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HistoryVersailles through the centuries

The Grand Divertissement Royal

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18 July 1668

The Grand Divertissement Royal, the second festivity of Louis XIV at Versailles, was organised to celebrate the glory of the king after the Peace Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. This treaty marked the incorporation of several Flemish cities into France (Lille, Douai, Dunkirk, etc.). It was the most sumptuous of all those organised by Louis XIV.

To celebrate his victory over Spain, Louis XIV decided to organise a celebration on the scale of this event. He spent on it the extravagant sum of 117,000 livres, one third of what was spent on Versailles in 1668! Moreover, he wanted an event very different from the one held in 1664: held in summer, it was to last just one day and to have no special theme, but to be a promenade full of pomp and glory and filled with surprises.

After arriving from Saint-Germain, the king opened his entertainment at the end of the day with a visit to his latest achievement: the Dragon pool and fountain, its high spout the most powerful in the gardens. He then invited the guests to a splendid collation in the Star Grove. Sideboards and buffets piled with mountains of fruits and meats and vases of liqueurs composed the decor.

After the collation, the Court set off in carriages and sedan chairs to the crossroads of the future Saturn Fountain to attend the first presentation of George Dandin by Molière. The play was performed in the trompe l’œil theatre designed by Vigarani. Lit up by 32 crystal chandeliers, it was hung with tapestries and roofed by a blue canvas cloth with a fleur-de-lys pattern.

The Court then attended a feast organised to the right of the future Flora Fountain, in a large octagonal open-air room with walls of trellis. In the centre of a table throned a large buffet adorned with a fountain and silver cutlery. The feast was followed by a ball organised in a room installed near the future Ceres Fountain. Also octagonal in shape, the room was reached through a gallery of greenery closed by a rockery grotto. Designed by Le Vau, it seemed to be covered in marble and porphyry. 

The festivities ended with splendid fireworks display. From the far end of the grand perspective, the Château could be seen lit up from the inside, preceded along the Latona Parterre and the Green Carpet by illuminated statues and painted vases. The fairytale effect was complete!

This extravagant celebration truly marks the high-water mark of baroque festivities, both in its staging and its decors. Above all, it marked the growing interest of the king in Versailles. The place would soon turn from entertainment to government.

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