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The story starts in 1667. King Louis XIV (George Blagden - Vikings ) has taken control of France, after the death of his mother the Queen Regent. However, he seems mentally unstable. His only policy of government seems to be to tax the poor so he can build a massive stately home at his father's hunting lodge, Versailles. In all fairness, his brother the gay Duke of Orleans (Alexander Vlahos - Merlin ) spends fifty thousand on shoes.
There is also a thriller subplot. Four Spanish mercenaries are taken into custody by the King's royal thug Fabien Marchal (Tygh Runyan - Stargate: Universe ). Standard operating procedure is to torture them to death in the hope of a confession. The thug has a group of uniformed musketeers, plus a handful of paid clerks and snoops who operate out of the laundry room in the basement. Small government at its best!
The King sleeps with aristocratic women, and gets them to spy on their husbands. Meanwhile, his wife - a Spanish Princess - is pregnant. The King assigns a local doctor to help her. Unfortunately the doctor is an old-fashioned type, who still believes in blood-letting despite living in a modern era where science has advanced to accept the sun as the centre of the universe. Luckily his daughter ( Lizzie Brochere ) is a Twenty-First Century career woman who wants to be a professional surgeon herself.
The Queen's child has been born. The bad news is that it is not the King's. Hardly unfair of her, because the King always treated their relationship like an open marriage. Anyway, the secret service goes into overdrive to stage a coverup.
The King's old friend Rohan, a Cavalier with a strange (Dutch?) accent, arrives at court. He will not be seen again for the next few episodes, although he eventually turns out to be an important character.
The King wants to invade the Spanish Netherlands. He even has an amazing model of the defences of Maastricht, although all anyone talks about is besieging Cambrai. The King's brother, Phillipe the Duke of Orleans (Alexander Vlahos - Merlin ), wants to be put in charge of the campaign.
The King also launches a crackdown on the Aristocracy. Genuine nobles are exempt from paying taxes, while fakes would be a security risk.
It turns out that the Queen's little person was not the only man of colour that she knew. Prince Anabar of Orsini visits the court, for the first time in nine months. He represents his father in negotiations with the French, Spanish, English and Dutch.
Louis introduces Anabar to the Royal daisy-chain. The King's mistress, Henriette of England ( Noémie Schmidt ), is married to the King's brother - the gay Duke of Orleans (Alexander Vlahos - Merlin ) - who would rather have sex with Mister Cavalier. He also gets a tour of Versailles, where Louis has his workers constructing 400 apartments for the nobility to live in.
The road to Versailles is now plagued with highwaymen. This is the result of a small central government, which is basically the Royal household. The King's security budget is spent guarding himself and his wealth. Worse, the highwaymen are former nobles that he himself exiled and disenfranchised. Louis would rather spend his time hunting down and killing an old man who was dispossessed for supporting a failed rebellion
It turns out that the highwaymen are secretly organised by the Duke of Cassell. His goal is to undermine the building of Versailles, which is taking up most of the country's tax money. This would not make any difference to him, because as a nobleman he is tax-exempt.
It will take two hundred soldiers to secure the road. Unfortunately, the French Army is away invading the Spanish Netherlands. The King sends his favourite rider, Rohan, to protect his brother Phillipe, Duke of Orleans (Alexander Vlahos - Merlin ). At the same time, he also conducts secret negotiations with a Hapsburg envoy.
Louis signs a peace deal to end the war with Spain and the Hapsburg Empire. This means he can take his army, six thousand men, home to France. He offers them jobs as construction workers at Versailles, and will now have enough men to adequately patrol the highways. He even has enough gunpowder left over for a flamboyant fireworks display. Phillipe, Duke of Orleans (Alexander Vlahos - Merlin ), still has some PTSD symptoms!
Madame de Maupassant is sent off on a mission. She must persuade the Duke of Cassell to attend the King's banquet.
