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Versailles: the glorious palace that also brought drama

The Palace of Versailles remains one of the most visited palaces in the world. However, it served as the home of the French court for over a century. 

In the 1620s, King Louis XIII built a small hunting lodge west of Paris near Versailles, a small village. While the King enjoyed escaping to the lodge, courtiers did not as it was a swampy forest. Louis then had a small chateau built there in the early 1630s. 

While the young Louis XIV spent some time there with his grandfather in the early 1640s before taking the throne but did not return until the 1650s when he would hunt with his friends there.

It was in 1661 after his first minister’s death that Louis decided to commission a palace at Versailles. Several architects worked on different parts of the new Baroque palace, at first adding apartments onto the original hunting lodge. 

Construction would continue on for several decades. The world-famous Hall of Mirrors was built from 1678 to 1681 while the Royal Chapel was to be the last major piece built during Louis XIV’s reign. 

The King decided that the court would permanently move to Versailles in the early 1680s. The nobility scrambled to find apartments in the palace as space was incredibly limited in the chaotic building site. 

Courtiers were required to follow Louis’s increasingly complicated rules and styles at Versailles, with an incredibly rigid hierarchy enforced through etiquette, performance, and backstabbing. 

After Louis XIV’s death, Louis XV and Louis XVI continued the tradition of the court remaining at Versailles. Both monarchs made interior changes to the palace but did not commission major building projects. 

Versailles was seized during the French Revolution, as were most other royal properties. Napoleon did live there while Emperor but the last two French monarchs did not. King Louis Philippe I turned the palace into a museum dedicated to the “Glories of France”. 

The Palace of Versailles is now used for several political functions, as well as serving as a site that visitors can enjoy. The President of France often hosts state banquets at the Palace, and it has been the site of the signing of several notable treaties. 

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