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10 - The Palace of Versailles


The Palace of Versailles is located twenty kilometers from Paris and began as a hunting lodge for Louis XIII. During the French Revolution from 1682 and 1789, when Louis XIV moved his court from Paris to Versailles, Versailles was the seat of power of the absolute monarchy of France. Here Louis XIV could increase the centralization of the government and prevent nobles from acquiring too much regional power. Thus, the Palace of Versailles became a symbol of L’Ancien Regime and the Sun King. The original chateau was expanded from 1664 to 1710. Upon Louis XIV’s death in 1715, Louis XV and his court moved back to Paris but additions to Versailles continued during the reign of Louis XV. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly abolished the monarchy and Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were forced to leave Versailles. They were later arrested and executed. Much of the collection of furniture and art was auctioned off, though some of it was kept as part of a museum. Once Napoleon gained power, the museum was closed, the art dispersed and Versailles was designated as an imperial palace once again. In 1833 King Louis-Philippe suggested a museum dedicated to “all the glories of France,” which was inaugurated at Versailles on June 10, 1837. Currently, the portions of the Palace of Versailles that are not used for government offices, are still open to the public. The most famous room is the splendid Hall of Mirrors, with its seventeen mirrored arches that reflect the seventeen arcaded windows. A total of 375 mirrors, the production of which required an expensive and closely-guarded process that only the Venetians knew at the time, were used in the construction of the room.