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Palace of Versailles Facts

Versailles is a former royal residence located about 12 miles (19 km) west of Paris. It is a popular tourist attraction.

Louis XIII built a small hunting lodge in 1623 that he expanded into a palace, and later, Louis XIV made the palace the de facto capital of France. In 1789 the capital returned to Paris.

Napoleon Bonaparte used the palace as a summer residence but didn’t restore it. The museum of French history was installed within it in the 1830s.

UNESCO has designated the palace a World Heritage Site and has placed it on a list of culturally significant monuments.

Palace of Versailles Facts for Kids

  • The palace is located about 10 miles south of Paris.
  • The town of Versailles has a population of over 60,000 people.
  • Palace of Versailles is a former royal residence outside of Paris.
  • For years, its architectural grandeur and historical significance has captivated the public.
  • Louis Le Vau, André Le Nôtre and Charles Le Brun were the architects of the Palace

History Of the Palace

After Louis XIII died in 1643, his mother moved the court back to Paris, where she continued her father’s unpopular monetary practices, and a civil war broke out. The king then moved the court back to Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

Louis XIV was inspired by the château at Vaux-le-Vicomte and hired its architects to design and build Versailles. Louis XIV replaced Fouquet with Colbert and commissioned Colbert to manage the corps of artisans in royal employment.

Construction of the Palace

After the War of Devolution, Louis XIV decided to build a full-scale royal residence at Versailles, and the garden façade of his father’s château was combined with the new façade.

After the War of Devolution, Louis XIV decided to build a full-scale royal residence at Versailles, and the garden façade of his father’s château was combined with the new façade.

Facts for Kids x
Facts for Kids

War, poor harvests, and the War of the Spanish Succession slowed and canceled construction at Versailles for the rest of the 17th century.

Versailles was left largely as Louis XIV left it. Louis XV and Louis XVI concentrated on its interior. Construction of the Palace theater, the Royal Opera of Versailles, was delayed by the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War.

Inside the palace

Palace of Versailles is a visual history of French architecture since the 1630s with brick, marble, slate, and envelope, which was inspired by Renaissance-era Italian villas.

The Royal Palace was completed by the death of Louis XIV in 1715 and is a U-shaped layout consisting of two large wings and a long façade.

From the mid-17th century to the end of the 18th century, the palace and its grounds had a big influence on architecture and horticulture.

Spawforth notes that the royal palace consisted of 350 living units varying in size and location, with different rooms depending on rank and standing with the king.

Louis XIV had an important bedroom located centrally in the palace. He had a ceremony for putting on and taking off his hunting boots.

Architect Louis Le Vau added state apartments for the king and queen to Louis XIII’s red brick and white stone château. These apartments were known as the château neuf (new château).

Art and architecture

Versailles is the perfect example of Baroque and Rococo architecture, but the French would not have considered it baroque.

Louis XIV could not have his palace evoke Italian baroque architecture as it would have gone against his sense of absolutism.

Some art historians call the Louvre and Versailles “French classicism” because their style is based on symbols of power and timeless domination.

Louis XIV’s palace was adorned with Roman gods, and his name was written in L’s throughout.

In the old château were the royal apartments (the petit appartement du roi ) and the appartement du roi (the appartement du roi).

The Hall of Mirrors and the adjacent Salons of War and Peace were decorated with an epic story of the king’s achievements and aspirations.

Ambassador’s Staircase

The former Ambassadors’ Staircase was built in 1674-1680 by d’Orbay, but it was demolished in 1752 to make way for a courtyard for Louis XV’s private apartment.

The staircase was decorated with a festive theme to celebrate Louis XIV’s victory over the Dutch. The bust of Louis XIV was placed in a niche above the first landing of the staircase.

Estate of Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette built a grotto, a cave that had a moss bed for her to lie on, and a statue depicting “Cupid cutting his bow from the club of Hercules.”

She grew up in a private family but enjoyed having a simpler life and homesickness for her native Austria.

Marie Antoinette attempted to escape from her watchful court and people by building the Hamlet and the Petit Trianon.

Napoleon Bonaparte and the 19th century 

Napoleon Bonaparte considered making Versailles his residence but abandoned the idea. He had the Grand Trianon restored and furnished instead.

In 1815, Louis XVIII, the younger brother of Louis XVI, demolished the south wing of the Cour Royale and ordered the reconstruction of the Gabriel wing opposite.

The French Revolution of 1830 brought a new monarch, and he created the Museum of the History of France at Versailles. The museum remained up until Louis Philippe was overthrown in 1848.

Napoleon III used the Palace for lavish banquets, including one that he hosted for Queen Victoria in 1855. During the Franco-Prussian War, the Palace was used as a military hospital and a political gathering place for the German Empire.

Napoleon III used the Palace for lavish banquets, including one that he hosted for Queen Victoria in 1855. During the Franco-Prussian War, the Palace was used as a military hospital and a political gathering place for the German Empire.

The 20th century

Pierre de Nolhac began restoration efforts at the Palace in 1892, and they continue to the present day.

In 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors, and the Palace was restored by John D. Rockefeller.

More restoration work took place after World War II, and the Royal Opera of Versailles was reopened in 1957.

The restoration of the museum of Versailles started in the 1950s, and the publicity campaign brought much foreign money into the project.

The museum and France’s Fifth Republic have spent considerable funds on buying as much of the original furnishings as possible.

The 21st century

In 2003, a new restoration initiative was started, which included the replanting of the gardens. The restoration of the Hall of Mirrors was completed in 2006.

The Palace is currently owned by the French state and is run by the French Ministry of Culture.

The Royal Chapel

The Royal Chapel at Versailles is located at the southern end of the north wing, with a semicircular apse, combining traditional, Gothic royal French church architecture with the French Baroque style of Versailles.

The Royal Opera

The Royal Opera was built at the end of the North Wing of Versailles with a design by Mansart and Vigarani and was inaugurated on 16 May 1770 as part of the celebration of the marriage of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette.

The Gardens

André Le Nôtre rearranged a garden laid out in the 1630s by Jacques Boyceau and Jacques de Nemours into a formal French garden and expanded the garden literally as far as could be seen.

American history at Versailles

Benjamin Franklin negotiated a treaty with Louis XVI at Versailles, and Louis XVI installed a chimney that produced less smoke than an ordinary fireplace.

The Treaty of Paris was signed at Versailles in 1783, and the French museum in the Palace of Versailles included a painting that depicted the siege of Yorktown, a decisive victory in the Revolutionary War.

Versailles after the fall

After being stripped of power and beheaded, King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette’s furnishings were sold to help finance the Revolutionary Wars.

King Louis Philippe created the Battles Gallery, which shows every main French battle between A.D. 496 and 1809.

In the post-revolutionary period, after the defeat of Prussia, the French chamber of deputies and the Senate met at Versailles rather than Paris for reasons of safety.

In 1919, France signed the Treaty of Versailles with Germany, and even then, events at Versailles shaped the world we live in today.