Palace of Versailles facts – interesting trivia about Versailles

Image: Michelle Maria

Palace of Versailles is one of the best Royal residences in the world.

It is also known as Chateau de Versailles and is 20 Kms (12 Miles) southwest of Paris.

In 1682, Louis XIV decided to move his residence from Louvre Palace to the Palace of Versailles. The same year it also became the official residence of the court of France.

Palace of Versailles remained the French Kings’ home until the French revolution killed the King, Queen and imprisoned their kids.

When it was fully operational, around 5000 people, including aristocrats, courtiers, and servants, lived in the palace.

After the French revolution, the palace was largely ignored, and it fell into disrepair.

Today, it is a well-preserved World Heritage site visited by more than 10 million tourists every year.

Planning a visit to Versailles? Find out the best way to reach Palace of Versailles.

Facts about the Palace of Versailles

Over the years, lots of interesting facts about the Palace of Versailles have emerged.

Some are documented Versailles facts, and some are just legends or myths. Some are academic, and some are just trivia that’s good to know.

Check out some of the best Palace of Versailles facts –

1. Versailles is not the world’s largest palace

The Palace of Versailles covers 8,150,265 square meters (87,728,720 square feet), or 2,014 acres.

It has 67,002 square meters (721,206 square feet) of floor space.

However, the Palace of Versailles is NOT the largest in the world.

S-F / Shutterstock.com

Instead, it is the World’s Largest Royal Domain – the largest ever space built for the Royals.

China’s Summer Palace complex in Beijing is the world’s largest Palace by ‘area enclosed within the palace walls.’

While Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, Romania is the World’s largest palace by floor space.

2. Versailles was the center of power for only 100 years

Even though lots of time and money got spent on the Palace of Versailles, it wasn’t in use for long.

The court of Versailles was the seat of French political power only from 1682 to 1789.

The French revolution, which started in 1789, almost destroyed the Palace of Versailles.

3. It is now the museum of the history of France

Louis-Philippe, who became King of France in 1830, decided to dedicate Palace of Versailles to all the glories of France.

He decreed that the palace should become a museum and showcase the glorious history of France.

As of today, the Museum has more than 6,000 paintings and 3,000 sculptures and is one of the richest sources of French history.

Recommended Reading: Palace of Versailles history

4. Royal Opera of Versailles was once the largest in Europe

The Royal Opera of Versailles was architected by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, and that’s why it is also known as Theatre Gabriel.

It was inaugurated in 1770 and was the largest Opera house in the whole of Europe for a long time.

Augustin Pajou handled the interior decoration. He came up with a technique known as ‘faux marble’ wherein the interiors were built of wood but made to resemble marble.

This technique is credited for the excellent acoustics of the opera house.

Theatre Gabriel can seat around 700 spectators.

5. Hall of Mirrors is the best room in Palace of Versailles

The King put a lot of effort into building the Palace of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors

It has 17 massive mirrored arches opposite 17 windows. Each one of the arches further contains 21 mirrors – that is 357 in total.

This hall also had numerous glass chandeliers hanging from the roof.

When other Royals and dignitaries came visiting, the Hall of Mirrors was lit up with many candles transforming it into what the historians call a ‘corridor of light.’

Depending on the occasion, some guests were welcomed by lighting 20,000 candles.

The hall is long at 73 meters (239.5 feet) and had a width of 10.5 meters (34.4 feet).

6. People of France hated Palace of Versailles

The palace should have been a matter of pride for France’s people, for it was the inspiration for so many other palaces built in different parts of the World.

However, this wasn’t the case.

The common people of France were poor and often starved.

They viewed the King and Queen’s lifestyle as extravagant and outrageous.

7. Five chapels have been built in Palace of Versailles so far

The Chapel you will see during your Palace of Versailles visit is the fifth one built within the Palace of Versailles.

King Louis XIII got it built in 1710.

Earlier, four chapels were constructed in different parts of the Palace but were either destroyed or converted into something else.

8. The Kings Apartments was heavenly

The Kings Apartment at the Palace of Versailles was fit for a King. Literally.

Known as Grands Appartements du Roi, they were a series of rooms beautifully decorated and dedicated to the gods and planets.

That is why the inhabitants of the palace called it ‘Apartment of the Planets’. 

Every room was dedicated to each of the then-known seven planets and the Roman God associated with it.

