially confirm they were pregnant until around three months, when their belly would show. But physicians in medieval times devised a test that, when pee is mixed with wine, the hormones in the woman’s urine would react with the acidity, changing the colour and taste. Yep, taste. The doctors would actually taste the mixture. The term “piss prophet” kinda makes up for that gross image I now have in my head.
Of course, the doctor says Liselotte is pregnant, and Sophie, bless her sweet soul, is all nearly a-squeal with happiness. Louis walks over and says “my heartfelt congratulations to you both” and smiles and yeah, he really does mean it. Meanwhile, Liselotte is still in shock as everyone leaves and a beaming Philippe walks over, says, “we did it!” and embraces her, placing a kiss on her forehead.
*historical note: Liselotte’s first pregnancy would’ve started around October/November 1672 because she gives birth to a baby boy, Alexandre Louis d’Orleans, on 2 June 1673 (and who died short of his 3rd birthday, probably due to excessive blood letting). This confuses me yet again, because by now you know I NEED TO KNOW where we are in history… end of 1672? 1673? PFFFFFFT. I will stick with 1674 I decided upon previously.
Now we see Gaston walking through dark corridors which are probably the many passage ways of Versailles that the servants use to get about. He meets with Odile who hands over the book with the coins in, and they discuss the non-payment of some nobles he’s bribing. “Put another note under their door.” See, I understand Gaston’s motivation here – he is making all the nobles who laughed at him pay, getting his revenge on Louis’ precious courtiers. He is a man wronged and he is on a mission. I can’t help but compare him to Cassel, who also has massive motivation to go rogue and do this kind of poisonous treason from within the ranks. But Cassel, I have come to realise, is quite a bit more clever than Gaston and knows what to do to survive, watching and waiting, biding his time. The really evil ones always do. Then Odile touches Gaston’s hand, kisses it (ewww, really? After the dude has forced himself on you?) and Gaston pulls his hand away, hisses, “I am in no mood for tenderness.” As she silently sheds a tear, he places two coins in her hand then leaves.
We are now with Montespan and she is getting fitted for a dress and let’s take a moment to enjoy this room. She is giving instructions to a dude who is likely the fireworks man. he bows and leaves and she’s all sighing and “how much longer?” And nonono you do not have TWO HOURS, you have one! And the maid attending her is brushed away with a “stupid girl!” then a demand to go and find out what time the king is going to make his entrance to this fabulous party thing.
We then see a lovely shot of the gardens – look at it! – and the lovely Sophie is being accompanied by Thomas up the stairs. “I had forgotten how exquisite you are,” he says and she smiles and says, “don’t ever go away again.” By now, I am pretty sure that Thomas knows all about her Huguenot mother and the plot to bring down the king, so I am guessing he’s assuming Sophie will have no loyalty issues if it comes down to a choice between him or her country. We see some camera shots of people dancing, musicians playing, Cassel chatting with others as the courtiers enter the room, all abuzz and glittery with new clothing and jewels and stuff. Gaston strolls in with a bit of a scowl, then he spots a noble couple and swoops over. Pretty soon his intentions are clear, despite his airy, chatty subtext about people not paying their debts to the king and those people then being imprisoned. The couple both know EXACTLY what he is saying… the look on their faces is enough.
Then we see the Chevalier downing wine, slurring campily “Well, if it isn’t France’s favourite couple!” when Philippe and Liselotte appear, then going into a dialogue about their clothing, until Philippe calmly interrupts with, “my wife is pregnant.” That gives the Chevalier pause for a second, prompts a filthy look at them both, an “oh,” and then a walk off.
WHYYYYYY. I DO NOT GET THIS. AT ALL. Her being pregnant means Philippe will return to his bed, right? All he has to do is just bide his time, nod appropriately, swallow all that stupid jealousy and he will get what he wants. But no. He has to be a Drama Queen and piss Philippe off.
Bontemps announces “THE KING!” and Louis walks in with the Queen, looking cool and dignified and very kingly. The dancers pause and bow/curtsy and Louis looks well satisfied. Very much less tense. Everyone takes their place at the tables and magnificent trays of food are brought (YUM) then we cut to a fire breather after night has fallen, Indian dancers, then the camera goes to the sad nobles who are being bribed by Gaston, who look at each other, then rise from the table amidst the flurry of festivities. Uh oh.
