During an 18th century wedding reception, a duke (Hugh Laurie) whispers into a young baroness’ (Annie Lennox) ear. She forces a smile. Several groups of people gossip in a group. A second young woman waves a fan in front of her face. The grand duke comforts his crying wife in the corner.
She lifts her head up as she sees the door open and watches the king (John Malkovich) walk arm-in-arm with the newly appointed queen. The duke waves to him while people toss rose petals. The king whispers in his wife’s ear. The baroness glares. She gets up from her seat and panics in the corner. The king’s gaze rests upon her. Children hand them presents.
Back in her seat, the duke brushes some of hair away from the baroness’ shoulder and tries to kiss her neck. The baroness pushes him away. The king kisses his wife’s neck. The baroness closes her eyes and sinks in the chair, thinking of when he kissed her on the neck as she sat on his bed. She downs glasses of champagne, causing the duke to raise his eyebrows while he talks to the king and queen.
The baroness shoves the queen away and tells the king she needs to speak to him in private. In the corner, she beats him on the chest and sobs. He tries to kiss but then wrenches himself from her grasp. She returns to the party and lets out a bitter rant at the king. The queen puts her arms around his waist. The baroness holds onto him. Several people help pull the baroness from the royal couple. The duke gestures the baroness is drunk. She crawls on the floor and leaves in a huff.
The baroness walks down the winding stairs. The king waits for her at the landing and carries her.
It was the scandal that changed history. An 18th English king had loved a baroness. However, his parents had forbidden the relationship, saying she had undesirable lineage and directed him to a young duchess. A national holiday was declared for the marriage. His parents sighed with relief, knowing they saved him from a lackluster choice. The duchess thrived on her newfound power. She was going to be named queen.
The gossip of the king’s affair with the baroness had reached her. She had no intentions of sharing him and instructed her servants to disinvite the baroness. The king wouldn’t allow it, stating she was a part of society. The duchess pouted and called her parents to inform them. Her parents assured they had a plan.
The king, though, worried about the baroness. She had started drinking and voicing her bitter rants at parties. She saved her best barbs for his reception. The members of society laughed at her as clawed at him and screamed “how could you!”
However, on his wedding night, he snuck out to meet the baroness. They slept together again. She asked about the queen. The king replied it will be her title soon and moved her into his castle. The queen, abandoned by her husband, wandered the hillside and avoided public events. People were whispering. The king declared his wife had taken ill and returned back to her childhood home. He began to introduce the baroness at parties and gave her some royal duties. A year later, the king had married the baroness. He asked the people of the country and society to accept her as the new queen.
Director: Sophie Muller Year: 1992