On the night of the thirty-first of August, the sixth and last day of the fetes, the Court witnessed what seemed to be indeed a magic spectacle. "His Majesty," it is recorded, "coming out of the chateau at one o'clock in the morning, beneath a starless sky, suddenly beheld about him a miraculous rain of lights. Ail the parterres glittered. The grand terrace in front of the chateau was bordered by a double row of lights. The steps and railings of the horseshoe, all the walls, all the fountains, all the reservoirs, shone with myriad flames. The borders of the Grand Canal were adorned with statues and architectural decorations, behind which lights had been placed to make them transparent. The King, the Queen, and all the Court took their seats in richly ornamented gondolas. Boats filled with musicians followed them, and Echo repeated the sounds of an enchanted harmony."
Thus ended the fetes of 1674—the last of their kind that were given by Louis XIV.
The Versailles calendar of events was divided into three periods: the season of the winter carnival, the pious observances of Easter, and the summer-time festivities. Ordinarily, in the winter months, there was a hunt on foot or horseback almost every day. In the warm season the Court often took part in a promenade by boat on the Grand Canal, followed by a concert and a feast for the ladies at Trianon or at the Menagerie. Ladies were always invited in great numbers to such parties. Sometimes they walked among the orange trees or made a tour of the gardens in light carriages, or repaired to the stables to watch the trainers putting the royal mounts through their paces. And always there were games of chance, for gambling was the ruling passion of the Court.
From the record of Dangeau we read a description of a gay tournament that took place in the riding-school of the Great Stables of Versailles on two successive June days:
"The King and Mme. la Dauphine (wife of the heir to the throne) dined at an early hour, and on leaving table, the King and Monseigneur entered a carriage. Mme. la Dauphine and many ladies followed in other carriages. In the court of the ministers, they found all the cavaliers of the tournament drawn up in two lines; the pages and lackeys were there also. Monseigneur mounted a horse at the head of one company; M. le Duc de Bourbon was at the head of the other. The King took his seat in the place prepared for him.
"The cavaliers first rode round the courtyard of the chateau, passing under the windows of the young Duc de Bourgogne (grandson of the King) who was on the balcony. Then they rode out of the gate and down the Avenue de Paris, and entered the riding-school of the Great Stables by a gate made near the Kennels. After riding in procession before the raised seats of the court, they took their posts, twenty cavaliers in each corner, with their pages and grooms behind them; the drums and trumpets at the barrier. The subject of the tournament was the Wars of Granada, and the cavaliers represented the Spaniards and the Moors. Monseigneur rode a tilt with the Due de Bourbon, and Messieurs de Vendome and de Brionne rode at the same time to make the figure. . . . There were three courses run for the prize, which was won by the Prince de Lorraine. It was a sword ornamented with diamonds, and he received it from the hand of the King. After the tournament all the cavaliers conducted the King to the courtyard of the chateau, lance in hand, and the heads of the companies saluted him with their swords.
"On the fifth, a second tournament was held, and, in spite of the bad weather, the King found it more beautiful than the first. Many ladies were present. The Russian envoys, who had not seen the previous fete, occupied seats at the King's right. During a shower, the spectators retired quickly, but as soon as it had passed, all the seats were filled again. The Marquis de Plumartin won the prize. It was a sword adorned with diamonds, but more costly than that won by the Prince de Lorraine."
The Fete of Kings celebrated each year was a brilliant affair at Versailles. Then the Hall of Mirrors and Salons of War and Peace were illumined by hundreds upon hundreds of twinkling tapers, while over the floor glided a throng of slippered feet to the beat of strings and hautboys. At the suppers, which preceded and followed the dancing, seventy-two Swiss guards served the guests, each one distinguished by a ribbon corresponding with the color of the table to whose service he was assigned. It was the King's custom to retire from the revel with regal formalities at one hour after midnight. But the feasting and dancing continued many times until rosy dawn stole in the windows and paled the candle-light. Besides balls, concerts, plays, games of chance, masquerades, all the Court was invited every week—between October and Easter—to take part in the appartements or receptions given by the King. These soirees began at seven o'clock and lasted till ten. The chief diversion was card-playing. The King, the Queen and all the princes so far unbent as to play with their guests at the same tables, and move about without ceremony, conversing, listening to the music of Lully's band, watching a minuet or a gavotte, eating and drinking, or bestowing special favors upon courtiers that engaged their momentary fancy.
