The Palace of Versailles: visiting a royal past

Versailles has been quite in fashion this month. First, after setting its new J’adore campaign in the Galeries des Glaces, Dior released its “Secret Garden – Versailles” video.

Then Chanel showed its latest cruise collection in the gardens last week. This reminds me of my short trip to Versailles to see a fashion exhibition last summer. Papa Ritournelle had dragged me there as a child and I was too young to appreciate his encyclopedic knowledge in history. But reading Stefan Zweig’s excellent biography of the legendary queen after seeing Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette made me realize what a fascinating place the Palace is.

Let’s now push the gates to start our visit.

It is on this balcony that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette appeared in front of an angry mob during the French Revolution in October 1789. People were aiming at the queen with their rifles but were soon impressed by her bravery.

King Louis XIV, who reigned on France from 1654 to 1715, is responsible for the magnificence of Versailles. During a traumatic childhood episode, the king’s authority was threatened and he had to flee Paris with his family. As an adult, the Sun King decided to have the Palace of Versailles lavishly modernized and adorned with the most beautiful gardens. The noble elite were compelled to inhabit the Palace, consolidating a system of absolute monarchical rule in France. They lived far away from the realities of the country leading up to the French Revolution.

The chapel is one of the key features of the Palace. Marie Antoinette married Louis XVI at this altar at the tender age of 15.

Then, you are certainly already acquainted with the lavish Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) and its tall mirrors and heavy chandeliers. The gallery faces the peaceful Grand Canal. A perfect setting for balls and other festivities.

You then enter the King’s Private Apartments. The king’s awakening and going to bed were ceremonies to which being invited was a great privilege.

Likewise, the queen had her own apartments reserved for her personal use. Near the bed you can see an open door, a secret passage through which Marie Antoinette escaped in October 1789 when an angry mob marched on Versailles.

Imagine Marie Antoinette waking up to this view.

I ended my visit at Angelina which has a tea parlor in the Palace. It was my first time tasting their legendary hot chocolate, and let me tell you, it was divine! A sweet pleasure Marie Antoinette would probably have loved herself.

Have you ever visited Versailles? What are your impressions on the Palace?