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A palace that puts all others in the shade

posted on 20/11/18

Louis XIV created the Palace of Versailles with the intention of dazzling not just his subjects and nobles, but the whole of Europe. He succeeded spectacularly, leaving us with an architectural, horticultural and artistic tour de force that celebrates the height of the Sun King’s power and glory.

Dawn

Louis XIV commissioned architect Louis La Vau to undertake a massive expansion of a small hunting lodge and château built by his father. At the same time landscape designer André Le Nôtre turned 230 acres of forest and meadows into the most magnificent gardens in all Europe.

Over the course of his reign the palace became royal home, seat of government and centre of court, with some seven thousand people living and working in its 2,300 rooms.

Eclipse

Louis’ son and grandson made further additions and remodelled some of the interiors before revolution brought work to an end. On October 5th 1789, Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were besieged in the palace by an angry mob then taken back to Paris, never to return.

In 1792 the new revolutionary government transferred all the paintings and sculptures to the Louvre. With abolition of the monarchy the remaining contents were auctioned in 1794. The empty buildings then became a storehouse for furnishings, art and libraries confiscated from the nobility.

Rebirth

In 1833, King Louis-Philippe decided to turn Versailles into a museum “dedicated to all the glories of France”. Despite the tumultuous years that followed the interiors were gradually restored and the collections grew. Once more the Palace became an archetypal seat of power and continued to host momentous – including the declaration of the German Empire in 1871 following France's defeat by the Prussians, and the Treaty of Versailles, formally ending The Great War in 1919.

Today

Magnificently restored, and housing 60,000 exhibits, the palace now attracts almost 10 million visitors a year. A single day is not sufficient to do it justice so our trip, Château de Versailles – the power and glory of France (29 March–1 April 2019), is proving immensely popular. Professor Tony Spawforth, author of Versailles: A Biography of a Palace, takes our party on a four-day journey of discovery through the vast gardens, extraordinary interiors and innumerable works of art. A master story-teller, he brings this world of pomp and circumstance, triumph and disaster, art and history, war and peace, politicking and revolution, vividly to life.

 

View itinerary for Château de Versailles – the power and glory of France (29 March–1 April 2019)

View trips with Professor Tony Spawforth

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