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HistoryThe big dates

The 20th Century: State Visits

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The republic at Versailles

By the second half of the 19th Century, the Palace of Versailles was quickly establishing itself as an important place for France's official diplomatic receptions.

Some major visits left a lasting impression: Queen Victoria in 1855, Tsar Nicolas II in 1896 and then King George VI in 1938. The Château still remains one of the country's cultural symbols.

In April 1957, President René Coté received the young Queen Elisabeth II of England there, as she made her first official visit to France. Welcomed to Versailles by the Palace's Prefect and Chief Curator, Gérald Van Der Kemp, the sovereign visited the Grand Apartments before the lunch that had been arranged in the Hall of Mirrors. She also inaugurated the Royal Opera, restored - with her support - for the occasion.

At General de Gaulle's initiative, under the 5th Republic, the Palace of Versailles became  the preferred  place for welcoming the foreign guests of the president of the Republic. On 26 May 1961, he solemnly received the new King of Belgium, Baudouin 1st and his wife, Queen Fabiola, then a week later, President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie Kennedy.

In 1963, General de Gaulle requested the complete restoration of the Grand Trianon, in order to receive and accommodate the Republic's distinguished guests. The apartment reserved for foreign heads of State and their partners is in the former apartment of the Empress, in the left wing of the Palace, which extends into the apartment of King Louis-Philippe. At the other end, General de Gaulle had the Trianon-sous-Bois wing converted into a Presidential Residence. It was all inaugurated on 10 June 1966.

After having been used extensively in the 1960s and 1970s, the Grand Trianon gradually dropped out of favour as a place for official receptions. Although President François Mitterrand still used 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 returned these areas to the Versailles estate, which now manages them.

 

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