How Historically Accurate is season 1 of Versailles?
This article contains spoilers
Versailles Season 1 follows the French king Louis XIV, the so-called Sun King, during the early years of his reign when he commissioned the construction of the palace of Versailles, a former hunting lodge. Construction of the palace began in 1661 and lasted, on and off, until 1715. Despite the objection of much of the nobility and even his court, Louis was determined to make the palace the greatest in the world and solidify his rule. Although later Louis was known as a strong and respected ruler in Europe, the early years of his reign were fraught with problems with the nobility, wars with the low countries, conspiracies, and ongoing conflict between Catholics and Protestants. It is this background that sets up the story in the first season.
History and Key Events
The story begins with Louis having a vision to build a great and grand palace at Versailles. The palace is depicted as a symbol for France and in the first season Louis attempts to instill in his nobility that the palace is to represent all of France and his role in building it is essentially to unify the country. Rebellion by nobles during the reign of his father was a major problem in France, weakening the country. The series rightly indicates that the construction of the palace was in part used as a way to control the government and put it more in the hands of the king. Paris had been rife with plots against the royal family, likely prompting Louis to move the court at a distance that allowed him to have better control of the government while not being trapped by the demands of the ever rebellious nobles. One major plot developments is Louis asks his nobles to produce papers to prove their nobility. Louis XIV is known to have instigated a major program that verified the lineage of the nobility.
Another key even in the early episodes is his war in the Spanish Netherlands. While initially very successful, Louis was persuaded to make peace with the Dutch after the war threatened to become much larger and involve other major European powers. Louis could not afford, early in his reign, to fight a long and protracted war, particularly given his problems with the nobles and financial situation, particularly as the construction of Versailles got underway.