Sometimes the losses of the players at the tables were enormous; again, nobles counted their gains by the hundred thousands. The youthful granddaughter of the King, the Duchess of Bourgogne, lost at one time a sum equaling 600,000 francs, which her doting grandfather paid, as he also paid debts of the Duke of Bourgogne. During one night's play the King himself lost a sum totaling "many millions." On occasion the courtiers were entertained at festivities arranged for the heir to the throne, or by the cardinal that was in residence at the chateau. During masked balls held in the carnival season dancers sometimes changed their costumes two or three times in an evening—one worn under another being revealed by pulling a silken cord. Often well-tempered confusion was caused by gay subterfuges—an exchange of masks, or the imposing of one mask on another. The costumes were sumptuous beyond words. "It is impossible to witness at one time more jewelry," naively recited the Mercure in setting forth the richness of a cercle at which the Court was present in 1707.
Let us read further from the Mercure of the diversions that drove dull care away at a Court carnival: "There have been this winter five balls in five different apartments at Versailles, all so grand and so beautiful that no other royal house in the world can show the like. Entrance was given to masks only, and no persons presented themselves without being disguised, unless they were of very high rank. . . . People invent grotesque disguises, they revive old fashions, they choose the most ridiculous things, and seek to make them as amusing as possible. . . . Mgr. le Dauphin changed his disguise eight or ten times each evening. M. Berain had need of all his wit to furnish these disguises, and of all his ingenuity to get them made up, since there was so little time between one ball and another. The prince did not wish to be recognized, and all sorts of extraordinary disguises were invented for him; frequently under the figures that concealed him, one could not have told whether the person thus masked was tall or short, fat or thin. Sometimes he had double masks, and under the first a mask of wax so well made that, when he took off his first mask, people fancied they saw the natural face, and he deceived everybody. Nothing can equal the enjoyment which Mgr. le Dauphin takes in all these diversions, nor the rapidity with which he changes his disguises. He leaves all his officers without being fatigued, although he works harder at dressing and undressing himself than they do, and he danced much. This prince shows in the least things, in his horsemanship, and in the ardor with which he follows the chase, what pleasure he will take some day in commanding armies. But could one expect less from the son of Louis the Great!
"The first of the five balls," continues the correspondent, "was given by M. le Grand, in his apartments in the new wing of Versailles. The ball commenced with a masquerade. They danced a minuet and a jig; but only Mlle. de Nantes danced in the latter. Mlle. de Nantes was especially admired when she danced, and made so great an impression that people stood on chairs to see her better, Mgr. le Dauphin came to the masquerade with M. le Prince de la Roche-sur-Yon and many other notables. He was in a sedan-chair, accompanied by a number of merry-andrews and dwarfs. He changed his disguise four or five times during the ball, which lasted until four o'clock in the morning. . . . The second ball was given by Mgr. le Dauphin in the hall of his Guards, which forms the entrance to his apartments. M. le Duc gave the third, which was magnificent. Some days after it was the turn of the Cardinal de Bouillon to receive the court."
"From just before Candlemas day to Easter of the year 1700," wrote Saint-Simon, "nothing was heard of but balls and pleasures of the Court. The King gave at Versailles and Marly several masquerades, by which he was much amused under pretext of amusing the Duchesse de Bourgogne.
"No evening passed on which there was not a ball. The chancellor's wife gave one—which was a fete the most gallant and the most magnificent possible. There were different rooms for the fancy-dress ball, for the masqueraders, for a superb collation, for shops of all countries, Chinese, Japanese, etc., where many singular and beautiful things were sold, but no money taken; there were presents for the Duchesse de Bourgogne and the ladies. Everybody was especially diverted at this entertainment, which did not finish until eight o'clock in the morning. Madame de Saint-Simon and I passed the last three weeks of this time without ever seeing the day. Certain dancers were allowed to leave off dancing only at the same time as the Duchesse de Bourgogne. One morning, when I wished to escape too early, the duchesse caused me to be forbidden to pass the doors of the salon; several of us had the same fate. I was delighted when Ash Wednesday arrived, and I remained a day or two dead-beat."
