Friday, 9 December 2016

Palaces in the Snow: Versailles

Versailles in the snow
(photo By MaitéLab (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

It's about as famous as a royal palace gets, it's about as beautiful as architecture can be, it has oodles of royal romance attached to it - add snow for a fairytale. Versailles may no longer have a royal family to call its own but it is every inch the royal palace. Maybe it's the fact its royal residents are long gone that makes Versailles in the snow reminiscent of times past, eras gone and memories that linger. A palace in the snow that hides much beneath its icy depths.

The French Royal Family first set their hearts on Versailles in 1623 when Louis XIII had a hunting lodge built there. Louis XIV began the expansion work that would turn it into a royal palace to rival any and the seat of a royal dynasty that would end in tragedy. There were two major sets of expansion work through the 17th and early 18th centuries with the last producing some of Versailles' most famous attractions including the Hall of Mirrors.

The French royal court moved to Versailles in 1682, almost forty years into the reign of Louis XIV. The Sun King insisted many of his noble courtiers follow him to the palace, set outside Paris, where they lived side by side in the political intrigue of the court. 

Marie Antoinette spent many of her days as Queen of France here where she enjoyed entertainments and held court over a fragmenting political structure. As revolution overtook France, she and Louis XVI were forced to move from Versailles to Paris and into the spiral that would end with their executions.  Versailles fell into disrepair but was restored in part throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

Today, it is a major tourist attraction and while much of its original furniture is gone, the gilded rooms inside and the stunning stone architecture outside now sparkle towards their former glory. Draped in snow, they take on a fairytale quality but one wih a hint of sadness. 

See all the Palaces in the snow for Advent 2016 on the special page here.

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