King’s bedchamber at Versailles Palace. Image: Jean-Marie Hullot

The King’s Apartments consisted of five rooms – The Guard Room, The Royal Table Antechamber, The Bull’s Eye Antechamber, the Counsel Chamber, and the most private King’s Bed Chamber.

9. The Queen’s Apartments had a secret door

Just because the King and Queen had their own apartments didn’t mean that all wasn’t well in their marriage.

The King almost always slept in the Queen’s Apartments, which consisted of five rooms – The Queen’s Guard Room, The Royal Table Antechamber, The Nobles’ Room, and the Queen’s Bedchamber.

Did you know this Palace of Versailles fact – that the Queens gave birth in their bedchambers in public? Well, almost.

Queen’s bedroom at Palace of Versailles. Image: Chateauversailles.fr

The close family and the attendants used to be in the room, and the doors were left open symbolically to suggest that the Queen was delivering the heir in public.

The Queen’s apartment at Versailles had a secret door used by Marie-Antoinette to escape the French revolution rioters who attacked the Palace on October 6, 1789.

Besides the Kings and the Queen’s apartments there is lots to see and enjoy at Palace of Versailles.

10. Golden gate of the Palace was destroyed by a mob

Since the people of France hated the Royals in the Palace of Versailles, they didn’t let go when they got their chance.

When the French revolution began, the rioters landed at the palace’s gates and destroyed the 80-meter tall steel gate decorated with 100,000 gold leaves.

In 2008 – 220 years after it got destroyed – private donations helped restore the gate and decorate it with a hundred thousand gold leaves.

The restoration cost 5 Million Euros (8 Million dollars).

The Fench Monks developed the game of Tennis in the 11th or 12th Century.

Even though by the 18th Century, its popularity in France had dwindled, earlier it was quite popular with the Royals.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Jeu de paume, an older version of modern-day Tennis, was part of the royal children’s education process.

However, the tennis court at the Palace of Versailles is more famous for what is known as the “Tennis Court oath at Versailles.”

On June 20, 1789, many commoners met at this Tennis court to take an oath.

They promised to fight together to bring about a written constitution in France.

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12. Palace of Versailles was open to the public

This is one of the most fantastic Palace of Versailles fact – that it was open to the public.

Not many palaces open their doors to the commoners. However, in 1682, the King decided to open the doors to anyone wishing to explore.

There were only two expectations from a commoner willing to enter the Palace of Versailles.

  1. They were not to carry weapons (the guards ensured that)
  2. They observed proper etiquette such as wearing a hat, carrying a sword, etc. In fact, at the Palace entrance, people could rent out hats and swords for low rates.

13. Maintaining the Versailles Palace was a costly affair

Maintaining Versailles Palace’s dreamlike extravagance was financially draining. 

Some estimates say that the annual cost of maintaining the Palace of Versailles would have been anywhere between 5% to 25% of the French government’s income.

If so much money weren’t diverted towards the Palace of Versailles, the commoners wouldn’t have starved, and the French Revolution wouldn’t have happened.

14. The French Revolution emptied the Palace

During the French revolution, most of the furniture and artwork in the Versailles Palace was sold or moved to the museums.

One of the biggest beneficiaries was the Louvre Museum in Paris.

During the Palace’s restoration (many restorations have happened over the years), the original artwork was brought back and placed in the ‘Museum of French History.’

15. The King and Queen always ate their food cold

This is a funny Palace of Versailles fact.

At its peak occupancy, the palace hosted around 5000 people – made up of royals, aristocrats, and servants.

More than 100 cooks and waiters worked in the palace’s enormous kitchen to feed so many people.

However, the King and the Queen always ate their food cold.

Why?

The architect had missed factoring in the distance between the kitchen and the King’s dining quarters.

16. Palace of Versailles is the costliest building in the world

More than 35,000 workers worked on the Palace of Versailles. 

The Palace of Versailles gardens alone took 40 years to design and nurture.

Image: Chateauversailles.fr

When France was not at war, its soldiers helped build the Versailles Palace.

Money for the palace came from multiple sources – Louis XIV’s privy purse, the country’s earnings, etc.

It is difficult to say how much the Palace of Versailles cost to build with such unstructured spending.

