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Versailles TV Series: Here Comes The Sun King

The Versailles TV series raises the bar for historical drama... and also raises questions about the nature of kingship.

Tue, November 1st, 2016


One current favourite for those who want to watch UK TV abroad this year focuses on France during the time of its most famous king. With lavish wardrobe and an eye to period detail in everything from set design to minor plot points, the Versailles TV series, a collaboration between BBC Two and Canal+ takes a lingering look at the reign of Louis XIV, better known as the Sun King.

 

The astonishing architecture and lustrous silk dresses

Season One is set in 1667, with a running theme provided by the construction of the Palace of Versailles. Viewers see the intrigues and frustrations of the court against a backdrop of lustrous silk dresses, flamboyant velvet suit coats and glimpses of the stunning grounds and architecture of the famous Palace de Versailles itself. It is quite evident why he was seen as the Sun King.

 

Louis and Maria Theresa: Never knowingly understated

The era’s historic figures are represented by an all-British cast, from Louis XIV and his distant wife Maria Theresa to the king’s supposed lovers and his flamboyant and foppish brother Philippe, Duke of Orléans. Played masterfully by actor George Blagden, Louis is handsome, debonair and not a little Machiavellian in his attempt to consolidate his power away from the traditional centre of influence in Paris. The series is full of intrigues and cunningness.

 

The Nature Of Kings in the Versailles TV Series

The TV series is unflinching in its consideration of the nature of kingship, to an extent which may shock fans of ‘Victoria’ or ‘The King’s Voice’. Louis’ decision to build in the backwater village of Versailles was pitched as a homage to art and beauty, but it was also a ruthless ploy to wrest power away from the French nobility, isolating them from sympathetic factions and compelling them to live in a court framed by his rules. Those who resisted were dealt with swiftly and brutally. The brute in question was spymaster and torturer Fabien Marchal, portrayed here by Tygh Runyan as an escapee from ‘Game of Thrones’. His performance is truly brilliant.

 

Oddly modern

Despite (or should that be because of?) all this, Louis’ court often appears oddly modern, with its financial preoccupations, frequent infidelities and tolerant attitude to homosexuality. But the scriptwriters have also given due weight to centuries-old mysteries like the curious story of Louise Marie-Thérèse, the Black Nun of Moret.

There is good news for fans of UK TV abroad, too. Canal+ decided to shoot in English. For history buffs or those who just love a good drama, Versailles is a rich, colourful, endlessly entertaining opus that allows audiences to travel back in time to experience the intrigues and triumphs of one of the most opulent reigns in history. It is truly a series to witness and be entertained.

 

UK TV Abroad for everyone, simple and easy.

While living abroad allows for new experiences, new languages and new friends, it’s sometimes comforting to curl up on the sofa and enjoy a familiar television programme from home. Watching the Versailles TV series on the Internet allows expats the luxury of keeping up with UK broadcasts from anywhere on the planet, as well as enjoying newly-released productions they might otherwise miss.

‘Versailles’, which next airs on BBC Two, is just one more of the popular British shows which you can enjoy with a TVMucho subscription and an Internet connection. And knowing that you’re watching for free just makes the experience that much more enjoyable…

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Stay tuned for our best selection of UK TV programmes for the weekend and Catch Up.

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