The Royal Exchange (2017)

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As I recently complained, I can’t believe 2017’s The Royal Exchange hasn’t gotten a US release — even for streaming. However, by writing a post complaining about this fact, I found out that there’s a full version on YouTube — with English subtitles! I’ve been waiting on this one for years, so I went straight to watch it.

Note: you can find higher quality original French or overdubbed Russian on my favorite probably-not-legit Russian site — ok.ru/video/ — which I’m not going to link to, because it’s dubious. I ended up taking screencaps from one of those versions, since the quality was better.

Overall, I guess I can see why this isn’t really a movie for American audiences. As I wrote in my preview review,

It’s about early 18th-century royal marriage matchmaking: set in 1721-1725, it tells the real story of Mariana Victoria of Spain, who was engaged to French King Louis XV; and Louise Elisabeth d’Orléans, daughter of the French regent who was married to Spanish King Louis I. As there are no spoilers in history, I’ll tell you: Mariana was only 4 (or 3?) years old, sent to France, and eventually returned to Spain as the French didn’t want to wait to marry off Louis XV. Meanwhile, Louise was 11. Her husband ascended the throne about three years later, but died shortly thereafter of smallpox; Louise was sent back to France.

It’s a fascinating story, and I actually went right out and read the book (back in 2017, so all I remember is the book was great) — but the film version is very quiet and slow. I think it’ll be definitely interesting to those like us who care about arranged royal marriages and dueling court etiquettes, but I can see that the average viewer might yawn. Unfortunately, not all of the characters are fully fleshed out, so it’s hard to understand some motivations — particularly Louise Elisabeth, who just seems petulant for no reason.

A few specifics on the plot/film itself before delving into the costumes:

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Juliane Lepoureau as Mariana Victoria of Spain is SO FRICKIN’ CUTE. The only problem is that she’s in France for several years, and while her not seeming to grow up is a plot point, I don’t buy that she’d stay THAT LITTLE for that long.

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For once, someone was strategic and kept most of the paintings referenced in the film out of frame! Avoiding the Shitty Historical Portraits phenomenon. The only ones we saw was this in-progress portrait…

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And this one of Louis, which isn’t great, but it’s not really FEATURED, so there’s that. And it’s not awful?

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THERE ARE SO MANY PUPS IN THIS FILM I VERY MUCH APPROVE

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AND one very plufty kitten!

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There is one groan-inducing shitting plot point, where someone shits at the (family) dinner table, which, really? But at least there’s a proper chaise percée (a chair with a built-in chamberpot), so at least they admit they had some technology and didn’t just shit in the corner. I can’t say for certain whether shitting at the dinner table was done or not, so I’m going to leave it there.

 

Costumes in The Royal Exchange

The costumes were designed by Fabio Perrone, and I did a pretty thorough run-down of why they’re not 1720s in my preview post — and there isn’t really much more to say about that. Overall, they worked if I just assumed it was some vague time period between 1740-65 and didn’t focus on the fitted back gowns and too-narrow men’s jackets.

Instead of flogging that horse, I’m just going to talk about some things I thought were done well and others that weren’t so great.

Outerwear

The film did a particularly good job with outerwear. First, it existed! Outerwear doesn’t always get shown on screen. Second, they showed a number of interesting varieties. And third, they were all very voluminous, which the 1720s WAS all about.

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Louise Elisabeth leaves for Spain in this huge pink satin cloak. I like how the color tied in with dad’s (left) waistcoat.

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Later she adds this lampas (fabric) short capelet, with fur-edged hood. SO cute!

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With hood up.

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The Princess Palatine, Marianna, and Mme de Ventadour all wear full, silk taffeta cloaks, some of with fur.

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Mme de Ventadour’s embroidered mantlet was SO pretty!

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Marianna in another fur-edged cloak.

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Louise Elisabeth gets a fur-trimmed velvet cloak that matches her riding habit.

Menswear

While the coats should have been much fuller, they were still nicely made with excellent large cuffs and good fabrics.

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Louis XV had a blue velvet coat trimmed with leopard fur for hunting.

Marianne Loir (French, ca. 1715-1769), Portrait of a Man Seated at a Desk, ca. 1750, oil on canvas, Portland Art Museum

Leopard fur was totally a trend in the period | Marianne Loir (French, ca. 1715-1769), Portrait of a Man Seated at a Desk, ca. 1750, oil on canvas, Portland Art Museum

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The future Louis I gets a great suit.

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The Duc de Condé was SUPER annoying, but he had great buttons.

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The French ambassador looking gooood in taffeta with velvet cuffs.

Womenswear

The women’s outfits were a mixed bag. There were some nice elements, and others that were clunkity clunk clunk.

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Like what the HELL is going on here.

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Why the long hanging 16th century-style sleeve?

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Is this stomacher SUPPOSED to be a lion’s face?

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The trim on this stomacher was perfectly period.

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Marianna’s court dresses were SO cute!

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Beautiful fabric on Ventadour’s stomacher, plus some lovely embroidery details.

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Marianna wore this gorgeous embroidered cap that I think must be antique!

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Elisabeth Farnese, Queen Isabel of France, has some pretty silver embroidery here.

Hair

Apparently only Marianna and Mme de Ventadour had hairstylists. No one else even owned a comb!

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Marianna’s little tete de mouton hairstyles were SO CUTE (are you getting a theme here?).

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I scoffed at Ventadour’s bangs here, but she was sleeping in a chair (watching over Louis) so maybe things got messy.

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The rest of the time, her hair was nicely styled.

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Louise Elisabeth dialed it in constantly.

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This was probably the most styled she ever got, and that’s not much.

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LOUIS XV’S HAIR HAS NEVER SEEN A COMB

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It was never explained why Philip V was wearing a 17th century-style wig.

Veils

Many of the older ladies in both the Spanish and French courts wore veils, which was nice to see.

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Queen Isabel of Spain

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A Spanish lady-in-waiting

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The Princess Palatine

Lounging Wear

Lounging wear occasionally showed up, sometimes for good, sometimes not:

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This robe de chambre was gorgeous on the Regent.

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But I questioned the Spanish royals. Philip just looked cheesy with dressing gowns and long hair, and why is the queen sitting around in her stays?

Have you seen The Royal Exchange? What did you think?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

6 Responses

  1. Nico

    I wish they included in the film the passage of the book where Louise Elisabeth burped three times in a row in full court dress under a canopy in front of the court of Spain (authentic) ^^

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    I abhor, detest and want to feed Condé to Drogon or Smaug. But Spanish Princess is cute and the Cavaliers are NY all-time favourite dog breed. Cat was cute. And Bouffers was creepy.

    Reply
  3. Roxana

    So basically the attempted exchange didn’t work out at all. Both brides ended up back in their own country.
    Mariana Victoria later enjoyed a successful reign as regent of Portugal and Louise Elisabeth may have been much happier living quietly in her native country.

    Reply
  4. Damnitz

    I think that it’s a good film. The costumes are not the best – I remember a coat of the king which is too large.
    No of the younger characters become older. That’s true. But all of the younger actors are too old for their roles anyway.
    The actor of the regent just is looking too old and too boring if you compare him with the great Philippe Noiret in “Que la fête commence”.
    I loved the details and the actors of the kings and the young infante.

    Reply
  5. Mademoiselle Mars

    This film was terribly boring even for someone who loves historical films… I had to put on the subtitles as the actors don’t articulate, but I’m French!

    Reply

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