Lurking and Listening?

Written by: Anne K. Hawkinson

Jared’s home in Paris is fully staffed with capable and loyal (so we’re told) servants. We see them in every part of the house, attending to Claire, Jamie, and Murtagh’s every need. When they are not attending to their respective charges, they stand at quiet attention, within earshot of private, potentially dangerous conversations. They appear proper and professional. But can they be trusted?

When Jamie returns from yet another all night stay at the brothel, his servant follows him up the stairs as he converses with Claire about his agenda for the day – where he’ll go, who he’ll meet, and the reasons why. The servant can hear every word of the plan of action. I wanted to put my finger to my lips, pull Claire and Jamie inside, and shut the door behind them. Claire even shifts the servant aside as she buttons up Jamie’s vest, continuing the conversation as the servant remains in the room.

I wanted someone to close the doors when conversations were taking place about the Jacobite rebellion, Jamie’s deciphering of letters, and the disagreement between Claire and Jamie after her day of volunteering at L'Hopital des Anges. Jamie states the reason they’re in France is to stop the rebellion, and the argument proceeds from there. Before Claire arrived home, Jamie was writing, and then crumpling papers. What was on them? When the servants come in to tidy the room, surely they will look to see what was written on the discarded documents. Were they correspondence related to the wine business or something else? When Claire arrived and the argument ensued, I kept looking in the open doorway -- the servants were there, seemingly disinterested in what was going on inside, but there’s no way they couldn’t be hearing the conversations taking place.

Suzette is Claire’s lady’s maid. One of the duties of her position is to ensure the privacy of her mistress. She knows what goes on (or not) in Claire’s bed. We don’t actually hear a conversation between Claire and Jamie informing us that he’s sleeping elsewhere, but Suzette knows. She’s privy to that information by the very nature of her position. However, being loyal to her mistress should include a measure of discretion, which she betrays. She’s having intimate relations with Murtagh (we catch a glimpse of that rare smile), but she betrays her loyalty to her mistress when she tells him of the current sleeping arrangement (“love leaves the bed”). It’s not a dangerous tidbit, but it sheds a bit of light on the probable information-sharing that goes on between the servants in this great house.

When Claire visits Master Raymond at the apothecary, he indicates that it’s usually the servant who picks up the “birth control” for the mistress (upholding her image of fidelity), not the other way around. Suzette would be trusted with private, potentially damming information, had it been that Claire was in need of such medicinal assistance. However, the tables are turned and I have the feeling that if Suzette was visiting Master Raymond’s shop, she would not have been as discreet as Claire (who referred to her as her lady’s maid, and not by name).

Jamie and Murtagh freely discuss the letters they’re deciphering. Murtagh indicates how many times the seal has been broken, Jamie summarizes the contents of some correspondence, and Murtagh questions the reason behind the letter composed as music. All with doors wide open and within earshot of loyal servants. One even tends to a chandelier as they discuss their work. I want to warn them. “Shhh.” Why do they feel so safe discussing such dangerous matters out loud, in front of the servants? Isn’t it possible that the information can travel from one great house to another? Even as far as the palace itself?

There appears to be more discretion when the conversations take place in more public places. The Minister of Finance gently pushes away a prostitute at the brothel when the conversation turns serious, and the men lean forward with hushed voices as they discuss the issues at hand. After a game of chess at Versailles, the conversation turns to politics. No one appears to overhear the conversation between Jamie and the Minister of Finance. It seems that public places are safer than private ones.

Back at Jared’s residence, Jamie deciphers the key to the musical letter. Claire reads it out loud and they both announce that the “S” at the end must refer to the Duke of Sandringham. It appears to be a cause for celebration as Jamie leaves to find some whisky. When he returns, a servant accompanies him as he pours and continues the conversation. No one seems to be concerned about so many listening and potentially dangerous ears. I am.

Are you concerned about the number of eyes and ears in Chez Fraser?  How do you feel about Suzette's betrayal of Claire?


  1. Great piece Anne! Got me thinking.

    I have no worries. Jared vetted them and probably pays them enough for their discretion. Besides, good luck finding another good job in another house- your betrayal at one house will surely make it through the network of all the fine French houses.

    Betrayal to Murtagh is no betrayal at all. Even Suzette knows Murtagh's role with Jamie and Claire.

  2. Nahhh..not worried about the servants. And maybe I'm wrong but when Suzette told Murtagh about about love leaving the bed..I didn't take that to mean Jamie wasn't sleeping there but that she could tell they weren't having sex...she changes the sheets and all

  3. I had the same thoughts during Claire's confident voiceover about the loyalty of the servants...loyal to Jared and the Jacobites. Even if they strayed from the book, the writers have a long go-to list of evil, lead characters to assign treachery and mayhem. I would rather look at Stanley Weber than an extra in a wig any day.

  4. The servants do not concern me at all. Claire very clearly stated in earlier episode that Jared had chosen his staff very purposefully -- that they were exceedingly trustworthy and loyal. I am certain that Jared instructed his staff before leaving for the West Indies to treat his family and house guests as they would treat him -- with complete discretion. Seems to me there is so much more important plot relative stuff to worry about then the servants. J&C have much ahead and I don't think any of it involves servants tattle taling about the Frasers. As for Suzette -- totally a French thing. They are very open about sexuality and again, don't think it was a big deal for her to tell her amour, Murtagh, about her suppositions re: J & C's love life or lack thereof. She wasn't telling it in the town square but to another trusted friend of J&C.

  5. It's interesting to compare the show to the books regarding the servants. I am on the same page with your thoughts.

    Book readers may remember Claire was friendly with Jareds servants not only because she felt ill at ease with the concept but also because they had the best gossip. Word would be past from the street vendor to the servant sweeping the porch or buying their wares to the kitchen staff or stable lad and on up the chain.

    Again book Jamie and Claire were very careful to check hallways and close doors whenever they were strategizing.

    My other nagging thought is the staff knows Jared is a Jacobite but his home is being used to thwart the movement. Wouldn't the staff be loyal to Jared?

    No matter what, for us to buy that these silent witnesses never tell is going against all human nature.... no matter how loyal. People love to talk and gossip. My guess is the whole city knows what is going on by now.

  6. Even this day & age servants,valets,maids,cooks,butlers know to keep quiet,bc there position will be lost,especially in the 18th century!Not worried about J&C talking loudly about their devious plans,but as we know Jamie will fight for BPC and the future cannot be changed!Interesting post Anne K.But as life has it we all gossip a bit specially servants!

  7. I've thought the same thing. The servants are loyal to Jared and C&J are trying to thwart a cause that Jared supports. Hard to imagine that word would get back to him. But then we don't see the hierarchy of the servants either a la Downton Abbey. Mr Carson would not be pleased! I think it's a little lazy story telling.

  8. Word wouldn't get back to him, that is.

  9. Love your responses and insight! Thank you!

  10. We'll all be a lot more observant now. Thanks for the insight. In all , maybe there will one they can't trust. Hope not.

  11. We'll all be a lot more observant now. Thanks for the insight. In all , maybe there will one they can't trust. Hope not.

  12. I am already worried. Jared vetted them and they know he is committed to the Jacobite cause. Every day Claire, Jaime, and Murtagh make it clear they are not. I don't remember it as a book plot but .....


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