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Versailles

Three series of this Canale Plus production, showing a charismatic Louis XIV (George Blagden) decreeing a new palace outside Paris, have now been shown in the UK and it seems that a fourth will not now be made. It has much in common with “The Tudors ” in that it has been enjoyable from a dramatic perspective, broadcast after the watershed, allowing for many scenes of “horizontal jogging” and there has been some adjustment to the historical record. Whilst “The Tudors” conflated Henry VIII’s sisters Margaret and Mary, marrying her to the King of Portugal and not those of Scotland and France, among other crimes against history, “Versailles” has just gone further.

Perhaps the producers have been reading the research of Kathryn Warner and Ian Mortimer but the Man in the Iron Mask, who was almost certainly a valet named Eustache Dauger, is the King’s father and predecessor by the same forename, Louis XIII, about forty years after his witnessed death. They have also shuffled historic events such that Louis XIV’s niece marries Carlos II, Spain’s last Habsburg King, in 1679 AFTER Louis’ first wife Maria Theresa died in 1683 – indeed Cardinals refer to her death in discussing Carlos’ marriage plans, however they made better work of “l’affaire des poisons”, culminating in the burning of “la Voisin” at the end of series two (1680). Blagden appears to have a similar build to Meyers, although the latter was surely too thin to portray Henry VIII, as he moves the court to a new location southwest of Paris.

Interestingly, the BBC followed the first two series with a five-minute “Inside Versailles” slot with Kate Williams and other historians.

 

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Yet another case

This year’s third series of “Versailles” reminded me of a further instance of secret marriage, even though some people maintain that nobody ever married in secret despite this case, that spawned two whole books, this one and this just decades ago, let alone Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydeville or her parents.
In 1683 or 1684, just months after the death of his first wife, Louis XIV is widely regarded as having married the similarly widowed Francoise d’ Aubigny, Madame Scarron, subsequently known as the Marquise de Maintenon. Just like Lady Eleanor, she was never crowned, but the similarities end in that she was married by an Archbishop not, perhaps a Canon, remained Louis XIV’s morganatic wife and outlived him.

Indeed, historians have no doubt at all that Louis XIV married Madame de Maintenon. Albeit they are not sure exactly when. Despite this, the marriage was never officially recognised – as will be seen, the King swore everyone to secrecy – and Madame de Maintenon was certainly never recognised as Queen of France.

From the memoirs of the Duc de St. Simon:

“But what is very certain and very true, is, that some time after the return of the King from Fontainebleau, and in the midst of the winter that followed the death of the Queen (posterity will with difficulty believe it, although perfectly true and proved), Père de la Chaise, confessor of the King, said mass at the dead of night in one of the King’s cabinets at Versailles. Bontems, governor of Versailles, chief valet on duty, and the most confidential of the four, was present at this mass, at which the monarch and La Maintenon were married in presence of Harlay, Archbishop of Paris, as diocesan, of Louvois (both of whom drew from the King a promise that he would never declare this marriage), and of Montchevreuil. …”

Another example of how easy it was to get married in secret, without ceremony or records, albeit in this case in 17th Century France.

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