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Film / La Reine Margot

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It was the king's favorite dress.

La Reine Margot is a film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Alexandre Dumas, père. Released in 1994, the film stars Isabelle Adjani as Margot, Vincent Perez as her lover La Môle, and Daniel Auteuil as Henri de Bourbon, the king of Navarre. Originally clocking in at roughly 160 minutes, the film was cut by twenty or so minutes for its international release because of disappointing performance at the box-office in France and criticism that the film was too violent and incoherent. In addition to cuts, changes included a scene of Margot and La Môle wrapped in a red cloth for the American release.

France, 1572. Unrest between Catholics and Protestants is coming to a head. In an effort to restore some semblance of peace, the dowager queen Catherine, the real power behind King Charles IX, arranges a marriage between her daughter, Marguerite de Valois, and the Protestant Henri de Bourbon, King of Navarre. People gather from all over the country to attend the wedding, including several thousand Protestants. One of them being a young man by the name of La Môle who has business with Admiral de Coligny, the king's current favorite.


Naturally, no mere marriage can solve the larger political problems in France, from religious disagreements to a potential war with Spain that Coligny is pushing for, and what's more, Catherine knows that her days in power might be over. The only way to resolve all these issues, so she believes, is to start picking off Protestant leaders.

Until the king says to kill them all.

La Reine Margot (1994) includes examples of:

