This anniversary year is an invitation to revisit the long history of the Palace and its Estate.
1623: The Birth of a Myth Named Versailles
Though Henry IV appreciated the game-rich forests of the modest hamlet of Versailles, it was his son, Louis XIII, who selected this location for a hunting lodge that he took full ownership of in 1623. A few years later, he had a grander palace built on the site of the pavilion. This palace, more comfortable and better decorated, was more fitting for prerogatives of the royal office. It was in this palace that the future Louis XIV, still a child, spent a few nights around 1640.
Needless to say, we have the Sun King to thank for the Palace we see today. To show the magnificence of his reign to all Europe, in 1661 Louis XIV took his father’s modest palace and transformed it into one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. He installed his Court there in 1682. His successors, Louis XV and Louis XVI, remained very attached to this location.
In the 19th century, despite the upheavals of several successive regimes in France, Versailles remained a powerful political symbol. Emptied of its furniture since the Revolution, in 1837 Louis-Philippe transformed it into a museum “dedicated to all the glories of France.” The current purpose of the palace thus defined, Versailles continued to play its role in the history of the 19th and 20th centuries, from the proclamation of the German Empire in 1871, to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. In addition, we must not forget Rockefeller’s donation that helped save and preserve the Estate in the 1920s.
A renovated Gallery of the History of the Palace
In honor of this exceptional anniversary, the museum is currently undertaking a complete renovation of the Gallery of the History of the Palace, which will reopen to the public in September 2023. This gallery will serve as an introduction to a visit to the Palace, covering four centuries of the history of Versailles, tracing, up to today, the transformations of a palace in continuous flux. The new layout, rich in artworks and objets d’art and complete with a digital interface, will allow the visitor to peek into the splendors of a bygone Versailles, and to better understand the architectural masterpiece that we know today.