History of Versailles – 10 interesting facts

Today, on the 6th of May, it has been 338 years since the Versailles became the headquarters of the government. The Château de Versailles was the principal royal residence and the center of the kingdom from 1682 until 1789 when the French Revolution started.

Versailles’ history starts with a small hunting lodge that turned into a small château and eventually Louis XIV started the major expansion. Today the palace is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a lot of history and many interesting facts about the Château de Versailles, but we are going to give you the 10 most interesting facts that you may have not heard before.

  1. THE KING USED TO LIVE IN THE LOUVRE

Before moving to Versailles, The King Louis XIV used to live in the Louvre. The king had a strong interest in architecture, and since Louvre was located in the center of Paris, there was not much he could do architecturally. Despite his best efforts of renovating the Louvre and the Tuileries, it was not possible for him to enlarge his residence. Eventually, in 1678, the king left Louvre and moved to Versailles, where he could freely express his elegance and the greatness of monarchy.

2. THE FOUNTAINS’ WATER SUPPLY METHODS WERE REVOLUTIONARY

Versailles is one of the few castles in France that is not located near a river, so the water supply for the fountains was extremely hard to accomplish. The king wanted hundreds of fountains, but there was no water source near-by. This is why artificial ponds had to be created in order to have enough water. But even that was not enough – when the king did his walks in the garden, the fountains were activated in his presence and as he past the area, the fountains were deactivated. This way the water was saved, and it gave an illusion that everything worked perfectly. Eventually, to have enough water for everything to work as planned, they had to pump water from Seine, which was not an easy task at the time. They had to invent new techniques and hydraulic methods just to get the fountains work. A lot of these fountains still use the same hydraulics network today.

3. THE GATE IS NOT THE ORIGINAL ONE

The golden gate of the Versailles was completely destroyed by the people during the French revolution. The current gate is a replica of the old one and it was put there in 2008.

4. DRESS CODE TO VISIT THE GARDENS

Even though the palace was the residence of the king, the palace and the gardens were open for everyone to visit freely. However, there was one condition – the visitors needed to be well-dressed. Not all owned a proper outfit, so there was a possibility to rent one at the entrance of the Palace. Being elegant was very important for the King.

5. PLAYING POOR?

Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet had small rustic cottages, build in the premises of the Versailles’ garden. It also contained a barn, a working dairy and a fisherman’s cottage which were actually used for agricultural purposes. There is a rumor saying that the queen went to the Hamlet to play ‘common people’ or ‘being farmers’, cleaning on her own and cooking her own meals. Officially, it has been told that the fact that the Hamlet had a functioning farm was there to serve as an educational experience for the royal children.

6. UNNECESSARY SPENDING

King Louis XIV, who was also known as The Sun King, built the palace in the 17th century. He wanted the palace to show his greatness, so the final cost ended up being way too much. Already for the fountains in the garden, the king used one third of the total budget. How much the palace actually cost has been debated by historians because the currency values are uncertain, but the price tag is estimated to be something from $200 billion all the way up to $300 billion. This is an unbelievable amount of money for a single residence, even if it is a palace.

7. ARCHITECTURAL MISTAKES

The palace has 2153 windows, 1200 fireplaces, 700 rooms and 67 staircases. The Château de Versailles is a marvelous architectural masterpiece but there were few things the architect did not think ahead – one of them being the placement of the kitchens. Because the enormous kitchens were placed on the other side of the palace from the King’s dining room, the King’s meals were often served cold.

8. COLD MARBLE

The immense amount of marble in palace was a very expensive material to use and even thought it looked nice, it ended up being a poor choice – the marble was so cold that it made the living conditions in the palace almost unbearable during the winter months. The fireplaces were not able to warm the marble and it has been reported that in March 1695, wine actually froze in glasses on the King’s table.

9. THE DOWNSIDE OF THE BEAUTIFUL GARDEN

The garden of Versailles is one of the most famous gardens because of its greatness and beauty, but back in the day it was not all perfect. The garden had 210 000 flowers and 200 000 trees which were too much for some people, especially during the allergy season. One royal mistress wrote how the mix of all the ‘nature’ smells would make people feel sick almost every night.

10. THE ‘HALL OF MIRRORS’

The ’Hall of Mirrors’ is one of the most famous rooms in the palace. The concept was created so that the Hall could be just dimly lit to protect the ornate walls and the ceilings from the candle smoke. The mirrors would reflect the candlelight, needing fewer candles to illuminate the room. The ’Hall of Mirrors’ has 17 enormous mirrored arches, each containing 21 mirrors, for total of 357 mirrors. Several glass chandeliers are a perfect addition to the mirrored hall. During special occasions the hall was lit with 20 000 candles, turning it into a ’Corridor of light’.

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