  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Margot pets her brothers' hair when they are upset about her wedding night.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Alençon, who is referred to as "le petit" (translated as "the kid" in the American release) by his older brother Charles.
  • Anywhere but Their Lips: Margot refuses to let La Môle kiss her on the mouth their first time together.
  • Arranged Marriage: Margot and Henri de Bourbon.
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  • Artistic License – Pharmacology: Poisons that cause lots of bleeding are usually anticoagulants and arsenic is not one of them.
  • Attempted Rape: Margot's brothers all gang up on her at a public gathering and pull up her dress. Very likely if allowed to go that far they would have raped her.
  • Beta Couple: Henriette de Nevers and Coconnas.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Valois family, including their Bourbon and Guise cousins and other families they've married into.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Margot escapes her family to the safety of Navarre, but her lover is dead.
  • Blood-Splattered Innocents:
    • Right in the poster. Visually invokes Blood-Splattered Wedding Dress, but the gown in question isn't Margot's wedding dress.
    • Earlier in the movie there is Margot soaked in La Môle's blood when he stumbles into her chamber during the massacre.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Marguerite and her brothers.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A certain treatise on hunting.
  • The City Narrows: Margot goes to what looks like a less than great part of Paris to find someone to have sex with.
  • Converting for Love: Averted. It's more "converting so my wife's family won't kill me."
  • Country Mouse: Henri in the Valois court, not least for being a Protestant among Catholics.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Sweating all your blood out must be an excruciating way to die.
  • Cute and Psycho: Henriette de Nevers shows signs of it when she flirts with Coconnas during the massacre.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: While boar hunting, Charles refuses to use a pistol because it's not as fun as stabbing it with a stake.
  • Domino Mask: Margot wears one when she goes out looking for a man to have sex with.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Anjou is the most immoral of all Catherine's children, but he is her favorite. And he loves her more than any of the others can claim to.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Anjou and Alençon are only referred to by their titles. note 
  • Evil Matriarch: Catherine has more than a little of this to her. Certainly Charles wouldn't be surprised if she tried to kill him so Anjou could rule, but she denies it vehemently.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: When Alençon sets a trap for Henri the poisoned book is picked up by Charles instead. Alençon has two choices. He can save his brother and both doom himself (because Henri is Charles' current favorite) and implicate his mother, or he can let Charles keep reading and die from it while saving his own neck.
  • Fairy Tale Wedding Dress: Especially next to her husband's austere black, Margot's wedding dress is very elaborate and extravagant.
  • Fan Disservice: The blood-soaked naked corpses of massacred Huguenots.
  • Femme Fatale: Margot herself as well as Charlotte de Sauve
  • Fiery Redhead: Henriette de Nevers.
  • Finger-Licking Poison: A poisoned book is used in attempt on Henri de Navarre's life, but the plan backfires with disastrous results.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Charles will die. Then Anjou becomes king. Then Alençon dies. Then Anjou has Guise assassinated. Then Guise's widow encourages Anjou's assassination. Then Henri becomes king and rules for 21 years before being assassinated himself.
  • Gilded Cage: Henri and Margot are put under house arrest in the Louvre after Margot's public outburst following Henri's conversion to Catholicism.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Catherine.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: The dresses are almost Costume Porn.
  • Historical Beauty Update: Asia Argento is a lot more attractive than Charlotte de Sauvre was. To a lesser degree, Marguerite. She was still a beautiful woman, but not as striking as Isabelle Adjani. Most of the men are a reasonably fair fit, however.
  • Historical Domain Character: Pretty much everyone.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: To Catherine de' Medici, and how.
    • Far better candidates for the attempted assassination of Coligny are the Duc de Guise and the Spanish governor of the Netherlands.
    • In the film Marguerite has a passionate love-hate relationship with her brothers, but actually she had a rather good relationship with Charles and Alençon, without emotional rollercoasters, and wrote fondly of them in her memoirs, while with Anjou things were more complicated - they used to be very close but then became distant and distrustful of each other. Marguerite attributes it to the influence of one of his favorites, but most likely it has more to do with her betrayal in favor of Alençon and continous plotting with him behind Anjou's back. Catherine really idolized Henri d'Anjou and seemed to love him most out of her children, if not only him at all. Judging by Marguerite's letters she once thought she would be executed on their orders.
    • Catherine was seen as far too tolerant of Protestants by the Pope, the Guise faction, and the king of Spain.
    • Charles II actually died of tuberculosis, which isn't surprising because he'd always been sickly.
  • Hit Me, Dammit!: Coconnas to La Môle.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Catherine arranges to have Henri poisoned so he will no longer threaten Charles. Charles ends up getting poisoned instead.
  • Honor Before Reason: Margot talks Henri out of this in order to save him from her family.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Partly to be expected simply because the novel was written in 1845, but the movie is much more overtly sexual than the novel.
  • Hunting "Accident": Charles IX would have died in such an accident, if it wasn't for Henri de Navarre.
  • I Just Want to Have Friends: Charles is Type B.
  • I Owe You My Life: Many:
    • Margot saves Henri and La Môle during the the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre
    • Henri saves Charles from being gored to death by a boar.
  • Importation Expansion: That shot of Margot and La Môle on the American DVD? That whole scene was made up for the American release to strengthen the love story.
  • Karma Houdini: Guise and Anjou in the context of the film.
