I’m hooked on Ovation’s Versailles.
No, it’s not a story about a small town in Ohio, although that would be good…hmmmm, might have to work on that.
It is a somewhat fictionalized but mainly on point serving of life in the court of France’s Sun King, King Louis XIV.
Louis was the one who turned the hunting lodge of his father into the Palace that Represents the Old Regime.
It comes on every Saturday evening at 10; I watch it on demand later the next week.
George Blagden is transformed into Louis in a magnificent way and does a stellar job of portraying the Sun King.
His not so long suffering wife, Marie Terese of Spain is played by Elisa Lasowski, tolerates the many mistresses of King Louis on screen just as the real Queen did in person.
One of Louis’ most important maîtresse en titre, or mistress, was Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise of Montespan, who is played to perfection by Anna Brewster.
Seriously, it is great TV. And for a history fool such as I, it’s like a trip to Disney!
They have white-washed Montespan a tad, and they have white-washed the Affaire des Poisons. Oh, they talk about it, but they, so far, have left Montespan out of the mix.
Even with the whitewashing…I’m hooked.
The Affaire des Poisons blew UP in the Fall of 1677 and was the beginning of the end for the powerful mistress of the powerful king.
Montespan, a courtesan of the highest degree, was with the Affaire des Poisons under a cloud of suspicion. The king began to think the beautiful woman and mother of seven of his illegitimate children was capable of murder.
The King strayed from the beautiful Athenais many times, but rarely for any length of time. He was a rake, a sexual aggressor, and had hundreds of affairs. Lady Antonia Fraser said that if Montespan or his mistress de jour couldn’t get her clothes off fast enough, he’d have a go at a chamber maid while waiting.
Really, he was one horny dude.
His eye fell upon and stayed upon one Duchess of Fontanges, and Montespan was relegated to the position of superintendent of the Queen’s household while he dallied with the Duchess.
Before the romance could set, the Duchess was dead. Most suspected she was poisoned by Montespan or one of her minions, but no proof was offered.
Montespan was early on assumed by many to have been a player in the Affaire des Poisons, but no one could prove that either.
Fontanges death earlier than the Affaire des Poisons which involved the murder of a minister and others in the French Cabinet.
Montespan’s name was mentioned in testimony when the poisoning cases were brought, and it was evident that the Marquise had dealings with La Voisin, the chief player in the Affaire des Poisons.
Prior to this scandal, La Voisin, or Catherine Monvoisin, carried out rituals and would create a special potion which Montespan would put in the King’s food to make him fall in love with her.
To make this potion, they – the witch and Montespan would call on the devil, pray to him for the king’s love, and sacrifice a new born child.
The child’s body would be crushed, the blood drained, the bones mashed, and the mixture would be added to the love potion for the king.
Historians believe Louis’ food was infused with such for thirteen years! La Voisin was arrested after a lengthy police investigation.
The Paris police found the remains of 2,500 infants in her garden.
No longer able obtain the potion from the witch, Montespan needed another source.
Enter Etienne Guibourg, a priest. Guibourg would perform a black mass over the nude body of Montespan in a blood soaked ceremony.
Rumor has it, child sacrifice was involved.
The potions worked, at least in Montespan’s eyes. Supplanting the current and pregnant mistress, she became the mistress of the king in 1667 and remained in that position for years.
Publicly, the ensuing scandal after the AdesP forced Louis and Montespan apart. Privately, he visited her daily in her rooms at the palace.
Her hold was just that strong.
After a few years, and in 1691, Madame de Montespan “retired” to the Filles de Saint-Joseph convent with a pension from the King, and as a thank you for her leaving peacefully and not killing him, her father was created Governor of Paris, her brother the duc de Vivonne and a Marshal of France.
In her long retirement, Madame de Montespan donated vast sums to hospitals and charities. She was also a generous patron of the arts.
The king’s final mistress and the woman who would become his second wife, Madame de Maintenon helped Louis to cover UP the Affaire des Poisons, Montespan’s crimes and prevent further scandal. After all, Montespan was the mother of many of the King’s children.
The enormity of her crimes became her safeguard. The scandal was just too big not to cover UP.
Montespan’s final years were ones of severe penance. Her death was a sorrowful blow to her surviving children when she died in 1707.
Louis, however, refused to allow them to wear mourning in her honor.