A mother-and-daughter pair of courtiers have been hanging around. Now they get to hook up with some men. The mother, Béatrice Hiéronyme de Lorraine ( Amira Casar ), goes for a walk in the garden with security thug Fabien Marchal (Tygh Runyan - Stargate: Universe ). Meanwhile the daughter climbs a scaffolder's pole.
Two thousand construction workers go on strike. Small wonder, since they are ex-military war veterans and yet their risk of injury or death is greater at Versaille than on the battlefield. The King sends officer after officer to negotiate with them, but avoids sending his brother Phillipe, Duke of Orleans (Alexander Vlahos - Merlin ).
The Duke of Cassell settles into his new lodgings - a former broom closet. His hired highwayman is still at work, in partnership with a crooked tax collector.
The King's answer is to build a hospital for wounded soldiers. Well, he will pay for it but the soldiers will have to build it themselves. Also, he commissions a service medal for survivors of the campaign.
The King was infected with TB, and now he is bed-ridden. It affects his mind as well as his body, and the most lucid thing he can do is invent a new dance. His most trusted advisor is now Jacques the gardener (Gilly Gilchrist).
A conspiracy of mask-wearing assassins is hanging around. Their first plan was to poison a cordial that the King's stale-male-pale doctor was to deliver. Unfortunately, the King prefers the healing touch of Doctor Claudine ( Lizzie Brochere ). The backup plan somehow involves the gay lover of Phillipe, Duke of Orleans (Alexander Vlahos - Merlin ).
The Conspiracy draws a few outliers, like the Duke of Cassell and his former henchman. The Huguenot woman has the backing of William of Orange, and seeks to start the French Revolution a century early. This does not make much sense - they seem to rely on the idea of Phillipe taking over, so all they need to do is sit back and let things develop naturally with no real risk of exposing themselves.
Perhaps the conspiracy is more organised than it seems. The Royal council has to formally appoint a Regent, and the Queen - a Spanish Hapsburg Princess - insists on a joint Regency.
The lady doctor Claudine ( Lizzie Brochere ) takes up her father's job. Of course, she has to dress as a man. Perhaps this is for the best, because it ensures that men will not inappropriately flirt with her.
Fabien Marchal (Tygh Runyan - Stargate: Universe ) makes his way to the Doctor's bed. Not for sex, because he had too much of that in the previous episode. His lover poisoned him, and he has come to realise the truth about her.
The Huguenots meet up in a basement. Their leader, the mysterious masked man, has plans to prevent an alliance between France and England. However, the highwayman is only looking out for himself. Yes, even with the King's Head of Security out of action, the conspiracy begins to fall apart from the inside.
Louis knows that William of Orange is behind the plotting at Versailles. This makes a good pretext for a pre-emptive invasion of Holland. To do this, he must divide the alliance of Protestant nations in Northern Europe.
Louis sends his sister-in-law, Princess Henriette of England ( Noémie Schmidt ). The French aristocrats are all played by English actors, while the English Princess is played by a French actress.
She remarks that it is now six years after the Great Plague (1665), and four years after the Great Fire of London (1666). She has to bribe the British with three hundred thousand gold crowns a month for a six-month campaign. In return, Louis wants fifty men-of-war to support his navy and six thousand soldiers to support his army.
Fabien Marchal (Tygh Runyan - Stargate: Universe ) investigates his lover. Then, in a scene reminiscent of Milady's end in The Three Musketeers , Jacques the gardener escorts her out into a secluded area of the royal garden.
Henriette of England ( Noémie Schmidt ) falls ill, with bleeding from the mouth. This was the cliffhanger at the end of the previous episode, but it has been re-staged so it happens in a different The lady doctor Claudine ( Lizzie Brochere ) does what she can.
Fabien Marchal (Tygh Runyan - Stargate: Universe ) shuts down the palace and starts interviewing everyone inside it. He has nine hundred and forty-something journals, presumably one for every person he has to investigate. Of course, with so many suspects he is bound to hit a few red herrings. The highwayman, a former exiled noble who has played both sides, is an obvious suspect.
The King's son, the Dauphin, makes his first appearance this episode. Rather than have him stuck in the palace, Louis sends him off horse-riding with Rohan.
