Court­ing con­tro­versy

The Daily Telegraph - Review - - Television & Radio -

BBC Two, 9.30pm

The lav­ish pe­riod drama de­pict­ing the deca­dent early reign of Louis XIV at­tracted plenty of headlines when it de­buted last sum­mer, due to its graphic sex scenes and gi­ant budget (at £25 m, it was the most ex­pen­sive French­pro­duced pro­gramme of all time). It duly at­tracted 2 m view­ers – solid but un­spec­tac­u­lar for BBC Two – and reached its blood­spat­tered cli­max when the traitor in the royal court was fi­nally ex­posed.

Now it re­turns for the equally sump­tu­ous but even darker se­ries deux, set four years later in 1671. This run sees fresh chal­lenges for the Sun King (Ge­orge Blag­den) and his ret­inue at the Palace of Ver­sailles – home to tor­rid ro­mances, po­lit­i­cal machi­na­tions, end­less in­trigue and elab­o­rate wigs.

A high-pro­file poi­son­ing leaves a cov­eted va­cancy, while the King’s preg­nant mistress Madame de Mon­tes­pan (Anna Brew­ster) ex­erts her in­flu­ence. As Louis’s brother, wid­ower and res­i­dent loose can­non Philippe (Alexan­der Vla­hos) can­not be al­lowed to re­main sin­gle, and with his lover Che­va­lier (Evan Williams) sent pack­ing, a new mar­riage must be ar­ranged. Michael Ho­gan

Splen­dour: Ge­orge Blag­den and Anna Brew­ster

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