Marie Antoinette is remembered by history as an extravagant, vain queen who apparently uttered the words "let them eat cake" when she heard her subjects couldn’t afford to buy bread.
But this new drama series, coming to PBS in the US and on BBC2 in the UK, turns that perception on its head and shows Marie Antoinette as a brave trailblazer, taking on the establishment in order to live her life as she pleased.
It's nothing less than you’d expect from writer Deborah Davis, the woman behind the Oscar-winning movie The Favourite, starring Olivia Colman.
"It’s a new take on her life," says Emilia Schüle who plays Marie Antoinette, the last French queen before the Revolution. "She’s not just the spoilt girl that became a fashion icon. She’s a modern, feminist character."
Getting deep into the future queen’s psyche, we first meet her as a naïve 14-year-old Austrian princess who is sent to France to marry the 15-year-old Dauphin, Louis XVI (played by Louis Cunningham). But she soon realises that not only is her husband-to-be strange and socially awkward but the courts of Versailles are dictated by strict, and frankly ridiculous, rules and filled to the brim with dangerous enemies.
Clearly, it doesn’t end well for Marie Antoinette herself, but here’s everything you need to know about the groundbreaking BBC2 and PBS series…
Marie Antoinette UK and US release dates
Marie Antoinette is an eight-part series that arrives on BBC2 on Thursday December 29 2022 at 9pm when the full series will become available on BBCiPlayer as part of the BBC's Christmas TV schedule. It will also run weekly every Thursday through early 2023. Marie Antoinette has already been shown in France and will be shown in the US on PBS Masterpiece from March 19 2023
Is there a trailer for Marie Antoinette?
Yes there a couple of Marie Antoinette trailers showing the teenage Marie Antoinette arriving at the courts of Versailles, where she is told "there are no secrets here" — a statement that couldn’t be further from the truth. We also see her declare "history is not kind to losers," which hints at the feisty queen she will eventually become. Take a look below...
Marie Antoinette plot
The action follows Austrian-born Marie Antoinette (Emilia Schüle) as she’s sent to France at 14 by her ambitious mother in order to cement peace between the two countries. The teen is expected to marry the 15-year-old Dauphin, the future King Louis XVI and provide him with an heir. But she soon learns that the French courts are a treacherous place and she must fight, not only to do things her own way, but also to stay alive.
* See our complete episode guide for Marie Antoinette further below...
Marie Antoinette cast — Emilia Schüle as Marie Antoinette
Emilia, who plays the rebel queen Marie Antoinette, says. "We all know how it ends, but it’s a new take on her life. It read in part like a nightmare and was a very subjective experience — she was a 14-year-old sent away from home in Austria to go to Paris. She’s scared to death. Versailles was a dark, mysterious and misogynist place. She was fighting to preserve her freedom and her personal space. And that enabled her enemies to undermine her and eventually destroy her."
* Emilia has previously starred in Dreamfactory, The Perfumier, Berlin Station and Hello Again.
Louis Cunningham as Louis XVI
Louis plays King Louis XVI who marries Marie Antoinette before the French Revolution strikes. He has previously appeared in an episode of Bridgerton playing Lord Corning. This is his first leading screen role. He is the real life grandson of the late Prince Charles of Luxembourg,
Who else is starring in Marie Antoinette?
In Marie Antoinette look out for Call the Midwife and The Bay star Jack Archer is Louis’ brother Provence while Gaia Weiss (Outlander and Vikings) is the scheming Madame du Barry. Jasmine Blackborrow plays Lamballe, while Dangerous Liaisons star Laura Benson plays Madame Etiquette and Mary Queen of Scots star Liah O’Prey is Yolande. Sex Education and Rome actor James Purefoy is Louis XV while Paul Bandey, Jonas Bloquet, Caroline Piette and Crystal Shepherd-Cross also star.
Marie Antoinette episode guide
Here's a brief guide to all eight episodes of BBC2 drama Marie Antoinette...
Episode 1: The Slap
Free spirited Marie Antoinette is devastated when she’s sent to France at 14 and expected to marry the Dauphin, who she discovers is ill-mannered and odd. She also struggles to get to grips with the ridiculous rules of etiquette in the French courts.
Episode 2: Rival queens
When Louis refuses to share his bed with her, Marie Antoinette realises producing an heir is going to be difficult. She turns to Madame du Barry, the King’s mistress, for help but du Barry soon sees the young Dauphine as a rival for the King’s affections.
Episode 3: Pick a princess
The royal family spends a holiday in Fontainebleau where Marie Antoinette discovers du Barry’s plan to invite Louis’ brother Provence’s wife. That means Provence could provide an heir to the throne before she and Louis, which leads to increasing hostility between Marie Antoinette and du Barry.
Episode 4: Queen of France
When the King dies, Louis and Marie Antoinette succeed the throne and du Barry knows that if she doesn’t protect herself, her time at Versailles will be over.
Episode 5: Rebel queen
Marie Antoinette is determined to launch her reign as the Queen of France and organises an Inauguration Ball. She also tries to convince Louis to choose a pro-Austrian candidate for prime minister, but Louis refuses to let her dabble in politics.
Episode 6: Deus ex machine
The royal marriage is struggling and the King and Queen are becoming increasingly estranged. Marie Antoinette’s brother arrives in Versailles to help save their relationship but he has his work cut out for him.
Episode 7: The ostrich bitch
Marie Antoinette is pregnant at last but when pornographic pamphlets challenging the baby’s legitimacy arrive at Versailles, Louis locks down the chateau and demands a full investigation.
Episode 8: Queen of hearts
While Louis throws himself into supporting the American War of Independence, Marie Antoinette is enjoying life at the Petit Trianon, where she becomes enamored by another.
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I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.
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