Rose of Versailles – episodes 25-39

July 9, 2006 on 10:22 pm | In Rose of Versailles | 3 Comments

Wow, the French Revolution sucked. Not only for the nobility, but for the commoners. Bad times all around.

As for Rose of Versailles as a whole: it features some of the best build up episodes I’ve seen, preparing the audience for the conclusion with skill and finesse, abandoning specific historical figures to focus on hypothetical people of the period. With all of this build up, the Revolution is a sort of anti-climax.
That part, of course, is entirely historically accurate.

Series’ conclusion given inside

The last part of Rose of Versailles brings the situation back to the characters of Oscar and Andre, with several new characters introduced to support the new situations.

Fersen returns from Sweden and helps Marie Antoinette to become marginally more competent. In the process, Oscar realises her womanhood and begins to feel that something is amiss.
When the “Black Knight” begins to steal from the nobility and garnishing the commoners with his spoils, Oscar decides to begin a sting operation. In the process, terrible things happen to Andre that force Oscar to reconsider her position in society. She resigns from her post as captain of the royal guard and instead becomes captain of the B squadron of the French Guard, an unruly mob of common stock.

In the French Guard, Oscar comes to see how deeply the rot has set into France and decides that she will stand for its people rather than its corrupt bourgeoisie stock. The Revolution comes and Oscar must pick a side.

The Black Knight storyline seemed silly when it began, due to the “masked vigilante” factor of what was supposed to be a study of the state of France. The story came to have a point revealed several episodes after its conclusion, because the immediate results were nothing more than severaly unpleasant. The Black Knight, who turned out to be Robespierre’s journalist friend Bernard, blinded Andre in one eye. This led to Andre turning into a considerably less cheerful person and, in one of the series’ more disturbing scenes, attempting to rape Oscar. Oscar’s resignation to this fate – after she has cursed her womanhood for causing her to be attracted to Fersen – is what calls Andre off.

For a while the relationship between Andre and Oscar is understandably strained. Oscar decides to abandon her womanhood and becomne a commander in the French Guard, but this is not an easy switch. In the French Guard, nobility will not afford you anything: the circumstances of Oscar’s birth may have allowed a woman into such a high place in the court of Versailles, but the French Guard consists of common men working to feed their families.
To send a female noble into such a situation is little more than a slap in the face to the men under her command, and so she must earn their respect.

This earning of respect – as the narration puts it, “the doll starting to walk for itself” – is the other part of Oscar’s motivation, even if she doesn’t quite realise it.
The key to the French Guard rests in Alain, the unofficial leader of Company B. Alain is an excellent character precisely because, when Andre was first coming to terms with his blindness in one eye and deterioration of the other, he seemed to be a compassionate and affable man. When presented with the character in the context of his official capacity, one gets a different feeling altogether: Oscar strikes him entirely the wrong way and he decides that insubordination is the only course available to him. One gets the sense of some decency in that he doesn’t try to destroy Andre for his “noble connections” as the others do, yet there is a hard edge to all of his actions.

Unsurprisingly, Oscar wins Alain over. In turn, she comes to earn the respect of the rest of her men as she is clearly a far more understanding and fair person than any that has commanded them before. In the times that Oscar was Commander of the Royal Guard, you could never really get a sense of her men because the court was simply a matter of celebrity that did not stand too heavily on the ceremony of actually maintaining the peace. This “show ponyism” was a natural deterrent for Oscar, who could naturally no longer find herself in agreement with the increasingly inequitable attitudes of the French Court.

The French Guard plot developments are so effectively put into place that I didn’t realise until the end that Oscar had to join their ranks from a narrative perspective so that she could affect her role in the revolution. The focus shifted from its strict adherence to historical characters, at last giving precedence to the fictional protagonists: it seemed a natural evolution and that is perhaps one of the greatest compliments that you can pay to a series’ writing.

The episodes in between the French Guard’s earning of respect and the total enslaught of Revolution are consumed with the final settlement of Oscar and Andre’s relationship as the court falls into total disrepair. Many accusations of treason are bandied about that lead to incredibly powerful scenes that can only serve to make the ending, when it comes, anti-climactic. The final scene between Marie Antoinette and Oscar, where they both realise that the rift that has formed between them due to bad policy and different values has grown too wide, was intense: indeed, Marie Antoinette was barely seen until she completely took the reins from Louis towards the conclusion and drove France completely into the ground.

The best scene for romance, one that had tears in the eyes of all of the characters and, perhaps, even in me, was the description of Oscar’s painting. The self-delusion on both sides, the humouring and the common vision between Oscar and Andre, was worthy of some kind of award: a lot of ground is covered over the course of this series and its excellent scenes are too numerous to mention them all, but I would place this as one of the single best: reconciling Oscar and Andre into their ultimate relationship, one that will endure the standard conceit of “no deaths matter except for those of the protagonists”, the stage is set for an excellent consummation.

