The Master of VersaillesThe enchanting chateau of the kings youth becamethe official residence of the court and governmentof France on May 6, 1682. By providing enoughspace to house the courtiers, the chateau and itsoutbuildings helped to domesticate the nobility.Under the kings ever watchful eye, great lords nolonger plotted—they remained with the army or atcourt, ready to please and serve. Intimidating,majestic, and fully informed by his spies, the kingcontrolled everything. If he was heard to say ofyou, "I know him not," you were doomed forever.
The Sun MythLouis XIV chose the sun as his emblem. The sun wasassociated with Apollo, god of peace and arts, and wasalso the heavenly body which gave life to all things,regulating everything as it rose and set. Like Apollo, thewarrior-king Louis XIV brought peace, was a patron ofthe arts, and dispensed his bounty. The regularity of hiswork habits and his ritual risings and retirings (levee andcouchee) were another point of solar comparison.Throughout Versailles, decoration combines images andattributes of Apollo (laurel, lyre, tripod) with the kingsportraits and emblems (the double LL, the royal crown,the sceptre and hand of justice). The Apollo Salon is themain room of the Grand Apartment because it wasoriginally the monarchs state chamber. The path of thesun is also traced in the layout of the gardens.
Levee8.30 am: It is time, Sire,declares the First Valet deChambre, waking the king. Thelevee, or ceremonial rising, thusbegins. Doctors, family and a fewfavoured friends successivelyenter the Kings Bedchamberwhere he is washed, combed,andÑevery other dayÑshaven.The Officers of the Chamber andthe Wardrobe then enter in turnfor full levee, during which theking is dressed and has abreakfast of broth. The mostimportant officials of thekingdom are admitted; it isestimated that the usual numberof people attending numberedone hundred, all male.
Council11 a m : R e t u r n i n g t o h i sapartments, the king holdscouncil in his cabinet. Sundaysand Wednesdays are devoted toCouncils of State; on Tuesdaysand Saturdays, finances aredealt with; Mondays, Thursdaysand Fridays, another Council ofState might replace a DispatchCouncil (domestic affairs) orReligious Council, or perhapsthe king will decide to focus onhis building programme. Fiveor six ministers usually advisethe monarch who speaks little,listens a great deal, and alwaysdecides.
LEtat, cest moiLouis XIV immersed himself completely in what hecalled the trade of kingship, identifying himselftotally with the state in the famous phrase, I am theState. Devoting himself to his people, he puthimself constantly on public show—Versailles wasopen to everyone, not just courtiers. Access to themonarch was governed by court ceremonial, andthe immutable rites of the Sun Kings day drove theentire court mechanism. Elsewhere, the wheels ofthe new administration established during the earlypart of the reign ran smoothly: at the centre, kingand council decided; in the provinces, intendantsexecuted his orders.
Supper10 pm: A crowd fills the antechamber of the KingsSuite to witness this public supper. The king isjoined at table by the princes and princesses of theroyal family. Once the meal is over, the king returnsto his bedchamber to say goodnight ladies thenretires to his cabinet where he can indulge inconversation with his close acquaintances.
Louis’ sister-in-law wrote this about his dining:“I have often seen the King eat four plates of soupOf different kinds, a whole pheasant, a partridge,A large plate of salad, two thick slices of ham, aDish of mutton in a garlic-flavored sauce, a platefulOf pastries and then fruit and hard-boiled eggs. BothThe King and Monsieur are exceedingly fond ofHardboiled eggs.
The Duc de Bourgogne(the Dauphine’s son) had his twoBrothers had been taught the polite innovation of using aFork while eating but when they were invited to the King’sTable at supper, he would have none of it and forbade themTo use such a tool. He would never have had occasion toReproach me in that matter, for I have never in my life usedAnything to eat with but my knife and my fingers
The Most Christian KingMonarch by divine right, the kingwas Gods lieutenant on earth.During his coronation, he swore todefend the Catholic faith. Tohonour this oath and preserve thereligious unity of his kingdom,Louis XIV launched the struggleagainst Jansenists at the Port-Royal monastery, and persecutedProtestants. Forced conversionsand the emigration of 200,000Protestants ultimately led him in1685 to rescind of the Edict ofNantes (which had decreedreligious tolerance).
Promenade or Hunting2 pm: The king always announces the afternoonprogramme in the morning. If he has decided on apromenade, it might be taken on foot in the gardensor in a carriage with ladies. On the other hand,hunting activities the Bourbons favourite pastimewill take place on the grounds (if the king goesshooting) or in the surrounding forests (riding tohounds).
800 hectares (2,000 acres) ofgrounds20 kilometres (12 miles) of roads46 kilometres (27 miles) of trellises200,000 trees210,000 flowers planted every year132 kilometres (80 miles) of rows oftrees23 hectares (55 acres): surface areaof the Grand Canal5.57 kilometres (3.3 miles):perimeter of the Grand Canal
20 kilometres (12 miles) of enclosing walls50 fountains620 fountain nozzles35 kilometres (21 miles) of water conduits3,600 cubic meters per hour: water consumedduring Full Play of Fountains11 hectares (26 acres) of roof51,210 square meters of floors
2,153 windows700 rooms67 staircases6,000 paintings1,500 drawings and 15,000 engravings2,100 sculptures5,000 items of furniture and objets dart150 varieties of apple and peach trees in theVegetable Garden