Palace of Versailles (in French: Château de Versailles) is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring and pretty places that I have seen in Paris so far. When we visited it in Thursday, it was a little cloudy outside but we were eager to learn about the life of le Roi-Soleil Louis XIV. He was a king from the dynasty of the Bourbons who ruled France for 72 years. He was precisely the one who turned Versailles into a flourishing center of Paris and France, concentrating in the castle the entire government and bringing in it all the people from his royal court- the courtiers.
There is a lot one can see in Versailles. We start with the gorgeous gardens, constructed in an ingenious way, so that they appear in front of your eyes slowly when walking on the road where once Louis was walking. We get astonished by the architecture of the Hall of Mirrors (Galerie de Glasses) and the pools that reflect the sun, falling on the château, symbolizing the king being in the center of the world as the Sun is in the center of our solar system. And last, but not least important, we were amazed by the incredible halls in the castle, called chambres, serving different purposes to the king’s family and the courtiers but all equally impressive with the richness of paintings, sculptures and expensive furniture. No matter how much I try, my camera cannot capture entirely the royal atmosphere.
As we listen to our guide Sophie de Loubens, we refresh our memories about Louis XIV, who is famous specifically for his autonomic way of ruling the country after his Prime Minister Cardinal Mazarin died in 1661. The king announced himself the one and only leader of France by saying the popular phrase “L’État, c’est moi” (“I am the state”). The system of absolute monarchy that he started lasted long until the French Revolution.
During our trip, we could hear not only about the political life of Louis XIV, but also about his personal life. The king had a very strict etiquette established in the castle that everyone had to follow. Especially interesting are the rooms of the king and the queen and the rituals, performed in them. Everyone in the Court followed strict schedule, allowing all the officers to plan their work accurately. Sophie explained to us that every morning the king was awaken at 7:30 – 8 am by the first Valet de Chambre (a ritual called lever), being helped by some of his courtiers. He ate breakfast, usually bouillon, and then started his work for the day in his Council of States. At the evening, with similar rituals the king would go to bed, a ceremony called the coucher.The furniture in the Chambre de le Roi is chosen by him and there are special chairs on which only he had the right to sit. A small pillow on the floor helped him to get easily in his bed (in the picture below) which is pretty high and looks exactly as I would imagine it.
Even more interesting are the “must do” for the queen. Her life is also entirely public, especially for the courtiers. We were a little shocked to learn that she gave birth to all her children in front of all of the members of the royal court, as part of the official etiquette. The same ceremonies for lever and coucher that the king followed applied to the queen as well.
Chateau Versailles left me with great memories. I still cannot believe I walked in the garden where the kings were gathering and celebrating together, in galleries where the royal weddings were officiated, in the chapel, where Louis was welcoming the crowd of people praying for his mercy. After all, the castle is constructed so that it is the center of the world and I think one can feel like that in Versailles, even just for a moment.