Much Ado About Versailles. A UK Media Rant.

It is Thursday, June 9, the 315th anniversary of Philippe death and one day after the second Episode of Versailles aired in the UK. You probably all read of the horrendous critics Episode One received, they were rather hard to ignore, and you most likely read the fuss that was made before Episode One even aired.

It ranked from utter crap and soft porn to absolutely fabulous. Suddenly everyone had an opinion on something they hadn’t even seen yet and that opinion was published in the UK media and read by thousands, whose own opinion got formed by reading it.
Now, although most of this was utter nonsense, it brought quite the publicity for the show and cast, thus got people to turn in and perhaps be pleasantly surprised. As I however read what was going on at Twitter under #Versailles that very evening, I was a little devastated. Why? It was the same ado the UK media tossed at everyone in the previous weeks, something the show and cast do not deserve. I read so much rubbish that night, it was overwhelming. It also made me wonder if the opinion forming UK media actually gave the show a chance at all. Nup.

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It might be because it is French and as Alex Vlahos said, the English don’t really have a connection to that time in history, or rather French history. People are aware of what was happening on their island during that time, Charles I versus Oliver Cromwell, Charles II and the Restauration, James II and William III, but people don’t really know of Louis XIV, nor his brother or the intense relationship they had.

Now, I am German and could say the very same about Germany, but oddly it is not like that over here. Until now I only spotted one article on German media that was talking unfavourable about the show and this article seemed based on something published in the Daily Mail the previous day. I read that Daily Mail article and the German one was basically a translation of it. We, as Germans, don’t really have a connection to that time in France as well. We have Liselotte von der Pfalz, Philippe’s second wife, but ask someone on the streets about her and they will tell you they have no clue who that is. So, you can’t entirely blame it on a lack of knowledge of the period, which the Germans have as much as the English. Yet we seem way more willed to give it a chance.

What is it then? Are the Brits really that prudish? I watched Episode One in company of a lovely English lady and she didn’t seem really bothered by the naked skin displayed. She said she liked that show and would watch the next Episode as well.
It appears some people saw that differently. What amazes me is how Versailles is so very scandalous for showing naked flesh, just a little less naked flesh than I saw myself on the streets of an English city I used to live in for a while. There were boobs on display every night. There was groping and fumbling.
Admittingly, the ‘normal’ Brit doesn’t really see any of that on a daily base and if they do, they most likely wrinkle their noses at it, but it is still there.

Last night, however, the general atmosphere under the hashtag Versailles, seemed way more amazed. People enjoyed the Episode, the costumes, the characters, the tensions and drama. There were still some that complained, (which is fine, because not everyone will like this kind of show) but the majority was happy. The show got the feedback it deserved. I was looking forward to see more flattering articles in the UK media after it……. and then I spotted something that was dripping ignorance.

It was an article in the Guardian, published shortly after Episode Two aired. I facepalmed. Hard. I felt angry and embarrassed at the same time. I couldn’t believe it.

Those who follow me on Twitter, surely saw my initial reaction to it (calling it a heap of shit) and as I went to bed, I had in mind to comment on that article.
As you can see, I decided against it and for writing something here instead. If I had written it under that article it surely would have gotten more attention there than here on my struggling blog, but that is somewhat the point. I write here whenever I have time, I write about Versailles and happenings at court, I write of people long dead now that lead amazing lives, I try to share what I know and make it somewhat entertaining to read. I write here, because I want to, because it makes me happy, because I think that period in time deserves more attention. Every time I post something here, I doubt myself. I doubt my skills and knowledge. I was told not to do that, but I still do. There are some people, who come by every once in a while to read what I write (Thank you xxx), there are some who discover it by accident, there are who share what I write. I put effort into what I do and am grateful for every click, every ‘well done’, every ‘Woah, I didn’t know that.’. Every ‘I learned something’, because that is the purpose of this blog, to share what I know.

I do not get paid for it. I do it because I want to do it. I make no money from this blog. I have a limited audience and try to be as kind and helpful to that audience as I can be. A newspaper like the Guardian has a massive audience and a certain responsibility towards it. If I read something in a major news-outlet that pays people for writing, I expect it to be well researched. I expect that the writer actually knows what they talk of.

