The Domaine de Versailles, exteriors!!!

A wonderful subject for me as lived in the city of Versailles by the Notre Dame Church for 9 years before moving on to the Morbihan breton and there so far 9 years too. Versailles will always be in our hearts, it was our first owned home in France! And of course, even if there is more than a castle in Versailles, need to tell you one of my first posts on the Domaine de Versailles, an overview of its exteriors now in my black and white series. Hope you enjoy as I do.

I am back on this nostalgic city. My Versailles is sublime, can’t go a day without thinking of it, visited many many times over the years and again next month.  A royal town chic and friendly folks and history all around you, France, Europe, the World. Unique!  I have done posts on Versailles of different kinds over the years but now will do one on simply the exteriors of the palace/museum of Versailles. The architecture is phenomenal and the look from any angle in the city is awesome.

We know from history, that the first mentioned of Versailles goes back to 1038 as was mentioned belong to the Abbey of Saint Pére of Chartres. From 1607 , king Louis XIII age 6 does his first hunting in the area.  In 1623 king Louis XIII has a serious sickness and need spiritual seclusion when he decides to built a modest manor hunting house of brick and stone on top of a summit in the plains of Versailles  on the road going from Versailles to Trianon , a site called Val-de-Galie, he purchase the land in 1624 where it was only a windmill and the house of the guardian surrounded by marshes.

In April 8 1632 king Louis XIII buys the whole property of the Domaine de Versailles from Jean-François de Gondi, the Bishop of Paris. He ordered construction of a nice royal mansion on site and works continue until he passes away. His son ,the next King Louis XIV  that was only 4 years old, too young to govern he is chaperone by the regency of Anne of Austria and the construction stop for 18 years!  We know that the future king Louis XIV did his first visit to Versailles in October 1641 with his brother (future Louis XV) to evade an epidemic of chickenpox that was affecting his castle home at Saint-Germain-en-Laye (favorite because he was born there see post). We know too, that he came back again in 1651 and thereafter more often , continuing to improved the hunting mansion from 1660-1664. The improvements continue on the period of  1664-1668 where the need to improved the housing is essential for the parties done by the Court especially the famous parties of pleasure of the enchanted island!!!  There is another period from 1669-1672 where the wars are going and the treaties are signed here like the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ending the war of devolution. At this time the palace begins to take the shape as we know it today.

In the period 1678-1684,  the  treaty of Nimégue puts an end to the war of Holland and starts the next construction wave on the castle. Now we do the  galerie des glaces , and its twin rooms the salon de la Guerre and the salon de la Paix and the wings of the noble and princes as well as middle wing and huge work on the gardens  as well the decorations in the Grands appartements.  A bit after the defeat in the war of the league of Augsbourg (1688-1697) and under the influence of Madame de Maintenon, king Louis XIV begins the 4th construction wave to the castle from 1699-1710. The Royal Chapel , appartement du roi or kings apartments and the salon du l’oeil-de-boeuf and the bedroom of the king. After these construction the work is stopped as well as the king Louis XIV died.  The brother king Louis XV  born in Versailles, in 1710 too young to rule yet alone. His tutor Philippe d’Orléans or regent leave Versailles to be house in the Palais Royal and the court of the Palais des Tuileries (now gone, pillage and put on fire by the commune uprisings of 1871, and later demolished by the city of Paris by 1881) in Paris; it was even suggested to demolished the castle at this time by the duke of Noailles.  He goes on to do three projects here the finished of the Grand Appartement, the renovations of the salon d’Hercule, basin de Neptune, and the extra building the Royal Opéra.

Under King Louis XVI, the improvement continue to create the most luxurious palace in the world, even with a budget.  The Petit Trianon is done for the Queen Marie-Antoinette,by 1777 a wonderful library inspired by Louis XVI; 1783 the cabinet doré is done,  as Louis XVI wanted an exposition room with in 1788 exposition of his personal purchases the cabinet des papillons (butterflies).  After the French revolution the palace suffers greatly and many items are destroyed or sold. The Imperial period of France under Napoléon Ier brings back some of its glory 1799-1814 period in which even Pope Pie VII came to crown the emperor Napoléon Ier and blessed the crowd from a window in the gallery of mirrors . In 1805, the emperor visits the chateau and decides to stop the renovation in it by choosing the Grand Trianon for residence.

