The Palace of Versailles was absolutely beautiful. This elaborate structure has a history as rich as the royals who once resided there, and has served various roles in French society across the decades.
Dauphin, the future Louis XIII, first came to Versailles for a hunting trip in 1607. At the time, Versailles was just a small village. In 1623, after being crowned king, Louis XIII built a modest hunting lodge. In 1631, he began to lay the groundwork for its later exuberance. The rebuilt residence hosted the Day of the Dupes celebration in 1630, a major event for the French crown. King Louis XIV moved the royal court to Versailles.
Born in Versailles, Louis XVI rose to the throne at the age of twenty and spent much of his time there. His marriage to the Archduchess of Austria, Marie-Antoinette, was celebrated in 1770 at the Royal Opera House. He offered the Petit Trianon to Antoinette,one of the most iconic figures in French history, in 1774. Antoinette gave birth to her daughter, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, Madame Royale, at Versailles in 1778.
Political change in the 19th Century altered Versailles’ role. In 1789, the court left for Paris, never to return. Amid the chaos of the French Revolution, the palace remained intact. Following the revolution, Napoleon decided not to settle at Versailles due to its association with the bourgeoisie.
It was not until Louis-Philippe took the throne in 1830 that Versailles truly re-entered the spotlight. The new sovereign and his family, the Orléans, greatly valued history, and therefore decided to create a museum “dedicated to all the glories of France” in an effort to connect with all demographics of the French people.
In the 19th Century, Napoleon III utilized the Palace as a venue for celebrations, receiving Queen Victoria in 1855. With this display of power, the stage was set for important French and international events to take place here, such as the declaration of the German Empire in 1871.Later, the Third Republic began in Versailles. Amid political turmoil, Parliament took refuge from the Commune here.The king’s apartment consisted of seven rooms, each dedicated a Roman god and their associated planet. The queen’s apartment formed a parallel enfilade, providing home for three queens of France – Marie-Thérèse d’Autriche, wife of Louis XIV, Marie Leczinska, wife of Louis XV, and Marie-Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI. Louis XIV’s granddaughter-in-law, Princess Marie-Adélaïde of Savolivd, also lived in the rooms from 1697 when she was married, to 1712 when she passed away.
The Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) served as the location of numerous court rituals and royal events. The gallery boasts seventeen mirrors, which were very expensive at the time, displaying the opulence and wealth of French royalty. On the ceiling are thirty scenes honoring the early reign of Louis XIV. The room’s construction began in 1678 and finished in 1689. This hall is one of the most recognized rooms in the palace.The palace includes multiple chapels. The chapel that stands today, which was the last major building project of Louis XIV, represents one of the finest examples of French Baroque architecture and ecclesiastical decoration. Court meetings, wedding ceremonies, baptisms, and the King’s private services were held in this chapel until 1789. I can’t wait to return to the palace and learn even more about it’s extensive and often controversial history.