This article I am going on about lacked in every department and was nothing more than another bashing by someone who has no clue what they talk of. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Headlined by “Versailles recap: episode two – barely a passing bum or nipple” the article continues:

“The promise of gratuitous sex, violence and historical accuracy is proving as limp as Louis’ locks. I feel like I’ve been had. Ever feel like you’ve been had? The whole point of Versailles was that it was meant to come laden with gratuitous nudity and violence. But with only one shag 33 minutes in – and even that was far too sensitively filmed; not even a passing bum or nipple – along with a single hanging and a fairly inoffensive beating-up, the second episode turned out to be little more than 80s Sunday night soap Howards’ Way, in fancy dress.”

The whole point of Versailles is sex scenes? Really? The show is called Versailles and not ‘Nips and bums’. The show’s purpose is to tell the story of Louis XIV, the story of Versailles, how a man in his 20’s managed to make France the capital of the world. First there are complaints of too much sex, now there isn’t enough sex? You gotta be kidding me. If you want sex, watch a porn movie. Versailles is no porn movie. It is a drama set in 17th Century France.

“At the tail end of last week’s episode, historians Kate Williams and Greg Jenner were imprisoned in a tiny attic and made to explain how everything we had just watched could just about have happened and – if you kept an open mind – it could even have been a documentary. But Kate and Greg didn’t sound convinced by the birth of a black baby to Marie-Thérèse; Louis was equally unconvinced by the nice-but-dim doctor’s explanation that the black dwarf must have surprised his wife so much while “playing with her” that he impregnated her with a penetrating look. Louis then announces the baby was stillborn, even though dozens of people have already noticed it is very much alive.”

Ah, the black baby. If you had typed that into Google (works wonders) you would have noticed that the whole thing is based on a 17th Century rumor. It is not invented. It is what people gossiped about and the makers of Versailles decided to go with that rumor. Whether it is true or not, is an entirely different matter. This is a show based on history, yet altered for the audience. Some things that are shown happened in a different way (as far as historians can say), some of it happened before the year the show is set in, some is based on rumors that circulated. Also, as I explain in my Episode Two review, what the good doctor tells us about the origin of that black baby, was actually what people believed back then. People thought that a child in the womb of the mother can be influenced by what she sees and eats, and take on a funny colour. What he says is that the Queen was frightened by him and that very mightily, thus her fright influenced the baby. The given explanation is perfectly reasonable, although it sounds funny to us now, but this is not the modern world, this is Versailles. Dozens of people have noticed it is alive? Really? I saw only one seeing it as it was carried outside.

“The title sequence put an end to this first bit of nonsense. And what a sequence it is. Especially the music, which sounds like a bad Genesis track from the early 70s. The lyrics are even more unintelligible than the theme song of The Bridge. The best I’ve been able to come up with is: “I am the king of my own name / The faeces tending to doubt / Tears the end something something / Fleeces of matches / Now is forever and forever.” If anyone can improve on this, I’d be very grateful.”

If by “first bit on nonsense” you mean what you just wrote, I totally agree with you. That awful theme song is Outro by M83 and the lyrics go “I’m the king of my own land. Facing tempests of dust, I’ll fight until the end. Creatures of my dreams raise up and dance with me! Now and forever, I’m your king!”. Google can tell you that too. In my opinion it is a very fitting tune, that captures in a few words what Louis XIV is about.

“Meanwhile, the badder of the two bad Phillipes is up to some as-yet-unspecified no good. We know he’s bad because he’s got long blond hair, while everyone else just has long brown hair and looks like he’s next in line of succession to be the drummer of Spinal Tap.” 

I am glad you refer to him as Philippe and do not use his title of Chevalier as synonym of a first name, yet the “badder of the two bad Philippes”…. seriously. Firstly, what makes you think the other Philippe or “less bad Philippe” as you will call him, is bad? Did you even understand what is going on? Do you sense what the problem between the brothers is? Obviously not. As for the Chevalier, hair colour as an indication of character? Makes totally sense. No, wait…. it does not. You will see…. and there you have your nipples. Or do boy nipples not count?