  • Kill 'Em All: The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
  • King Bob the Nth: King Charles IX. King Henri III.
  • King on His Deathbed: Charles spends the last twenty or so minutes of the movie sweating blood as a result of arsenic poisoning. He does make it back to his bed for one last private conversation with his sister.
  • Kiss of Death: The even more devious plan to poison Henri de Bourbon via his paramour's lipstick is employed but thwarted by Margot appearing and saving him at the last minute.
  • Love Potion: Charlotte de Sauvre receives rouge that contains a powerful aphrodisiac. It's actually poison meant for Henri, but it only kills her.
  • Master Poisoner: Réné the Florentine is rumored to be this as well as Catherine's perfumer. Turns out, it's true.
  • The Mistress: Charlotte de Sauvre to Henri and Marie Touchet to Charles.
  • Morality Pet: Margot believes herself to be this to her brothers, but as Henri warns her this proves to be untrue.
  • Mortal Wound Reveal: Charles just looks kind of weak and sick... and then he starts sweating blood. From everywhere.
  • Murder by Mistake: Henri was supposed to die. Charles died instead.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: After her wedding, Margot wears a blue gown that laces in the front. Or at least, it's supposed to lace in the front.
  • Offing the Offspring: Accidental. Charles is poisoned by a trap intended for Henri.
  • One-Steve Limit: Probably why Anjou and the duc de Guise are referred to by their titles. (Both were named Henri).
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Margot is only ever called Marguerite during her wedding ceremony. In real life it's reversed - only Charles called her by that diminitive.
  • Open Secret: Quite a few, not all of them about relationships.
    • Valois' siblings foursome.
    • Margot's relationship with the Duc de Guise.
    • Henri's relationship with the Baroness Charlotte de Sauve.
    • Queen Catherine had Henri's mother poisoned.
  • Parental Substitute: Charles claims Coligny is like a father to him.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Margot and Henri's marriage.
  • Please Spare Him, My Liege!: Margot begs Charles for La Môle's life. It goes badly.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: After Coligny's assassination gets botched.
  • Puppet King: Charles was this until recently, while his mother wielded the true power in France. He credits Coligny with freeing him from Catherine's control, though of course Coligny is just using him, too.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Margot, as played by Isabelle Adjani. Paler than anyone else in the film with very dark hair, Margot is widely considered a beautiful but poisonous woman, enchanting men with her looks even when they know better than to get involved.
  • Really Gets Around: Margot is implied to be this. As are her brothers.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Margot delivers one to her family after the massacre, telling them that they're all damned and they've damned her as well by using her wedding as Protestant bait.
  • Royal Blood: Why Henri de Bourbon, and de Guise house are so dangerous to Queen Catherine.
  • Royal Brat: King Charles IX, who is extremely fickle on top of being childish, a crybaby, and generally insufferable.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Catherine actually works hard to run France. How well she does is debatable.
  • The Scapegoat: Coconnas and La Môle took the fall for Queen Catherine.
  • Scylla and Charybdis: Henri must convert or be killed. Either way, he's going to disappoint his followers, but, as Margot points out, at least if he converts, he'll be alive.
  • Secret Relationship:
    • Margot's romance with La Môle. At first.
    • Charles' relationship with Marie takes the cake as he actually does keep it from everyone, and has for at least a year judging from the age of their child.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Charles and Anjou, as illustrated by the one sobbing and the other coldly planning before the massacre.
  • Sexless Marriage: Margot flat-out tells Henri not to come to her bed after their wedding because she refuses to sleep with him. Subverted later when she gives him Pity Sex.
  • Sibling Rivalry: Between Charles, Anjou, and Alençon.
  • Skip to the End: When Margot refuses to say "I do," King Charles gets up and pushes her over so her bowed form can be taken as a sign of agreement.
  • Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty: On the gritty side of the scale.
  • Spare to the Throne: Anjou and Alençon.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Orthon In the book he is killed by Catherine.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Margot and La Môle
  • Succession Crisis: What drives a lot of Catherine's actions. Because were something to happen to her sons, they have no children to ensure Henri de Bourbon doesn't get the crown of France.
  • "Take That!" Kiss: Henri de Navarre gives one to Henri de Guise during their fight.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Oh God is it ever:
    • The Valois siblings and Henri are second cousins. note 
    • The Valois siblings and Guise are second cousins as well. note 
    • Henri and Guise are first cousins once removed. note 
    • The Valois siblings' paternal grandparents (the aforementioned François I and Claude) were also second cousins.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Henri and Margot
  • The Unfavorite: Margot, as emphasized by Catherine saying she loves all three of her children, and then correcting herself to say she has four.
  • Villainous Incest: The titular Marguerite de Valois having sex with her brothers and their brother Anjou being in love with their mother, Catherine de' Medici. The whole incestuous lot is pretty villainous with atrocities, backstabbing, and poisonings under their belt, though a couple of them are more ambiguous including Margot herself.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Gender flipped with the parent as Charles is looking for his mother's approval and feels he is constantly denied it.
  • White Shirt of Death: In the last scenes of the movie, Margot appears in a pure white gown, which is stained with gore as the last horrors unfold.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Margot has moments of this, such as when she talks Coconnas out of killing La Môle.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Charles IX is the one. His life is miserable however he has to be one of the organizers of a large-scale massacre.
  • You Killed My Father: Henri thinks that Catherine killed his mother, Jeanne d'Albret and (though it's not mentioned) the real Duc de Guise believed that Coligny killed his father, François de Lorraine.