The Mercure describes the fete given by the wife of the Chancellor of France at her mansion beyond the palace grounds:
"Mme. la Duchesse de Bourgogne, learning that Mme. la Chanceliere wished to give her a ball, received the proposition with much joy. Although there were but eight days in which to prepare for it, Mme. la Chanceliere resolved to give the princess in one evening all the diversions that people usually take during all the carnival period—namely, comedy, fair, and ball. When the evening came, detachments of Swiss were posted in the street and in the courtyard, with many servants of Mme. la Chanceliere, so that there was no confusion at the gates or in the court, which was brightly lighted with torches. . . . The ball-room was lighted by ten chandeliers and by magnificent gilded candelabra. At one end, on raised seats, were the musicians, hautboys and violins, in fancy dress with plumed caps. In front of the velvet-covered benches for the courtiers were three arm-chairs, one for Mme. la Duchesse de Bourgogne, and the others for Monsieur and the Madame. Beyond the ball-room, across the landing of the staircase, was another hall, brilliantly lighted, in which were hautboys and violins, and this hall was for the masks, who came in such numbers that the ball-room could not have contained them all.
". . . After remaining about an hour at the ball, Mme. la Chanceliere and the Comte de Pontchartrain conducted Mme. la Duchesse de Bourgogne into another hall, filled with lights and mirrors, where a theater had been erected to furnish the diversion of a comedy. Only about one hundred people were allowed to enter the hall of comedy, and the princes and princesses of the blood, being masked, took no rank there. Mme. la Duchesse de Bourgogne and Madame had arm-chairs in the center of the hall. The Duchesse de Bourgogne was surprised to see a splendid theater, adorned with her arms and monogram. . . . As soon as the princess was seated, Bari, the famous mountebank of Paris, came forward and asked her protection against the doctors, and having extolled the excellence of his remedies, and the marvels of his secrets, he offered to the princess as a little diversion a comedy such as they sometimes played at Paris. There was given then a little comedy which Mme. le Chanceliere had got M. Dancourt to write expressly for that fete. All the actors were from the company of the comedians of the king. They played to perfection, and received much praise. . . . At the end of the comedy, Mme. la Duchesse de Bourgogne was conducted into another hall, where a superb collation had been prepared in an ingenious manner. At one end of the hall, in a half-circle, were five booths, in which were merchants, clad in the costumes of different countries; a French pastry-cook, a seller of oranges and lemons, an Italian lemonade-seller, a seller of sweetmeats, a vendor of coffee, tea and chocolate. They were from the king's musicians, and sung their wares, accompanied by music, at the sides of the booths, and had pages to serve the guests. The booths were splendidly painted and gilded, adorned with lusters and flowers, and bore the arms and cipher of Mme. la Duchesse de Bourgogne. At the back of each booth a large mirror reflected the whole. . . . The Duchesse de Bourgogne left this hall, after the collation, delighted with all that she had seen and heard. Since the ball-room was so crowded with masks, the princess returned to the hall of comedy, where they held a smaller court ball until two o'clock, when she went to the grand ball to see the masks. She was much amused there until four in the morning. When Mme. la Chanceliere and the Comte de Pontchartrain conducted her to the foot of the staircase, she thanked them much for the pleasure they had given her. This fete brought many congratulations to Mme. la Chanceliere."
La Palatine, Duchess of Orleans, has left among her letters a description of her costume on a day of august ceremonies. "The crowd was so great," she wrote, "that we had to wait a quarter of an hour at the door of each salon before entering, and I was wearing a robe and an overskirt so intolerably heavy that I could scarcely stand erect. My costume was of gold woven with black chenille flowers, and my jewels were pearls and diamonds. Monsieur had on a coat of black velour embroidered with gold, and wore all his great diamonds. The coat of my son was embroidered with gold and a variety of other colors and it was covered with gems. The robe my daughter wore was made of green velour threaded with gold and garnished with rubies and diamonds. In her hair was an ornament designed in brilliants and sprays of rubies."
