A Brilliant Romantic/Patriotic Costume Drama in the Best Spanish Tradition
IMDb gives the informal international title of this film as "The Princess of the Ursinos", a "literal translation" of the Spanish. A correct translation would be "The Princess Orsini", "Ursinos" (French "Oursins") being merely a Spanish rendering of that illustrious Italian name, derived from the Latin "ursus", 'bear'.
(Note: I have capitalised the Spanish/French preposition "de" as well as all manner of words in Spanish titles, because the User Comments Section does not accept the correct spelling of these elements.)
Marie-Anne de la Trémoille, Princesse "des Ursins" (Orsini) (1642 1722), was a French lady prominent at the court of the first of the Spanish Bourbons, Philip V.
Philip of Anjou, a French prince, became King of Spain in 1700 at age 16. Young, inexperienced, shy and ineffectual, he and his teen-aged wife needed all the help they could get over their first years at Madrid, during which a full European war, The War of Spanish Succession, raged on for 14 years to decide which of the great-grandsons of Spanish King Philip IV had a better right to the Spanish throne.
Philip of Anjou had the best claim, for his grandmother had been the eldest daughter of Philip IV. He also had the strongest backer, for that grandmother had married Louis XIV, Sun King of France and the most powerful monarch of his time.
King Louis provided his grandson with a full entourage of French advisers and spies to both sustain and keep an eye on him during his youthful years as King of Spain. One of the most interesting of these was Marie-Anne de la Trémoille, a French noblewoman who, in her varied and adventurous youth, had been married to the Roman Prince, Flavio Orsini.
The princess had taken an active part in arranging Philip's marriage to Anne-Marie-Louise of Savoy. Her ambition was to secure the post of Chief Lady-in-Waiting to the young Queen of Spain, a mere child of twelve. By quiet diplomacy she succeeded, and in 1701 she accompanied the young queen to Spain.
For a decade and a half, she was to be the most powerful person in the Spanish Court. Her functions about the king and queen were almost those of a nurse. Her letters show how she put them to bed at night, and got them up in the morning. She gives a most amusing description of her embarrassment when she had to enter the royal bedroom, laden with intimate articles of clothing. But if the Chief Lady-in-Waiting did the work of a domestic servant, it was for a serious purpose. She was expected to look after French interests and manage the absurdly complicated politics of the court. She also rallied King, court and nation during the War of Succession.
Madame Orsini was resolved not to be a mere agent of Versailles, though. During the first period of her tenure of office she was in frequent conflict with the French ambassadors, who claimed the right of sitting in the council and directing the government. She wisely held that the young king should rely as much as possible on his Spanish subjects. In 1704 her enemies at the French court secured her temporary recall, nevertheless she retained her extensive influence until the death of Queen Marie-Louise in 1714, which coincided with the end of the Succession war, and arranged for Philip's second marriage to Elisabetta Farnese, princess of Parma. This last was to be her undoing, as the clever and spirited young Italian was not about to be managed as a child by the aging Frenchwoman. Elisabetta quickly acquired full sway over her husband and obtained the dismissal of the Princess, made all the easier by the outbreak of peace and the death of Louis XIV in 1715.
This 1947 movie (oh yeah, the movie!) takes the above-described elements and weaves two dramas, one romantic, the other political and patriotic, together against the ornate and exciting background of the Spanish court at war. It is wonderfully produced and acted by a cast of greats.
Spanish cinema is renownedor was once renownedfor its costume dramas, such as Locura De Amor (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040544/); Agustina De Aragón (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042185/); La Reina Santa (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039760/); Teresa De Jesús (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055513/) or the supreme and never-to-be-outdone 1947 Don Quixote ("Don Quijote De La Mancha", http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039330/). This film is one of the best in that tradition.
Made at the end of the first decade of the Franco regime, it is also surprisingly pro-French and pro-Bourbon, neither of which elements had been particularly prominent in Francoism up to that time.
Francisco Franco's government had been close to the Axis Powers during the Second World War. As he saw the Axis' fortunes decline, however, he slowly but surely detached himself from them, dismissed those of his ministers who had been too-prominently pro-Axis, and sought a terse rapprochement with Britain and, later, France. In the same year this film was made, 1947, to distract international opinion from the idea that his was a Fascist regime with a kind of Duce at the helm, he proclaimed Spain a monarchy....hence the friendly white-washed views of both French influence in Spanish life and the beginnings of the French Bourbon dynasty in Spain which this film so brilliantly and dramatically places at the heart of a historical, patriotic struggle.
The whole thing is quite a tour-de-force, and makes an immensely interesting and entertaining screen Fest.
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