It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single French prince whose brother is the King of France, must be in want of a wife.
In series two of Versailles it is a couple of years since Prince Philippe (Alexander Vlahos) lost Henriette, so King Louis XIV has his mistress Montespan and his Queen Marie-Therese pick out a new wife from a collection of portraits like a rudimentary version of Tinder. The two ladies swipe right on Princess Palatine (Jessica Clark), so her fate is sealed: she will have to marry Philippe and come to the palace.
So Palatine meets her new husband in an awkward rendezvous on a bridge, where he’s completely taken aback by how cheery and blunt she is. The two are summoned to Versailles and welcomed by the King. Here they are, all getting along just wonderfully in a stairwell:
To make matters even more complicated, Philippe’s lover Chevalier (Evan Williams) steps in to confront Palatine and mock her sloppy eating habits and lack of dancing skills. He would much prefer to have Philippe all to himself – and a new wife is a spanner in the works. But Palatine shows she can hold her own.
Who is Jessica Clark?
Jessica Clark is a relative newcomer to TV. She has previously played Lena Roy in Doctors, and a graduate student in Silent Witness.
On stage, she played Lelani in the Olivier-nominated play Rotterdam.
Who was the real Princess Palatine?
Though actress Jessica Clark may be beautiful, the real Palatine was not known for her good looks – as hinted by Louis’ two ladies, who think Philippe might be at least a bit attracted to her because of her manly appearance.
Princess Elisabeth Charlotte (1652-1722) was a German royal who became the wife of Philippe I Duke of Orléans. She had an odd childhood where she was shunted all over the place, at one point living with her stepmother, brother and 15 half-siblings.
The 1672 marriage took place when the Princess – known as Liselotte – was 20, and lasted until his death in 1701. Her brother-in-law Louis invoked her hereditary claim to the Palatinate (a fragmented territory in what is now Germany), using it as a pretext for launch the Nine Years’ War in 1688.
The arranged marriage was actually conducted by proxy: there was no illusion of romance in this political match.
But Liselotte converted to Roman Catholicism, moved to France and became very close with Philippe’s existing daughters Marie Louise and Anne Marie, though she had no time for many people at court including Louis’ official mistresses and their children.
There were no illusions about the couple’s sex life and everyone at court knew about Philippe’s homosexuality. Despite this, the marriage proved to be happy, and they had three kids.
But the death of their first born just before his third birthday drove a wedge between the Liselotte and Philippe, and after their youngest daughter was born they agreed to effectively separate.
Her second son (also named Philippe) later ruled France during the Regency, when King Louis XV was too young to rule between 1715 and 1723.
What sort of relationship will she have with Philippe in Versailles?
“Do you know what, I think it is actually a happy marriage,” Vlahos told RadioTimes.com. “I mean, apart from the fact that he’s been forced to marry her for political reasons, on Louis’ behalf, they actually grow to like each other and have a very fond affection towards each other.”
And though Chevalier is initially displeased, could they actually end up getting along?
“It’s almost like a very unwanted menage a trois, let’s just say that,” Vlahos teased.