For these extraordinary functions the King and his entourage bedecked themselves with priceless ornaments. When in 1714 the Sun King received the ambassador of Siam, he chose a habit of black and gold bordered with diamonds, valued at 12,500,000 livres, or about $2,500,000. The weight was so great that he was compelled to change it soon after dinner. Besides the jewelry he wore on his own person, the royal host loaned for this event a garniture of diamonds and pearls to the Duke of Maine and another garniture of colored stones to the Count of Toulouse.
When the King of France received foreign ambassadors, or celebrated, with pomp befitting his tastes, marriages and births in the royal family, the Court, weightily, stiffly, sumptuously appareled, thronged through the Hall of Mirrors—the Grand Gallery—in spectacular defile.
These brilliant tableaux, the most brilliant of all Europe, had their source in the King's love of splendor and profusion. It was to please him that his courtiers and favorites staked fortunes at the gaming tables, outran each other in devising costly dresses, contrived novel equipages and unique dwellings. In his superb Court he found all the elements required to satisfy his pride, and glorify his reign. The Sun King was the most profligate host in all history. Determined to outdo the fabulous luxury of the feasts of Lucullus in early Roman times, and to outshine the storied splendor of Oriental princes, he entertained his Court and guests with lavish liberality, superbly indifferent to the cost of his boundless extravagance and considering not at all the day of reckoning that must come later for the Bourbon dynasty in France. To glow with commanding brilliance, like the Sun, in the center of his royal firmament, to overwhelm his subjects with his grandeur, and to dazzle the eyes of other nations—that was the ambition that Louis cherished and achieved.
THE WOMEN OF VERSAILLES
We have pictured the Sun King and his imposing Court. We have told the story of the founding and construction of his luxurious palace, and described the spectacles and entertainments that made Versailles the most brilliant spot in Europe. We have said nothing of the women of Versailles and the part they played in the life of the Court and the influence they exerted in the affairs of France. Some of these women, though occupying the Queen's apartments and sharing the crown, lived an existence of bitter disappointment and thwarted affection—Queens in name only, and serving only as mothers of princes and future monarchs. Such were Marie Therese, the heart-sick wife of Louis XIV, and Marie Leczinska, the sad consort of Louis XV. About them were many brilliant women that graced the palace with their beauty and charm and made romantic court history that the chroniclers of the time fed on eagerly, and that the world has devoured eagerly ever since. Rich were those years in intrigue and adventure, and many and rapid were the changing fortunes of favorites. No one could tell what a day might bring forth. The woman of one hour might go the next. Self-interest stimulated the ambitious seekers of favors to constant endeavor. Grim, determined strugglers for social preference frequented the salons with smiling faces that sometimes glowed with pride and satisfaction, but more often veiled rankling disappointment and carking care.
Even the great Madame de Maintenon, who successfully weathered the storms of the social struggle for so many years, once exclaimed: "I can hold out no longer. I wish that I were dead." And a short time before her demise, she observed bitterly, "One atones in full for youthful joys and gratification. I can see, as I review my life, that since I was twenty-two years of age—when my good fortune began—I have not been free from suffering for a moment; and through my life my sufferings increased."
If Madame de Maintenon confessed so much in her last days, what must the other favorites of Versailles have experienced and felt? Each wore the mask of Comedy, with Tragedy gnawing beneath. These brilliant women, who seemed at times to be so happy, were little more than slaves, and we find them disclosed in the memoirs of the time as "penitents who make their apologies to history and lay bare to future generations their miseries, vexations and the remorse of their souls." The demands of Court life were constant and relentlessly exacting. The favorites, each one striving to outdo the others, knew not, from day to day, what way their destinies were leading them.
"If," exclaimed Saint-Amand, "among these favorites of the King, there were a single one that had enjoyed her shameful triumphs in peace, that could have recalled herself happy in the midst of her luxury and splendor, one might have concluded that, from a merely human point of view, it is possible to find happiness in vice. But no; there was not even one. The Duchesse de Chateauroux and Marquise de Pompadour were no happier than the Duchesse de la Valliere and the Marquise de Montespan."
The Sun King built Versailles and established his Court there. It was the women that made the life of Versailles—and gave their lives to it. The Court was a dazzling spider's web, and many a beautiful favorite became fatally entangled in its glittering meshes.
