VERSAILLES 1670. Louis XIV, King of France, has fallen madly in love with Madame de Montespan. He discovers, to his horror, that she has betrayed him and everything he stands for.
How can you love someone you cannot trust? This is one of the central themes in Conscience Of The King, a new play by Anthony Daly which receives its world premiere at the Town Hall studio next week.
The play encompasses a heady mix of royal affairs, black Masses, poisonings, and court intrigues – all of which are historical fact, as writer/director Anthony Daly explains.
“Louis had a long affair with Madame de Montespan and they were very much in love,” he says. “There then erupted the scandal of the so-called Poison Affair in which a prominent aristocrat was convicted of poisoning members of her family.
:Her trial drew attention to a number of other mysterious deaths, starting a number of rumours. Louis became alarmed that he also might be poisoned and set up a secret tribunal to investigate the issue. It found that some younger aristocrats were indulging in alchemy and black Masses and a number of them were sentenced to death.
“The tribunal also found there was some evidence linking Madame de Montespan to this occult activity and, while Louis protected her from being investigated further, it also brought an end to their affair.
“The play looks at that theme of whether it’s possible to keep loving someone even after they have betrayed you. It also examines the competing belief systems you found around the French court, Louis’s Catholicism on the one hand and the younger aristocrats’ subversive attachment to the occult on the other.”
The play deals with a milieu of nefarious court intrigue familiar from popular works such as Dangerous Liaisons and, in this instance, Daly was able to draw on the actual tribunal transcripts – rediscovered in the 19th century after being presumed lost - to inform his script.
Louis’s affair with Madame de Montespan was no mere passing dalliance; she bore him seven children and was referred to as the ‘Real Queen of France’ during their time together. So the destruction of their relationship was a matter of great consequence, both for the lovers and the French state.
Daly’s play presents the key players in the drama; Louis and his mistress (played by Tom Dooley and Nessa Walsh ), as well as prominent court ministers and tribunal investigators.
Conscience Of The King unearths a fascinating historical story and it runs at the Town Hall studio from Monday February 23 to Saturday February 28 at 8.30pm nightly.
For tickets contact the Town Hall on 091 - 569777.