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No Royal Toilets in Palace Versailles!

Updated on August 21, 2013

Only a Select few Sat on These Thrones!

When I was watching the film "Marie Antoinette" with the Royals and their guests dancing around the ballroom of the "Palace of Versailles" wearing huge dresses with massive white wigs to match I began to wonder-how and where do they go to relieve themselves? I believe the "Palace of Versailles" didn't have functioning toilets until 1768 (nine in total) all of which were only to be used by the King, his family, and close friends or nobles. So what was the procedure when the palace was full of guests who would have all been consuming much food and drink; where did these guests go potty? Did those big ballroom dresses with the big wire hoops also come with a built-in chamber pot? I mean the women who adorned these costumes they would have needed some assistance in lifting these giant gowns up so they could go to the bathroom. I find it challenging enough hiking up modern day garb; I can't imagine trying to hike up the big hoop along with layers of underclothing as well. I am so glad I wasn't around during this time period; I was lucky to miss out on the huge discomfort I'm sure the women suffered due to the fashion of that era. Just looking at the torturous looking outfits of this time I can honestly say I'm glad I missed out on that.

Unique Smell at the Palace of Versailles

There is a rumor that "Marie-Antoinette" was hit by the contents of a chamber pot as she was passing under the windows of "Madame du Barry" who was the mistress of her father-in-law; she believed that this was no accident but was done intentionally. It was also told that the chamber pots from the upper floors of the "Palace of Versailles" were emptied down onto the interior courts below. It is also rumored that individuals were known to relieve themselves in corners of the palace; as functioning toilets were not available to all that visited the palace. The "Palace of Versailles" was known to have a unique smell to it; could some of these said practices have had an effect on this perhaps?

Royal Potty not on Priority List

Considering the magnitude of the "Palace of Versailles" it is really amazing that there wasn't more time and thought put into providing ample toilet facilities for the large number of guests attending the many functions held at the palace. There was certainly much planning and re-planning of other sections such as the opera-house and the theatre. I understand that an architect would much rather design an opera-house over an out-house. But I would think toilets would be more of a necessity and thus rank high on the priorities list of rooms or facilities to be built within the palace. I would see an opera-house more on the side of being a luxury not a necessity. I then remembered that the people who were giving the orders of what was to be built were blue-bloods; these people lived a life of opulence surrounding themselves with things that oozed luxury. I guess the thought of toilets was a dirty word in the minds of the Royalty. So I guess there wasn't too many guests asking directions to "The Royal Potty"; instead they would be in search of a quiet corner.

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Chamber Pots

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    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 4 years ago from Mason City

      Its really fun to read about how people in the past like in France did their business, as far as using the toilet is concerned. It would be hard for women with the big hoops to use the toilets--they must of needed some help. Very interesting, for sure, and fun to read. The corners in the rooms must have been pretty smelly.

    • Parks McCants profile image

      Parks McCants 4 years ago from Eugene Oregon U.S.A.

      An interesting read. Thanks for doing the research on an age-old problem lost( mostly) to history.

    • Pamela-anne profile image

      Pamela-anne 4 years ago from Miller Lake

      Thanks so much for your informative info on this rather mysterious topic; you have made my day with your interesting and humorous explanations. Hope to chat with you again real soon take care Peter.

    • Peter Geekie profile image

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Pamela-Anne,

      It is an interesting subject and the question crops up from time to time when I'm researching various subjects.

      British castles have had toilet rooms built into the outer walls with discharge chutes into the moat or dry moat. This was kept tidy by farmers who used the solid matter as fertiliser. This was quite normal from about 1080 onward. Even the poor had earth closets which were emptied onto the land or was taken away by horse and cart by the "Night men" who made a small charge.

      The French were notorious for their lack of toilet hygiene and often the best you would expect is for the men to urinate in the garden (gardeners would grow special fragrant varieties which were not affected by urine)

      Ladies on the other hand, as you say, would have difficulties with their clothes and again would use private areas of the garden, crouch down and the result would be disposed of by the gardeners.

      British soldiers had a wall in the castle or barracks against which they would urinate. When dry it would leave a deposit of nitrate which was used in the manufacture of gunpowder.

      Strangely people were more civilised in the times of Ancient Rome or Greece. Here they would have a marble built quadrangle with suitable size holes and a fresh stream running underneath. Business and even politics were discussed here and the more eminent had a slave to sit on the cold marble beforehand to warm it up. Amusingly the quadrangle would have a pond in the middle with a group of ducks whose quacking would cover any embarrassing noises. Oh if modern life was that civilised!

      Kind regards Peter