Since the late 19th century the Palace of Versailles has become an important venue for official and diplomatic receptions in France.
There have been various important visits to Versailles which have gone down in history, including those of Queen Victoria in 1855, Tsar Nicholas II in 1896 and King George VI in 1938. The Palace remains a cultural emblem of France.
Here, in April 1957, President René Coty received the young queen of England, Elizabeth II, on her first official visit to France. The sovereign was welcomed to Versailles by the Prefect and Head Curator of the Palace, Gérald Van der Kemp, and visited the State Apartments before attending lunch in the Hall of Mirrors. She also inaugurated the Royal Opera House, which had been restored for the occasion with her support.
During the Fifth Republic the Palace of Versailles, on the initiative of General de Gaulle, became the preferred venue for receiving foreign guests of the presidency or the Republic. On 26 May 1961, the General solemnly received Baudouin the new King of the Belgians and his wife, Queen Fabiola, followed a week later by President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie Kennedy.
In 1963 General de Gaulle commissioned the full restoration of the Grand Trianon for receiving and hosting prestigious guests of the Republic. An apartment reserved for foreign heads of state and their spouses was created in the former Empress’s Apartment in the South Wing, which had been extended by the apartment once belonging to King Louis-Philippe. At the other end, General de Gaulle refurbished the Trianon-sous-Bois wing to create a presidential residence. The new apartments were inaugurated on 10 June 1966.
After being used frequently in the 1960s and 1970s, the Grand Trianon was slowly but surely abandoned as a place for official receptions, although President François Mitterrand did use it for the G7 summit in 1982. President Jacques Chirac decided to open Trianon-sous-Bois to the public in 1999, and in 2009 President Nicolas Sarkozy gave the spaces to the estate of Versailles, which has managed them ever since.