7 Secrets of the Palace of Versailles

Secrets of the Palace of Versailles
Photo: Daniel R. Haug/Getty Images

Once a humble hunting lodge, the opulent Palace of Versailles is now a magnificent testament to the lavishness of French royalty — as well as a symbol of the inequality that incited the French Revolution.

King Louis XIV (the "Sun King" of France) transformed this rural stretch of Île-de-France into a grand palace in 1682, when he relocated the French government. Yet its role as a royal residence was short-lived: after only two more kings (Louis XV and XVI), the revolution swept the nation. Versailles ceased to be a permanent palace for the French monarchy, which was done away with altogether in 1792.

Despite centuries of turmoil, the palace is now a well-preserved World Heritage site visited by millions. Travelers from across the globe flock to see Versailles' legendary gardens, the Hall of Mirrors, and quirky Queen's Hamlet.

Like many great palaces, however, the glittering gold often serves to disguise intrigue. On a typical tour of the Palace of Versaille, facts and dates can overwhelm visitors, but we've picked out some of our favorite tidbits that make the most famous landmark in France come alive.

It's the world's largest royal domain.

To be clear, Versailles is not the world's largest palace. But it sprawls across 2,014 acres, giving it this particular distinction. The palace itself is still a massive 721,206 feet of space.

Louis XIV really liked a good time.

French royalty put great effort into merrymaking, which included not only the grand balls and concerts that you would expect, but also gambling, operas, fireworks, and light shows. The grandiose performances and events were meant to impress the King's court, and indeed, all of Europe.

Even the farm animals were (and still are) treated like royalty.

Marie-Antoinette attempted to create a version of French country village life within Versailles. You can see this at the Hameau de la Reine at Le Petit Trianon, where there's a very lucky group of cows, chickens, pigs, goats, and donkeys who have never known anything but a royal lifestyle.

Going to sleep was a ceremonial affair.

King Louis XIV, XV, and XVI all had courtiers attend twice-daily ceremonies in the King's bedroom. Here, they would watch him wake, as well as send him off to sleep.

Marie-Antoinette had her own village.

Built in 1783 to allow Queen Marie-Antoinette to escape the rigors of formal court life at Versailles, her little hamlet had everything from a billiards room to a farm, barn, and dairy.

A German emperor was announced in the Hall of Mirrors.

After an 1871 defeat by Prussia, France was humiliated when Kaiser Wilhelm I was hailed as the emperor of Germany within the Hall of Mirrors: one of Versailles' most famous rooms, with several glittering chandeliers, 357 individual mirrors, and 30 tableaux that depicted the achievements of Louis XIV.

You may have missed the new coach gallery.

In May 2016, a restored collection of carriages (think: wood carvings and gold accents) was unveiled at the King's Great Stables. You can even see the carriage from Napoleon I's marriage and the small coaches that belonged to Marie-Antoinette.

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