The Season starts by tying up the loose ends of the previous Season. Fabien Marchal (Tygh Runyan - Stargate: Universe ) retrieves the Dauphin and ends the old Huguenot plot. However, there is a new plot for the new Season. Yes, William of Orange's spymaster has a replacement spy in place.
Louis has paid for an amazing new technology, and predictably he weaponises it against his prisoner. Of course, this makes Louis out to be nothing more than a 17th Century Bond villain.
Louis recruits a local playwright as the new court historian. Yes, this illustrates how he views history - not as a collection of facts, but as a means to propagate his own self-image. Another new face at court is a female astrologer, who has the ear of the Marquise de Montespan ( Anna Brewster ).
The Minister for Justice dies, probably from arsenic poisoning. It looks like there is a lot of it going about. Unregulated pharmacology, that is. People exchange love potions and suchlike at the court, since it is a social venue as much as a business one. As a result, everyone is a suspect.
Phillipe, Duke of Orleans (Alexander Vlahos - Merlin ), is in seclusion at his own palace, away from Versailles. Louis decides to marry him off to the Princess of Palatine, in order to make a military alliance with her family against the Dutch.
The King's wife and mistress are waging a cold war against each other. The wife, a Spanish Hapsburg princess, hires an extremist catholic priest as her personal chaplain. Meanwhile the mistress is heavily pregnant with the King's royal seed. The mistress does not have a personal chaplain, but she associates with the soothsayer woman.
Key staging posts in France refuse to feed, water or garrison the army. It turns out that these locations are run by the Roman Catholic Church, and the Pope has turned against Louis because of his adultery.
Jacques the gardener (Gilly Gilchrist) also functions as a guard. He still wears his cyborg arm with a spring-loaded sword. While patrolling the woods at night, he accidentally discovers a Dutch spy.
Princess Palatine arrives at Versailles with her new husband, Phillipe, Duke of Orleans (Alexander Vlahos - Merlin ). She has big shoes to fill, since she replaces the much-loved Henriette. But at least her husband's gay lover is friendly enough.
Madmoiselle de Clairemont has done well for herself. She is not merely an informer for Fabien Marchal (Tygh Runyan - Stargate: Universe ). After serving as Henriette's lady-in-waiting, she is now lady-in-waiting to Henriette's replacement. But Louis has a new assignment for her - as wife of the Duke of Cassell.
A suspect arises in the case of the poisoning. The motive attributed to him is that he was in line for the job, and hoped to step into the dead man's shoes. This illustrates a problem with the King's policy of centralising control. The aristocracy still vie for the King's favour, but without their personal safeguards they are vulnerable from assassinating each other.
Marchal is down again, although he shows no sign of injury. His attacker makes a run for it. However, she is on foot while her pursuers are on horseback. Also, her choice of wearing bright blue in the middle of a forest means that her chances at concealing herself are limited.
Marquise de Montespan ( Anna Brewster ) is obsessed with keeping the King's favour. Unfortunately her infant daughter, the King's illegitimate child, takes sick.
The Queen has her own agenda. She wants her chaplain, Father Pascal, to force joyless religion on the court.
The Duke of Cassell is blackmailed by the spy. Luckily for him, he still has a pretty young wife to play with. She is a tough young spy who easily survived the death of her mother and became an expert spy for Marchal. Now she becomes a victim and a weakling, to make Cassell look bad.
In the previous episode the Doctor was fired. Now Marchal gets the same fate. However, the two of them have a lot in common so they can comfort each other.
While the King has dispensed with two of his most loyal servants, he now pardons the young nobleman who was cleared of poisoning the minister. However, the nobleman has his own agenda - that of the soothsayer woman. He is there to get new clients for her, and to fulfill the needs of the Marquise de Montespan ( Anna Brewster ).
Louis wants to send his brother off to lead the invasion of Holland. However, he gets subtley persuaded to lead the invasion himself. Phillipe is not only denied the generalship, he is also denied the regency. Louis hands over complete power to his wife, the Hapsburg Princess. Things do not look good for Montespan.
