Report from Versailles: The Musketeer

Vonda and Musketeerby Vonda N. McIntyre

As folks who follow the BVC blog know, I’m having an adventure.

My novel The Moon and the Sun is being made into a movie. Producer Bill Mechanic invited me to visit the production while it filmed at Versailles, France, with unprecedented access to the chateau de Versailles.

The chateau was the site of the 17th-century court of the Sun King, Louis XIV. It’s designed to overwhelm visitors with the power and gloire of the king.

Hall of Mirrors. The Chapel. The gardens of the chateau.

The movie is going to be beautiful.

Versailles - Chapel


This set did not require a lot of dressing.

One thing about a movie production: There’s a lot more going on than filming. There’s dressing the set, setting up the cameras, rehearsal. Moving tons of equipment around safely in a national treasure filled with priceless artwork.

This results in some standing-around time for anyone without a specific task. My privilege was to observe — I described it to myself as “sitting in a corner, invisible, being vewwy vewwy quiet.”

But I wasn’t invisible. I was welcomed enthusiastically and with many compliments about the story by everyone I met. As a result, even this classic introvert felt comfortable chatting with a number of members of the production — producers, director, cast members, musicians, the composer, the script supervisor, the IT folks, security. And several people’s mums, all of whom were charming and proud and fun to talk to. As my visit progressed, I got a little bit bolder about talking to people and even asking if I could take their picture.

Waiting for his scene, an actor stood nearby in a dashing costume—plainer than the court costumes but every bit as elegant.

SwordmistressAnd including a sword, which most of the costumes didn’t use. The swordmistress kept very close track of the swords.

Every so often I’m compelled to emit a bit of research:

At the court of Louis XIV, ordinary people could approach the king and ask for his help or intervention. But in order to be in the king’s presence, one had to be properly dressed.

Proper dress included a sword, but most ordinary people didn’t own swords. So outside the gates of the chateau, one could go to a booth, rent a potmetal sword for the day, put it on, and be properly dressed to approach the king.

Charming France-based British actor Phillip Schurer was the man in the striking Musketeer costume, including sword. We chatted about his current and future parts — his next role is as an archaeologist in a French television series — and I worked up the nerve to ask him if I might take his picture. He agreed, and conscripted a passerby to take our picture together.

I’m a courtesy 5’1″ and barely came up to his shoulder.

“Should we sit down?” he asked gallantly.

But the picture would be better if we stayed standing.

“I’m used to being short,” I said.

I don’t often get to have my picture taken with a Musketeer.

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About Vonda N. McIntyre

Vonda N. McIntyre writes science fiction. Her most recent ebook is the short story "Little Sisters," a companion piece to her Nebula-nominated story "Little Faces." She is the author of The Moon and the Sun (Nebula), Dreamsnake (Nebula, Hugo, Locus Award), and the Sherlock Holmes Scientific Romance "The Adventure of the Field Theorems." Her backlist is available at the BVC Ebook Store. For signed hardcovers of her SF novels, visit her website’s Basement Full of Books. The Moon and the Sun has been filmed as a major motion picture, "The King's Daughter," starring Kaya Scodelario, Pierce Brosnan, and William Hurt. Vonda visited the filming at the chateau de Versailles, and wrote several blog posts about the experience.
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16 Responses to Report from Versailles: The Musketeer

  1. Totally awesome ^^. When you linked to that instagram page of Brosnan’s wife and we saw you sitting next to him that was so cool, too. And that marble bust of Louis XIV. looked a bit like Brosnan, too.

    I’m not surprised that he didn’t want to wear a wig in the style of that official portrait, though, heh.

  2. Alicia says:

    He’s cute! I would definitely have tucked myself into his side like that 😉

  3. Pat Bowne says:

    Absolutely cool.

  4. Sherwood Smith says:

    That looks like so much fun!

  5. janetl says:

    I loved that novel. I’m thrilled it’s being made into a movie. How wonderful to see Versailles and a movie set!

  6. Cat Kimbriel says:

    Whee! So much fun!

  7. How cool! The set is fantastic! Wow!

  8. Mary says:

    “Proper dress included a sword, ”

    Pedantically, I must observe that a woman did not need one.

  9. Mary, but what if the woman *did* bring a sword..? That’s another story.

  10. I find it fascinating that proper dress before the king required a sword. I always had the impression that many kings required petitioners to leave their sword at the door before entering the royal presence.

    • Nancy, I wouldn’t be the least surprised. I loved the booth with the potmetal swords for rent. My research focused on the court of Louis XIV (specifically September 1693), and I know a bit about that time and place.

      Other times, other places, other kings — not so much.

      • Judith Tarr says:

        I wonder why (and how) the idea of dressed = sword came to be?

        And what was proper dress if one happened to be a woman?

        • Don’t know; was intrigued by the pot-metal sword rental booth.

          Louis had some strong opinions on women’s dress at court. I’d have to look them up and all my Louis XIV books are in boxes at the moment.

        • Sherwood Smith says:

          Because one must at least look like a member of the noble class, the noblesse d’épée, which was the top of the list of nobles classes (including noblesse de robe, noblesse de lettres, etc)

        • Sherwood Smith says:

          Proper dress for a woman was a court gown, and he did not like to see them repeated, so women had ways of recycling gowns if they weren’t rich. Court gowns cost a fortune. (Even recycling them involved a great deal of stitchery, but still there were jokes about pinned flounces and polonaising that, eh, performed costume malfunctions.)