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Versailles - Journey Through Time - Part II


We're still in Versailles, after a brief pause / visit during the reign of Louis XIII...

Our next stop in the P'Niche Time Machine is the court of Louis XIV - the king we most commonly associate with the establishment of the French royal court at the Palace of Versailles. Got your travel snacks ready? Ok, on y va - let's go!


Louis XIV (or Louis-Dieudonné) was born on September 5, 1638 at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

Wait - Dieudonné? Gift from God?

Yep! His mom and dad (that's Louis XIII and Anne of Austria to you and me) had spent many childless years, full of sadness and loss until this point. Thus, Louis' birth - a son and "healthy" heir, was viewed as God given.

Louis was in fact a frail child, prone to illness, but had a passion for the arts and culture: hunting, music, dance, etc.

Unfortunately, Louis had little time with his father, Louis XIII, who passed when our Louis XIV was only 5 years old in 1643.

King - at age 5!


Obviously way too young to reign, his mother (with the helping hand of Cardinal Mazarin) ruled as regent. Spoiler alert - they did not do a great job.

Spending heavily into debt, they pissed a lot of people off. Cue La Fronde - a series of civil wars in Paris (1649 - 1652). The royal family, in fear for their very lives, fled Paris, all quick like, and took refuge in the countryside until fighting had simmered down in town and they were guaranteed a safe return.


Needless to say, this traumatic series of events (and related fears) stayed with Louis XIV for the rest of his life. He vowed never to let anyone doubt his absolute - God Given - authority ever again.

Hey, what can P'Niche say? That childhood trauma stays with you!


Now, it came to pass that Mazarin... came to pass.

Upon this passing, Louis XIV decided to really take that absolute authority into his own hands - with a continued distrust of Paris and then aristocrats therein.

Absolute Power? Yes. But, how about a little help from my friends?

Louis XIV surrounded himself with some of the greatest minds of the time.

From stage left enters Nicolas Fouquet. By 1661, he was installed as the Minister of Finance to France - and had himself become the wealthiest man in the country.

What could go wrong for Fouquet? Right? Uhm, right?!


With all of his extra cash, Fouquet hired court architect, Louis Le Vau, royal Gardner, André Le Nôtre, and royal painter, Charles Le Brun, to design the palace of his dreams - Château Vaux-le-Vicomte. Located in Maincy about 55 kilometers (34 miles) southeast of Paris, it was easy to get to -"welcome to my crib..."

For the "Housewarming party!"


Looks like Nicky F didn't really read the room before the (over 1,000) invites were sent.

The fête was actually held in honor of the king - food by "celebrity chef" of the time, chef Vatel, whimsical ballets, cascading fountains, and fireworks - it was a night like none other! But wait, how did this Fouquet become wealthier than the King and able to afford this spectacular soirée?

Yeah, Louis XIV was wondering the same thing...


Seething with jealousy over Fouquet's ostentatious display of wealth - he had him thrown into "le clink" by his Musketeers.

Needless to say, guests were shocked - notably Voltaire, who was quoted, "at 6:00pm, Fouquet was greater than the King - at 2:00am, he was nobody!" Uh oh.

Using the reasoning that Fouquet had built an island fortress and a private army (thereby perhaps trying to one day rebel against the king's absolute authority), Louis XIV had Fouquet imprisoned for the rest of this life. Quel Bummer!

Ok, cool story, but what does this have to do with Versailles? Wait for it, P'Nicher...


Louis XIV was so jealous (and fearful of revolt and overthrow) that he hired Fouquet's "holy trinity of design" to create his own center of power away - from the spying eyes and dangers of Paris - at his father's hunting lodge at Versailles.

As one does.

Now, we will continue this tale in the next post as there is sooooo much more to write about Louis XIV's impact on the Palace of Versailles and its surrounding areas.


In the meantime, you might consider reading the novel, "Before Versailles" by Karen Koen.

We will cover this book in our book club, the Parisian Page Turners, a historical fiction telling of Louis XIV and the events leading up to the development of Versailles.

If you want to join us, please check out the Parisian Page Turners for more details.

All are welcome!

What do you think, P'Nicher? Ready to continue our royal-tastic journey through history and Versailles? We hope you 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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