After accounting for inflation, estimates peg its construction cost between 170 Billion Euros (200 Billion USD) to 250 Billion Euros (300 Billion USD).

In sharp contrast, today’s costliest buildings don’t cost more than 6- Billion USD.

17. Kings who stayed in Versailles Palace loved ceremonies

Interestingly, King Louis XIV, XV, and XVI loved ceremonies – so much so that every activity got converted into an elaborate affair.

When it was time for the King to wake up, his courtiers would walk into the King’s bedroom chamber and perform pre-defined ceremonies.

Later in the evening, they had a ceremonial ‘send off’ for the King to sleep.

Kings also had special ceremonies for putting on and removing their boots.

18. Living quarters in Versailles Palace were according to the standing

A person’s standing with the King decided the kind of living quarters he or she got in the Palace of Versailles.

There were around 350 living areas in Versailles Palace, and they varied in size.

Since Louis XIV’s bedroom was the most crucial room in the Palace, the closer you were to his bedroom, the more powerful you were in the system.

The servants usually had a small living area in the attic or a bed behind a staircase.

Meanwhile, a highly placed aristocrat may get a much bigger and better room closer to the King.

19. All mirror makers of Versailles Palace were assassinated

While planning the construction of the Palace of Versailles, the King decided to use only French items.

However, this posed a problem – back in those days, one of the best decoration items was a mirror, and Venice had a virtual monopoly on mirror manufacturing.

As a workaround, the French managed to convince a few Venetian artisans to defect to France.

These artists built what we know today as the Hall of Mirrors.

To keep the art of mirror making a secret, the Venetian government ordered the artisans’ assassination, who had helped the French.

20. The chamber pots at Versailles were made of silver

A Chamberpot is a bowl kept in the bedroom at night and used as a toilet during emergencies.

All chamber pots at the Palace of Versailles were made of silver. Every morning these pots would be cleaned and returned to the bedrooms.

However, these silver chamber pots had an interesting end.

In 1689, they got melted to finance Louis XIV’s war against Britain and other neighboring nations.

21. Palace of Versailles is a place to end wars

The Palace of Versailles is the place where many a war have come to an end.

The first was in 1783 when Britain and the USA signed the Treaty of Paris.

This deal officially ended the Revolutionary War. Under the terms of the treaty, Britain recognized the United States of America as an independent country.

The second instance was in 1871 when France was humiliated in the Franco-Prussia war.

As France accepted its defeat at the Palace of Versailles, Kaiser Wilhelm I got hailed as the Emperor of Germany.

However, the most important is the Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June 1919 in the Hall of Mirrors.

This treaty ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers and signaled the end of World War 1.

22. Marie-Antoinette built her own village within Versailles

Marie-Antoinette was the last queen of France before the French Revolution drove away all the royals from the Palace of Versailles.

In 1783, she built her own village within Versailles to escape the Palace’s formal court life.

Her little village had a farm, barn, billiards room, theatre, etc.

She even built a ‘Temple of Love’ – consisting of a dozen columns and a statue of Cupid.

She also got a private grotto built – a secluded cave-like area covered in vegetation.

She used this space for intimate moments with the King.

23. The Americans had an intimate connection with Versailles

In 1741, American inventor Benjamin Franklin came up with what is known as a Franklin Stove.

It was a metal-lined fireplace which produced more heat and less smoke.

When Louis XVI came to know about it, he installed them in the Palace of Versailles.

The second American to have an impact on the Palace was billionaire John D. Rockefeller Jr.

During his visit to France after World War 1, Rockefeller Jr was deeply affected by the Palace’s disrepair.

He offered to finance its restoration along with two other monuments – Cathedral of Reims and Fontainebleau.

24. The Palace of Versailles was built on a massive scale

The architect of this palace would have been one busy man.

The Palace of Versailles has 700 rooms with 2,153 windows, 1,200 fireplaces, and 1250 chimneys. The palace has 67 staircases.

To decorate the palace, approximately 6,000 paintings and 5,000 pieces of furniture and other artifacts got used.

The gardens of Versailles have approximately 400 sculptures.

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Shobha Mahapatra: She loves traveling in groups - of friends and relatives. The destination doesn't matter much as long she has her fun group around. She loves to try the local cuisine and clothes and also builds friendships wherever she goes. Favorite Cities: Istanbul, Hanoi, Cape Town, Singapore

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