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Welcome to the Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles, or Château de Versailles in French, was the principal royal residence from 1682 to 1789.The site was a hunting spot for Henry IV who began hunting there in 1589 when it was only a small village with plentiful game. Louis XIII, son of Henry IV, loved the village, landscape and hunting. Upon his rise to the throne, he began buying land in Versailles and erected a modest, by royal standards, 2 story hunting lodge.

While staying at the lodge a plot to overthrow his government led by his Mother, Marie de' Medici, was foiled. It was then that he decided to turn his simple hunting lodge into a château worthy of a King. After purchasing more of the surrounding land, Louis XIII began construction of a brick and stone château designed by architect Philibert Le Roy. The gardens and parks of the original Palace of Versailles were expanded to the size that they are today.

At the age of twelve in 1651, Louis XIV went on a hunting trip to the Palace of Versailles. Nearly 10 years later Louis XIV took a passionate interest in the Palace of Versailles. He decided to embellish it as a retreat for his family and to be the site for elaborate entertaining worthy of French Royalty.

The expansion of the Palace of Versailles under Louis XIV was performed in phases over decades. The first expansion was begun in 1661 and not completed until 1678. After adding two wings to the forecourt, one for servants and one for kitchens, the next undertaking began in 1668. It added three wings to the growing palace. Built on the garden site of the original château, these three wings constructed of stone became known as the envelope. During this construction the King embellished the gardens with a wish to make them the most magnificent gardens in Europe.

Working with landscape designer André Le Nôtre, Louis XIV approved Italian style grottos, fountains, basins, canals, flower beds, groves of trees along with an immense orangerie to house fruit trees. A zoo with a central pavilion for exotic animals was added completing the main renovations of the garden area.

This bedroom was used by Louis XIV from 1701 until he died September 1, 1715. In this room the royal rising and going to sleep ceremonies took place.

“The decoration in the room still reflects the three queens who once occupied it. The partitions on the ceiling date back to the reign of queen Maria-Theresa, while the greyscale painting by Boucher and the wood panelling were added for Marie Leszczyńska. These elements survived the reign of Marie-Antoinette, who replaced the furniture and fireplace and put up paintings of her mother Empress Maria-Theresa and her brother, Emperor Joseph II.”

Separated by a marble terrace on the second floor were two apartments, one for the King and one for the Queen which overlooked the gardens. Each apartment had seven rooms which were connected to the main floor by ceremonial staircases. Under the King’s apartment was one designed with the theme of Apollo, which the King had taken as his emblem. Under the Queen’s apartment was one for the heir apparent. Interior decorations, art, furnishings along with embellishments were always being undertaken at the Palace of Versailles.

The King spent more and more of his time at the Palace which meant more staff added to the Palace grounds. By 1678 almost 7000 people inhabited the area of the Palace. This led to the next major expansion of the Palace of Versailles which was completed in 1715. This expansion included two large new wings along with the replacement of the terrace built by Le Vau's which overlooked the gardens. This replacement included what is the most famous room in the Palace, the Hall of Mirrors, where the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I was signed.

The Gallery of Great Battles

The Gallery of Great Battles

Today, Château de Versailles attracts over 7 million visitors a year. This expansive palace with its gardens, art work, historic furnishings, gardens along with ancillary buildings cannot be entirely seen in one day. There are many ticket choices for visiting this over 800 hectares grand palace. For visitors the Estate has been broken down into sections with various ticket options which give access to self-guided as well as guided tours.

Specific parts of Château de Versailles that can be visited include:

  • The Palace

  • The Hall of Mirrors

  • The King’s State Apartments

  • The Gallery of Great Battles

  • The Gardens

  • The Fountains

  • Parterres and Paths

  • The Groves

  • The Estate of Trianon

  • The Grand Trianon

  • The Petit Trianon

  • The English Gardens

  • The Royal Stables

  • The Gallery of Coaches

  • National Equestrian Academy of Estate of Versailles

A visit to the Palace of Versailles encompasses the study of art, architecture, landscape design, a trip to the late 1600s – early 1700s, a look at the most renowned Château in the world, as well as an intimate look at the life of Louis XIV.

Story by Daniel Dachille and Laine Page

Video voice over by Jim Reynolds

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