The reign of Louis XIII
- Day of the Dupes, 1630
10 and 11 November 1630
This event was a political and diplomatic turning point in the reign of King Louis XIII and the first major event in the history of France to take place at Versailles. The Day of the Dupes – which in fact took place over two days – brought Marie de’ Medici and Cardinal Richelieu head to head. Contrary to what everyone expected, it was the cardinal who triumphed.
The reign of Louis XIV
- Versailles, “capital” of the kingdom, 1682
- The party of the Delights of the Enchanted Island
- The Great Royal Entertainment
- Reception of the Doge of Genoa, 1685
- Reception of the Ambassador of Siam, 1686
- Marriage of the Duke of Burgundy to Marie-Adélaïde, 1697
- The Duke of Anjou, King of Spain, 1700
- Reception of the Ambassadors of Persia, 1715
- Death of Louis XIV, 1715
6 May 1682
The establishment of the Court and the seat of power in Versailles had been underway since 1677, when the works on the site were sped up and the king doubled up state services between Paris and Versailles. On 6 May 1682, Versailles became the headquarters of the government. Athough Paris never ceased to be the official capital, the decision made Versailles the de facto centre of the kingdom until 1789. Above all, and to the great dismay of Colbert, who wanted the king and his court to stay in Paris, the move confirmed to the king just how much he liked Versailles. The works on Versailles were only just beginning.
7-13 May 1664
This was the first grand party given in Versailles by Louis XIV, and was also the first time, under the aegis of the king, that Molière and Lully collaborated. These six days of spectacular celebrations firmly established the legend of Versailles as a festive venue.
18 July 1668
The second party given by Louis XIV in Versailles, the Great Royal Entertainment, celebrated the king’s glory after the peace treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. This treaty established the annexation by France of several Flemish territories (including Lille, Douai and Dunkirk).
15 May 1685
The lavish reception for the Doge of Genoa, held by Louis XIV in the Hall of Mirrors, was the first of its kind at Versailles. It demonstrated the political dimension the Palace had taken on under the king at the height of his power and glory.
1 September 1686
Although held in a more peaceful context than the one put on for the Doge of Genoa, the reception of the ambassadors of King Narai of Siam was intended to push France’s influence aggressively in the East. In his battle against the Dutch, Louis XIV was aiming to win over a new ally.
At the end of the War of the League of Augsburg (1689-1697), France and the Duchy of Savoy sealed their reconciliation with a new dynastic union: the marriage of the Duke of Burgundy to Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy. The only one of their children to survive the measles epidemic that killed the duke and duchess too was the future Louis XV.
12 November 1700
The Duke of Anjou, Louis XIV’s second-eldest grandson, became Philip V of Spain in 1700. To the great displeasure of Austria, the Bourbon dynasty now sat on the Habsburgs' former throne. A new war with France was brewing.
19 February 1715
Following the visits of the ambassadors of Genoa and Siam, the embassy of Persia was the third and final one to be received by Louis XIV in the Hall of Mirrors. The king had organised the ultimate demonstration of his splendour, but the embassy turned out to rather a rather puzzling one…
1st September 1715
After a week of agonising pain, four days before his 77th birthday, Louis XIV died in Versailles just after 8.15 am on 1 September. He had been king for 72 years, the longest reign in the history of France. A new reign, which would be almost as long (1715-1774), was about to begin: that of Louis XV.
The reign of Louis XV
- Visit from Peter the Great, 1717
- The Court returns to Versailles, 1722
- Visit from the ambassadors of the Sublime Porte, 1742
- The Yew Ball
- Assassination attempt on King Louis XV by Damiens, 1757
- Visit from the child Mozart, 1763-1764
- Marriage of the Dauphin Louis and Marie-Antoinette
- Death of Louis XV, 1774
24-27 May – 3-12 June 1717
Peter the Great (1672-1725) was heir of the Romanov dynasty and had already been governing Russia for 28 years when he visited France in 1717. A great reformer, in the first few years of his reign he had travelled across Europe looking for inspiration for his grand projects, but France had refused to receive him, for diplomatic reasons. This time, it was Versailles that inspired him.
