Located about 20 kilometers southwest of Paris, Versailles is a wealthy and quickly expanding metropolitan city inviting a large number of visitors. The topmost attractions are the huge royal palace and gardens built by King Louis XIV. Besides featuring elegant and impressive architecture, the palace was also the proud seat of a number of important historic events. It is perhaps best remembered for the famous Treaty of Versailles signed on 28 June 1919 within the Hall of Mirrors; this peace treaty brought the First World War to an end.
In the year 1624, King Louis XIII constructed a hunting lodge in Versailles. Turning that hunting lodge into the palace it is today was accomplished in four distinct phases. The first phase of alterations stretched between 1664 and 1668, and during this time, the château and gardens were expanded to accommodate the 600 guests at the Plaisires de l’Île Enchantée (Pleasures of the Enchanted Island) celebration.
Signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ended the War of Devolution and gave way to the second phase of development to the Palace between 1669 and 1672. During this period, Le Vau’s enveloped Louis XIII’s hunting lodge. The grand appartement du roiand the grand appartement de la reine made up the complex of seven rooms. The décor depicted heroic kings of the past including Alexander the Great, Augustus, and Cyrus.
The Treaty of Nijmegen in 1678 ended the Dutch War and triggered the third phase of enhancements to the Versailles Palace. Much of the present-day look of the facility can be traced to this period. During this time, Hardouin-Mansart designed the Hall of Mirrors, north and south wings, and the Orangerie. The gardens also underwent landscaping.
After the defeat of the War of the League of Augsburg, the fourth and final phase of construction took place between 1699 and 1710. The focus of this task was the construction of the royal chapel that was designed by Hardouin-Mansart and Robert de Cotte. During this time, the Salon de l’Œil de Bœuf and the King’s Bedchamber were added with due modifications to the appartement du roi.
Louis XV and XVI
Louis XV modified the palace during his reign; developments during this period include completion of the Salon d’Hercule, the petit appartement du roi, the appartements de Mesdames, the appartement du dauphin, the appartement de la dauphine, the petit appartement du roi au deuxième étage, and the petit appartement du roi au troisième étage, as well as the construction of the Opéra and the Petit Trianon.
Louis XVI ordered for the complete replanting of the garden to transform it to English style. He added the library and the salon des jeux to the petit appartement du roi and decorated the petit appartement de la reine for Marie-Antoinette.
French Revolution and Today
During the French Revolution, the royal court was moved to Paris and the security of the palace was entrusted to the citizens of Versailles. In 1791, the arrest of Louis XVI lead to the confiscation of all properties of the royal household and the palace was sealed. Following this, many pieces from the palace were sold or auctioned. The 1804 constitution designated Versailles Palace as the imperial court for the department of the Seine-et-Oise. Later arrivals made some small-scale enhancements to the facility, and time saw the decline of the facility to some degree. During the time of the Fifth Republic, the palace was transformed into one of the foremost tourist attractions in France.