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The Palace Of Versailles History
The Palace Of Versailles History
17Kms S/W of Paris
Built in 1631, this fabulous palace was originally Louis XIII’s modest hunting lodge, set in the relatively poor and barren area of Versailles.
When Louis XIV revealed his plans to move his entire court here around 1682, building began in earnest. Over 800 rooms were added along with North and South wings. Over 36,000 workmen and 6,000 horses were used during the construction of the Palace, which covers 37,000 acres and had 1400 fountains.
At it’s height, the Palace accommodated 20,000 people, including 9,000 soldiers and 5,000 servants.
The builders wanted desperately to pull down the hunting lodge but Louis was adamant it should remain.
The land had originally been swampy marshland and pockets of quicksand and poor air quality accounted for many deaths, with wagons of dead labourers being hauled away under cover of darkness.
The chief landscaper - Le Notre - created fantastical gardens, transplanting forests from nearby Normandie and importing over 50,000 bulbs from Istanbul.
He had a canal system built - even bringing in gondoliers from Venice to ferry the King and his nobles through the gardens on lazy Sunday afternoons!
Louis began to believe he was a god - “le roi soleil” (the Sun God) - and conducted his life in full public view. A typical day for Louis XIV began with a kiss form the nurse who watched over him at night. After a rub down and change of clothes, the royal barber would present the royal wigs for that day and then another servant would wash his hands in fine wine before presenting him for breakfast. This was an extravagant meal with leading clergy and nobility in attendance, washed down with champagne. At 10am he would attend mass, then conduct business until lunch at 1pm. The afternoon would be spent hunting, or occasionally a picnic with favoured ladies of the court.
Louis’s wife even gave birth in public!!
To escape the “pressures” of court life Louis had a small palace - the “Grand Trianon” - built in the gardens, a favourite meeting place for him and Madame de Maintenon, his long term mistress.
A second “petit Trianon” was added by Louis XV and became Marie Antoinette’s favoured hideaway. Here she is rumoured to have dressed up sheep in female attire and served them afternoon tea (!). Perhaps in such a state of mind, her immortal words, “let them eat cake” don’t seem as callous as they otherwise sound ?
“Versailles taught Europe the art of high living, good manners & well-bred behaviour..., the secret of being rather than merely seeming”, wrote Pierre Caxotte - and certainly Louis’ court was the standard by which all others were measured.
The most famous room is the “Hall of Mirrors” - 75 m long x 10m wide one wall was entirely made up of 17 mirrors onto which the rising morning sun would shine directly, with 10 chandeliers running the length of the room.
My name is Robee Kann, for four years I was a tour guide throughout Europe. I loved my job and I would love to hear from you. You are most welcome to message me to say hello or request a hub about a European subject. Please look at my other hubs and leave a comment for me.