Versailles will remain in the forefront of my memory as one of my favourite places. When you have travelled extensively, sometimes locations, activities, and even the people you met can blur. Whilst I must admit I have forgotten some of the cities I have visited, other places are intimately remembered with even smells and textures hard-wired into my memory.
Why is this? I think if you have an emotional attachment with the activity or location, knowledge or appreciation of the historical or cultural significance of the site, or experience the location with special people in your life or colourful new characters, you are more likely to remember many more details. I also think that whirlwind travel, and in particular whirlwind travel with a number of young children, makes it more difficult to indulge in the sensations that increase your memory retention. And a lot of my travel over the years has been whirlwind and with three young children – so I guess this is my excuse!
So why do I connect with and vividly recall with sweet memory Chateau de Versailles? Well, I think all the research on the Chateau, its inhabitants, the furnishings, and the garden made a big difference to my visit. We toured the palace and the grounds leisurely and although it never really matters to me, the weather was perfect.
I have been running an ‘armchair tour’ of Versailles over the last week on Instagram where I’ve shared my photos of this trip. My lovely followers have been able to sit back, relax, and tour Versailles without leaving their armchair and I thought I’d put it all together with added facts for those of you who just love history and want the ‘extra’ details.
This shot looks toward Versailles Chateau with Fountain Latona in the background. Louis XIV built the largest palace in Europe housing 20,000 people at a time. He moved the centre of the French Court to the Palace and created numerous titles, positions and duties to keep everyone that may cause dissension and pose a threat to his rule under his control and living close by. The rebuilding of his father’s modest hunting lodge into the current colossal palace was undertaken by Architects Louis Le Van and Jules Hardouin-Mansart.
As you enter the Main Gate into the Royal Courtyard you come to Louis XIV’s statue erected by Louis Philippe in 1837. Following the Royal Courtyard is the Marble Courtyard which is decorated with marble paving, urns, busts and a gilded balcony. The Clock flanked by Hercules and Mars is set atop the gilded balcony. Louis XIV the Sun King took upon himself the symbol of the sun and this emblem is everywhere throughout the Chateau.
Around the Marble Courtyard are the private apartments of the king and the queen. Charles Le Brun designed and oversaw the interior design which today still inspires and amazes. The splendour and grandeur of the furniture and fabrics throughout the palace has captured my heart. The immense detail that furniture restorers, gilders, embroiders, weavers and many other historical craftsmen and women have taken to recreate much of what the visitor sees intrigues me.
Below are interior shots of the Queen’s Bedroom. In this room the queens of France gave birth to the royal children in full public view. The hidden door in the bedroom that leads to internal passageways and stairs allowed private access to other rooms. This doorway shows just how high the ceilings are.
On the garden side of the Chateau are the state apartments where official court life took place. These were richly decorated by Charles Le Brun with coloured marble, stone and wood carvings, murals, velvet, silver and gilded furniture. Beginning with the Salon d’Hercule, each state room is dedicated to an Olympian deity. The climax is the Hall of Mirrors where 17 great mirrors face tall arched windows.
The Hall of Mirrors is amazing when the sun shines through the tall windows. I managed to get this shot of one of the most popular rooms on the tour. Great state occasions were held in this vast 70m long room. The Treaty of Versailles was signed here in 1919, ending World War I.
Splendour and grandeur is the norm at Chateau de Versailles. The grandiose scale of everything draws visitors from around the globe with about 3 million tourists deciding that their visit to France is incomplete without a trip to Versailles. I suggest arriving during off-peak days and as close to the 9am opening time as possible. Some days are also busier than others, including Sundays and Tuesdays, when many Paris museums, including the Louvre (another former royal palace), are closed.
I can understand the people’s uprising and the French Revolution being an inevitable part of history when you witness the enormous extravegance of the privileged when touring this Chateau and others of the 17th and 18th Centuries. I feel saddened for the victims of this bloody period of history, born into the ‘wrong time’.
This brings us to Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. I feel they were both victims of living at a time when the political, social, and warring excesses of their predecessors caused the nation’s revolt to climax in the French Revolution. Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste, was also known as Louis Capet and was King of France from 1774 until his deposition in 1792. He still held the formal title after 1791 as King of the French but was guillotined on January 21, 1793.
Marie Antoinette, an Archduchess of Austria, was the fifteenth child of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa. She was 14 years old at the time of her marriage to the French heir apparent, who was 15 years old.
The Petit Trianon built in 1762 as a retreat for Louis XV became a favourite of Marie Antoinette. This small chateau is lighter and airier than the Main Chateau and the Grand Trianon. It was remodelled for her with an emphasis on delicate and feminine details. It is intimate and beautiful and a ‘must see’ at Versailles.
The gardens surrounding the Petit Trianon are spectacular, especially in Spring time, and were originally designed by André Le Nôtre, the principal gardener of the Sun King, Louis XIV.
This is the pathway heading from the Petit Trianon towards the Grand Trianon.
Near the Petit Trianon is the Grand Trianon which Louis XIV built for his mistress, Madame de Maintenon. This small palace built of stone and pink marble in 1687 was where the Sun King escaped the rigours of court life and spent time with Madame de Maintenon. As you can see below, this chateau is sumptuously decorated in royal colours and themes possibly as a statement of the ‘royal’ importance of Madame de Maintenon.
The formal garden of the Grand Trianon in full bloom.
Well, I’ve had heaps of fun running my Instagram ‘armchair tour’ of Versailles and hope you also enjoyed this novel way of travelling. Do you have another special location you would like us to share on Instagram? Share your thoughts on Versailles in the comments section below… Best wishes Annette xx
For Further Material
The official website of Chateau Versailles is helpful for event tickets, history, and latest updates. Click here
10 Things you may not know about Marie Antoinette… read here
Gardener of Versailles book review… read here
I personally recommend the following books and films, all of which I have myself. Each will add a different facet to your knowledge and appreciation of this culturally significant French Palace. I can’t pick a favourite however, I love them all!!
This post Versailles and My Memories: The Weekly Postcard first appeared on afrenchcollection and is linked with #FYBF, #TheWeeklyPostcard at aholeinmyshoe and #WeekendWanderlust at justinpluslauren Find more great stories by checking out these blogs and link ups.