New TV series Versailles had already created quite a name for itself without even being broadcast. The scandal of scandals, a series about the Sun King himself was to be made in the English language, presumably to make it more profitable. The French were not amused. I can understand the decision from a business point of view, and I can appreciate that it will be available for a broader audience, which is always a good thing for all things historical.
The main characters of Louis XIV and Philippe, Duke of Orléans are portrayed by George Blagden and Alexander Vlahos. I was pleasantly surprised by the presence of Henrietta Anne of England, Duchess of Orléans portrayed by Noémie Schmidt and there was even a small role for Maria Theresa of Spain portrayed by Elisa Lasowski. Naturally, the court is ruled by mistresses and in the case of the Duke of Orléans homosexual affairs.
No TV portrayal will ever be completely historically correct, but Versailles makes an effort at least. The Treaty of Dover is included and even features an introduction of a young Mary and William, later co-rulers of England. The birth of a ‘dark’ child to Maria Theresa is included, of which I had not heard before but upon research, there were in fact rumours of such a child (no matter how ridiculous!). I had to get used to the Sun King’s youthful appearance, but George Blagden is actually quite a natural as the flamboyant King. The relationship between the Duke and Duchess of Orléans is much more gently described in this series as opposed to in Charles II: The Power and the Passion where he practically rapes her in the presence of a courtier.
The series benefits from gorgeous sets (even Versailles itself!) and costumes, and in the end, you don’t even notice you were watching the court of the Sun King in English.
Versailles was broadcast on Canal + last year, and it is set to be broadcast by BBC Two this year. It consists of 10 episodes and filming for the second season has already begun.