“Elsewhere in the proto-palace, a nurse tells the king’s brother – the less bad Philippe – that the baby is very much alive. Though possibly not for long, as the king has ordered Fabian to drown it. Unluckily for the baby, there was to be no such easy way out of this series, as Louis changes his mind at the last minute, has the sprog taken to a misty nunnery and arranges a fake funeral. As usual, everyone in the church is thinking more about who is getting off with whom than matters spiritual. This is about the only bit of the entire programme that feels realistic.”

Again, this is based on the rumor. Are you even putting any effort in what you write? Bash everything you see, while trying to sound smart and sassy. I feel embarrassed and suddenly wonder if our writer here is actually serious or just taking the piss.

“After which, the whole thing started to drag. Some noblemen who all looked the same did some desultory plotting, Louis wandered around moodily, and the two Phillipes went to a fashion show. The less bad Philippe couldn’t understand why everybody was staring at him just because he had arrived dressed as a woman, so he poked someone in the eye. I’m not sure who, as I was losing the will to live.” 

Again with the “bad and less bad Philippe” nonsense. As Philippe pointed out, insulting the King’s brother is the same as insulting the King, and for insulting the King the punishment was way worse. Lese- Majeste. Google it. I am losing the will to continue reading any further.

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“Less-bad Phil, it turns out, is going through a particularly difficult phase and just needs a good war to make himself feel like more of a man. Like any decent elder brother, Louis promises to start one for him. (Historical non-fact alert: Louis is recognised by therapists the world over for his groundbreaking psychological insight that all transvestites are basically ordinary blokes struggling to suppress their homicidal tendencies.)” 

What. What did I just read? Not even going to comment of the transvestism thing…. Starting a war, because his brother wants to go to war? Jesus. Ever heard of the War of Devolution? Nup, you have not, otherwise you wouldn’t write what you just did. Once again, Google can help you with it. You could tell your readers that the war they are talking about happened in 1667 and 1668. You could tell them that Louis started this war and it was against Spain. You could tell them that the talk of tactics they saw was the planning of the invasion of the Spanish Netherlands. You could tell all sort of stuff about it….. I did in my reviews.

“Back in the queen’s bedchamber, the doctor’s daughter remembers it might be a good idea to remove the final traces of afterbirth from inside Marie-Thérèse and the queen instantly feels a lot perkier. After appointing the quack’s daughter to be his own doctor, Louis wanders off to dinner where he pronounces the immortal words, “I am the state” – L’Etat, c’est moi – (who says this isn’t real history?) then terrifies the court into submission by giving the conspirator Moncour a seriously hard time.”

It is funny how you call a line attributed to Louis XIV real history. Guess what, Google could have told you as well that Louis never said ‘I am the state.’. Am I right in thinking that you think this attributed line is more history than anything else you have seen on the show? Educate yourself, do us the favour… or at least check the spelling of the characters names.

“The episode ends with a lot of people splashing in the fountain and the black dwarf lying face down in the water. I know just how he felt.”

Do you fancy to know how I felt? Not really, but I will tell you anyway. I facepalmed the most epic facepalm in history. It is amazing much crap can fit into one article. It is amazing how you probably thought to have written the most smart and sassy thing eva. It is amazing how very ignorant you are. How unwilled to educate yourself, before hitting the keyboard. How little you care for your readers.

But the worst of all is, that your article (you can find the full thing here) will be read by thousands. This piece of crap. It will form the opinion of people in a bad way. You never gave the show a chance. God knows, I did my fair bit of criticizing it as well, but I daresay mine was way more constructive. In my reviews I try to explain the historical backgrounds to the people who watch the show, I tell them of rumors, of 17th Century thinking, of how the people they see were in real life (as far as we can say) compared to how they are portrayed on the screen. Yes, I am a fan of the show. A critical fan. I state what I do not like and I praise what I like. All you seem to do is bashing something for the sake of bashing it.

Well done, mate.

11 thoughts on “Much Ado About Versailles. A UK Media Rant.

