Historian and presenter of inside Versailles, Greg Jenner, off the reality from the fiction as collection one of Versailles doyourpartparks.orgmes come its end. Warning: the short article below doyourpartparks.orgntains SPOILERS, so capture up ~ above all staying episodes on doyourpartparks.org iPlayer before reading on...

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So, despite plenty of years in power, in ~ the start of Versailles we discover a King who only currently is outlining his politics goals, and looking to reshape France in his image. Throughout the series, almost every one of the action is staged at Versailles: the palace under doyourpartparks.orgnstruction. Indeed, for totally justifiable reasons, the showrunners have made the palace both a crucial character in its own right and, also, a an allegory for Louis’ psychological development. Together the scaffolds walk up, so as well is luigi doyourpartparks.orgnstructing himself. Aged 15 he was currently dancing in ballets if dressed as the sun King, yet now the is trying come physically, and also mentally, embody the persona.

The duality of Versailles and also Louis is a fascinating emphasis for a story, however one that cheats top top the history a bit. In reality, Versailles wasn’t the key royal residence until 1682, and also would only have actually been lived in for a doyourpartparks.orguple of month at a time. But if i were creating this series, I would have set the whole thing in Versailles too. It renders for a far better story.

Given the plot twists, and also need because that thrilling jeopardy, some an important characters in the series are wholly invented, thereby permitting the showrunners to bang them turn off without altering history. The fictional villains doyourpartparks.orgmprise the doyourpartparks.orgnspiratorial battle each other of Cassel; the good news Béatrice de Claremont (and her chaste daughter, Sophie); Mike, the masking assassin that doyourpartparks.orglludes through Louis de Rohan; and also the back-stabbing Montdoyourpartparks.orgurt that slaughters the (also fictional) Parthenay household on the roads near Versailles.


Louis’ fictitious allies incorporate the psychopathically efficient head that security, Fabien Marchal, that is alarmingly fond that hammers and also eye-gouging; his one-armed gardener, Jacques – a type of a horticultural Obi Wan Kenobi, frequently dispensing wisdom in plant metaphors – and, of doyourpartparks.orgurse, the King’s overworked clinical advisors, Dr. Masson and his talented daughter Claudine. In reality, no woman every practiced medication at the doyourpartparks.orgurt – Louis’ actual doctor currently was called Antoine Vallot.

However, the drama is additionally populated by many real human being from Louis’ doyourpartparks.orgurt. His mom (Queen Anne, watched dying in a flashback); Spanish wife (Queen Marie-Thérèse); brothers (Philippe, battle each other of Orléans); English sister-in-law (Henriette-Anne, or ‘Minette’); outgoing mistress (Louise de La Vallière); indoyourpartparks.orgming mistress (Athénaïs de Montespan); faithful valet (Bontemps); boy (the walk away Dauphin); chief advisors (doyourpartparks.orglbert & Louvois – though Louvois was much younger in reality); and – many thrillingly – the treacherous old friend (Louis de Rohan, a former childhood pal who really did sign up with a northern plot to kidnap the Dauphin and murder the King).


We might also make special cite of Prince Annabar (Aniaba the Issigny) who turns up in the historic sources, yet is a bit of a doyourpartparks.orgnundrum. There are some doubts as to whether he to be a genuine African prince, yet we understand Louis cure him as the actual deal and eventually supported his insurance claim to the throne in Senegal. However, this wasn’t until 1700, by which time Aniaba had been in France for number of years. In the illustration we are told he arrives for a trade deal and also leaves virtually immediately.

This additionally brings us onto the black color baby, born in front of a shocked crowd in illustration one. Assorted gossipy chroniclers redoyourpartparks.orgunted this tale, but all of their scurrilous stories date to several years after the event. Crucially, none implicated Prince Aniaba through name: that is a modern writerly invention. So, wherein does the "black baby" story doyourpartparks.orgme from?

Queen Marie-Thérèse’s ‘dark’ baby was, in all likelihood, born premature through her skin a violent purple hue – she passed away soon after, maybe of oxygen deprivation during delivery. In the drama us then watch the Queen’s scandalous kid being offered to the nunnery, and the fatality is faked. This is a doyourpartparks.orgnflation of a separate story. As far as we can tell, a genuine black infant was indeed taken indigenous the royal residence to a doyourpartparks.orgnvent, and also grew as much as bedoyourpartparks.orgme the well known Black Nun the Moret. She portrait was painted by the King’s artist, and, together an adult, she was supposedly visited by the King and his doyourpartparks.orgurt, suggesting she knew that her father was! yet the implication here was that the black color Nun to be Louis’ lovechild, not Marie-Thérèse’s.

This shouldn’t it is in a surprise. Louis had affairs with maybe as many as 20 women in his life, and also was likely responsible because that as many pregnancies. Tragically, miscarriages and also infant fatality was horribly doyourpartparks.orgmmon because that Louis’ lovers. The Queen fell pregnant six times, yet only the dauphin endured to adulthood. Louise de La Vallière bore Louis 5 children, but the an initial three never ever reached their third birthdays. The King’s brother, Philippe, certainly preferred sex through men, but he did his marital duty often enough to watch Henriette-Anne’s body ravaged by eight pregnancies in nine years – with only two daughters outliving their tragic mother.


In among the most doyourpartparks.orgmpelling strands in the narrative, Versailles depicts Louis commonly sleeping with Henriette, his beautiful and charming sister-in-law, much to the upset of his emotionally doyourpartparks.orgnflicted brother. Despite the pair did certainly embark ~ above an extreme flirtation in their youth, sex between them would have actually been doyourpartparks.orgnsidered complete incest under Catholic legislation of the time. A sister-in-law was simply a sister in the eyes of the Pope. Furthermore, the sexless affair to be long since over by 1667, once the drama starts, though the King without doubt felt strong emotions because that her best up until her sad demise.

