Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Château de Versailles

Château de Versailles is probably my favorite place on earth. When my therapist was asking what my "happy place" is, I immediately thought of Versailles. When I was in high school, I got to go to Versailles with my mom and sister and it was the best experience. I love Versailles for many reasons, but my I think it is mostly because I am completely obsessed with Marie Antoinette. When I first started writing this post, it started to get a bit too focused on Marie Antoinette, and so I am actually going to omit her from this post (to the best of my ability). She is so AMAZING and has so many complex things surrounding her, that I am going to have to write a completely separate post about her sometime in the future.  

Looking out from inside.
Ok, back to the Château. The Château, as some of you may know, first started out as a hunting lodge that was built for King Louis XIII. The King loved to hunt, and loved the surrounding forests near the lodge. The King then made it into a Château after his own mother, Marie de Medici (have you heard of her? she is an interesting character in European history), tried to take over his throne and so he sent her into exile and built himself a small Château.

Aww cute little Château... haha but this was the one built by King Louis XIII in 1630-34
King Louis XIII's son, King Louis XIV (the infamous Sun King), grew up going to the hunting lodge and loved the area of Versailles. When he became king, he decided to expand the Château in 1661. The Sun King was obsessed with decadence and relaxation, and therefore he wanted the Château to be a perfect place for those two things. The Sun King expanded the wings of the original Château, added the elaborate garden system that is still at Versailles today, and many elaborate details that make the Château so beautiful. The King then started a second expansion in 1678, which included the addition of the Hall of Mirrors and the Grand Trianon. While they were still in the process of adding the the Château, the Sun King declared Versailles to be his principal place of residence and moved the entire court from the Palais des Tuileries in Paris to the Château in Versailles. 

The Château during the first expansion in 1661. 
During the short time the the Sun King lived in the palace permanently before his death, he established a strict court system that was followed by his successors until the French Revolution. I learned about this when I was a TA in Art History at BYU and loved the text from Jacques Levron that details the interesting day in the life of the Sun King. If you watch the movie, Marie Antoinette - you can see examples of the ritual -- here is one of how the Royals were dressed (sorry for the video quality): 


These rituals in the video may seem bizarre, but they were actually part of the culture that the Sun King built at Versailles. Even the Sun King's own brother had to have the King’s permission to sit in his presence. 

Example of the Sun King emblem all over Versailles 
The Château de Versailles stayed relatively the same after the Sun King died and had some adjustments under each King after it, like the addition of Marie Antoinette's famous Hamlet in 1774. When the French Revolution started, there was the famous Women's March on Versailles in 1789, which lead to the Royal family being forced to return with the mob to Paris. Once the Royal family left Versailles, it was closed (but not before the mob ransacked it and destroyed many parts of the palace), especially any emblems representing royalty. All the important art was moved to the Louvre, and all the remaining art, furniture, mirrors, etc. were sold off in auctions.  

When Emperor Napoleon came into power, he almost chose to live at Versailles but changed his mind when he considered fixing all the damage that was made during the Revolution. Instead, he decided to refurnish and remodel the Grand Trianon and use it as summer vacation home. Below is a picture of me at in a corridor at the Grand Trianon and outside of it. I actually love the pink marble that the Grand Trianon has, it is so pretty! 

Another interesting part of the Château de Versailles is the Hall of Battles that was commissioned by Louis Philippe who came into power after the French Revolution of 1830. In his grand hall, there are large, almost life size, paintings of the great French battles from 496 to 1809. The hall is absolutely beautiful and I actually loved looking at the paintings as well. 

Louis-Philippe opening the Galerie des Batailles, 10 June 1837 (painted by François-Joseph Heim)

Speaking of Halls, one of my favorite parts in the Château de Versailles is the Hall of Mirrors. It would be so amazing to go there and be the only person in the room. Usually when you go it is full of tourists, which isn't so bad if you just imagine that you are hearing all the people at a 18th century masquerade ball instead, haha. Imagine how beautiful it must have been all lit up and everyone dancing in their beautiful gowns, if only... 

A masked ball in the Hall of Mirrors(1745) by Nicolas Cochin

Well, I think I probably have given too much information for this post, haha! I really gotta get better at shortening them, but I guess that is what my instagram posts are for! I hope you enjoyed reading this, I know I loved writing it! If you are ever looking for a movie to watch, I recommend Marie Antoinette by Sofia Coppola. It is AMAZING. It has great shots of Versailles and has the prettiest costume design! 



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