We know the Palace of Versailles as the iconic French castle — immortalized in pop culture as Marie Antoinette's gilded stomping ground for lavish parties, fashion debuts and other debaucheries.
The landmark, which began as a smaller hunting lodge, saw the reign of four kings, which spanned more than a century. While French historians and locals smirk at the sensationalized rumors behind Château du Versailles and its royal occupants, the site is not without its secrets and controversies.
The kings' mistresses (Louis XIII – Louis XV) are portrayed as outcasts in modern films like Sophia Coppola's, Marie Antoinette. In reality, they had their own luxury apartment in the palace, fit with a private stairway the king could discreetly access.
Marie Antoinette would often retreat to Petit Trianon, her private home a few minutes from the main palace. There, she would lounge in a pastel blue salon with sliding walls that could be lowered for sunlight, and raised to prevent her fans or enemies from snooping.
We were allowed to explore the prohibited areas of Versailles, along with historian and research director, Mathieu Da Vinha. Da Vinha gave us the scoop on the more confidential, dark details of this historic gem.