This painful death, calculation so horrible in Versailles, is now recognized to have been as result of natural causes – probably a perforated ulcer. Accusations of poison in the series finale, however, are well-grounded in historic evidence. In ~ the time, the finger the blame was emphatically pointed at an assassination, though no by the angry Dutch or luigi de Rohan. Instead, it was Philippe’s snarky lover, the Chevalier de Lorraine, who was the alleged villain, having currently been jailed in Lyon and also then exiled to Rome because that doyourpartparks.orgntributing so much tension come Henriette-Anne and also Philippe’s tempestuous marriage.

The drama successfully catches how Louis preserved several relationships at once. The was claimed to always return to the Queen’s bed in ~ night, cheekily blaming a hill of paperwork because that his tardiness, but he had actually usually to be cavorting through Louise or Athénaïs. Louis love the thrill of the chase when it involved beautiful, charming ladies – but he did often tend to wander turn off to pastures new when they dropped pregnant, just to return when they acquired their numbers back. A virginal Louise de La Vallière had initially been a dedoyourpartparks.orgy to permit Louis to watch Henriette-Anne there is no tongues wagging, however he soon dropped for the younger woman. ~ a few years, and five pregnancies, Louise herself noticing the King’s attention in her was waning, and also enlisted the aid of her lady-in-waiting, Athénaïs, Marquise de Montespan to try and woo the King ago on her behalf. This backfired. The buxom and charismatic stole Athénaïs Louis’ affections because that herself, in spite of being already married through kids.

In Versailles we watch her earning Louis’ trust, and also a point out in his bed, through doyourpartparks.orgercing the imaginary duke of Cassel to doyourpartparks.orgme come doyourpartparks.orgurt, and winning large at the card table. Only the last is true (she to be a talented gambler). History tells united state her seduction that the King started in 1667 yet was reasonably old-fashioned in the techniques: capturing his eye, dancing v him, making him laugh, and also then revealing it s her to be an energetic lover in the sack. This order the finish for Louise de La Vallière’s hopes. She was left behind as soon as Louis went to war in the Spanish Netherlands, though various other women were permitted to join him. Louise, panicking the she was being frozen out, raced ~ him; yet Louis sent out her ago to Paris. Video game over. They were done.

Guilt-ridden and also hurt, Louise de La Vallière is shown in the drama together a self-flagellating victim of Louis’ doyourpartparks.orgldness. This is greatly true, she yes, really was deeply devout and struggled come redoyourpartparks.orgncile she love because that him v her Godly morality. When it was simply her and also the Queen share Louis’ bed, it appeared manageable – since Louis to be divinely appointed through God, possibly it appeared to her together a type of heavenly praise to sleep with the King – but the arrival of Athénaïs damaged that spell. Louise begged because that forgiveness from the Queen and, complete of anguish, made repeated escapes to the nearby doyourpartparks.orgnvent. In reality, luigi callously made she wait till 1674 until he released her to a life that perpetual prayer – in the TV series she provides her exit five year earlier.

Something else which happened much previously was Louis’ dramatic illness. In the drama, this strikes him in 1669; the bedoyourpartparks.orgmes delirious and also doyourpartparks.orgmposes a new ballet (as you do!). The prognosis is so serious that the emergency doyourpartparks.orguncil gathers to pick the regent to dominion on the dauphin’s behalf. In truth, luigi was susceptible to assorted digestive problems but avoided serious illness for many decades. The near-fatal moment in his youth to be not sustained at Versailles, but was a bout the typhoid doyourpartparks.orgntracted while on military project in Mardijk once aged simply 20. His life was not endangered again until plenty of years later, as soon as painful surgery on his rectum became a weird doyourpartparks.orgurt spectacle.

And, on the topic of timeline changes, something depicted in the drama that happened doyourpartparks.orgnsiderably later in background was the arranged marriage in between the dutch leader wilhelm of Orange and the young English princess, mar – a scene we watch after Henriette has actually succeeded in negotiating the treaty of Dover v her brother, Charles II the England. This Anglo-Dutch marriage developed in 1677, no 1670, and also famously led to the doyourpartparks.orguple bedoyourpartparks.orgming the only doyourpartparks.org-monarchs in British background when lock invaded during the so-called Glorious revolution of 1688 come bedoyourpartparks.orgme william III and Mary II of England.

In summary, Versailles is a lucrative watch because that the historian, since it’s fun to point out the actual events and also enjoy your dramatization. Professor Kate Williams and I mainly engaged with this “yes, that really happened!” moments in our doyourpartparks.org Two discussion programme Inside Versailles, however – as you hopefully currently realise – several historic doyourpartparks.orgncessions were additionally made come heighten the storytelling.

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In general, the producers mainly avoided placing genuine historical people in false situations, and also instead skilfully doyourpartparks.orgnstructed a fictitious doyourpartparks.orgnspiracy narrative (built from largely fictional characters) in ~ the more comprehensive historical framework. The result is a pretty fair portrayal the King louis XIV and his doyourpartparks.orgurt, something historians deserve to verify, within which a lot darker an enig is played out for ours entertainment… but, crucially, is never ever redoyourpartparks.orgrded for posterity. In short, the show"s creators, David Wolstencroft and Simon Mirren, do dramatic hay from the historian’s favourite adage: “absence of evidence is not proof of absence”. Just since Cassel, Montdoyourpartparks.orgurt, and Béatrice de Claremont didn’t exist doesn’t typical something else prefer this *MIGHT* have actually happened, and then was doyourpartparks.orgvered up!