Louis watches the dancing girls then rises – and look at his glorious green and gold coat!! – and strolls to the middle of the room. Here we go, another performance.
He begins: “Look at me. Each and every one of you. (pause) You all have a choice to make. (camera cuts to Cassel, the queen, Liselotte) And now is the moment to make it. To live the dream of Versailles. Or to betray it. If you choose to betray the dream, you will end your days in the gutter of history. But if you chose to follow me here, now, tonight… there is no limit to what we can achieve. Tomorrow is the equinox, where the hours of the sun are longer than the hours of the night. And the shoots of branch and blossom are reborn. Let us banish the shadows that have haunted this palace for too long! Let us now be reborn!” And suddenly, the sound of fireworks erupts from outside and for a second I thinks this is Louis’ plan, to punctuate his speech with golden showers of light erupting, exploding, on Catherine wheels…. But noooooo, his is as surprised as everyone else and while everyone claps, his face becomes thunderous… and then Montespan appears like a triumphant swan, drifting up the stairs, in THAT GOLDEN DRESS OMG!!! looking as though the applause is her God-given right and oh no, Louis is MEGA PISSED because he had not finished speaking and she fucking interrupted him.
*historical note: a golden dress was the topic of a letter from Madame de Sévigné. “Monsieur de Langlée has made madame de Montespan a present of a robe of gold cloth, on a gold group with a double gold border embroidered and worked with gold, so that it makes the finest gold stuff ever imagined by the wit of man.” Apparently Langlée first presented a gown to Montespan and knew it would not fit, then when she pitched a fit, slyly offered the golden dress as a replacement. She was understandably delighted and it was worn to much oooing and ahhhing and Langlée was the name du jour for some time.
So Louis steps to Montespan with a thunderous expression and she is still smiling, quite a bit smug, and he says simply “you have forgotten your place, then turns and walks out as the applause dies.
Dear Lord. EVERYONE is witness to this very public snub. And Montespan… well, she knows what this means. Whispers start, people are looking at her and she is mortified, trying to be dignified and hold it all together. The camera cuts to a few people, including the queen who, obvs, is very much pleased as she gives Montespan the “bye Felicia” dagger stare. Scarron watches too, and she looks a cross between panicky and sad…. Tears are in her eyes. She is feeling for Montespan. Then Montespan turns, picks up her skirts and hurries from the room, down the stairs and into the gardens as the fireworks still explode in a golden rain into the night.
The Queen and Liselotte share a look, the queen says smugly, “how the mighty have fallen” and that is it.
We cut to the noble couple who Gaston is bribing, the camera watching from the window, then moving inside as they stand in their salon and hold hands, then down poison from a vial.
And we are back outside, it is morning and we see a lovely long shot of Versailles from the gardens. We are attending Louis’ morning lever, Cassel having the honour of fixing the king’s lacy cuffs (and discreetly coughing – we know why) when Bontemps walks in with a note. Louis notices the coughing, then murmurs to Bontemps, “inform the Duc de Luxembourg my collar needs adjusting… (lulz SUCH PRIVILEGE!) and tell the Duc de Cassel to retire to his rooms.” Cassel bows and leaves and it is a sure indication that his fortunes are not well when his hair suffers. And suffer it does now – all stringy and mop-like. Not at all like before when he was a freshly appointed minister and enjoyed shoving his role in Gaston’s face. Louis takes the opportunity to talk war with Luxembourg. Louis wants to send someone he trusts to do some more warring; Luxembourg is honoured.
*historical note: the morning lever was indeed a good time to bring things to the king’s attention, before he officially started his duties and his time was shared with everyone else.
Then there is the sound of distant screams, Bontemps is all “heavens above!” and of course, the dead nobles have been discovered. One of Marchal’s men finds a note in the man’s coat, and we see Gaston at the back of the hovering crowd at the door, slowly moving away with a panicky look.
