Versailles is the palace other palaces were modeled after, the one many tried to outdo, but none succeeded. This Ultimate Royal Palace is all about this man, the Ultimate Divine Monarch...Louis XIV. He spent about half of France's entire annual GNP to turn his dad's hunting lodge into a palace suitable for Europe's king of kings. The chateau started small, just the middle stretch of this grand facade. That was the hunting lodge where little Louis spent his happiest boyhood years. Once king, the massive expansion began. While today's crowds are tourists, 300 years ago, this courtyard was a very different scene. The palace hosted nobles, thousands of nobles, each with an entourage. They'd buzz around from games to parties to amorous rendezvous in their sedan-chair taxis.
Imagine servants scurrying about，delivering secret messages and roast legs of lamb. And it's crowded to this day. Smart travelers avoid weekends, come late in the day, and use a museum pass to skip the ticket line. The Palace of Versailles was the residence of the king and the seat of France's government for a hundred years. It's a long series of lavish rooms, each with its own theme, and with every inch sumptuously decorated.In the late 1600s, Louis XIV... shown here with his capable hand literally on the rudder of state.. as creating the first modern centralized government. And in order to personally control as much as possible, he gathered everything here. United, under a strong king, with the continent's biggest population, a booming economy, and a powerful military, France under Louis was Europe's superpower.
Around the year 1700, Versailles was the cultural heartbeat of Europe, and French culture was at its zenith. Throughout Europe, when you said, "the king'"you were referring to the French king, Louis XIV. French was the lingua franca. France was in vogue. You name it... clothes, hairstyles, music, theater, table manners... French taste spread across the Continent. Louis was a true Renaissance man, a century after the Renaissance. An accomplished musician, dancer, horseman, statesman, art lover, lover. He called himself the "Sun King" because he gave life and warmth to all he touched. He was symbolized by Apollo, the Greek god of the sun.
Versailles was designed to be the personal temple of this god on earth, decorated with statues and symbols of Apollo, of the sun, and of Louis himself. The classical themes throughout the palace, underlined the divine right of France's kings and queens to rule without limit. Here, Louis is shown with his entire royal family, all depicted as gods on Earth, ordained to rule without question. Versailles celebrated man, rather than God, by elevating Louis XIV to almost godlike status. Louis was a hands-on king. He ruled for about 70 years and he was the perfect embodiment of the absolute monarch. Louis summed it up best himself with his famous rhyme, "L'etat, clest moi!" "The state, that's me!" Pleasure ruled at Versailles.
The main suppers, balls, and receptions were held in this room. The ceiling is like a sunroof opening up to heaven, filled with action parallel to the action right here in Louis'court. The style is pure Baroque, which lends itself to propaganda art, a riot of exuberant figures. The Venus Room is a reminder that love ruled at Versailles. Here, couples would cavort, blessed from above by the goddess of love. As if to encourage the fun, Venus sends down a canopy of garlands to ensnare mortals in delicious amour. Louis invited the nobility to Versailles to control or "domesticate" them. The"domesticated" aristocracy lived lives of almost enforced idleness. Games were part of Louis'political strategy.
By distracting his nobles with billiards, gambling, and dancing, Louis was free to run the country. The good life was addictive, and under Louis, the blue bloods were hooked. This was Louis'ceremonial bedroom. His daily life was a series of symbolic rituals. For example, while he'd actually sleep elsewhere, right here, the Sun King would "rise" and"set"with the sun each day. Once mighty, now domesticated, dukes and barons actually competed to see who would hold the candle while Louis slipped into his royal jammies. Bedtime, wake up, meals...it was all public ritual. The royal bedroom faced the rising sun. It was the center of the palace and the center of France. When you understand the themes of the palace's many rooms, a stroll through Versailles is a stroll through French history. The War Room reminds us that Louis had Europe's leading army, and hisreign came with lots of expensive wars.
Louis ruled from 1643 to 1715. By the end, he was tired of fighting. Here in the Peace Room, peace is granted to Germany, Holland, and Spain, as cupids play with discarded weapons and swords are pounded into violins. Louis bestows an olive branch on Europe, as his queen cradles their baby twin daughters. At the end of his long reign, Louis, having exhausted France with his many wars, gave this advice to his great-grandson, the next Louis... "Be a peaceful king." The Hall of Mirrors was the highlight of the palace. No one had ever seen anything like it.
Mirrors were a great luxury at the time, and this long hall was astounding. Imagine this place lit by the flames of thousands of candles, filled with elegant guests in fine silks, wigs, and fake moles, as they danced to the orchestra. Under gilded candelabra and amid busts of Roman emperors, servants would glide by with silver trays of hors d'oeuvres. And from the palace, guests would gaze awestruck at Louis amazing gardens.