Louis XIV, when twenty-two years of age, married Marie Therese, daughter of Philip IV of Spain. If he had been a simple, respectable young man of France, he might then have settled down and finished the story by "living happily ever after." But he was not. He was the King of France; so he pursued the royal road that his antecedents had blazed before him; and the way was made easy and pleasant for him. In treading the "primrose path of dalliance" he allowed no grass to grow under his feet.
Louis made Marie Therese his Queen and consort in 1660, and it was only a year later when his fancy was caught by the dainty and attractive little Francoise Louise La Valliere. She was scarcely more than seventeen years of age when she became the favorite of the King. She was a delicate little creature, slightly lame, but most feminine in her appeal, and she caught the King by her very girlishness, as she played like a child with him in the parks of the palace. She was a simple maid of honor to Queen Marie Therese when she first attracted the notice of the King. A few years afterward she was created a duchess and, as such, retained the royal favor for a time. Then remorse seized upon La Valliere; she took the veil, and, as Sister Louise of Mercy, entered a convent, and gave her life in religious solitude to expiate the grief that she had caused the good Queen. The atonement was only just, for Louise de Valliere had made Marie Therese suffer bitterly the tortures of jealousy and offended conjugal affection. The Queen was not a woman of unusual intelligence, but she was sensible, tactful, and had a certain native dignity that compelled respect. She was, moreover, devoutly religious and devotedly attached to her children. She shared her royal Husband's conviction as to the divine right of kings, and what he did she considered could not be wrong. Of all the women that were associated with Louis, no one more truly admired him nor was more ardently devoted to him than his Queen. When they were first married, Louis treated Marie Therese with kindly consideration. He shed tears of sympathy and anguish while she suffered in giving birth to her first child. During the following dozen years, Marie Therese bore six sons and daughters, but all were lost except the Dauphin, and he died before ascending the throne. These bereavements sank deep into her heart and left a wound there that never healed. Added to this was the spectacle that she was called on repeatedly to witness of the King's infidelities with a succession of favorites. She was compelled to take these women into her household and make companions of them, knowing the while that they were really her rivals and persecutors. She was often heard to cry out concerning one or other of the favorites, "That woman will be the death of me." La Valliere she could afford to forgive, for the first mistress paid for the brief royal favor that she enjoyed by thirty-six years of rigid and austere penitence. Other favorites, however, pursued a path of pride, lowering their heads only under the "bludgeonings of Fate." Yet most of them, while Marie Therese lived, respected and honored her and felt a certain sense of shame in her presence. The brilliant and beautiful Madame de Montespan said, some time before her scandalous relations with the King had fairly begun, "God preserve me from being the King's mistress. If I were so I should feel ashamed to face the Queen." And yet Madame de Montespan, within a short time, assumed the role of favorite, and carried it out with great pride and arrogant assurance. The conviction is forced upon us, however, by the evidence of those that witnessed her ascendancy, that Montespan frequently felt the stings of self-reproach when she met the Queen, and that her haughty bearing concealed a genuine sense of shame. In the midst of luxury, power and brilliant success she seemed at times a small and mean character in the presence of the pious Marie Therese. As Louis' infidelities increased in number, his sense of guilt toward his consort was stamped deeper on his consciousness. He endeavored to make amends by paying her marked respect and treating her at times with distinguished tenderness and consideration. But Versailles was the high seat of elaborate and elegant insincerity, and no one was deceived by the formal courtesies paid by the Sun King to his unhappy wife. The deference that he displayed toward her in public appeared to the eyes of the world to be simply a cloak for essential neglect. And she, poor creature, with all the prestige of the Queen of France, was but a pitiful thing in the presence of the King. She tried to do her best to please him. The thought of offense to the Monarch beset her with fear. The Princess Palatine wrote of her once: "When the King came to her she was so gay that people remarked it. She would laugh and twinkle and rub her little hands. She had such a love for the King that she tried to catch in his eyes every hint of the things that would give him pleasure. If he ever looked at her kindly, that day was bright." Madame De Caylus tells us that the Queen had such a dread of her royal husband and such an inborn timidity that she hardly dared speak to him. Madame de Maintenon relates that the King, having once sent for the Queen, asked Madame to accompany Her Majesty so that she might not have to appear alone in the presence of her royal husband, and that when Madame de Maintenon conducted the Queen to the door of the King's room, and there took the liberty of pushing her ahead so as to force her to enter, she observed that Marie Therese fell into such a great tremble that her very hands shook with fright. And why should not the Queen tremble with unhappy apprehension when even the greatest favorite of all, Madame de Maintenon, found nothing in the life of the Court but bitter striving and heart misery? In the very midst of her splendor she exclaimed to a friend, "If I could only make clear to you the hideous ennui that devours all of us, the troubles that fill our days! Do you not see that I am dying of sadness in the midst of a fortune that passes all imagination? I have had youth and beauty, I have sated myself with pleasure, I have had my hours of intellectual satisfaction, I have enjoyed royal favor, and yet I protest to you, my good friend, that all these conditions leave only a dreadful void."