Next thing we see is a horse galloping out the gates, then Louis and his guards are in the forest. I was confused for a second, then the camera cuts to Marchal drawing a knife as he gathers flowers and OMG NOOOO MY HEART because we know they are for Claudine’s grave ::SOBS UNCONTROLLABLY:: Bontemps is telling Louis that “he returns here every day, to pay his respects at Mademoiselle Masson’s grave.” Louis frowns: he did not know. Of course he wouldn’t know Claudine ACTUALLY DIED STILL WORKING FOR HIM and I am all FFS… .UUUUGH. Not sure if Bontemps is subtly trolling when he says “she was murdered. Shortly after leaving his Majesty’s service,” but DAMN I hope so.
Louis has the good grace to look a little… sad? Upset? Perturbed? None of these fit. More…. regretful. “I would speak with him alone.” And so he rides up with one guard as Marchal sits by the lake (and, I must add, forgetting all protocol and remaining sat while Louis is on his horse, even when louis dismounts and walks to him. Oh, Marchal knows he’s there, and he is beyond giving one shit. Good on him (but also *whispers* bad Marchal).
Then we see Claudine’s grave and I AM JUST….. Louis asks “why did you bury her here?” And Marchal, in his IDGAF drawl replies, “She used to walk here as a child, studying the plants and flowers.”
This is actually a bit annoying to me, knowing they have had conversations that do not appear on screen. See, THIS is what I want to know. I want to see these scenes, to see the characters develop and grow and build an attraction to each other. Otherwise, putting them together and throwing them into bed seems too sudden and unmotivated. Those scenes don’t have to be long. Just a hint.
So Louis says, “I’m sorry for your loss,” but it doesn’t at all sound as if he cares much. Then, “I wish I could’ve done something.” and Marchal is not gonna let that slide, oh no. He just looks at Louis, fixes him with a look and says calmly, “you could have.” Oh, the subtext in that. Louis then asks who killed her and Marchal replies, “she was investigating a poison being used at the palace. She must have discovered something she was not meant to.” Louis pause then says, “I need you. I wish you to return to my service.” And Marchal, yeah, takes a deep sighing breath and does a little eye roll and then looks at Louis and I am totally with him on that. Louis continues. “It is not an order. It is a request.” Then we see Marchal striding through the trees with Louis and wha-HEY Marchal is back on the case! Yes, Marchal can stop the poisoning but on one condition – that Louis trust his judgement. “I have always trusted your judgement,” Louis admits. “It was my own that fell by the wayside.”
We see the queen now, talking with Bossuet and Scarron about Montespan, telling them they must act swiftly to make sure Louis does not once more fall under the fallen mistress’ spell. Problem is, Louis does not listen to the priest or to his wife… so that leaves Scarron. Put on the spot, she replies, “I believe we are good when we are surrounded by good people. Yet I find it hard to believe that his Majesty could be so easily influenced by a woman.” …..WTF??? Has she NOT been at court these last few months? Has she not seen exactly that? Christ. The queen is already scheming, saying they must place someone else in his life, someone chaste and devout….. I do not like the way this is going – instead of giving us scenes showing the viewer how Louis and Scarron connect with each other, they run with the “queen orchestrating Scarron’s position with the king to make her his next mistress.” Nup. And Scarron is all “I’m not sure I understand,” and AGAIN I am totally not sure she is just putting all this innocence on. “Madame Scarron will befriend him and influence him with her modesty and piety.” Bossuet pipes up, “and impress upon him the benefits of marriage and fidelity.”
*historical note: the queen never conspired to shove Scarron or any alternative women under Louis’ nose, either as a way to divert him from Montespan, or just generally.
