Place:Versailles, Yvelines, France

Watchers
NameVersailles
TypeCommune
Coordinates48.8°N 2.133°E
Located inYvelines, France     (1610 - )
Also located inSeine-et-Oise, Île-de-France, France    
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog


the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

The Palace of Versailles was the principal royal residence of France from 1682, under Louis XIV, until the start of the French Revolution in 1789, under Louis XVI. It is located in the department of Yvelines, in the region of Île-de-France, about southwest of the centre of Paris.

The palace is now a Monument historique and UNESCO World Heritage site, notable especially for the ceremonial Hall of Mirrors, the jewel-like Royal Opera, and the royal apartments; for the more intimate royal residences, the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon located within the park; the small rustic Hameau (Hamlet) created for Marie Antoinette; and the vast Gardens of Versailles with fountains, canals, and geometric flower beds and groves, laid out by André le Nôtre. The Palace was stripped of all its furnishings after the French Revolution, but many pieces have been returned and many of the palace rooms have been restored.

In 2017 the Palace of Versailles received 7,700,000 visitors, making it the second-most visited monument in the Île-de-France region, just behind the Louvre and ahead of the Eiffel Tower.

Contents

History

the text in this section is copied from an article in Wikipedia

The hunting lodge and château of Louis XIII

The site of the Palace was first occupied by a small village and church, surrounded by forests filled with abundant game. It was owned by the Gondi family and the priory of Saint Julian. King Henry IV went hunting there in 1589, and returned in 1604 and 1609, staying in the village inn. His son, the future Louis XIII, came on his own hunting trip there in 1607. After he became King in 1610, Louis XIII returned to the village, bought some land, and in 1623-24 built a modest two-story hunting lodge on the site of the current marble courtyard. He was staying there in November 1630 during the event known as the Day of the Dupes, when the enemies of the King's chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu, aided by the King's mother, Marie de' Medici, tried to take over the government. The King defeated the plot and sent his mother into exile.

After this event, Louis XIII decided to make his hunting lodge at Versailles into a château. The King purchased the surrounding territory from the Gondi family, and in 1631–1634 had the architect Philibert Le Roy replace the hunting lodge with a château of brick and stone with classical pilasters in the doric style and high slate-covered roofs, surrounding the courtyard of the original hunting lodge. The gardens and park were also enlarged, laid out by Jacques Boyceau and his nephew, Jacques de Menours (1591–1637), and reached essentially the size they have today.[1]

The palace of Louis XIV

Louis XIV first visited the château on a hunting trip in 1651 at the age of twelve, but returned only occasionally until his marriage to Maria Theresa of Spain in 1660 and the death of Cardinal Mazarin in 1661, after which he suddenly acquired a passion for the site. He decided to rebuild, embellish and enlarge the château and to transform it into a setting for both rest and for elaborate entertainments on a grand scale.

The first phase of the expansion (c. 1661–1678) was designed and supervised by the architect Louis Le Vau. Initially he added two wings to the forecourt, one for servants quarters and kitchens, the other for stables. In 1668 he added three new wings built of stone, known as the envelope, to the north, south and west (the garden side) of the original château. These buildings had nearly-flat roofs covered with lead. The king also commissioned the landscape designer André Le Nôtre to create the most magnificent gardens in Europe, embellished with fountains, statues, basins, canals, geometric flower beds and groves of trees. He also added two grottos in the Italian style and an immense orangerie to house fruit trees, as well as a zoo with a central pavilion for exotic animals. After Le Vau's death in 1670, the work was taken over and completed by his assistant François d'Orbay.

The main floor (above the ground floor) of the new palace contained two symmetrical sets of apartments, one for the king and the other for the queen, looking over the gardens. The two apartments were separated by a marble terrace, overlooking the garden, with a fountain in the center. Each set of apartments was connected to the ground floor with a ceremonial stairway, and each had seven rooms, aligned in a row; a vestibule, a room for the guards, an antechamber, chamber, a large cabinet or office; a smaller bedroom, and a smaller cabinet. On the ground floor under the King's apartment was another apartment, the same size, designed for his private life, and decorated on the theme of Apollo, the Sun god, his personal emblem. Under the Queen's apartment was the apartment of the Grand Dauphin, the heir to the throne.

The interior decoration was assigned to Charles Le Brun. Le Brun supervised the work of a large group of sculptors and painters, called the Petite Academie, who crafted and painted the ornate walls and ceilings. Le Brun also supervised the design and installation of countless statues in the gardens. The grand stairway to the King's apartment was soon redecorated almost as soon as it was completed with plaques of colored marble and trophies of arms, tapestries, and balconies, so the members of the court could observe the processions of the King.

In 1670, Le Vau added a new pavilion northwest of the chateau, called the Trianon, for the King's relaxation in the hot summers. It was surrounded by flowerbeds and decorated entirely with blue and white porcelain, in imitation of the Chinese style.

