SNARK WEEK: Trying to Make Sense of The King’s Whore

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Full disclosure: It’s only 11 a.m. as I am writing this, I’m only 15 minutes into the film, and I’m already two-thirds of the way through a very stiff Manhattan. It’s films like The King’s Whore (1990) that make me think I need demand hazard pay… Or start a savings account for a liver transplant.

Anyway. Let’s get this over with.

I raved about Valeria Galino’s performance in Immortal Beloved, but five minutes into this film and I want to strangle her character, Jeanne. The film opens with Jeanne in a carriage, followed by another carriage filled with women who are either crying or laughing… I think it’s crying, but don’t quote me. I was distracted by the sheer number of unfortunate bigginses.

The smokey eyeshadow really evokes the feeling of the 1690s, don’t you agree?

Apparently, Jeanne, et. al., are en route to a convent where one of the girls in the second carriage is set to take the veil. When the scissors come out for the ceremonial haircut, Jeanne loses her shit and starts shrieking for no reason, causing a huge scene until she runs out of the convent.

So many bigginses. So unfortunate.

The scene abruptly cuts to a posh dinner with Jeanne and her parents and brother, where Jeanne is shown flirting with Count Cutie, who is visiting the family. He only has to say her name and she leaps to her feet and goes running from the room in a fit of hysterical laughter before running up to her room to smear pastry filling all over her face. Jeanne’s brother grabs Count Cutie and follows her to throw him at his sister, and everyone’s all, “It’s cool, it’s the 17th century.”

I can’t even describe the creepy way that Valeria Golino says “Chamberlain” in this scene while wearing cream filling that-is-totally-not-a-metaphor-for-anything-I-swear on her face. It’s puts “REDRUM” to shame.

Though, to be fair, I would totally let this guy lick pastry filling off my face.

This is where I have to pause the film and ask, is Jeanne supposed to be mentally unhinged? Because taken at face value, that’s pretty much how she comes across. Turns out she’s just thirteen. Ok. Glad Wikipedia was there to help me figure that out.

In the next scene we are treated to weaksauce sex between Count Cutie and the 13-year-old, before suddenly the scene jumps to another posh interior during a musical performance.

Y’know, when I was 13, I still wasn’t totally sure I liked boys. Just putting that out there.

I hope this hairstyle answers any questions about what decade this was filmed in.

Jeanne is moved by the music while everyone else is all, “Meh, whatever” while some guy stares broodingly out the window.

“Chicks dig guys in big wigs who brood at windows.”

Turns out that Brooding Window Guy is actually 1) Timothy-Fucking-Dalton; and 2) the King. The King of what, I couldn’t tell you because it’s never really mentioned in the film.*

The King of Town?

FYI, this film came out the following year after License to Kill.

Count Cutie introduces Jeanne to the King as his wife (when the fuck did THAT happen???) and the King is all annoyed that Duke Cutie married her, even though he has only known her for approximately 10 seconds.

The next thing you know, there’s the King in a sleeveless leather vest and leather pants looking for all the world like a slightly femmy Conan the Barbarian, having the world’s most tediously angry sword fight with some ponce in a marginally better wig. It’s unclear why he’s so angry, but it probably has something to do with being in love with Count Cutie’s wife and he has to work it out with violent sword play with his guy friends, even taking two at the same time. This is not sexual innuendo, nope, not at all.

This gets our vote for Most Tragic Wig in Film and Television.

I guess this is how men process their feelings?

It’s only 12 minutes in, none of this makes any sense, so I’m having another cocktail.

Only to come back to this.

The King and Jeanne dance at a masque and he accuses her of being happy with her marriage, then asks her if she’s strong enough to resist others *hint hint*. When she says she is, he then says he would like to visit her one evening … alone… just her and her husband and him.

The scene cuts from the masque to Jeanne and her husband taking a walk by a lake. Jeanne ponders the boat in the lake and then, I shit you not, says “there is a little man inside it.” Cue me spewing my cocktail all over the keyboard and then spending the next minute and a half laughing my ass off.

Turns out she’s pregnant, and not actually referring to her lady bits.

Obligatory hunting scene where the King waxes philosophical about the nature of man or some shit. Then he tells Count Cutie he’s being sent off on a secret diplomatic mission, leaving Jeanne all alone in his clutches.

“I’m Timothy-Fucking-Dalton and I’ll be shagging your wife within 24 hours of your departure.”

Then there’s a funeral. For someone. No idea who, but the King watches Jeanne creepily through a screen and she wants to GTFO because creeper king is creepy.

Can’t a girl fucking mourn without being a sex object???

Fucking patriarchy.

The eighteen-month pregnant Jeanne escapes to a confessional booth where the priest tells her it’s her national duty to shag the King.

“And then come back and tell me alllll about it. I mean, confess my child.”

Jeanne goes into labor in the confessional. Someone grabs a pot and apparently she just delivers her baby right there in the middle of the goddamn funeral.

There’s a baptism, and then the scene cuts to the interior of Jeanne’s house where the King has suddenly shown up. Jeanne begs her husband not to leave her alone with him, but Cutie is all, “Sorry, babe. King and country.”

“Alessandro, he creeps me out!” “Jeanne, just lie back and think of Sicily, FFS.”

Thus proceeds the scene where Jeanne plays harpsichord and Cutie and the King hash out the particulars of shagging her while playing oboes. I swear, I am not making this up.

Totally not a metaphor.

The King then snaps his instrument in half and leaves and Cutie is all, “Whatever man, I’m finishing the concerto.”

I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP GUYS.

AND I AM ONLY 23 MINUTES INTO THE FILM.

