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1682 Versailles, capital of the kingdom



6 May 1682

Announced in 1678, Versailles officially became the seat of the government on 6 May 1682. This decision made it the capital of the kingdom until 1789. In particular, it confirmed the attachment of the king to Versailles, to the great annoyance of Colbert who wanted Paris to continue to remain the capital. The Versailles construction project was about to begin!

“He loved this house with a boundless passion”, noted the Marquis de Sourches about Versailles in 1682. The fact is that Louis XIV did not like Paris! Since his childhood, he had feared this city from which he had had to flee suddenly in 1649 to escape the Fronde rebellion. Although Colbert had refurbished the Louvre and Tuileries palaces, the king felt well only in Versailles. Bare of any construction − except the modest village he had razed to the ground − he had full scope for his taste for building on an ambitious scale. Apart from a vast palace and splendid gardens, he could build a modern town with straight, wide and airy streets, the complete opposite of unhealthy Paris, cramped within its walls. His decision was taken: in June 1678 he announced his intention of transferring the government to Versailles in 1682.

The king was then aged 40, at the apex of his power: he was about to sign the Treaty of Nimègue with Holland. From 1678 to 1682, Louis XIV was to build here more than in 20 years of the royal presence! To house the government and his family, he ordered Hardouin-Mansart to build the Ministries wing (1678-79) and the South wing (1678-82), followed by the Orangerie. The marble court was transformed and the Hall of Mirrors was built. 1678 also marked the digging out of the Swiss Ornamental Lake to provide earth for the laying out of a vast vegetable garden nearby, entrusted to La Quintinie.

The work was pursued relentlessly: in 1679, Mansart began the construction of the Grand and Little Stables. In 1680, Le Nôtre redesigned the grand perspective of the gardens by laying down the Green Carpet. To house the king’s domestic staff, the Grand Commun was built in 1682. Louis XIV wanted more and on a grand scale: he decided on the construction of a new chapel (1689-1709). 1683 saw the appointment of a new Superintendent for his buildings and in 1685 the North wing was built to house the Court. Over 36,000 workmen were then busy on the Versailles site. Considerable sums were allocated to produce the Versailles that we know. These were the consequences of 1682.

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