The history of Versailles is associated with the history of three French Kings. Sun King, the almighty French King, reigned from 1648 until 1715. He commissioned Versailles Palace and moved his court from Paris to Versailles in 1682. The representation of the Palace in 1668 by Pierre Patel, with the newly designed gardens by Le Notre and the older Louis XIII castle, helps us understand the stunning work that was ordered by Sun King and accomplished over fifty years. Until his death in 1715, Versailles remained the heart of the most powerful kingdom of Europe. His two successors, Louis XV and Louis XVI ruled France from Versailles until 1789 when the revolution put an end to the glorious history of the palace.
Louis XIII, King of France since 1610, commissioned in 1624 a hunting lodge in the village of Versailles near Paris. In 1661, his son, King Louis XIV, also named Sun King, commissioned the design of the great Versailles Gardens.
Between 1668 and 1690, Architects Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin Mansard, his successor, substancially enlarged and embellished the Palace of Versailles. Gardener Andre Le Notre laid out the french style park starting in 1661. Charles Le Brun designed the paintings on the walls and ceilings and many of the park sculptures. In 1685, 36 000 people and 6 000 horses were working on the construction of the 500 meters long Palace. It took fifty years altogether to build Versailles Palace. Sun King reigned 72 years from 1643 to 1715. Read article on a day in the life of Louis XIV.
The Palace of Versailles, including the famous Hall of Mirrors, has been imitated many times by monarchs in Europe during the 18th century. Schonbrunn (picture) in Vienna, Peterhof (picture) in Saint Petersbourg and Caserte (picture) in Italy are the most famous imitations of Versailles.
Sun King commissionned the Grand Trianon in 1687 for his mistress, Madame de Montespan (picture). Louis XV (picture), Sun King's successor, commissionned the Petit Trianon in 1762. His successor, Louis XVI, offered it to his wife Marie Antoinette (picture), Princess of Austria.
King Louis XVI, Queen Marie-Antoinette and the entire court abruptly left Versailles on October 6th 1789 at the outset of the French Revolution (read details). That was the definitive end of Versailles as the palace of the French monarchy.
Louis XIV, France's Sun King, had the longest reign in European history (1643-1715). The King lived so long for the time that he was succeeded by his great grandson Louis XV.
During his reign, the King brought absolute monarchy to its height, established a glittering court at Versailles, and fought most of the other European countries in four wars.
The early part of his reign (1643-61), while Louis was young, was dominated by the chief minister Cardinal Mazarin. In the middle period (1661-85), Louis reigned personally and innovatively, but the very last years of his personal rule (1685-1715) were beset by wars, cold winters and famine.
The legacy of this time includes some of the most remarkable monuments in France and a large part of the French classical literature with writers such as Moliere, Racine, Corneille and La Fontaine. The King had a special taste for the arts and detected the best artists of his time.
From Paris to Versailles, take the train at Gare Saint-Lazare to Versailles Rive Droite station or at Montparnasse to Versailles Chantier station (Count half an hour from Paris plus twenty minutes walk). Alternatively, discover the Palace of Versailles on a relaxing coach tour.
More top Paris monuments.