Prepare for opulence and intrigue in the Franco-Candian offering on Canal+. Filmed in rich colors and often on a grand scale, this production features stunning views of French architecture during the reign of the Sun King. Given the setting of the piece, the palace at Versailles has not yet been fully constructed out of what was once a royal hunting lodge, but many famous châteaux are featured. While the series is set in France and was originally produced for French television, the action is filmed in English. It was written by the nephew of Dame Helen Mirren, Simon Mirren who has earned some acclaim on his own in well-received British shows. With a budget of €30 million, it is the most expensive television production ever filmed in France.
The court of Louis XIV, in an effort to secure his political and economic power, moved to @Versailles when he was 28 years of age. This portrayal, starring George Blagden in the lead role, is a bawdy look at what life in his court was like. Intrigue, passion, and indulgence pour forth in nearly every scene as the longest-sitting-monarch in European history struggles to control the aristocracy that had nearly succeeded in rebelling just over a decade before. While Louis asserts his divine right to rule and continues to centralize the government, he must assure those who might have power are loyal to him…or at least kept in check. The invitation he extended to his noble guests is soon revealed to be a constraint on them as well.
Though some French critics were appalled that a show produced for a French station about one of the most famous French rulers in history would be filmed in English, many acknowledge the broader marketability to an international audience. With so much money invested in making the series, producers were worried the costs could not be recuperated within France and French-speaking Canada. The budget certainly shines through in the costuming and sets, and when paired with the high-caliber acting of the entire cast, each episode is a joy to behold. It is being broadcast in multiple nations, primarily in Europe, and has not yet been available for viewers in the United States. Well-written, this production stays true to all known facts, but some license has probably been taken with dialogue and personal interactions. It is worth noting, though, the producers do not shy from any of the known facts, even to including Louis’ brother’s male lover as part of the story.
Owing in part to the all-star cast and crew, and no little amount of critical acclaim despite some French fears the English dialogue would dumb down the subject matter, the second series of episodes was commissioned before the first even aired. We know it is set to be four years after the first season, which was set in 1667. This would put it just before the Franco-Dutch war, so we might expect to see some British and Rhineland nobility as the allies prepare to declare war. It may skip time and see the French reversal of allies after the Treaty of Westminster. We can expect the Palace of #Versailles itself to
Should this series prove as popular as the producers hope, we may yet see further seasons. After Louis XIV moved his court to the palace officially, it remained the seat of power in France until 1789. With over a century of political scheming from which to choose, the writers can continue with the current cast, or possibly dazzle us with a new set of talent.