Marie Therese took up her abode at Versailles only when the palace was pronounced complete. She entered her apartments there in 1682, and breathed her last in July of the following year. The Queen's bedroom is filled with historic memories. The walls could whisper many tragic secrets and the halls might assemble by invocation innumerable ghostly figures of fair women that once stood close to the throne, wore royal robes, and nursed breaking hearts. In the Queen's bed chamber died Marie Therese and, later, Marie Leczinska, the Queen of Louis XV. There also the Dauphiness of Bavaria and the Duchess of Burgundy passed away; and, in that chamber, nineteen princes and princesses of the royal blood were born, among whom were King Philip V of Spain and Louis XV of France. The chamber was occupied first by the pious and devoted Marie Therese; after that by the Bavarian Dauphiness, who died in 1690 at the early age of twenty-nine; then by the Duchess of Burgundy, the mother of Louis XV. She died in 1712 at the age of twenty-six. Then Mary Anne Victoire, the Infanta of Spain, occupied the apartment for a brief time; after that, in 1725, came Marie Leczinska, the wife of Louis XV, who lived there for forty-three years, during which she gave birth to ten children. And, finally, the most appealing figure of all entered that fateful apartment—she who has been characterized as "the most poetic of women, who combined in herself all majesties and all sorrows, all triumphs and all humiliations, all feminine joys and tears, she whose very name inspires the emotion, tenderness and respect of the world"—Marie Antoinette.
During the hundred years that followed the entrance of Marie Therese on the scene at Versailles, many extraordinary women came, shone and passed away. The Hall of Mirrors, had it the power to reflect the past, would afford a gallery of brilliant portraits. There would be, first, the devout Queen herself, virtuous, kind, considerate, loved by all her people and gently resigned to her fate. Then would follow a glittering train of proud and brilliant mistresses, some compelling by their beauty and gayety, others by their wit and sense. Sweet Madame de La Valliere had scarcely passed into obscurity when the haughty and imperious Marquise de Montespan assumed supremacy and became "the center of pleasures, of fortune, of hope and of terror to all that were dependent on the Court." No one could rightly claim to be an intimate of Montespan except the King, and at times he did not understand her. While apparently frank and free in her enjoyment of life and in her dealings with associates in the Court, Montespan always withheld enough to keep her best friends guessing. No one knew all her romance. She had experienced both extremes of fortune and when she gained favor with Louis she had acquired a confidence and a command of herself that influenced the King to a degree that even he would not have acknowledged. But the Court knew well the influence of Montespan and also the ministers, generals of the army and foreign ambassadors. Montespan succeeded Madame de La Valliere in favor about 1667 and she held her supremacy for ten years. Then came the turn of her fortunes, for Madame de Maintenon, fascinating in all that makes feminine charm and with an extraordinary mind in addition, supplanted Montespan and became the companion of the King until his dying day. Montespan, who had eight children by the King, left the Court in bitterness and humiliation and, like La Valliere, ended her life in a convent.
Madame de Maintenon was the most distinguished woman in the history of Versailles. As a girl, in abject poverty, she married in 1652 the good old poet Scarron. There was no love lost there. She merely took the gentle-hearted man because he offered either to pay for her entrance into a convent or to make her his wife, and she found the latter alternative more acceptable. During the nine years she lived with Scarron, she maintained a brilliant salon, in which gathered the great intelluctual figures of the time. In 1669 Madame de Montespan gave Madame de Maintenon the charge of one of her sons. In that manner Montespan brought her governess in touch with her King, and, in so doing, sealed her own fate.