OH GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE TO MYSELF???

*Ahem*

The Queen is next in line to implore Jeanne to sleep with her husband.

“We are women, we aren’t that important.”
“Well, when you put it like that, Your Majesty…”

Poor Jeanne. Must suck to be the most desired woman in Sicily.

There’s a bunch of stuff that happens where her son is taken away, she has an argument with her mother-in-law about being such a selfish bitch for not shagging the King, and then her husband comes home from Milan or wherever and the first words out of his mouth are, “I thought you’d be with the King.”

So, Jeanne tears out of the palace during a rainstorm and orders the coach to take her to Rivoli where she throws herself at the King, heaving and drenched in water, while Timothy-Fucking-Dalton looks a kid who just heard Christmas came early.

“Fine. I’ll fuck the King. That’ll show him.”

*mentally punches fist in the air*

What follows is a teeny bit of an overreaction, in my humble opinion. Jeanne basically goes scorched earth on her in-laws, demanding that they be sent back to the country and her house be stripped of all its furnishings and burned. As for her husband, she tells the King that she sees no need for their affair to be secret, so her husband can go right back to being the Royal Chamberlain and watch her being the King’s mistress.

I just thought we should all see Jeanne in her underwear.

AAAAND TRIGGER WARNING: In a scarily convincing scene shortly after Jeanne gets everyone fired in revenge, the King beats her up because he’s pissed off when she refers to her position as his mistress as “work” and calls herself “the King’s whore.”

Look at this adorable kitten pretending to be a kiwi instead.

The scene then cuts to a visit by the King and Queen with Count Cutie and Jeanne in tow to see one of the courtiers’ art collection. Jeanne is sporting the barest hint of a shiner, but she manages to walk away with the prize of the collection, Caravaggio’s Judith and Holofernes.

Jeanne continues to wreak havoc on the King’s court as she continues to dominate the King’s politics.

While wearing a fabulous blue frock coat cut from one of the King’s frock coats.

There’s some war that happens, and Count Cutie enlists as a common soldier because the King won’t let him have a regiment. But not before the King gets word that Jeanne has come down with smallpox and he goes flying to her side while there’s, y’know, a war going on.

Thankfully, Jeanne recovers without ruining her beauty. I know you were all worried.

“No one will ever love my disgusting face ever again.”

At this point in the film, it’s all basically about Jeanne’s escape from the King and back to her husband and there’s a bunch of action sequences and whatnot wherein Count Cutie gets brutally murdered by the King (spoiler alert?) and the King inexplicably ends up in some kind of traction/wheelchair device that’s never explained, but not much in the way of interesting costumes, so I’ll just end it here. Frankly, this has already taken me far too long to write on account of all those cocktails.

I will say that The King’s Whore came very close to being a really good flick, but the pacing, editing, and plot all conspired against it. The costumes are above average, though, and one of the only films that features the period of clothing between 1690 and 1710, which happens to be one of my favorite eras. If you can get your hands on a good quality copy, you might actually have a better shot at enjoying the costumes than I had with the middling quality version I found on YouTube.

*I had to rewatch the first part of the film to catch that the King in question is Vittorio Amedeo II, King of Sicily.

 

Have you seen The King’s Whore? Leave your snark in the comments!

 

 

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About the author

Sarah Lorraine

Website

Sarah discovered her dual passion for history and costume right around the age of twelve. Dragged kicking and screaming to her first Renaissance Faire at Black Point, she was convinced she was going to hate it, but to her surprise, she fell head over heels in love with the world of reenactment and dress up immediately. Her undergraduate degree is in Clothing & Textile Design, and she has a Master's in Art History and Visual Culture. When she’s not hauling crap to SCA events and ren faires, Sarah enjoys reading true crime books, writing fiction, and sewing historical clothing from the Middle Ages through the 20th-century. One of these days, she might even start updating her old costuming blog again.

13 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    I agree with Morgan. Such an adorable and cute kitten shouldn’t be in the same room as such dreck. It, IMHO, is the best thing about the post.
    Thanks for the warning.

    BTW, I would have switched to Scotch.

    Reply
  2. Melponeme_k

    I know I’ve watched this film years and years ago but have no memories of it at all. I just remember the title.

    Reply
  3. Northcountrygal

    If you like the late 17th century./early 18th, please check out The First Churchills — John and Sarah Churchill, the first Duke and Duchess of Marlborough from 1675-1722 (with bonus Charles II, James II, William and Mary, Sidney Godolphin and full bottomed wigs (to say nothing of Whigs!) galore!

    Reply
  4. Susan Pola

    I loved the First Churchills. Susan Hampshire was marvelous in it as Sarah. (please feature her on WCF Women Candy Friday). It was made with a miniscule costume budget and they did a terrific job with it.
    By the way, the actor who played John Marlborough mentioned that Sarah was originally going to be Judi Drench, but she had to bow out for some reason.

    Some of my favourite lines are:
    Charles: ‘ Jamie, you have the soul of a medieval Pope’
    And James Duke of York liked the comment LOL.

    The scriptwriters were also able to quote from John and Sarah’s letters.

    Reply
  5. mmeberg

    OMG! I have totally watched this, at some point in my long lost youth. And the *only* thing I remember is that “traction/wheelchair” (wtf is going on there?!) thing.

    The thing is, that part somehow stuck in my head and I have from time to time wondered which strange, strange movie I remembered it from… Now I finally know, thanks to SNARK WEEK, and I don’t even have to watch it again (not that I want to anyway). Thank you, ladies! One small mystery solved for me.

    Reply

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