  1. Best of ANY TV show or film I have watched in my entire life! I’ve now watched series 1 three times! And continue to follow it on TV every Wed! I’m utterly in love with it and all the characters in it.

  2. I am watching the series and enjoying it, but I love history and appreciate the wonderful visuals offered by Versailles. The Guardian recaps are snarky and can be amusing but I wish they’d given the job to someone prepared to watch and review fairly rather than simply make fun and come over all superior. I am glad to hear there’s S2 to come.

    I am happy to discover your blog, to share appreciation for this wonderful series. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for this. It is not the first time I have been angered and annoyed by Guardian reviewers ‘bashing (a tv show) just for the sake of bashing it”.

  4. Thank you for your episode guides, couldn’t wait to find out if the two Phillipes end up together and we’re only up to episode 8 in the UK (and I certainly don’t mind spoilers). This has always been my favourite historical period. I never take much notice of English reviewers, the only things they seem to like are bleak Scandinavian dramas or unhumorous English comedies. Thanks again.

    1. I am a British viewer and I enjoy period drama, including Versailles, but there is too much explicit sex, that is a fact. I don’t watch any English comedies or Scandinavia drama, unless the latter is good and genuinely entertaining. You should not generalize. The accuracy of the series is a welcome change, but it could be better. At the end of the day, it is drama, not a documentary.

      1. Banditqueen…. Maybe you read Lorraine’s comment wrong. She said ‘ignore British reviewers’ , not VIEWERS. She is not generalizing, she is offering her sincere opinion on what she sees is bias in reviewers.

        Actually, while I’m here, a couple of things I want to address. Balding was quite likely the result of syphilis (which Louis had), but that’s not really something you’d want to include in a drama series where he’s supposed to be a romantic lead 😀

        You said: “there is too much explicit sex, that is a fact.” ….. Ummmm, actually, no. That isn’t the definition of ‘fact’. It is your opinion. If you want to analyse the amount of sex in the show, here’s some details:
        Ep1 – had a few sex scenes. The muse/Louis, Louis/Henriette. Oral sex with Philippe/The Chevalier. Again, in historical context, that is expected. Louis loved sex and did it often. And yes, I know it is a drama, not a documentary. And including sex in a drama series is, funnily enough, a way of getting eyeballs on screens and most def. not a new thing.
        Ep2 – one sex scene, with Louis/Henriette
        Ep3 – two sex scenes, one with Louis/Henriette, and one with Louis/Mare-Therese
        Ep4 – one scene showing post-coital sex with Louis/Henriette. Not an actual sex scene
        Ep5 – one interrupted sex scene with Philippe/the Chevalier – not an actual sex scene. One attempted seduction scene with Philippe/Louise – not an actual sex scene
        Ep6 – two sex scenes, one with Louis/Montespan and one with Fabien/Beatrice
        Ep7 – one post-coital sex scene with Philippe/the Chevalier and (possibly) some randomer – not an actual sex scene. Two sex scenes with Fabien/Beatrice, one highly distorted because of the poison
        Ep8 – not-really-a-sex scene with Louis/Montespan, just them waking up in bed together
        Ep9 – Montespan drops her robe for Louis, bit of naked flesh. Implied sex scene, but not actually one
        Ep10 – Louis leaves Montespan’s bed. Not a sex scene.

        So, in summary. Most eps run for approximately 50mins. And if there was a sex scene every ten minutes, as you claimed, we would be seeing at least 5 in each ep. But as you can see quite clearly, there is not. And THAT is a fact.

  5. Has great costumes, good sets, good characters, not one wig in sight…Louis xiv had genetic baldness and had lost most of his hair by now so wore wigs. Versailles itself is impressive and I am intrigued by the sub plot and conspiracy that is developing every week, coming to a conclusion with Rohan hopefully getting caught next week. However, and yes Louis slept with every woman he met, but there is no need for the soft porn sex scenes every ten minutes. Tone it down. There is more accuracy than I expected, but the soft porn spoils it.

  6. The words to the song of the opening sequence are

    I am the king of my own land
    Facing tempests or dust
    I will fight until the end
    Creatures of my dreams, arise and dance with me
    Now and forever, I’m your Kiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing.

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