"The Queen of Versailles" Movie Review

David and Jackie Siegel

The Queen of Versailles

The Queen of Versailles is a fascinating contemporary documentary about the rise and fall of Jackie and David Siegel and their seven children, two dogs, sixteen servants, their 26,000 square foot home in Orlando and their unfinished 90,000 foot home inspired by the palace of Versailles. Jackie and David both came from modest roots and, as a result of David's success in the time share vacation rental business, ended up with more money than they knew what to do with.

The documentarian, Lauren Greenfield, obtained virtually unlimited access to the Siegel family's life. Jackie Siegel was especially forthcoming about her life before and after marrying David Siegel. [David Siegel is suing Lauren Greenfield for defamation.] Although their story hardly exemplifies the finest American values, the Siegels appeared to be decent people who over-extended themselves financially, both personally and in David's business, and had the rug pulled out from under them by the banks in the 2008 crash. High school students should be required to watch the documentary and write an essay on what they learned from it.

The movie was directed by Lauren Greenfield.

Jackie Siegel
Jackie Siegel
Unfinished Palace of Versailles
Unfinished Palace of Versailles

Official Trailer--Queen of Versailles

The Mysterious Mr. Rechnitz


MOZI on Government Waste and Conspicuous Consumption 430 B.C.

C. 430 B.C. China


It is the business of the benevolent man to seek to promote what is beneficial to the world, to eliminate what is harmful, and to provide a model for the world. What benefits men he will carry out; what does not benefit men he will leave alone. Moreover, when the benevolent many plans for the benefit of the world, he does not consider merely what will please the eye, delight the ear, gratify the mouth, and give ease to the body. If in order to gratify the senses he has to deprive the people of the wealth needed for their food and clothing, then the benevolent man will not do so. Therefore Mozi condemns music not because the sound of the great bells and rolling drums, the zithers and pipes, is not delightful, not because the sight of the carvings and ornaments is not beautiful; not because the taste of the fried and broiled meats is not delicious; and not because lofty towers, broad pavilions, and secluded halls are not comfortable to live in. But though the body finds comfort, the mouth gratification, the eye pleasure, and the ear delight, yet if we examine the matter, we will find that such things are not in accordance with the ways of the sage kings. And if we consider the welfare of the world, we will find that they bring no benefit to the common people. Therefore Mozi says: Making music is wrong!

Now if the rulers and ministers want musical instruments to use tin their government activities, they cannot extract them from the seawater, like salt, or dig them out of the ground, like ore. Inevitably, therefore, they must lay heavy taxes upon the common people before they can enjoy the sound of great bells, rolling drums, zithers, and pipes. In ancient times the sage kings likewise laid heavy taxes on the people, but this was for the prupose of making boats and carts, and when they were completed and people asked, “What are these for?” the sage kings replied, “The boats are for use on water, and the carts for use on land so that gentlemen may rest their feet and laborers spare their shoulders.” So the common

Art is a jealous mistress, and if a man have a genius for painting, poetry, music, architecture, or philosophy, he makes a bad husband and an ill provider. Ralph Waldo Emerson

People paid their taxes and levies and did not dare to grumble. Why? Because they knew that the taxes would be used for the benefit of the people. Now if musical instruments were also used for the benefit of the people, I would not venture to condemn them. Indeed, if they were as useful as the boats and carts of the sage kings, I would certainly not venture to condemn them.

There are three things the people worry about: that when they are hungry they will have no food, when they are cold they will have no clothing, and when they are weary they will have no rest. These are the three great worries of the people. Now let us try sounding the great bells, striking the rolling drums, strumming the zithers, blowing the pipes, waving the shields and axes in the war dance. Does this do anything to provide food and clothing for the people? I hardly think so.

But let us leave that point for the moment.

Now there are great states that attack small ones and great families that molest small ones. The strong oppress the weak, the many tyrannize the few, the cunning deceive the stupid, the eminent lord it over the humble, and bandits and thieves rise up on all sides and cannot be suppressed. Now let us try sounding the great bells, striking the rolling drums, strumming the zithers, blowing the pipes, and waving the shields and axes in the war dance. Does this do anything to rescue the world from chaos and restore it to order? I hardly think so. Therefore Mozi says if you try to promote what is beneficial to the world and eliminate what is harmful by laying heavy taxes on the people for the purpose of making bells, drums, zithers, and pipes, you will get nowhere. So Mozi says: making music is wrong!

Now the rulers and ministers, seated in their lofty towers and broad pavilions, look about them, and there are the bells, hanging like huge cauldrons. But unless the bells are struck, how can the rulers get any delight out of them? Therefore it is obvious that the rulers must have someone to strike the bells. But they cannot employ old men or young boys, since their eyes and ears are not keen enough and their arms are not strong, and they cannot make the sounds harmonious or see to strike the bells front and back. If they employ young men, then they will be taking them away from their plowing and planting, and if they employ young woment, they will be taking them away from their weaving and spinning. Yet the rulers and ministers will have their music, though their music making interferes to such an extent with the people’s efforts to produce food and clothing! Therefore Mozi says: making music is wrong!

[Mozi, from “Against Music.” Born a few years after Confucius’ death, Mozi professed the doctrine of undifferentiated love: “When everyone regards the states and cities of others as he regards his won, no one will attack the others’ state or seize the otherrs’ cities.” His disdain for music was part of a larger critique of the aristocracy’s lavish banquets and theatrical performances.]

