This is a three-part historical documentary series chronicling the rise and fall of the French monarchy living in of Europe’s most splendid palaces: Versailles.
By documenting Versailles’ timeline from it’s humble beginnings as a hunting lodge, built in 1623 by Louis XIII – father of Louis XIV, the series shows how the palace grew into a fully fletched palace by instruction of the Sun King.
This has cemented the palace a spot in history, effectively creating a focal point for European power and historical events.
Episode 1: The Dream of a King
Episode 1 starts the drama-documentary recreating the life and loves of France’s most famous king, Louis XIV (14 May 1643 – 1 September 1715).
Dubbed the Sun King by his admiring court, Louis conquered half of Europe, conducted dozens of love affairs and dazzled his contemporaries with his lavish entertainments.
But perhaps his greatest achievement – and certainly his longest lasting love – was the incredible palace he built at Versailles, one of the wonders of the world.
Episode 2: The Palace of Pleasure
Episode 2 follows the story of Louis XV, one of European history’s greatest Libertines. These were perhaps some of the most scandalous years of the Palace of Versailles (1 September 1715 – 10 May 1774).
Louis ruled for almost 60 years, when the salons of Versailles were filled with the glories of the Age of the Enlightenment, and a society freeing itself of the constraints of the previous century.
As a military leader he was popular and successful, but he then led France into the disastrous Seven Year War with Britain. As his Empire dwindled and his treasury emptied, Louis amused himself with a series of scandalous love affairs, set up his own private brothel in the gardens of his palace and bedded five sisters from the same aristocratic family.
This is a florid and hugely enjoyable saga of sex, war, torture, gluttony, and some truly astonishing wigs.
Episode 3: Countdown to Revolution
Episode 3 of Versailles takes a look at the final days of the Bourbon dynasty under the ill-fated Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie Antoinette (10 May 1774 – 21 September 1792).
Unlike his highly-sexed forebears, it takes Louis seven years to consummate his marriage – and his performance as ruler of France is no more distinguished than his efforts in the royal bed chamber.
The French people are starving, but the aristocracy is too busy partying inside the gilded palace of Versailles to take much notice. Louis tries to make a difference, but his every attempt at reform is blocked by his greedy relatives. Marie Antoinette gets much of the blame for the excesses of the rich, even if she never uttered the famous words “let them eat cake”.
As he drifts into depression and madness, Louis and his Queen attempt to stave off a revolution, pleading with the nobility to accept reform. But it is too late – the astonishing extravagance of Versailles, which once served the glory of France so well, backfires into the ending of the monarchy itself.
- Release date2008-2011
- Full runtime2 hours 50 min
- Presented byCherie Lunghi
- Written byJ. Dubuisson, M. Fessler
- Directed, Edited and Produced byPaul Burgess
- Produced forBBC