15 June 1722
After seven years away from Versailles, the Court returned in 1722. Louis XV, aged 12 at the time, was thrilled to go back to the palace of his great-grandfather Louis XIV, where he had been born. The Palace remained his official residence until his death in 1774.
11 January 1742
The Sublime Porte was the first embassy to be received in the Hall of Mirrors since 1715, but it was nevertheless welcomed in accordance with long-established ritual. The occasion was an important one: an alliance between France and the Ottoman Empire was at stake. The War of the Austrian Succession, fought with Austria, France’s sworn enemy, had started.
25-26 February 1745
This famous masked ball was put on for the marriage of the Dauphin, son of Louis XV, to the Infanta of Spain, Maria Teresa Rafaela, daughter of Philippe V, and marked the start of Louis XV’s love affair with the future Marquise de Pompadour. The lovers remained together thereafter.
5 January 1757
There had been no attempts to harm the sacred body of the king since the attack by Ravaillac in 1610. But in 1757, as Louis XV was leaving the Palace, a man rushed towards him and stabbed him in the side. His name was Robert-François Damiens.
24 December 1763 – 8 January 1764
The young Mozart came to Versailles during a tour of Europe with his father, Leopold, and his sister, Nannerl. His impression of the visit was mixed.
16-17 May 1770
In 1756, after three centuries of animosity, France and Austria became allies. To consolidate this diplomatic reconciliation, Louis XV and Empress Maria Theresa decided to marry their respective children. The project came to fruition approximately 12 years later with the marriage of the Duke of Berry, Dauphin of France, aged 15, to Marie-Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria, aged 14. The celebrations got underway on 16 and 17 May in Versailles.
10 May 1774
Louis XV died, aged 64, on 10 May 1774, in the bedchamber of his Private Apartment. His passing brought to an end a reign of 59 years, the longest in the history of France after that of Louis XIV. Against all expectations, Louis “the Beloved” died an unpopular king.
The reign of Louis XVI
- First visit by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, 1777
- Versailles and the United States of America, 1778-1783
- The first hot air balloon flight
- The affair of the diamond necklace, 1784-1785
- Summoning of the Estates General, 1789
- Jeu de Paume Oath, 1789
- Departure of the King, 1789
19 April – 30 May 1777
Having learned of his sister Marie-Antoinette’s profligate spending and careworn marriage, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II decided to strike out for Versailles. Besides his brotherly concerns, he also came as a knowledgeable sovereign curious to discover the kingdom of France.
21 March 1778 – 3 September 1783, from Franklin to the American Declaration of Independence
Benjamin Franklin was received by Louis XVI in 1778 and won the military support of France. That support later led to the signing of the American Declaration of Independence in Versailles in 1783.
19 September 1783
The first 'aerostatic' flight in history was an experiment carried out by the Montgolfier brothers at Versailles in 1783. At long last, man could leave the surface of the earth below.
Cardinal Rohan intended to give Marie-Antoinette a luxurious diamond necklace to regain her favour. But an imposter posing as the queen proved cleverer than the Cardinal, causing a glittering scandal.
4-5 May 1789
The political and financial situation in France had grown rather bleak, forcing Louis XVI to summon the Estates General. This assembly was composed of three estates – the clergy, nobility and commoners – who had the power to decide on the levying of new taxes and to undertake reforms in the country. The opening of the Estates General, on 5 May 1789 in Versailles, also marked the start of the French Revolution.
20 June 1789
The founding act of French democracy took place at the very beginning of the Revolution, just a stone’s throw from the monarchic seat of power. On 20 June 1789, in the Real Tennis Room, not far from the Palace of Versailles, the deputies swore never to separate until they had given France a Constitution.
