Rose of Versailles – episodes 20-24

May 16, 2006 on 11:53 pm | In Rose of Versailles | 2 Comments

The Affair of the Necklace comes to the fore, once again illustrating the flawless political logic of Rose of Versailles while showcasing the somewhat nonsensical personal actions of these characters.

Spoiler territory yonder

The affair between Fersen and Marie Antoinette becomes established rumour, and so Fersen goes to fight in the war of Independence.
While Fersen’s gone, Marie Antoinette has her two children, and withdraws to a villa. She refuses to have any audiences, and thus the noble classes begin to rabble against her.
This situation is only made worse by the launching of The Affair of the Necklace: the evil machination of Jeanne Valois de la Motte, instrumental in the downfall of Versailles.

Fersen, while he will go on to become an important and beneficial part of Marie Antoinette’s political career, was one of the first major factors in her downfall. A selfish girl, experiencing love for the first time, ignoring her public to pursue her own desires; so transparent that the nobility can see it almost immediately, and it trickles down to the peasantry in an effortless fashion.
The “voice of France” is represented by an eyepatched man with an accordian, who sits in the sewers and laments the nation of France.

The issue is compounded by the fact that the monopoly on Marie Antoinette’s time shifts from Fersen to her children, in a manner worse than ever before. No audiences means that no noble issues can be resolved. The nobles want to solve the matter of the peasantry not paying their way, and where is Marie Antoinette in all of this?
She says nothing, and thus nothing gets done.

Interesting among this is the attitude of Robespierre, initially introduced as a weak looking young man: over these years he has transformed into an arrogant fellow, ignoring the fact that the nobility are humans in his quest to affect change. When he watched the bar patrons beat up Oscar and Andre, smiling all the while, one wonders if we’re supposed to be sympathetic to this aspect of the revolution or if it demonstrates that a great deal of the revolutionaries were nothing more than blood thirsty.

Jeanne takes advantage of this reclusiveness in the way that only a confidence trickster could ever hope to muster.
Jeanne’s first order of business is the exploitation of Cardinal Rohan, who is here portrayed in a ridiculous fashion. In his quest to win the heart of Marie Antoinette, the animators animate him popping up all over the place, peeking over the heads of various nobles.
At one point, Rohan is sitting down. Something provokes him to get up and dance and, if you look behind him, there was no chair there! It was just what would have been an incredibly painful crouch for one so rotund as himself.

Jeanne’s plans of exploitation work so well because Marie Antoinette presented herself as the sort of person open to confidence trickery. Her constant disdain for what, by this point, amounts to all of her people – even the nobles – fostered infinite amonts of contempt.
Jeanne played on the vanity of Cardinal Rohan, but when the time came for her capture and her trial, she knew precisely what she had to do: she had to lie to the extremities of falsehood.
In a nation where the citizenry have begun to distrust their leaders, just a tiny seed of doubt needs to be sown to be accepted as the truth. To “smart” people, like those in the modern audience, Jeanne’s lies are ridiculous in their transparency. The difference is that the people want to believe anything bad that can be said about the royal family, and so they accept scuttlebutt as truth. When Jeanne accused Marie Antoinette of being a lesbian, kinkily dressing Oscar up as a man to get some kind of kicks, Marie Antoinette suddenly became to her people not “the queen”, but “that damned Austrian woman!”.
The tables have truly turned by this point and, that issue resolved, Jeanne had to be dealt with. At this junction, some liberties have been taken with history: as the narrator states, no one knows who broke Jeanne out of jail, but the show clearly has it as Duke d’Orleans decked out as a ninja. The use of lovers’ suicide and Jeanne’s absolution are dramatically effective but not strictly true.

With the conclusion of episode 19, I was expecting there to be some fallout from the death of Charlotte Polignac. That was not to be, and I was disappointed by the total absence of Madame Polignac for what amounted to five years of story time. This was effectively remedied by Polignac’s involvement in the Affair of the Necklace, expertly tying her and Rosalie into the situation of the moment.
Here, however, is where things fall apart somewhat. I cannot begin to understand how a mother expects to win the heart of her daughter by blackmailing her. I suspect that this was a way of writing Rosalie out of the series so that we no longer have the brunette Jeanne/blonde Rosalie dichotomy, but characters that we got so much out of a scant five episodes prior should not really be written out in such a fashion.

As political intrigue grows, fictional character depth suffers. The politics are what are important, and the various factors that undermined Marie Antoinette and ultimately the French government are expertly played on this stage.


  1. Rosalie hasn’t been written out. She’ll be back.

    Comment by Ojamajo Limepie — May 17, 2006 #

  2. Yes, I have since come to realise the purpose of sending her off to the Polignacs; that she didn’t stay is majorly heartening.

    Comment by Alex — May 17, 2006 #

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