August 1715. After going for a walk, Louis XIV feels a pain in his leg. The next days, the king keeps fulfilling his duties and obligations, but his sleep is troubled and he has a serious fever. He barely eats and weakens increasingly. This is the start of the slow agony of the greatest king of France, surrounded by his relatives and doctors.
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As BBC Two premieres its lavish new drama set in the sumptuous surroundings of Versailles, Lucy Worsley and Helen Castor tell the real-life stories behind one of the world’s grandest buildings. They reveal the colourful world of sex, drama and intrigue that Louis XIV and his courtiers inhabited. Lucy untangles Louis’s complex world of court etiquette, fashion and feasting, while Helen delves into the archives and unpicks the Machiavellian world of court politics that Louis created. We meet the people behind the on-screen characters and discover what drove Louis to glorify his reign on a scale unmatched by any previous monarch, examine the tension between Louis and his brother Philippe, a battle hero and overt homosexual, and they meet the coterie of women who competed for Louis’s attention. We see that Louis was ruthless in his pursuit of glory and succeeded in defeating his enemies. In his record-breaking 72-year reign, France became renowned for its culture and sophistication.
Fleeing from the Russian secret police, a young Estonian fencer is forced to return to his homeland, where he becomes a physical education teacher at a local school. The past however catches up and puts him in front of a difficult choice.