Right. So. I feel the need to punch something and just like that, we see Marchal back in the palace, striding down stairs with his guards, and I am cheered by this. He views the dead nobles in the dungeons, Bontemps by his side, and reads the note: No murder comes without a cost. He concludes they were being blackmailed for murder and were unable to pay, hence the suicide to save the family honour (although I dunno how much honour is saved – suicide was a sin and a massive black mark against the family). Bontemps wants to know more about who they had murdered, and Marchal is willing to wager a relative of the family has died recently but needs the death records to confirm. YAY. Marchal getting his CSI: Versailles on. Before Bontemps leaves, he just has to say… “the palace is a safer place, and we shall sleep better in our beds now that you have returned.” Marchal gives him the slightest of nods, and even cracks the tiniest of smiles.😌
We are out in the gardens and Scarron is walking, and it is clear to see what her intentions are as she makes her way towards Louis, who is talking with a gardener who is NOT JACQUES AND NEVER WILL BE about something garden-related. He sees Scarron and invites her to a tour of the gardens. Scarron is all “please do not be offended, Sire, but I am more interested in people than in plants. If his Majesty were to tell me of his experiences at war, I would find that far more fascinating.” Yeah, nah, Louis does not like that as they sit on a bench. he would like to ask for her advice on a delicate matter… (OH, how CONVENIENT). Yep, it’s about Montespan. He has decided that they should see less of each other, but is unsure if it is “a wise idea.” Scarron appears to think and I do believe she is trying to make her words matter, maybe even feels regret about betraying her friend. Then she says, “I want nothing more in the world to see my friend happy. However, it is my belief that intimate relations between a man and a woman should remain within the confines of marriage. I believe your decision’s for the best. For God. For her. And for his Majesty.” Louis silently thinks about this as she talks.
Now we are in the trees somewhere in the gardens with Montespan, and Philippe strides up with a note, says curtly, “I hope this is important. You know how I hate mornings.” Montespan says (and I almost feel sad for her), “please, you have to talk to him.” And Philippe is all, “why me?” And Montespan brings up the old “he forced you to marry for politics” and “he rejects me to please the church” and FFS, why are they putting so much objection into Philippe’s marriage??? As if it is an outrage that he was ‘forced’ to marry? He may not have wished it, but in no shape or form was he forced. It was an alliance for lands and politics. It is his duty as a prince of France. That is it. Done. This repetition of “oh, NOES A PRINCE is forced to marry??? This is TERRIBLE” is so very 21st century and not at all in keeping with a 17th century drama. It just takes away from the authenticity. Anyways, Philippe is going to see what he can do about Montespan’s dilemma. Also, it is disturbing how everyone wants a piece of Philippe, always getting him to do something. Louis with the spy stuff. Montespan with getting Louis back. The queen with needing him to pose as Louis for the visiting foreigners. The Chevalier with… well, everything else. No one ever does anything for him. They all suck.
We have a nice greeny arial shot of Versailles then we are back inside with Louis and Colbert, where he tells Colbert he’s going to set up a new Indies trading company and will invest three million in it, then sell shares of one million each. Colbert likes this idea. And now we move on to trade within France, and Louis says there will be a 10% tax on all goods brought into the country Oh, yessss. Also, Louis says there will be 40% of the canal tariffs from the canal du Medi and Colbert is all, “errrr non, your brother claims that tariff” because of the negotiations with the sultan in Ep6. haha. Louis is unimpressed and I laugh.
*historical note: the dates are a bit out for the French East India company: it was Colbert’s idea in 1664 and was devised to compete with the British and Dutch trade. And the import tax was indeed introduced, with the help of Colbert, to promote all things French.
We are now in Cassel’s rooms and a physician leaves and Thomas enters. Cassel’s diagnosis is “an imbalance of humours, caused by an excess of yellow bile” and quickly, here is a summary of 17th century medical training from last season. “Medicine was little more than guesswork, superstition and trial/error at the time: doctors believed the human body had four ‘humors’ that regulated and directly influenced temperament and health – black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood. To have one out of whack was to be sick, and this belief stemmed all the way back to Ancient times until modern medical research came along in leaps and bounds in the 19th century. Needless to say, the course of action of the day was pretty horrific and pointless, i.e. bleeding (where cuts were made on your body in order to ‘get out the bad blood’.” They exchange some vaguely threatening words, then Thomas demands some useful information. Cassel, to his credit refuses, even though Thomas says he knows he met with the king this morning: “the answer is no and will remain no.” Thomas is a bit shocked and wants to know why, and Cassel says (looking quite ill) “because I am in no condition to fulfil my duties as minister. I have decided to spend the rest of my days in quiet repose.” And he smiles, somewhat smugly, and can we just pause here to give Pip Torrens a standing ovation for his portrayal as Cassel? He is quite a horrid character, with many evil flaws, such a bad guy in Season 1, and yet, this season, a wonderful thorn in the side of both Gaston and Thomas. I enjoy that immensely. He also does not give one shit about Thomas’ threat to kill him should Cassel betray him to the king. Cassel knows he is dying. Why should he care?
