Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why Learn About Versailles?

  Why do people still care about Versailles and its history

  It is the symbol of not only all that is right about monarchy but also the symbol of all that is wrong with it.  Walking through room after beautiful room in the Chateau of Versailles you find yourself noticing the gilded boiserie and the expertly crafted furnishings, noticing the picturesque views out the windows and it feels like a fairytale or a movie set.  It is hard to remember that people actually lived within these walls. 

  The enormity of scale and wealth present in Versailles served its purpose through the ages to build up the prestige and influence of France among the nations of Europe, a position it held throughout much of the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV.   

  Versailles was a public institution which served as a venue to increase the gloire, or glory, of Louis XIV and by extension, the glory of France. Life there had to be incredibly sophisticated and lavish because it was a sign of the greatness of France.  The surroundings, entertainments, fashions and foods were copied everywhere else through trade. 

  To be a member of the Court of France was a special privilege within the already privilege-laden world of the nobles and the rich (two separate categories which overlapped, as one was not a guarantee of the other).  In the parlance of the nobility, the Versailles was called ce pays-la (That little country).  Having a living space in Versailles was something which was prized, even if it was a teeny little area, because it meant so many things to the inhabitants: potential increase in income, elevated social status, career advancement for yourself, a member of your family or a friend of the family, even just a chance to rub shoulders with the celebrities of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century, the royal family of France.

   There were certain requirements to being part of the court of France; Versailles the Monument was open to the public, but Versailles the Lifestyle was open only to those with the right family names and titles; those who knew how to play the game and behave accordingly.  Life on the inside at Versailles was very formal, wrapped up in its own phraseology and etiquette about everything from the way ladies of the court would walk (a gliding shuffle) to what topics were acceptable or not (death and personal suffering were taboo)..  
  Versailles is a fascinating glimpse into the past- how its residents conducted the daily business of life- and how it is surprisingly relateable to what we experience in these modern times.  

 Under Louis XVI this is also the place which set France up for the first major revolution of the modern world. 

 The roots of the French Revolution reach back into the Grand Siecle of Louis XIV’s reign.  Much of the blueprint of the royalty in France and beyond was created and refined during his tenure at Versailles, and as this model of governance did not allow for changing with the times, it was ultimately doomed.

  In the meantime it was- depending on what your position in the world- a beautiful, happy place to live.  It was a way of life that all aspired to- even its critics.     

  This blog, Life At Versailles, is dedicated to exploring every aspect of the Chateau of Versailles, the people who lived there, and to learning more about French culture surrounding this time period.

  I have written a short book on this subject as an introduction to people about the history of Versailles, called It Happened Here! It's available through Amazon.   

  THanks for visiting the site, and please come back again!