Claudine ( Lizzie Brochere ) investigates the source of the poisons. She goes to Paris, and visits an apothecary who stocks exotic plants. The bad news is that the rough neighbourhoods are full of rapey poor people. The good news is that Father Etienne, who ministers to whores and takes their unwanted children, is in the area and knows how to take care of himself.
Louis leads the invasion of Holland. He fires the first shot, resting his musket on the shoulder of a minion. This move may seem stylish, and was copied by Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road . However, it would have rendered the unfortunate minion permanently deaf in that ear.
Back at Versailles, the poisoners are still at work. The Queen's response is to have all the wine confiscated and locked up. She even puts a curfew on the residents. This is a very unpleasant move, since most people are only there against their will and are living in squalor compared to their own castles at home. In real life, Marie Therese was the one who said let them eat pie crust, a line popularly misquoted and misattributed to Marie Antoinette.
While the King is away, his ministers must negotiate a trade deal to get access to the port of Pondicherry in India. The Sultan will not negotiate with the Queen, because he sexistly believes women are too good and pure for mere career-work. Philippe agrees to negotiate on behalf of his brother, in exchange for a percentage of all profits from the Canal Du Midi - which allows the distribution of goods from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, bypassing Spain.
The courtiers celebrate by holding an orgy. Unfortunately it all goes wrong.
Louis finally has a face-to-face confrontation with William of Orange. Yes, he actually meets someone who can treat him as an equal. William proposes an alliance, so they can have a peaceful global trade empire. This is at odds with the Frenchman's plan, to have a European empire founded on invasions and bloodshed.
The French and the Dutch try to remain civilised. William's advisor accuses the French playwrite of not being a true historian, more interested in writing the embroidered version of events than the true facts. This pretty much sums up the entire show's attitude to history.
The Queen uses the previous episode's tragedy as an excuse to crack down on parties. All this will do is increase the nobles' resentment, taking away the few pleasures they are left and turning the palace into a prison in all but name. William knows this, and points it out to Louis. The tighter he clutches his fist, the more loyalty will slip through his fingers. As a result, Louis turns his closest friends against himself.
The Queen still wants to get rid of her love rival, Montespan. This week's plan is to invoice her for her expenses, which the King had promised to pay himself.
Louis gets home and decides to take a bath. In real life, he only took three baths in his entire lifetime.
Palatine starts vomiting in the morning. Everyone assumes she has been poisoned. The height of medical technology is not old-fashioned bloodletting - they have progressed to transfusion with the blood of a sheep. Of course, she might just be pregnant.
The blackmailer gets greedy and squeezes his victims for more money. Rather than face disgrace and debtors' prison for a bill they cannot pay, they are tempted by suicide. This will not do the conspiracy much good, if all the soothsayer's customers are fleeced and killed.
Louis wants to drive out the Protestant scourge, and create a Catholic empire with Justice and Enlightenment at its centre. Of course, this is completely oxymoronical. He is obsessed with conquering Maastricht, even though is is held by the Spanish. To do this, he will need the Catholic Church's unconditional support. They want him to be austere and outwardly religious.
Montespan wants to get her position back. She arranges a magnificent firework display Unfortunately this undermines the King's plan for austerity, and he insists that all his minions know their place.
The Queen plots with the Cardinal to replace Montespan permanently. Not with a new young hot mistress, but with a boring woman who will preach to him on modesty, piety and fidelity. They choose Madame scarron, who is the only friend of Montespan.
Louis hires Marchal back. Not only will this mean he gets back his old job and a regular income, he also gets to track down the person responsible for his lover's death.
Cassell realises he is dying. As a result, the blackmailer has no leverage on him.
The King's minions round up and oppress a religious minority. Last Season it was the Huguenots, but this time it is a coven of people accused of witchcraft.
The main coven has been rounded up. The remainder keep their heads down at court. Louis is notoriously merciless against perceived transgressors, and he has chosen to take assassinations on his castle grounds as a personal insult.