The restoration of the crown from 1814-1830 under the youngest of the Louis still alive, King Louis XVIII continues cautiously the restoration known the history of his family and this work is continue by the youngest brother and final bourbon king of France Charles X. From 1830-1870 king of the French Louis Philippe tried to save the castle by doing it as a palace/museum with the motto  « À toutes les gloires de la France », to all the glories of France.  During the period 1870 under  emperor Napoleon III,  he only comes to the palace in commemorating the victories of Crimea and Italy but nevertheless is attach to keep the palace in the best condition possible. In 1855 he dines with the Queen Victoria of England in the galerie des Glaces.  The imperatrice Eugénie who follows the cult of Marie Antoinette provides an additional push to save it and under her influence at the Universal Exposition of 1867 most of the furniture is restituted to the palace of Versailles.

The castle today is an expression of the very best of France. The cours or courts in the front numbered 3 . If you see them from the Place d’Armes facing the city on the threesome avenue de Saint Cloud, avenue de Paris, and avenue de Sceaux.  At the place d’Armes you see an equestrian statue of king Louis XIV.  From this square you pass by the Grille d’Honneur to reach the biggest court that of the cour d’Honneur then comes the Grille Royale that closes the access to the cour Royale. At the end of this court you see five marbres where you find the cour de Marbre all done in black and white marbre.

You follow the building by the central body of the palace, including the Grands Appartements of the castle ,of the king, galerie des glaces, and grand appartement of the queen, the apartment of the king, small apartment of the king, and the small apartment of the queen.  Follow the apartments of the ladies, lower gallery, apartment of the heir or dauphin and dauphine, apartment of the captain of the guards, the small apartments, interior cabinets of the queen and the apartments of madame du Barry, marquise de Pompadour, and the Count of Maurepas.

Then, the aile du midi or middle wing  including the gallery of battles, congress room, gallery of high south stones, and lower south stones. This then follow the aile du nord or north wing, including Royal Chapel (just recently renovated!) of the chateau, south side, the Royal opera of the chateau north side, the rooms of the 17C, rooms of the 19C, and the crusades rooms, the gallery of high north stones and lower stones north.

You have the gardens (see other post) and the park as well. Then, other buildings (see posts) such as the Petite Ecuries and Grande Ecuries across the street, the Grand Commun (domestic help housing in the time of the kings) for short, the real name is the « Grand Carré des Offices – commun du Roi, de la Reine, de Monseigneur, de Madame la Dauphine » built 1682-1684  ,to the right of the castle looking out ,and the Ailes des Ministres or Ministers wing.

You,also, have the Grand Trianon, built in 1689 in marble. Petit Trianon, built from 1749 under the influence of the marquise de Pompadour step back from the Grand Trianon. In 1774, Louis XVI offered it to Marie-Antoinette that changes the lieu and had built other construction such as the sculptures of the Temple de l’Amour, Pavillon du rocher or Belvédère, and the Royal Théâtre, all done between 1777-1779, as well as the gate or porte Saint-Antoine, built in 1786 near the Hameau.  The Pavillon français is built in 1749-1750.

The Ménagerie was built between 1662-1664.  This was done in the route leading from Versailles to Saint-Cyr, at the extremity south of the Grand Canal. There is a monumental gate going to the ferme de Gally where my boys enjoyed coming to see some of the descendant animals of the Royal period.

The Domain is huge and very much a must to see in Versailles or when in the area. However, remember Versailles is the royal historical town of France, there is a lot more than the castle… IF you would imagine for a moment, before the French revolution this Domaine was 8000 Ha and now only… 807 Ha (one Ha = 2.471 acres).

This is it for now, see my other many posts on gorgeous Versailles as a whole ,that is, it is more than a castle. We shall be back when possible. Hope you enjoy the post as I do. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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