Please upgrade your browser for the best Refinery29 experience. Read more.

Saved! Access Favorites in your account profile. Removed from my favorites

C’est Fromage! It’s Time To Embrace BBC2’s Rambunctious Versailles

Photo: Canal +/ BBC
Forget Game Of Thrones, please to God put The Tudors to one side and hit pause on Peaky Blinders because Versailles has just taken the biscuit for the most hell-raising orgy of a period drama to have ever placed its velvety foot in the door of mid-week television.

If you were (un)lucky enough to have learnt about 17th century French history at school, it's probably best to leave your timelines and notes behind. Versailles, BBC2’s latest addition to Wednesday night television is a little in-bred lapdog on heat of a series, humping at the leg of good taste and pissing all over the carpet of good-old fashion attention to detail. From the opening scene, it’s obvious we’re in for a low-taste, high-octane experience; King Louis XIV (played by George Blagden), with hair a Tresemmé model could only dream of, pursues a nymph wearing loads of cheesecloth through the mirrored halls of Versailles, and they proceed to shag each other's brains out on a gorgeous antique four-poster bed. More on that later...

It’s as though the members of The Darkness have bandied together with Terry Deary (author of Horrible Histories) and employed the writing team over at Corrie and all together given birth to a maniacal, glam-rock monstrosity of a (male heir) TV programme that is quite possibly the most addictive viewing you’ll come across this summer. Essentially, it’s a bunch of Libertines taking liberties with historical happenings – what’s not to love?

Now for some context (not that you'd need any to enjoy the series): King Louis XIV technically became King aged four, but for obvious reasons his mother and a bunch of hoity-toity councillors took care of the admin on wee Louis' behalf. The series begins when Louis officially takes on his role as King, after his mother's death in 1661. It's not without a few ladders in the stockings, however, and the first episode goes some way into exploring how Louis spent a large amount of his reign staving off attempted assassinations and coups largely from some bastard Spaniards. Louis' greatest legacy was his construction of the ludicrously lavish Palace of Versailles, centralising all of France's political power in the Disneyland village of his own creation, which aided the absolute monarchy he was able to establish – clever, eh? He also reigned for a remarkable 72 years. They didn't scrimp on the series either; originally produced by French Canal+, it's rumoured to have cost a saucy £20million. Woof!

Better jump aboard the macaroon coloured Versailles bandwagon before you're left behind. All you'll need is a sense of humour and a pinch of salt. Enough with the facts... here's the most NSFN (not safe for nans) things that happened in episode one, which are the main reasons why everyone's talking about Versailles...
Photo: Canal +/ BBC

The (facial)

From Oscar-worthy moustache twitching to eyebrows so archly raised it’s hard not to imagine the actors practising The Rock-brow in their dressing room mirrors for hours on end. Generally, the rule of thumb with Versailles is the better the hair, the more of a sexy bastard the character (please refer to courtier Monsieur Chevalier's flowing Leonine locks.) Louis and his brother Philippe, have such wondrously tousled hair and long shots of them horse riding look like inadvertent Frizz Ease campaigns.

The sex

Ok, so you've probably heard about all the shagging that goes on. Yes, they're all at it, the cheeky lapins, but this is the most historically factual aspect of the show. Louis' sexual appetite is the most insatiable. Like Lord Farquaad on viagra, the miniature man moves towards all his sexual conquests with the enthusiasm of a teenager who's just discovered jerking off; he squeezes boobs at church and makes love to ladies in pavilions like some kind of blow-dried Zeus (side note, was anybody else distracted by his forlorn looking chest hair?). Louis shags his brother's wife Henrietta, girls emerge from lakes like contestants in wet-peignoir competitions, and there are several three-ways (oh la la!). Oh, and Phillippe and Monsieur Chevalier are mostly busy giving each other fellatio and engaging in master-servant role play. Mais, oui.

The orange

We've got to talk about the bloody orange. This goes back to the cheesecloth nymph mentioned earlier. While she's busy riding Louis like the little show pony he is, she suddenly manages to get her hands on a massive orange from somewhere and proceeds to squeeze it on his chest. That just seems like a sticky ol' mess, non?


Yes, this a big-budget production, but it's hard not to stifle a few giggles at the CGI when we're so spoilt by cinema. There is a wonderfully ridiculous scene when Louis, out for an erotic ride on his horse, suddenly dismounts and finds himself cornered by three wolves. The camera work is excellent. It cuts from Louis' snarled, curled lips, to the curled and snarled lips of the wolf. Needless to say, the wolves are intimidated/impressed with his hair too. Bravo!

The quips

Quippy-quippedy-do, the programme was a veritable fencing match of comebacks and it’s hard not to imagine the cast having to re-take lines in between fits of laughter. Our favourite retort? When Louis gives Philippe a verbal smack on the hand for having spent hundreds of thousands on shoes and a pouty Philippe rebukes: "You haven't seen the shoes." Touché.

There's this grumpy old valet of Louis' who's really earnest and sad looking and is definitely trying to act while everyone else is busy cabaret-ing it out and his hair is super dull in comparison. Poor Bontemps!


Yes there were rumours that Louis' wife Queen Marie-Therese had an affair, but at the climax of the first episode, the poor woman gives birth to a giant plastic brown baby toy. Louis' infidelities, in large, are truly depicted. He had six illegitimate babies with Louise de La Valliere alone, who was a lady-in-waiting to his sister-in-law Henrietta. He ended up marrying all his bastards off to the nobility; problem solved.

Fabien, the henchman

There are some interludes where Louis has to discuss the waning fiscal prowess of his treasury, but I wasn't really paying attention, because I was busy waiting for Philippe (aka Chuck Bass in tights) to come back on screen (he has fabulous nostrils), or for someone to bend someone else over an organ and get to it! Nonetheless, I very much enjoyed Fabien Marchal – Louis' terrifying henchman who loves nothing more than hammering a Spaniard's head off and chopping people's hands off and waving them around like ladies' gloves in people's faces.

The eyes have it

Finally, we must talk about the opals that Louis and Philippe seem to have in the place of human eyes? Are they contacts? Were they the sole reason for casting the two as brothers? We need answers, vite!