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Seducing fact from fiction in the steamy series...
By
Jeremy Cassar

8 Aug 2016 - 2:50 PM  UPDATED 17 Aug 2016 - 9:56 AM

Spoiler alert! There are some spoilers below. We don't want to ruin anything for you, so be careful.

Some of those who happen to have arms are up in them (the arms) over Versailles'  lack of historical accuracy - responding to the first few episodes with cries of YOU ARE WRONG as if creators David Wolstencroft and Simon Mirren promised audiences a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

Striving to cast the specific private lives of French royalty in the 1600s in iron is as fruitless as tracking El Chapo by the footprint of a shoe he wore in his last known picture. If the British showrunning duo (and Spooks alumni) went ahead and shot only what history can confirm, the result would have been as dry as Louis’ brother’s pants during a lap dance. Both creators stated publicly that they were interested in the possibilities that lay in between the already blurry lines of recorded history.

But if you really must know when Versailles moves from “fact” into fiction; if it really makes you feel that much better - then we’re happy to help...

 

The show’s (arguably) greatest character never existed

In fact, at least three of Versailles’ memorable characters are based on thin-air. Not only are Masson (Louis’ doctor played by Peter Hudson) and his daughter/student Claudine (Lizzie Brochere) a figment of the writers’ imaginations, but can you believe the king’s problem solver Fabien Marchal (Tygh Runyan) is also a concoction?

For all we know the real Louis’ chief of police was a charisma-free oaf without even the hint of a penetrative stare, or, Sun forbid, his weathered locks and matching goatee.

 

Philippe was almost definitely gay but technically we can’t call him gay

In the show, Philippe has loving relations with a man and angry, manipulative and dominance-asserting sex with women, which many critics have interpreted as bisexuality or bi-curiousness.

Some history-savvy reviewers find this outrageous, and reiterate that the choice to give Philippe such tendencies towards women must be an expression of the man’s psychological turmoil over his stifled true nature, as by most accounts the real bro couldn’t stand the touch of a woman.

Also, there wasn’t a word for homosexuality back then apart from, maybe, a nickname in rather xenophobic slang - "Italian vice".

 

The Queen could well have birthed the bastard baby of a black dwarf

Like with any decent television show based on fact, timelines are truncated and events are tweaked and transformed in time, but the spirit of history’s account of the era remains as true as possible.

In this case, history offers conflicting rumours over exactly whether Marie Thérèse gave birth to an en vogue African dwarf sidekick’s child, and whether or not this child turned out to be history’s The Black Nun.

While we might never know the truth, we know for sure the first episode twist is not out of the realms of possibility.

 

Louis’ kingdom was at least as debauched as depicted in the show

Anyone who claims Versailles attempts (and fails) to compete with Game of Thrones-levels of sex and nudity might need to have a chat with history. Lady Antonia Fraser, modern mother of all-things-Louis XIV, dug up every available crumb of dirt on the era and shaped the resulting mound into a comprehensive historical study of the king's court.

Lady Fraser revealed that her peers expected cries of sensationalism when early reports of Versailles promised “gay sex, a cross-dressing prince and a queen with a penchant for dwarves”. She said, though, it was "all true".

 

Watch Versailles each week from Thursday, 25 August at 9.30pm (AEST) on SBS.

After they air, all episodes will be available on SBS On Demand.

Catch a sneak peek of the first episode right here:

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