Enlargement of the Palace (1678-1715)

The King increasingly spent his days in Versailles, and the government, court, and courtiers, numbering six to seven thousand persons, crowded into the buildings. The King ordered a further enlargement, which he entrusted to the young architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Hadouin-Mansart added two large new wings on either side of the original Cour Royale (Royal Courtyard). He also replaced Le Vau's large terrace, facing the garden on the west, with what became the most famous room of the palace, the Hall of Mirrors. Mansart also built the Petites Écuries and Grandes Écuries (stables) across the Place d'Armes, on the eastern side of the château. The King wished a quiet place to relax away from the ceremony of the Court. In 1687 Hardouin-Mansart began the Grand Trianon, or Trianon de Marbre (Marble Trianon), replacing Le Vau's 1668 Trianon de Porcelaine in the northern section of the park. In 1682 Louis XIV was able to proclaim Versailles his principal residence and the seat of the government and was able to give rooms in the palace to almost all of his courtiers.

After the death of Maria Theresa of Spain in 1683, Louis XIV undertook the enlargement and remodeling of the royal apartments in the original part of the palace, within the former hunting lodge built by his father. He instructed Mansart to begin the construction of the Royal Chapel of Versailles, which towered over the rest of the palace. Hardouin-Mansart died in 1708 and so the chapel was completed by his assistant Robert de Cotte in 1710.

The Palace of Louis XV

Louis XIV died in 1715, and the young new King, Louis XV, just five years old, and his government were moved temporarily from Versailles to Paris under the regency of Philippe II, Duke of Orléans. In 1722, when the King came of age, he moved his residence and the government back to Versailles, where it remained until the French Revolution in 1789. Louis XV remained faithful to the original plan of his great-grandfather, and made few changes to the exteriors of Versailles. His main contributions were the construction of the Salon of Hercules, which connected the main building of the Palace with the north wing and the chapel (1724–36); and the royal opera theater, designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, and built between 1769 and 1770. The new theater was completed in time for the celebration of the wedding of the Dauphin, the future Louis XVI, and Archduchess Marie Antoinette of Austria. He also made numerous additions and changes to the royal apartments, where he, the Queen, his daughters, and his heir lived. In 1738, Louis XV remodeled the king's petit appartement on the north side of the Cour de Marbre, originally the entrance court of the old château. He discreetly provided accommodations in another part of the palace for his famous mistresses, Madame de Pompadour and later Madame du Barry.

The extension of the King's petit appartement necessitated the demolition of the Ambassador's Staircase, one of the most admired features of Louis XIV's palace, which left the Palace without a grand staircase entrance. The following year Louis XV ordered the demolition of the north wing facing onto the Cour Royale, which had fallen into serious disrepair. He commissioned Gabriel to rebuild it in a more neoclassical style. The new wing was completed in 1780.

Louis XVI, and the Palace during the Revolution

Louis XVI was constrained by the worsening financial situation of the kingdom from making major changes to the palace, so that he primarily focused on improvements to the royal apartments. Louis XVI gave Marie Antoinette the Petit Trianon in 1774. The Queen made extensive changes to the interior, and added a theater, the Théâtre de la Reine. She also totally transformed the arboretum planted during the reign of Louis XV into what became known as the Hameau de la Reine. This was a picturesque collection of buildings modeled after a rural French hamlet, where the Queen and her courtiers could play at being peasants. The Queen was at the Petit Trianon in 1789 when she first learned of the beginning of the French Revolution in July 1789.

In 1783, the Palace was the site of the signing of three treaties of the Peace of Paris (1783), in which the United Kingdom recognized the independence of the United States.

The King and Queen learned of the storming of the Bastille in Paris on July 14, 1789. while they were at the Palace, and remained isolated there as the Revolution in Paris spread. The growing anger in Paris led to the Women's March on Versailles on 5 October 1789. A crowd of several thousand men and women, protesting the high price and scarcity of bread, marched from the markets of Paris to Versailles. They took weapons from the city armory, besieged the Palace, and compelled the King and Royal family and the members of the National Assembly to return with them to Paris the following day.

As soon as the royal family departed, the Palace was closed, awaiting their return. In 1792, the Convention, the new revolutionary government, ordered the transfer of all the paintings and sculptures from the Palace to the Louvre. In 1793, the Convention declared the abolition of the monarchy, and ordered all of the royal property in the Palace to be sold at auction. The auction took place between 25 August 1793 and 11 August 1794. The furnishings and art of the Palace, including the furniture, mirrors, baths and kitchen equipment, were sold in seventeen thousand lots. All fleurs-de-lys and royal emblems on the buildings were chambered or chiseled off. The empty buildings were turned into a storehouse for furnishings, art and libraries confiscated from the nobility. The empty grand apartments were opened for tours beginning in 1793, and a small museum of French paintings and art school was opened in some of the empty rooms.

19th century - history museum and government venue

When Napoleon Bonaparte became Emperor of the French in 1804, he considered making Versailles his residence, but abandoned the idea because of the cost of the renovation. Prior to his marriage with Marie-Louise in 1810, he had the Grand Trianon restored and refurnished as a springtime residence for himself and his family, in the style of furnishing that it is seen today.

