In his work How to show the gardens of Versailles, Louis XIV leads us around the groves and fountains of his Palace. Seven versions were created between 1689 and 1705, including some written in his own hand.
With How to show the gardens of Versailles in 1704, Louis XIV wrote not just a guide, but a true itinerary through the gardens of the Palace of Versailles.
Historians are still uncertain as to the intended use of this “manual”, which was not destined for publication. Was it written for official receptions? Was it a memo for the fountain engineers so that they knew which fountains to put into action? Was it for his own personal use, when he was crippled by intense pain in his joints due to gout and had to be pushed about in a wheeled chair? The manuscripts were written fairly late in his reign. There are seven versions dating from between 1689 and 1705, conserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Palace of Versailles. Some were written in the king’s own hand, others by one of his secretaries and corrected by the sovereign.
There is little difference in the itinerary from one version to another, which covers a distance of 4 to 8 km depending on the destination. If the walker went to the Menagerie or Trianon, the expedition was longer. Although the gardens have undergone several changes since their creation, it is still possible today to follow the footsteps of the Sun King. “We shall stop to view the South Parterre as we travel in the direction of the balustrade of the Orangery, from where we shall see the Orangery parterre and the Lake of the Swiss Guards,” he wrote.
Visitors can enjoy discovering the different views from various locations, some of which are still famous today, including the Water Parterre, the South Parterre, the Orangery, Latona’s fountain and the Flora and Ceres Fountains.
Life at Court
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