Versailles - Journey Through Time - Part IV
We are still at Versailles on our P'Niche Time Travel Machine adventures. We started with Louis XIII. We breezed through the first part of Louis XIV's reign, as well as the main construction of Versailles under his Sun King reign. We now arrive at Louis XV, just after his ascension to the throne in 1715...
Not sharing quite the same level of distrust for Paris as Louis XIV, Louis XV still decided to quit Versailles for Vincennes in 1715.
That said, in order to avoid the neglect that the rest of the palace was seeing, the Governor of the Estate ensured that the Grandes Eaux Fountain Displays were run each fortnight to maintain the system.
The Versailles Palace was not completely abandoned, however. Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, actually visited and stayed there as quite the royal guest.
Our man Pete had a passion for all things French and as such, made royal visits to various other palaces, factories, churches, academies, libraries, churches, artists, etc.
He and his crew made sure to take home plenty of souvenirs - many of them being diplomatic gifts and objets d'art offered by the French government.
Perhaps fueled by curiosity of Peter the Great's Versailles passions (or perhaps wishing to complete the many projects left unfinished by his great grandfather, Louis XIV), Louis XV and his court returned to Versailles in June 1722.
While Louis XV did share some of his predecessor's passions for the arts and culture, he was even more thirsty for knowledge. He set about enhancing the smaller and more intimate spaces in which he, and those he chose to include, could have many riveting and deep intellectual conversations.
A bit more introverted than the Sun King, Louis XV decided to increase the number of smaller chambers and antechambers in the palace, where he could maintain a better balance of privacy and intimacy.
Sometimes he even ventured back to the Palace of Fontainebleau, Marly, and Compiègne with his select crew of courtiers for diversion, entertainment - and enlightenment.
Oh to be invited to those soirées!
Needless to say, Louis XV's contributions to Versailles could never match those of Louis XIV.
That said, during his reign, wonderful additions were made. In addition to refurbishing his own grand apartments, for example, a salon was carved out on the first floor. Gorgeously appointed, the Salon of Abundance is an absolute showcase of wealth and grandeur.
Another glorious addition was the Royal Opera at the northern wing of the palace. Sometimes called the Théâtre Gabriel, this moniker might be in homage to the opera's designer, Ange-Jacques Gabriel.
Augustin Pajou's interior design of the space is constructed nearly entirely of wood. While the wood is painted to look like marble, the construction lends itself to opera house's wonderful acoustics.
Can you imagine the heavenly sound?!
Pssst - Mozart actually performed in this Royal Opera as a child prodigy!
Not only that, on May 16, 1770, the Opera was host to the celebration of the marriage of the Dauphin (the future Louis XVI) to none other than Marie Antoinette. Lully's opera, Persée, was the musical performance of the lavish event.
We will certainly discuss more of these royals, and we hope you subscribe to join us back here in the Parisian Niche...
On the exterior, Louis XV focused mainly on botany, with the construction of les Jardins Botaniques (that's the Botanical Gardens to you and me).
Nearly an afterthought, during this time, le Bassin de Neptune was also designed and built, continuing the royal fascination of Greek mythology, power, and grace.
While the largest and grandest fountain in the gardens, Louis' thoughts were elsewhere...
Perhaps Louis XV was more interested in a different *ahem* garden.
Louis XV's largest contribution to Versailles was the construction of le Petit Trianon. Designed, again, by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, this time in the popular Greek style, le Petit Trianon is located to the southeast side of the actual palace, and was meant to be a retreat for his long term mistress, Madame de Pompadour.
Sadly, Madame de Pompadour passed away four years before the completion of this architectural gem.
While many vied to replace this mistress' place in Louis XV's *ahem* heart, it was the stunning and clever Madame du Barry who succeeded, before her untimely exit from court, just before the King's passing.
Marie Antoinette also used Le Petit Trianon as one of her many royal escapes - more on that later...
Hey, any more spare palaces laying around to give a lady? P'Niche is looking for a place to park for her summer holiday...
In an unfortunate turn of events at Trianon,
on April 26, 1774, Louis XV, Madame du Barry, and a few of their inner circle went to le Petit Trianon for an ill-fated petit fête.
Quickly, Louis XV began to feel unwell, but kept his plans for the hunt. By dinner (which he skipped), it was clear he was truly unwell. Immediately, the royal surgeon, La Martinière, was summoned...
Quickly relocated back to the main palace, with the surgeon noting "Versailles is the place to be ill," Madame du Barry was sent away from court and the King diagnosed with the dreaded smallpox.
Within the bedchamber of his private apartment, Louis XV passed on May 10, 1774 at the age of 64, ending a lengthy reign of 59 years.
Louis “the Beloved” XV died an unpopular king (despite the nickname referring to the many *ahem* gardens he visited.)
Upon his passing, immediate cries of "The King is Dead - Long Live the King!" were heard on the ground floor of Versailles, ushering in the reign of the newly appointed King Louis XVI, who immediately fell to his knees and declared (with his wife, Marie Antoinette by his side) "O God, guide us, protect us! We are too young to reign!"
King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette left indelible fingerprints on Versailles, the monarchies of France and Europe, and the freedom of the United States of America (Merci, bestie!).
Through criticisms (both justified and mixed with a whole lot of Revolutionary "fake news"), what happens to Versailles next is truly astounding.
Grab some chocolate truffles (Madame de Pompadour's favorite treat) for the road and jump back into the P'Niche Time Machine - onward we will continue to the next post!
In the meantime, you might consider reading "The Sisters of Versailles" by Sally Christie.
This is the first in a trilogy of books about (you guessed it) sisters - who must all compete for the love of the king. The read is based on the true story of the ladies who got to Louis XV before Madame du Barry. This sounds like a deliciously royal romp...
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 fast forward to the court of Louis XVI? We hope you join us in our next post and stop in the P'Niche Time Machine, "As the Palace Turns..." et à bientôt!