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Versailles - Journey Through Time - Part I

Many of you have been following Parisian Niche since its inception (merci!), but several friends are new here (bonjour!). For newer friends, P'Niche has had attending the Versailles Grand Masked Ball on her bucket list for years. Now that a group of us will attend in June (yay!), it seems fitting to take a closer look at the palace. Let's take a P'Niche peek at Versailles, a journey in time through the royal families, and beyond, who called it home...

Hop into the P'Niche Time Machine and grab your favorite cuppa coffee, tea (Nina's perhaps?), or even a hot chocolate - this is going to be a mini-series of blog posts. Annnnnnd we're off (royal time machine soundtrack on blast...)


Ok - our main stop! We are at Versailles - about 16 kilometers (or 10 miles) outside of Paris.

Wait a minute, wait a minute - this doesn't look like a palace? It looks like a ... royally rustic hunting lodge?!

That's right, P'Nicher...


What became the seat of French royal power started as a humble hunting lodge. And while Louis XIV gets most of the (well deserved) credit for making it the glamorous court that it was known to be, it was his predecessor, Louis XIII, who was so enamored with the area (and it's hunting grounds) that he commissioned the hunting lodge that would become - and remain - the figurative and physical center of the Palace of Versailles.

Building a palace in order to go hunting was actually commonplace at the time. You'd build accommodations around lush forests and woodlands in order to get your best chances for hunting (and feasting).

As one does...


Well, as one born to royalty does.

Louis XIII (1601 - 1643) was indeed of royal blood. His parents were none other than Henry IV of France and his (second) wife, Marie de' Medici. He was born at the Palace of Fontainebleau (yep, yet another royal palace).

Our Royal Highness, Louis XIII, ascended to the throne as King of France in 1610, upon the passing of his father. Notably, his mother maintained the role of "Regent for the Kingdom" until our Louis Treize seized all power on April 24, 1617.

Side Note here - Marie de' Medici was one of a kind (and that's not necessary the best thing.) While she had a hand in the construction of other royal palaces, her reputation as ruthless leader and regent precedes her. We'll certainly discuss her in future posts, so do subscribe to join us back here in the Parisian Niche.

Ok, back to Louis XIII...


Picture it - 1621 and King Louis XIII and his royal entourage left their main residence (Saint Germain-en-Laye and Paris) for a day of hunting.

What they found was a vast woodsy wonderland; filled with pheasants, boars, and the all important stag.

And so, he ordered up a hunting lodge.


In 1623, they constructed this meager hunting lodge, which, as one courtier, Le Maréchal François de Bassompierre, noted, "would not inspire vanity in even the simplest gentleman," although Louis XIII did move into in 1624.

What does one do when one does not succeed at first? They try, try again...


Louis XIII called his good buddy, architect Monsieur Philibert Le Roy, to redesign and reconstruct this lodge and incorporate a small château for his majesty, completed in 1634.

Interesting to note, the king forbade his wife, Anne of Austria, to ever spend the night - even during a smallpox outbreak!

Bachelor pad, much?!


This bachelor pad was rather unique to its time, actually. As you can see, Le Roy constructed the three section palace we recognize as the Versailles core today.

Made of red brick, white trim, and a black slate roof, it was nicknamed "the house of cards." Although it was considered rather unstylish for the times, Louis XIII did find his happiness there and invited many pals (royals and foreign dignitaries, alike) to visit.


It's worth noting that even before Louis XIV's royal makeover, larger diplomatic events did take place here in Versailles 1.0 (well, technically 2.0.)

In November 1630, what came to be called "the Day of the Dupes" occurred.

This (actual two day) standoff occurred when Marie de' Medici forced the King to choose between her power and support or Cardinal Richelieu's (in a "it's him or me" moment.) DUN DUN DUN!

Spoiler alert - Louis XIII chose the allegiance of the Cardinal!


Now, a small fast forward brings us to 1643 and the sad passing of Louis XIII - likely from that pesky tuberculosis of the day. In the background, bagpipes play...

Upon this passing, Louis XIII's wife, Anne of Austria became the regent for the new king - King Louis XIV.

Upon this regency, she (and the court) abandoned Versailles and re-established the court back in Paris. The Versailles palace and hunting grounds were left abandoned for over the next decade.

Maybe our girl Anne was still really annoyed at not being allowed to spend even one night at Versailles with Louis XIII? P'Niche is just speculating there...


Wow - over a decade of an abandoned palace and surrounding grounds? What happened during that time?

Was there a surplus of stags, rabbits, and pheasants? Perhaps there was some kind of whimsical picnic in the forests of the palace?

Was Louis XIV missing his childhood playing grounds? (That is what we call foreshadowing, P'Nichers...)


Of course Louis XIV will return to Versailles and we cannot to share more with you next week, and hope to see you here. In the meantime, you might consider reading "The Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas.

We covered this book in our book club, the Parisian Page Turners, and wow, we sure did love it. What a swashbuckling good time and romp through the courts (and intrigues) of Louis XIII.

If you would like to join us for other reads, please check out the Parisian Page Turners for more details.

All are welcome!

What do you think, P'Nicher? Hooked on Versailles? We hope you will join us in our next post and stop in the P'Niche Time Machine, "As the Palace Turns..."et à bientôt!


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