Marie Antoinette is a sapphic queen in the riotous trailer for BBC’s new period drama

A promotional still from new BBC Two series Marie Antoinette showing actors Jasmine Blackborow and Emilia Schule as Lamballe and Marie Antoinette - dressed in their period costumes and standing next to each other

As the weather gets colder and our craving for winter comfort viewing notches up a gear, there’s no better time to delve into a period drama – and the BBC are capping off 2022 with their sapphic spin on Marie Antoinette. 

Period dramas have seen a shift in recent years, bringing fresh and new interpretations to often-told pieces of history, especially when it comes to LGBTQ+ and POC representation. 

From Thomas Barrow’s early gay plotline in Downton Abbey to the incredibly popular series Gentleman Jack, documenting the life of lesbian Anne Lister – there’s lots to get your teeth into.

And Deborah Davis, writer of sapphic period classic The Favourite, is bringing Marie Antoinette’s story to life with a bang on BBC Two. 

The 30-second teaser trailer gives a glimpse into what’s in store for the notorious French queen, so buckle in. 

What is the plot of Marie Antoinette?

Enter pre-revolutionary 1770s France, where Marie Antionette has just joined the royal court in Versailles. A country on the cusp of a violent uprising.

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And true to history, with Antoinette a mere 14 years old, and Louis (the Dauphin) only 15, when they got married – it is exactly as chaotic as you would expect. 

As the teenagers adjust to married life, Marie Antoinette tries to navigate and make her mark on courtly life, especially as an outsider from Austria. 

Marie Antoinette (Emilia Schule) with her court. (Capa Drama/Banijay Studios France/Les Gens/Canal+/Caroline Dubois)

As shown in the trailer, the controversial historical figure takes on a revolutionary spirit of her own, proclaiming “let’s set this palace on fire”. 

Expect marital spats, courtly defiance and, yes, kissing women. 

Throughout the series, we will meet familiar figures, such as Marie’s royal confidantes, Lamballe (aka Marie Thérèse Louise) and Madame Du Barry who Antoinette may share a dalliance with.

The series will also explore what could have been going on between Louis and the queen, who famously took seven years to consummate their marriage.

BBC’s new drama looks set to show a quirky, subverted history of those early Versailles years, something Davis is familiar with doing in her critically-acclaimed film, The Favourite.

You may remember that Oscar-winning film follows the life of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and her various affairs with the women of her court, played by Emma Stone (Abigail) and Rachel Weisz (Sarah).

Watch the trailer

BBC Two have released the trailer for the series, which you can watch below.

Who is in the cast of Marie Antoinette?

Emilia Schüle, a Russian-German actor, will play the lead, Marie Antionette. 

James Purefoy stars as her father-in-law Louis XV.

Louis Cunningham as her husband and the Dauphin, Louis XVI.

Jack Archer as the Provence

Jasmine Blackborow as Lamballe (and potentially her lover?)

And Gaïa Weiss as Madame Du Barry.

What is the release date?

The eight-episode series will air on BBC Two on 29 December, with all episodes available to watch on BBC iPlayer from that date.

By royal appointment: Marie Antoinette (Emilia Schule). (Capa Drama/Banijay Studios France/Les Gens /Canal+/Caroline Dubois)

What are people saying about Marie Antoinette?

The upcoming series has not been without its controversy, with the usual reactionary groups complaining about rewriting history and the woke agenda. 

It would seem portraying Marie Antoinette as sapphic in a 21st Century TV show is a step too far. 

The Telegraph released an article slamming the decision to include this aspect of Marie Antoinette’s life, citing various historians calling it ahistorical and slanderous. 

However, there is historical evidence of pamphlets that were shared which depicted Marie Antoinette with women, used to slander the French queen. 

What’s more, this series is not the first to explore queerness in pre-revolutionary France, with the same producers, Canal+, creating the LGBTQ+ series Versailles.

Meanwhile, Marie Antoinette has been the centre of queer discourse for literally centuries.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, women would ask each other if they had heard the “rumours of Marie Antoinette” to scope out if they were a lesbian or queer. Most famously asked by Anne Lister herself to her mistress. 

And as explored in Kirsty Loehr’s A Short History of Queer Women, there could be some truth to the rumours, with Marie Antoinette trading passionate heartfelt letters with Lamballe.

This was of course a classic way of courtship reminiscent of 19th-century poet Emily Dickinson who wrote love letters to her sister-in-law Sue – as depicted in yet another LGBTQ+ period drama Dickinson.