The kings and queens of France certainly knew how to live life decadently. Versailles replaced the Louvre in 1678 under Louis XIV, the Sun King, and if you’ve ever been to the Louvre, then you’ve seen how enormous it is and how grand the architecture is in the original parts of the palace. Versailles was built to be ever more grand. It’s easy to forget how many people died during its construction, approximately 3,000, due to the swampy terrain on which it was built and the whims of a king who cared not about malaria. During the French Revolution, the people very well could have decided to destroy the palace, a remnant of the monarchy. Luckily for France’s cultural heritage and our viewing pleasure today, they only sold off the furniture.
Walking up to Versailles, I had a sense of taking part in a second French Revolution. Everyone got off at the same RER stop, heading down the street in a mob, guided by the cries of staff telling us which direction to go, and eventually descending upon the palace en masse. We are the new revolutionaries, reclaiming the castle for our leisure and cultural enrichment. Seeing the Hall of Mirrors was like jumping into a high school French textbook. It exists! Seeing the style of the day, golden cherubs and human-like figures holding up chandeliers and such, made me realize where the inspiration for Jean Cocteau’s version of Beauty and Beast probably came from. Unlike the Disney version where humans became objects, in Cocteau’s version, objects became human (or, more specifically, various parts of the human anatomy). It was incredible to see how lavishly royalty lived and to see the palace in real life.
I loved the castle grounds even more than the castle itself. I hope that one day, I will have a chance to go back to Versailles to finish exploring the grounds. They’re enormous! It took me at least an hour to leave Versailles from Marie Antoinette’s hamlet. I adored the hamlet. It must have been such a relaxing place to come after the hustle and bustle and decorum of castle life. It’s so quaint and picturesque. This is exactly what Marie Antoinette had in mind when she wanted a place built where she could play pretend as a farm girl. Speaking of Marie Antoinette, in case you thought she said “let them eat cake,” what she really said was “let them eat brioche,” a sweet bread. Just to correct that historical inaccuracy in case you didn’t know : )
Andrea, this post is specially dedicated to you. I know how much you adore the history of Marie Antoinette. A super special thanks also to my Aunt Joann and Uncle Bart for giving me Jean Cocteau’s version of Beauty and the Beast.