In 1815, with the final downfall of Napoleon, Louis XVIII, the younger brother of Louis XVI, became King, and considered returning the royal residence to Versailles, where he had been born. He ordered the restoration of the royal apartments, but the task and cost was too great. Neither he nor his successor Charles X lived at Versailles.

The French Revolution of 1830 brought a new monarch, Louis-Philippe to power, and a new ambition for Versailles. He did not reside at Versailles, but began the creation of the Museum of the History of France, dedicated to "all the glories of France", located in the south wing of the Palace, which had been used to house some members of the royal family. The museum was begun in 1833 and inaugurated on 30 June 1837. Its most famous room is the Galerie des Batailles (Hall of Battles), which lies on most of the length of the second floor.[2] Louis Philippe had the far end of the south wing of the Cour Royale demolished and rebuilt to match the Gabriel wing of 1780 opposite, which gave greater uniformity of appearance to the front entrance. The museum project largely came to a halt when Louis Philippe was overthrown in 1848, though the paintings of French heroes and great battles still remain in the south wing.

Emperor Napoleon III used the Palace on occasion as a stage for grand ceremonies. One of the most lavish was the banquet that he hosted for Queen Victoria in the Royal Opera of Versailles on August 25, 1855.

During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, the Palace was occupied by the general staff of the victorious German Army. Parts of the chateau, including the Gallery of Mirrors, were turned into a military hospital. The creation of the German Empire, combining Prussia and the surrounding German states under William I, was formally proclaimed in the Hall of Mirrors on January 18, 1871. The Germans remained in the Palace until the signing of the armistice in March 1871. In that month, the government of the new Third French Republic, which had departed Paris during the War for Tours and then Bordeaux, moved into the Palace. The National Assembly held its meetings in the Opera House.

The uprising of the Paris Commune in March, 1871, prevented the French government, under Adolphe Thiers, from returning immediately to Paris. The military operation which suppressed the Commune at the end of May was directed from Versailles, and the prisoners of the Commune were marched there and put on trial in military courts. In 1875 a second parliamentary body, the French Senate, was created, and held its meetings for the election of a President of the Republic in a new hall created in 1876 in the south wing of the Palace. The French Senate continues to meet in the Palace on special occasions, such as the amendment of the French Constitution.

20th century

The end of the 19th and the early 20th century saw the beginning of restoration efforts at the Palace, first led by Pierre de Nolhac, poet and scholar and the first conservator, who began his work in 1892. The conservation and restoration was interrupted by two world wars, but has continued until the present day.

The Palace briefly returned to the world stage in June, 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles, formally ending the First World War, was signed in the Hall of Mirrors. Between 1925 and 1928, the American philanthropist and multi-millionaire John D. Rockefeller gave $2,166,000, the equivalent of about thirty million dollars today, to restore and refurnish the palace.

More work took place after World War II, with the restoration of the Royal Opera of Versailles. The theater was reopened in 1957, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain.

In 1978, parts of the Palace were heavily damaged in a bombing committed by Breton terrorists.

The restoration initiatives launched by the Fifth Republic have proven to be perhaps more costly than the expenditures of the palace in the Ancien Régime. Starting in the 1950s, when the museum of Versailles was under the directorship of Gérald van der Kemp, the objective was to restore the palace to its state – or as close to it as possible – in 1789 when the royal family left the palace. Among the early projects was the repair of the roof over the Hall of Mirrors; the publicity campaign brought international attention to the plight of post-war Versailles and garnered much foreign money including a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Concurrently, in the Soviet Union (Russia since 26 December 1991), the restoration of the Pavlovsk Palace located 25 kilometers from the center of Leningrad – today's Saint Petersburg – brought the attention of French Ministry of Culture, including that of the curator of Versailles. After the war when Soviet authorities were restoring the palace, which had been gutted by the retreating Nazi forces, they recreated the silk fabrics by using preserved 18th-century remnants.[3]

When these results and the high quality achieved were brought to the attention of the French Minister of Culture, he revived 18th-century weaving techniques so as to reproduce the silks used in the decoration of Versailles.[3] The two greatest achievements of this initiative are seen today in wall hangings used in the restoration of the chambre de la reine in the grand appartement de reine and the chambre du roi in the appartement du roi. While the design used for the chambre du roi was, in fact, from the original design to decorate the chambre de la reine, it nevertheless represents a great achievement in the ongoing restoration at Versailles. Additionally, this project, which took over seven years to achieve, required several hundred kilograms of silver and gold to complete. One of the more costly endeavours for the museum and France's Fifth Republic has been to repurchase as much of the original furnishings as possible. Consequently, because furniture with a royal provenance – and especially furniture that was made for Versailles – is a highly sought after commodity on the international market, the museum has spent considerable funds on retrieving much of the palace's original furnishings.

21st century

In 2003, a new restoration initiative – the "Grand Versailles" project – was started, which began with the replanting of the gardens, which had lost over 10,000 trees during Hurricane Lothar on 26 December 1999. One part of the initiative, the restoration of the Hall of Mirrors, was completed in 2006. Another major project was the further restoration of the backstage areas Royal Opera of Versailles, which was completed in 2009.

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