On our first visit to Versailles we tried to see as much of the château and the garden as we could in one day. Although we were there for over eight hours, we weren't able to see everything, especially the garden. On our next trip we saw more of the garden and toured the royal stables. We hope you enjoy this mini-tour; our photos and words don't do it justice.
Louis XIII had a hunting lodge and a garden built in this location southeast of Paris. However, it was Louis XIV who was mainly responsible for the expansion into the ultimate Versailles of today. It was not too close to Paris, where insurgency was a constant threat, but not too far away either. It fulfilled the king's plan to have the court permanently around him so he could keep watch over them and control them. From 1682 to 1789, Versailles was the seat and later the symbol of absolute monarchy.
In keeping with his rank, the monarch's dwelling had to be the largest and the most magnificent. The staff of servants had to be the largest. On varying days there could be between three thousand and ten thousand people at court. This large number of people called for strict regulations. Etiquette of that period may seem trivial today, but it differentiated the ranks or hierarchy within society, and it maintained the primacy of the king. This was especially important, because most of the château's interiors and the garden were open to the public. For example, anyone had access to the king's bedchamber, but only in his absence.
This is the entrance to Versailles. It faces east, and the king's bedroom is on the second floor with windows above the entrance to get the benefit of the morning sun. Several of the adjoining buildings for the support staff and the living quarters of the members of the court have been removed.
The Diana Drawing Room served as a vestibule for the State Apartment where visitors would wait for an audience during the day. In the evening, it would serve as a billiards room. Louis XIV was a past master of the game. The painting on the ceiling over the fireplace depicts The Sacrifice of Iphigenia.
The Peace Drawing Room was where the queen would hold court as well as play her public games. Every Sunday, Maria Leczinska, wife of Louis XV, gave concerts of sacred or secular music. It also served as Marie Antoinette's (wife of Louis XIV) game room.
The Council Chamber was where King Louis XIV held his Councils every day at the end of the morning. For more than a century, all important political decisions were made in this room, including the decision in 1775 to participate in the War of Independence with the colonies of America.
The Mercury Drawing Room was the State Bedchamber of the State Apartments. The state bed, hung with gold and silver brocade to match the walls, was closed off by a silver balustrade with eight candelabras. This furniture was melted down by order of the king to meet war expenses. The bed in this picture was added when Versailles was turned into a museum.
In 1701, the King's Bedchamber was added in the center of the château, with a window overlooking the entrance and a view of the rising sun. It was the setting of several ceremonies and a large part of the daily life of the king, including where he usually ate lunch. He also granted audiences in this room. The king was washed, brushed, and dressed in front of a crowd of several hundred people.
The Hall of Mirrors has seventeen windows overlooking the garden, with seventeen mirrors reflecting the light of the windows on the other wall. The Treaty of Versailles was signed in this room, and it is still used today for important state events. You can see a beautiful panorama view of this room. Click on view and then the Hall of Mirrors on the right side of the page. You'll also see a nice view of the King's Bedchamber. This is the official site of the château.
The Hall of Battles has thirty-five paintings portraying fourteen centuries of French history through its military victories. There are eighty-two busts of the most famous French soldiers who died in combat.
We actually are there! Be sure to visit our page on the beautiful garden of Versailles. The pictures we have here are only a small part of the garden and château. We'll add more to this collection after our future visits. Meanwhile, additional photos can be seen at another site.
Hoog, Simone and Béatrix Saule, Your Visit to Versailles. Versailles, France: Éditions Art Lys, nd.