The first of its kind in Versailles, the sumptuous reception of the Doge of Genoa in the Hall of Mirrors by Louis XIV demonstrated the new political dimension given to the Château. The king was then at the summit of his glory and power.
The Republic of Genoa in the 17th century was no longer the maritime and trading power it had been. To preserve its independence from Savoy and especially France, it had to remain an ally of Spain. So it agreed to build four galleys for its ally. Irritated by this provocation, the humiliating treatment inflicted on his envoy Pidou de Saint-Olon and the refusal of the Republic to let French troops pass through its territory, Louis XIV sent it an ultimatum. A squadron commanded by the Marquis de Seignelay et Duquesne was sent in May 1684 to demand the handover of the four galleys and the sending of ambassadors to Versailles to apologise. When it refused, Genoa was bombarded for ten days, receiving 14,000 bombs and cannonballs! Half of the city was destroyed. It was forced to comply.
To mask the humiliating nature of its mission, the Republic decided to send the Doge in person and with a large retinue. The decision was exceptional because the constitution forbade the Doge from leaving the city or face being ousted. On 15 May 1685, Francesco Mario Lercaro made his solemn entry into the Hall of Mirrors, dressed in red velvet and flanked by four senators dressed in black. He bowed before the king who was standing on a platform at the end of the Hall. To impress his host, Louis XIV was surrounded by his splendid furniture in solid silver!
After the formal apologies, the Doge was taken on a visit around Versailles for ten days. He was shown the grand apartments, the gardens, the animals of the Menagerie, the Grand Canal and Trianon. After seeing all these splendours, he declared ironically: “A year ago were in Hell, and now we have emerged from Paradise!” He attended the king’s levee on 23 May and took his leave on 26 May. Louis XIV gave him a box covered with magnificent portraits and Gobelins tapestries. The four senators received their portrait enriched with diamonds! Pomp and munificence as a political and diplomatic instrument!
The reception had a great impact in Europe: France became the power to be defeated. A new war was prepared, the war of the League of Augsburg, during which the solid silver furniture was melted down…