Following this is the final scene between Oscar and her father that leads to perhaps one of the best set ups for a conclusion in anime. For a long time, General Jarjeyes had been deeply regretting raising his daughter as a woman and for allowing her to have treasonous thoughts. After he has forgiven her and told Andre that he respects him but regrets his common blood, Jarjeyes receives a note of farewell. He worries about the tone that suggests he will never meet his daughter again. Oscar, riding through the fields and having to avoid the nobility and commoners alike, riding onto destiny, gives a sense of both righteousness and impending doom that makes the fact that the story has to appeal to historical accuracy a source of deep regret.

I’m glad that Oscar and Andre died when they did. It’s a sentiment that is little more than an echo of Alain’s, but it holds true: Oscar and Andre died fighting for what they believed would be a good turn for France, and the coming years proved that their ideals would go utterly unrealised. Oscar’s consumption and Andre’s blindness were metaphorical for the death of the idyllic France that existed in the minds of the people: that they died under hails of fire is the final insult, and an acceleration of the inevitable.

Oscar’s death comes at the conclusion of the penultimate episode of the series: this allows the final episode to serve as an epilogue, detailing the outcome of the revolution: it’s anticlimactic, but history tells us that the revolution was not actually a good thing. Either way it went would have been a loss.

The revolution, as is frequently the case, replaced tyrants with tyrants. Rose of Versailles‘s remarkably balanced account of the events showed that neither of the ruling parties – the Bourbon Dynasty and their nobles and Robespierre’s gang of ostensibly egalitarian but ultimately powerhungry intellectuals – were “good”. Elements of positive action existed in both factions, but they were ultimately overruled by the all too human characteristics of greed and avarice.
As the nobles say, “the commoners are already conceited and want everything their own way!” You can always see in your enemies what you hate in yourself.

Here is where we get the bulk of Marie Antoinette’s representation in the later parts of the series: she is no longer a terribly sympathetic person. She may have accepted the will of the commoners with grace, but her royal conceits, along the lines of “the flow of time is made by the king!” – that is, the commoners will not be allowed to affect change on her watch – made her thoroughly unlikeable. It was she who decided many of the things that made the ideas of democratic reform of France fail, and the reason that she became a target of common hatred was simply because the commoners were justified in hating her for her decadence. Oscar loved her as a person, because Antoinette had been a nice young woman concerned with her family and little else – but Antoinette simply had no capacity to handle being a queen. If you forget your citizens, then you cannot run a country. Antoinette engineered a situation in which commoners and nobles alike hated the Bourbon Dynasty and one cannot underestimate her role in causing many of the troubles that befell France in the latter parts of the 18th century. With such a willful, careless woman in command of the purse-strings and policy of a country, they have no choice but to fall.
An interesting historical note is that, according to the history books, Rosalie Lamoliere is commoner who tended to Marie Antoinette on her last day alive. The peasant girl who started with a crush on Oscar and grew to marry Bernard after a run in with the Polignac family came full circle, and it was a nice piece of attention to detail from the series.

About the strangest thing that this series could offer was its portrayal of Fersen, a man who, it is revealed in the closing narration, went on to be hated by his people. In Rose of Versailles, Fersen was presented as little more than a charismatic man torn by his inability to pursue a meaningful relationship with Marie Antoinette. I went on to read a little about him and it turns out that he was, in the politest terms, something of a “cad”. In fact, history has alleged that his death was a planned sacrifice by the King of Sweden in order to appease the masses. One may draw a link between the failure of his relationship and the flight of Marie Antoinette that he had planned with his bitter end, but I am inclined to believe that perhaps Fersen simply wasn’t a good man in the first place. It’s a cynical view, perhaps, but one does not have to be a nice person to be charismatic.

Rose of Versailles ended the only way it could: with the death of France and the deaths of the heroes who wanted to save it. A government that could solve its problems only by beheading them descended into turmoil and this series serves as a strict warning of that, as well as serving as an excellent piece of doomed romance.
Expertly produced drama that comes nothing short of highly recommended.


  1. Finished up The Rose of Versailles about a month ago. It’s another one one of those series that I’m hard-pressed to find anything to complain about. Good from the start but really started to roll from episode 19 and from then on things continued to move way uphill. It’s amazing just how this series managed to intertwine fictional characters and story elements into a plot that’s mostly fact. The way certain characters in the story were portrayed to be nobodies in the beginning turned out to have huge roles that changed the outcome of the series. There’s just so many points about the show that make me love it. By the time the series is finished you barely notice just how much everything had changed from the beginning. The flow of time is seamless and it’s a wonder to watch the lives of these characters as they grow and try to manage with the times before them.

    Definitely now one of my all-time favorites. There’s just not much else to say.

    Comment by KT Kore — July 10, 2006 #

  2. Yeah, it was actually a month ago for me and I got stuck. When the series discovered its emotional core and made the characters beyond the court and the existent members of the commoners for revolution, it completely and utterly kicked everything into gear.

    One can’t help but be disappointed by the conclusion but, as I said, it could not have ended any other way.

    Comment by Alex — July 10, 2006 #

  3. You know what that first picture you posted reminded me of? It looks exactly like two of the characters in the phony soap opera in Hand Maid May that all the CBDs get hooked on.

    Comment by Steven Den Beste — July 10, 2006 #

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