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Defaming the Duc d'Orleans: Correcting 'Charles II'

Thu 2 Dec 2004 In: Television View at NDHA

Last week, TVNZ's Charles II misrepresented Philippe, duc d'Orleans, depicting him as a brutal bisexual rapist and murderer. Yes, Philippe d'Orleans (1640-1701) was effeminate. Due to his mum, Anne of Austria, Philippe did drag from an early age, and was fascinated by dresses, jewelry, giant wigs, coloured ribbons and high heels. However, "Charles II" mangled the actual domestic situation after his marriage to Charles I's daughter, Henrietta Anne. What "Charles II" didn't tell you was that Henrietta Anne and Philippe had a menage a trois with two of Philippe's lovers, the Comte de Guiche and another Philippe, Chevalier de Lorraine. The latter put in a brief appearance last week, but he was bisexual and also involved with Henrietta Anne, so it is unlikely that he would have stood by and done nothing during the alleged 'rape' that is depicted. Admittedly, Lorraine was an avaricious, grasping wastrel, and not an attractive character. The Duc d'Orleans may have liked female fashion, but he was butch in spurs- he defeated William III, the (Dutch) Prince of Orange, on the battlefield at the Battle of Cassel (1667). He didn't poison Henrietta-Anne, either. While Louis XIV's court did experience a spate of poisonings, that took place over two decades after her death, and was connected to one of Louis XIV's favourites. Unlike his brother, he was robustly heterosexual. After Henrietta's death, Philippe remarried. His second duchess, Elizabeth-Charlotte ("Liselotte" or "Madame") was indulgent and prone to gossip. Madame's correspondence was notable for its candour, tolerance and the marriage produced three children. Madame appeared to be asexual, and marital relations ceased after the birth of the third infant, much to their mutual relief. William III of Orange also appeared in last week's episode. William went on to marry Charles II's niece, Mary. In 1688, James II, Charles II's Catholic brother, provoked a constitutional crisis due to his Catholicism and absolutism. William and Mary invaded England and deposed James II in a bloodless coup d'etat (the "Glorious Revolution"). William and Mary married reluctantly and preferred the same sex. William III loved William Bentinck, a Dutch nobleman, who became Earl of Portland and French ambassador, wherein his somewhat polyamorous sexual tastes raised eyebrows at Versailles. That said, Louis XIV's court contained many outstanding martial figures, most of whom were bisexual or gay males. Madame chronicles their life and times in her correspondence. She was also a childhood friend and playmate of William III and had considerable respect for William III's second male lover, Arnold Joost Keppel, who was devastated by grief after William died after a riding accident in 1702. She compared his selfless devotion and moving grief to her own husband's greedy and spoilt male favourites. As for Mary II, she wrote passionate love letters to one woman, Frances Appsley. Her sister, Queen Anne, had similar passionate atachment to Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough and ancestress of Winston Churchill and Princess Diana of Wales both. Sarah fell from grace when Anne became involved with Abigail Masham, a lady-in-waiting, which provoked considerable jealousy from Sarah's pen. Back in France, Madame wasn't as impressed with another notable lesbian historical figure, Queen Christina of Sweden. Queen Christina was fluent in several languages and a conoisseur of art and literature, as well as a skilled diplomat. Her intervention put an end to the Thirty Years War which had ravaged Western and Central Europe during the early seventeenth century in 1647. Much to the regret of her people, Christina abdicated in 1651, whereupon she converted to Catholicism and shifted to Rome, where she produced operas and plays, encouraged Italian literary and scientific endeavour, and amassed an impressive art collection. In Christina's case, she cut her hair short and wore men's clothing, and was candid about Ebba Sparle, her long-term lover. One hopes that future British television historical dramas won't take as many liberties in future productions that involve incidental lgbt historical figures. Recommended Reading: Louis Crompton: Homosexuality and Civilisation: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Massachusetts: 2003. Ian Dunlop: Louis XIV: Pimlico: London: 2001. Ophelia Field: Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough: The Queen's Favourite: St Martins Press: New York: 2003. Anne Somerset: The Affair of the Poisons: Satanism, Murder and Infanticide at the Court of Louis XIV: Weidenfeld and Nicholson: London: 2003. Craig Young - 2nd December 2004    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 2nd December 2004 - 12:00pm

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