Palace of versailles

The fascinating history of the Palace of Versailles

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the Castle of Versailles has a great history. Once the epicenter of French royalty, the elegant estate has undergone several transformations since its conception in the 17th century.

Here, we explore some fascinating facts about the history of this national treasure, starting with its humble roots and ending with its lasting legacy.

Learn about the past and present of this majestic monument with these facts about the Palace of Versailles.

1. It started out as a hunting lodge.

Palace of Versailles Facts about Versailles History of Versailles

Israel Silvestre, “Garden facade of the Palace of Versailles built by Louis XIII”, 1660-1664 (Photo: Wiki Art Public domain)

Before being the site of golden gates and manicured gardens, the estate of Versailles was first a humble hunting ground. In 1607, Louis XIII—the 6-year-old boy, soon to be king—visited the region on a hunting trip with his father, King Henry IV.

Years later, he would return to the wooded area, “ideally located between his main residence in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Paris [and] surrounded by noisy woods of pheasants, wild boars and stags” (Castle of Versailles). Aware of the plot’s potential, he decided to build a brick and stone hunting lodge there in 1623.

2. It became the official residence of the king in 1682.

Palace of Versailles Facts about Versailles History of Versailles

Hyacinthe Rigaud, “Louis XIV of France”, 1702 (Photo: Wiki Art Public domain)

The passage of the land as a hunting site did not last long. In 1631, Louis XIII decided to rebuild the pavilion, transforming it into a small palace that the royal family used as a refuge. In 1682, however, King Louis XIV—the son of Louis XIII—installed the aristocracy in Versailles, made it their permanent residence and laid the foundations of the palace as we know it today.

3. Its famous Hall of Mirrors contains 357 mirrors.

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One of Louis XIV’s most important contributions to the Palace of Versailles is the Hall of Mirrorsor the Hall of Mirrors. Completed in 1684, this famous corridor is equipped with 357 mirrors made by master glassmakers from Venice. These panes were perfectly placed to reflect and highlight the gilded moldings, marble walls, crystal chandeliers and large garden windows of the opulent gallery.

4. Marie Antoinette had her own hamlet so she could pass herself off as a peasant.

Palace of Versailles Facts about Versailles History of Versailles

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While Louis XIV was responsible for much of the estate we see today, Marie Antoinette has an equally important legacy. In addition to her infamous (and disputed) decree to “let them eat cake”, the Queen of France is known for her Hamleta particular retreat built inside the palace grounds.

Designed as an escape from backyard living, this small “village” features rustic cabins nestled beside streams that feed caves, a pond and a mill wheel. Marie Antoinette regularly spent her time in her hamlet, where she dressed as a peasant and idealized the idea of ​​a simpler life, before returning to her gilded apartments.

5. It was abandoned during the French Revolution.

Palace of Versailles Facts about Versailles History of Versailles

“Women’s March on Versailles”, 1789 (Photo: National Library of France Going through Wiki Art Public domain)

Angered by this kind of disconnected behavior, the French people began to rebel against the royal family in 1789, launching the famous French Revolution. During the Women’s March on Versailles – one of the oldest and most important events of the Revolution – thousands of people besieged the palace, demanding a fairer and more favorable price for bread in Parisian markets.

The angry mob demands that King Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and their children return to Paris. Fearing for their lives, they agreed, and the palace was never inhabited again.

6. He inspired the design of the National Mall.

Palace of Versailles Facts about Versailles History of Versailles

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On the other side of the world, Franco-American architect and engineer Pierre Charles The Child sought in Versailles an unexpected inspiration. Asked by George Washington in 1791 to draw the layout of a “Federal City” of the United States of America, L’Enfant offers a complex plan that pays an undeniable tribute to the Garden of Versailles. This influence is most apparent in the plan’s “public promenade” or, as we know it today, the National Mall.

While L’Enfant’s ideas were never fully realized (his ambitious plans strained his professional relationships), much of his original design was eventually used in building projects years after his death. .

7. It opened to the public as a museum in 1833.

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In 1799, the French Revolution ended and Napoleon Bonaparte took power in France. Miraculously, the palace came through the period of upheaval relatively unscathed, although much of the palace’s art and furnishings were either sold in “excavation sales” or sent to museums in Paris.

Nevertheless, in 1837 the palace was transformed into a Museum which “celebrated the glorious events of French history from the Middle Ages to the beginning of the July Monarchy”. At the end of the 19th century, however, it was decided that Versailles would be restored to its former self, with efforts ongoing to this day.

8. The castle and gardens were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

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In 1979, the entire estate of the Palace of Versailles was declared Unesco World Heritage. The organization sums up its importance: “The Palace of Versailles was the main residence of the kings of France from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI. Embellished by several generations of architects, sculptors, decorators and landscape designers, it provided Europe with a model of the ideal royal residence for more than a century.

9. It is the second most visited monument in France.

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Today, more than 3 million people visit the Palace of Versailles every year. This makes it the second most visited monument in France. Just after the Louvre and more popular than the Eiffel Tower, it is its contemporary crowning glory.

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