Palace of Versailles is one of the best Royal residences in the World.
It is also known as Chateau de Versailles and is located 26 Kms (16 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.
As of today, it is a well-preserved World Heritage site visited by more than 10 million tourists every year.
Facts about 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 Palace of Versailles fun facts.
Check out some of the best Palace of Versailles facts –
Versailles is not the world’s largest palace
The Palace of Versailles covers an area of 8,150,265 square meters (87,728,720 square feet), or 2,014 acres. It is made up of 67,002 square meters (721,206 square feet) of floor space.
However, Palace of Versailles is NOT the largest palace in the world.
Instead, it is the World’s Largest Royal Domain – 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.
Versailles was center of power for only 100 years
Even though so much time and money was spent to build the Palace of Versailles, it wasn’t used for a long time.
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.
It is now 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 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. Check out the Palace of Versailles history
Hall of Mirrors is the best room in Palace of Versailles
A lot of effort was put into building the Palace of Versailles Hall of Mirrors. It has 17 huge 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 ‘corridor of light.’
It is believed that depending on the occasion, sometimes as many as 20,000 candles were lit up.
The hall is long at 73 meters (239.5 feet) and had a width of 10.5 meters (34.4 feet).
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 place of Versailles.
It was completed in 1710, under the guidance of King Louis XIII.
Before this, four chapels were constructed in different parts of the Palace but were either destroyed or converted into something else.
The Kings Apartments was heavenly
The Kings Apartment at 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.
This is why they were also referred to as Apartment of the Planets. Each room was dedicated to each of the then-known seven planets and the Roman God associated with it.
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. See photos of Palace of Versailles interiors
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. 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 in public.
The Queen’s apartment at Versailles had a secret door which was used by Marie-Antoinette to escape the French revolution rioters who attacked the Palace on October 6, 1789.
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 is also known as Theatre Gabriel.
It was inaugurated in 1770 and for a long time was the largest Opera house in the whole of Europe.
The interior decoration was handled by Augustin Pajou. He came up with a technique known as ‘faux marble’ wherein the interiors was 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 people
People of France hated Palace of Versailles
Usually, Palace of Versailles should have been a matter of pride for the people of France. For it was the inspiration for so many other palaces which were 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 exorbitant.
Golden gate of the Palace was destroyed by a mob
Since the people of France hated the Royals in Palace of Versailles when they got their chance they didn’t let go.
When the French revolution began, the rioters landed at the gates of the Palace. The 80-meter steel gate, which was decorated with 100,000 leaves of Gold, was completely destroyed.
Almost 220 years later, the Golden gate was restored to its former glory. In 2008, thanks to private donations, the gate was restored and 100,000 leaves of Gold were added.
The whole restoration cost 5 Million Euros (8 Million dollars – back then this was the exchange rate).
Tennis was popular in Palace of Versailles
It is believed that the game of Tennis was most likely developed by French Monks 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 education process for the royal children.
However, the tennis court at Palace of Versailles is more popular for what is known as the “Tennis Court oath at Versailles.”
On June 20, 1789, a bunch of commoners met at this Tennis court to take an oath.
They promised to always stand by each other and fight to bring about a written constitution in France.
Palace of Versailles was open to the public
This is one of the most amazing Palace of Versailles fact – that it was open to the public.
Not many palaces open their doors to the commoners. However, in 1682, the Palace doors were opened to anyone wishing to explore the place.
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 etiquettes 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.
Running the Palace of Versailles was a costly affair
This Versailles fact hasn’t been documented anywhere, but it is believed that maintaining Versailles’ dreamlike extravagance would have been very difficult.
In fact, it would have been a treasurer’s financial nightmare.
Some estimates say that the annual cost of maintaining Palace of Versailles would have been anywhere between 5% to 25% of the French government’s income.
Some also believe that if so much money wasn’t diverted towards the Palace of Versailles, the commoners wouldn’t have starved and hence the French revolution wouldn’t have happened.
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.
It was only during the Palace’s restoration (many restorations have happened over the years) that the original artwork was placed in the Palace’s museum called ‘Museum of French History.’
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.
In order to feed so many people, the Palace kitchen was enormous. More than a 100 cooks and waiters worked in this kitchen.
However, the King and the Queen were always served cold food.
Because the architect had missed factoring in the distance between the kitchen and the King’s dining quarters.
Palace of Versailles is the costliest building in the world
More than 35,000 workers constructed the Palace of Versailles. The Palace of Versailles gardens alone took 40 years to build.
Money for the palace came from multiple sources – Louis XIV’s privy purse, the country’s earnings, etc.
In fact, when France was not at war its soldiers worked as construction for the Versailles Palace.
With such unstructured spending, it is difficult to say how much the Palace of Versailles cost to build.
After accounting for inflation, estimates peg its cost of construction 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.
Kings who stayed in Versailles Palace loved ceremonies
Interestingly, King Louis XIV, XV, and XVI loved ceremonies.
They loved it so much that even the Kings’ going to sleep and waking up were converted into ceremonies.
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.
It is believed that the Kings also had special ceremonies for putting on and removing their boots.
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 important 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.
While a highly placed aristocrat may get a much bigger and better room closer to the King.
All mirror makers of Versailles Palace were assassinated
While planning the construction of Palace of Versailles, it was decided that only French items will be used.
However, this posed a problem – back in those days one of the best items for decoration 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 assassination of the artisans who had helped the French.
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 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 were melted to finance Louis XIV’s war against Britain and other neighboring nations.
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 of course was in 1783 when Britain and 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 Palace of Versailles, Kaiser Wilhelm I was hailed as the Emperor of Germany.
The most important however is the Treaty of Versailles, which was 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.
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 Palace of Versailles.
In 1783, she built her own village within Versailles to escape the formal court life in the Palace.
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.
It is believed that she used this space for intimate moments with the King.
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 actually 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 disrepair the Palace had fallen into.
He offered to finance its restoration along with two other monuments – Cathedral of Reims and Fontainebleau.
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 a total of 2,153 windows, 1,200 fireplaces and 1250 chimneys.
The Palace has 67 staircases.
It was decorated with approximately 6,000 paintings and 5,000 pieces of furniture and other artifacts.
The gardens of Versailles have approximately 400 sculptures.
It could accommodate as many as 5,000 people at a time.