As I mentioned in a recent blog, I have been watching the current BBC series Versailles. In general it has not been received well by the critics. I think they have been a little hard on it.
They say it is too confusing. I agree that there are lots of characters and many of them look alike. That is probably inevitable when portraying a court where everyone wanted to be in fashion. There are lots of characters, but the Court of Louis XIV was a busy place. One thing I find laughable in The Musketeers is that there seem to be only about a dozen people at the Court of Louis XIII. Of course the budget for the series is probably to blame for that. So Versailles tries to show it as it probably was, confusing as that may be.
Another criticism is that the series is full of sex and violence. I thought it was well known that the 1660’s were years of immorality among the nobility and royalty in both England and France. The tone was set by the two kings, Charles II and Louis XIV who both had lots of mistresses and probably plenty of casual affaires as well. They were both pretty open about it too.
Violence has been around for a long time. The splendour of the Court of Versailles was a distraction from the dirty work that went on to keep the monarch in power. Louis had seen civil war and rebellion in his childhood and was determined to prevent it happening again. He succeeded pretty well, but at a cost.
The real reason I like the series is that it gives a rounded picture of the King. It is too easy to portray Louis as either a hero, The Sun King, or a villain. After all he was Britain’s enemy for much of his reign. In reality, he was, like most of us, a complex character. He had serious faults but several redeeming features. This series makes a decent attempt at exploring some of these complexities and contradictions. That is more interesting but more challenging for both the actor and the viewer than a one-dimensional version.
I hope I can make the characters in my books real, rather than just Good Guys and Bad Guys.