6 October 1789
Having started in Versailles in May 1789, the French Revolution saw its first concrete act here in October of the same year with the departure of the king. After a century of royal residency the Versailles legend came to an end, and Paris once again became the centre of the kingdom. A new page in the history of France was being written.
The 19th century
- Creation of the Special Museum of the French School, 1797
- Visit of Pope Pius VII, 1805
- Inauguration of the historic galleries, 1837
- Visit of Queen Victoria, 1855
- Proclamation of the German Empire, 1871
- Parliamentarians at Versailles
- Birth of the Third Republic, 1875
28 January 1797
Having become a central storage depot for the arts for the Department of Seine-et-Oise in 1792, the Palace later saw the creation of a Central Museum for the arts. It was later replaced by the Special Museum of the French School, to complement the Louvre, which was to focus on foreign schools of art.
3 January 1805
Pope Pius VII came to coronate Napoleon in Notre-Dame on 2 December 1804, and he remained in Paris until April 1805. Early in the new year he set out to visit the former residence of the kings of France. A large crowd gathered to wait for him in Versailles.
10 June 1837
In 1837 Louis-Philippe, King of the French, was finally able to inaugurate the historic galleries he had wanted to install in Versailles. The day was a key event in the history of the Palace.
20 and 25 August 1855
One of Napoleon III’s greatest aims was to reconcile his country with England. During the British Queen’s visit to France he made sure she was met with an ostentatiousness not witnessed in Versailles since the Monarchy.
18 January 1871
At the end of the War of 1870, France lay defeated and invaded by its enemies. Chancellor Bismarck proclaimed the German Empire in the Hall of Mirrors. Following the humiliations meted out by Louis XIV and Napoleon I, Germany finally had its revenge.
The history of the French Parliamentary Republic is closely tied to the history of the Palace of Versailles, since all the debates of the parliamentary assemblies at the beginning of the Third Republic were held here, on this famous site dating from the Ancien Régime.
30 January 1875
After four years of uncertainty over the leadership of the country, the Third Republic was firmly instituted in Versailles in 1875. The proclamation quenched the monarchist quarrels.
The 20th century
- The Treaty of Versailles, 1919
- Royal Affairs in Versailles 1953
- State visits, 20th century
- Versailles during the Second World war
- André Malraux and the restoration of Trianon
- The Versailles summit, 1982
- The storm at Versailles, 1999
28 June 1919
After four years of devastating fighting, the First World War came to an end in 1919 in Versailles. The treaty, which represented “peace” for some and a “diktat” for others, also sowed the seeds of the Second World War, which would break out twenty years later.
Versailles and cinema
“We are told that our kings spent money without thinking,
That they took our money without taking our advice.
But when they built such marvellous works,
Were they not investing our money for the future?”
Opening words of the film by Sacha Guitry shot in the Palace of Versailles in 1953, Royal Affairs in Versailles (In French: Si Versailles m’était conté).
The French Republic in Versailles
Since the late 19th century the Palace of Versailles has become an important venue for official and diplomatic receptions in France.
In June 1940, the Wehrmacht was at the gates of the Palace of Versailles. The Palace was about to enter a troubled time which would only come to an end in August 1944, at the Liberation. What happened to the Palace and its works during those four years of occupation?
As General Gaulle once confided to André Malraux: “Versailles, it took some doing; let’s not compromise on the grandeur”. With this in mind, the Minister of Cultural Affairs took on the project of restoring the Grand Trianon between 1962 and 1966.
4-7 June 1982
In 1982 President Mitterrand, playing host to the representatives of the seven wealthiest industrialised countries, ensured the French Fifth Republic’s customary levels of splendour for the first international summit of his mandate. The summit culminated in a grand finale.
26 December 1999
In December 1999 France was hit, most unusually, by a hurricane, and the estate of Versailles suffered serious damage.