From: “LAPHAM’S QUARTERLY, Volume III, NUMBER 2 Spring 2010

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Comments 15 comments

tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 4 years ago from California

This looks like something I would like and I don't like movies. My husband will be amazed that I know about a movie, which makes him very happy. You have given me great reviews in the past. Thanks for contributing to our happy home.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

0-9-12Gawker--David Siegel Warns his Employees They're Likely to Be Fired if Obama Elected

The CEO Who Built Himself America's Largest House Just Threatened to Fire His Employees if Obama's Elected

David Siegel is the founder and CEO of Westgate Resorts, a huge national timeshare company and one of the largest resort developers in the world. In 2007 he was a billionaire, although he may be only a hundred-millionaire now. He and his wife Jackie

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Hmm, should we be taking up a collection for poor David? I understand he may have worked his way up, but come on, look at that "house"! Jackie looks like she had some reconstruction done herself. This was very interesting Ralph. Voted up and interesting.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

Thanks for your comment. I look forward to sampling your hubs of which there's quite a variety.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 4 years ago Author

Joshua Rechnitz, a Contrasting Approach

11-25-12NYTimes--Philanthropist Joshua Rechnitz Keeps a Low Profile - NYTimes.com

Joshua Rechnitz, the philanthropist who pledged to build a bicycling velodrome in Brooklyn Bridge Park, is planning to turn an abandoned powerhouse into artist studios....Despite his family’s wealth, Mr. Rechnitz has lived a modest life, renting an a

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

4-7-13NYTimes "No, They're Not the Kardashians" by Alexei Barrionuevo

Lavish Real Estate of Two Formula One Heiresses - NYTimes.com

Together, Petra Stunt and Tamara Ecclestone, daughters of the Formula One racing billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, have spent over $200 million on homes and makeovers.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

4-5-13The NYTimes Book Review"A Grand Complication" review by Robert H. Frank

‘A Grand Complication,’ by Stacy Perman - NYTimes.com

Two powerful men contested to own the world’s most remarkable watch. " If everyone had built smaller, everyone would have been just as happy, and the resources saved could have relieved the suffering of those for whom scarcity is more elemental."

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

5-18-13NYTimes--David Siegel Makes Jay Gatzby Look Like a Piker

The Luxe Life in ‘Gatsby,’ ‘Bling Ring’ and Other Films - NYTimes.com

Characters in “The Great Gatsby,” “Spring Breakers,” “Pain & Gain” and “The Bling Ring” share a craving for the finer things.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

Another idea for David Siegel and Steve Cohen "The Largest Private Yacht in the World"

Eclipse--The Largest Private Yacht in the World

There's a new "largest privately-owned yacht in the world." She's the 533-ft motoryacht Eclipse, which is owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. The title was formerly held by a boat owned by a fellow from Dubai, whose boat is now about two f

Express10 profile image

Express10 3 years ago from East Coast

The saddest thing in that documentary is the fact that the Filipino nanny was raising Segel's kids and not her own whom she left back home in the Philippines. She hadn't seen her own kids in years and missed many milestones being a nanny here in the US. Her yearning for her own kids was easily visible and that really saddened me when I saw this on CNBC. The Siegels' have got their financial ducks in a row now and hopefully have learned their lesson about spreading themselves too thin.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

8-27-13NYTimes--"McMansions Herald Return of Excess in the Hamptons"

Hamptons McMansions Herald a Return of Excess - NYTimes.com

There is no surer sign that the big-spending ways of the pre-financial crisis era have returned to the Hamptons than the similar looking mansions across the landscape.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 3 years ago Author

11-22-13NYTimes "How the Original 1 Percent Showed Off"

‘Gilded New York’ and ‘Beauty’s Legacy,’ Two Lifestyle Shows - NYTimes.com

Two exhibitions now in New York have much to say about the imbalance of money and taste in the Gilded Age of the late 1800s.

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 2 years ago Author


"In an article titled “Here Comes L.A.’s Biggest Residence,” The Los Angeles Business Journal announced in June that the house, conceived by Nile Niami, a film producer turned developer, with an estimated sale price “in the $150 million range,” will feature a cantilevered tennis court and five swimming pools. “We’re talking 200 construction trucks a day,” fumed Mr. Rosen, whose formal appeal against the removal of all that dirt was denied. “Then multiply that by all the other giant projects. More than a million cubic yards of this hillside have been taken out. What happens when the next earthquake comes? How nuts is all this?”

Express10 profile image

Express10 2 years ago from East Coast

As usual Ralph you have made a very interesting comment, I also read the article you linked to. While I understand the various arguments for and against these types of homes, I've been called elitist and worse online and off for simply understanding and discussing why some people choose to build these behemoths and/or admitting my own ambitions of simply having a oceanfront dream home with a dream car as well.

If I were a multi-billionaire I would build something large as well, though not 90,000 square feet. Ten or fifteen would be plenty for me and even then, I'd probably have family visiting very frequently if not living there part time. More important to me than square footage, I would be a more prolific donor to my favorite causes but I take absolutely no issue with the folks who build and buy these types of homes.

They do it because it's something they can do, it's a sign of their financial success and allows them space for a huge variety of activities and events, some of which they can be handsomely paid for. I know a couple who do it several times a year. I hope not only the eventual buyer but also the builders of this 90,000 sq ft home share my view on philanthropy since they can certainly afford to be generous.

In short Mr. Deeds, to sum up my view of behemoth homes in slang terms, "I ain't mad at 'em" as long as they can afford it. Also, for a year or several, they are adding some jobs to the local economy, dust, noise and all. Thank you for posting this comment and link, it's very interesting and I love reading your ideas and opinions. Now, back to my homework so one day I can afford my oceanfront dream home :)

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 2 years ago Author

Although we don't agree, thanks for your kind and civil comment. I'm a bit more of a Mozian.

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