We are back in a room with Louis and his ministers, a bit miffed they have all been summoned and Colbert is all “this is highly irregular” lulz and for a second I think it is Philippe behind it, but no. Not at all. Cassel walks in with the aid of a walking cane, looking quite bad and then….. oh, and THEN! Says this: “Your Majesty. I have sinned against you. For five years I was part of a conspiracy to have you overthrown.” Everyone, obvs, is quite a bit shocked, and Louis asks why he’s telling him this. Cassel replies, “because you did me the honour of trusting me when others did not. And… I wish to show my gratitude.” But why now? “I am tired, sire. No longer fit to serve you.” Louis is all, ” you realise I can have you executed for this?’ and Cassel replies: “I trust his Majesty to do what is just and right.” Then he drops his clanger, and God BLESS HIM FOR THIS….. “your historian, Thomas. he knew of my plot against you, and he’s been blackmailing me for secret information ever since he arrived. He’s not to be trusted.” And with that he slowly shuffles off, coughing all the way, until he pauses in a corridor and practically coughs up a lung, then smirks evilly. Now I am not sure if the smirk is because he knows Louis is now in a world of conflict, or that he’s proud of himself for dobbing in Thomas. Maybe a bit of both. I am also not entirely sure if his confession is because he wants his conscience clear, or he wants to fuck up Thomas, or basically just to shit stir Louis. I do, however, find it interesting that of all the people to whom Louis gave a second chance (Montcourt, Gaston) Cassel is the one who doesn’t shit all over that offering and ultimately betray Louis. Meanwhile, in the war room, everyone is still stunned and Louis says quietly to Bontemps, “Tell my brother I would like to see him.”
Next scene, and Louis is cheesed off Philippe is getting that 40% tariff from the canals, and understandably Philippe is not at ALL happy. “My interests are those of France. All I can be is king, you still do not seem to understand that.” Philippe is frustrated: “And all I seek is a place of my own. A little spot in the corner where I shall not be trodden upon. Is that too much to ask?” But nooooo, because the Canal du Midi serves all of France and Philippe cannot own it no more that Louis can. Ugh. Philippe throws Louis a pouch of coins. What’s this for? Louis asks. “To save you having to steal it from me,” Philippe curtly replies, then strides to the doors. But now….. ahhhh, here it comes. There is one way Philippe can retain his commercial interests and it will require him performing a service. Take a guess. Yep. Louis wants Philippe to get to know Thomas more, so he will trust him implicitly. Because he is a spy.
What could POSSIBLY go wrong? (oh, we know. And it is not at all acceptable. Or pretty)
We are now back in Paris in the tavern/brothel with Marchal, who is observing the creepy Father Etienne with Mathilde the prostitute who has given birth. They talk from a distance and the girl hands over the baby as Marchal gets closer. When Etienne finally leaves, Marchal approaches the teary girl and asks her some questions about poison. Mathilde is tight lipped: “if you wanna survive around here, you see nothing, you hear nothing and you say nothing.” True. But she does not count on Marchal’s determination and desire for justice. He asks about her handing over the baby to the church, to a Saint-Genevieve’s, a refuge for orphans where she believes they get fed and clothed and all sorts of lovely stuff that only exists in a Disney movie. Except we all know this ain’t no Disney movie and father Etienne is as creepy AF which is a massive red flag. Marchal hands her some coins and is about to leave when – and yes, this gave me a wtf moment – he sees BONTEMPS enter a room and a whore tackles him to the bed, and they happily roll about. Marchal watches from the door with a little smile and that is a bit creepy to me.
Back in Versailles, a lovely shot of Neptune’s fountain, and we are in the salons again, courtiers gambling and drinking and gossiping. What a leisurely life they lead. Gaston loses at cards. Scarron is sat on a chaise with Montespan, about to return to her rooms, but Montespan demands she stay because , well, poor Montespan now apparently has no one else to talk to, women publicly snubbing her. Then Bontemps stops in front of them and hands Scarron a leather folder. Scarron is confused…. but no, Bontemps declares she is now the Marquise de Maintenon, and inside the folder are the deeds to the Maintenon estate. Scarron is confused and shocked and refuses, meanwhile Montespan is fuming, knowing what this means. When Scarron tries to hand it back to Bontemps, saying she has “no taste for titles and such things,” Montespan replies curtly, “you soon will have,” then storms off. Bontemps gives her a look, a kind of, ‘huh. women’ then walks off as Scarron (now Maintenon) tries to absorb it all. Marchal meets him across the room and enquires about Gaston’s ‘new-found wealth’ and yay, Marchal is on the case!
Then Marchal mentions the indiscreet moment with Bontemps and the loose woman, and they casually and cheekily dance around that fact that she and Bontemps drink tea as friends and she calls Bontemps ‘Hector’. But not to worry. “The king will know nothing of these tea parties, Hector,” Marshal drolls, a small smile on his face.
*historical note: Louis did indeed give the title of Marquise de Maintenon to Scarron, and Montespan was quite pissed off because that mean her nanny was now on the social scale as her. But what annoys me – as I have said before – is there appears to be no build up of the Scarron/Louis relationship. She took care of his kids and they bonded over that. It was said he enjoyed her gentle ways with them and her obvious concern for their health and wellbeing. There has been absolutely no evidence of that here and she spends way too much time at court when she should be tending to the king’s illegitimate children.
Now we’re in Montespan’s rooms and Philippe is telling her to be patient, that he has not found the opportunity to speak with Louis re: her problem. But she cannot – if she waits, he will find another. Why does Philippe always look so sad when he is having serious discussions? It’s like he has the burdens of the world on his shoulders and I just wanna hug and pet him all the time😭 “This is the first time I have seen you like this,” Philippe says. “Not the cold and distant goddess that breaks every man’s heart, and strikes fear into everyone in the salon. But …soft. Human. Vulnerable.”
Philippe then tells her to go and confront Louis, that she is wasting her time waiting and hoping. And so off she goes, storming through the corridors and into a room where Louis sits with his minister and Bontemps, and demands everyone get out as if she is the damn queen or something and not a mistress fallen from favour and humbly asking to be taken back. Yeah, that’s not gonna do it. Yet Louis lets them leave and we move on to a painful scene, where Montespan flat-out asks if he still loves her, and Louis trying so very hard to avoid the question, dancing around it most admirably. But she wants to hear the words, the “I do not love you” and finally, after she practically spits out “SAY IT!” he coolly turns and fixes his gaze to hers and calmly says, “I do not love you.” Ahhhhhhh! Montespan tries to keep in control, whispering “you’re a liar,” then walks off. We go back to Louis and it’s like he is part-relieved, part-surprised. Shocked. Perhaps a bit upset, too, as he slowly sits and draws in a breath. Lots of emotions there and well done, George Blagden.
Now we see Montespan pacing Agathe’s rooms, frantic at the turn of events. Only one course remains open to her apparently, and that means meeting with a dude called Guibourg, a friend who ‘sees the world as we do’ (not entirely sure what that means… a world where all nobles need to be poisoned because of reasons unclear?). Next scene and Montespan is in a carriage, going through the woods to a creepy little arched door in the side of a hill. Does not bode well. She gets out and goes in, a sort of underground chapel with stone and candles and lots of shadows. And there we see a priest-like figure and yep, it is Father Etienne. She asks for his help and he demands to know who she is, wherein she pulls back her hood and tells him. He seems a little shocked then asks what she wants. “I need to reclaim a man’s love.” He slowly walks over to her, and it feels very much menacing and creepy. He knows she’s come to him because all other efforts have failed, asks “How far are you willing to go to reclaim his love?” Montespan replies. “As far as I need,” and he offers his creepy priest hand, one with the ring of a pentagram on it, and she swallows as he looks creepily-silent-yet-crazy at her, and she is perhaps thinking that maybe… MAYBE she is going a bit too far but then she kisses his hand and that is it. Her fate is sealed. Knowing my history, I have an idea of where this is going and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
End of episode!