Madame de Maintenon was a very wise woman. She did not entertain any sincere affection for the King, and, during all the years of his devotion to her, she never really loved him. She found a monarch much sated with the luxurious pleasures of the Court, and beginning to tire of his latest mistress, and she saw in the situation an opportunity that appealed to her ambition. With shrewd judgment she measured the character of Madame de Montespan, and she forecast in her mind the inevitable downfall of the proud and arrogant favorite. She was the very opposite in nature of Madame de Montespan. Her self-possession, poise, skill and tact, virtue and piety made an irresistible appeal to the tired King. That her piety was scarcely more than a cloak is betrayed by many of her own utterances. "Nothing is more clever than irreproachable behavior," she said at one time to close friends. Her behavior was both irreproachable and clever, and it obtained for her the satisfaction of her highest ambitions. She fascinated and lured the King, playing the coquette to him, but evading him with a baffling assumption of virtue, yielding just enough to draw the Monarch on; then playing the part of a prude, until, finally, she became in the eyes of the fascinated Louis the most desired of women. It was not long before Madame de Maintenon was so advanced in the King's favor that the affair was the gossip of the Court, and Madame de Montespan was compelled to stand by, a silent and bitter witness of her own defeat. It was a humiliating blow to Madame de Montespan to see the King with eyes only for Madame de Maintenon, saying witty and agreeable things to her, and ignoring his former favorite completely. It was not long before Madame de Montespan received her dismissal and, trembling with rage, descended the great staircase of Versailles never again to mount it. Madame de Maintenon was installed in special apartments at the head of the Marble Staircase, opposite the Hall of the King's Guards, and a new spirit dominated the halls of the palace. Under Madame de Montespan a "haughtiness in everything that reached to the clouds" had held the Court and attendants in fear, made the lives of all uneasy, and kept the atmosphere of the palace astir. With the entrance of Madame de Maintenon into favor a quieter tone pervaded Versailles. Madame was a woman of great intelligence and wit, and made all feel the gracious influence of her fine companionship. There was nothing ascetic in her piety, but, on the other hand, frivolity, immorality, and unworthy intrigue had no place in her circle. And all those that attended her held her in esteem and profound respect. With all her incomparable grace, she was in mind and spirit more truly the queen than mistress. She was older than the King and her influence was stronger on that account. She had comprehended the situation at Versailles with characteristic shrewdness. The King needed her. The Court of France needed her—and she needed both the King and the Court for the fulfillment of her supreme ambitions. As one writer has ironically put it, "With her gracious bearing and her calm, even temper, she must have seemed to a king of forty-six, who had buried his queen and cast off his mistress, the ideal wife for his old age. Then, too, she was pious and devout, she wished to withdraw the King from the world and give him to God; she had no ambitions (!), she desired to meddle in nothing, she was grateful when her husband took her into his confidence, but she longed only to save his soul. It seemed almost too wonderful to be true. It was not true."
Madame de Maintenon was determined to be Queen of France, and she became so in soul as well as in fact. During her latter years she ruled, and the King was content to follow her advice and do her will. When the King was dying and she could gain no more at his hands, Madame de Maintenon effected a most satisfactory settlement for herself at St. Cyr, where she ended her days in piety and serene repose.
Saint-Amand has observed truly that the women of Versailles were interesting not only from the moral point of view and as subjects of study, but on account of what he called the "symbolical importance of their relations to the history of France." Each seemed to be the living expression of the spirit of her day. Madame de Montespan was just such a superb, luxurious and magnificent beauty as Versailles needed to display to all the ambassadors that came to bask in the glitter of the Sun King's Court. She was the dazzling mistress that ruled imperiously over the gay and brilliant life of the palace, the very incarnation of haughty and triumphant France at the culminating point of the reign of Louis XIV.
Then came Madame de Maintenon who, with her discreet and temperate nature, restored order, and was, for years, the living symbol of a changed condition in the Court in which piety and religious observance displaced licentious and voluptuous pleasure. And, along with this "wisdom of a repentant age," as Saint-Amand observes, "this reaction of austerity against pleasure, there was still the contrast of youth." It was the Duchess of Burgundy who was the living embodiment of this protest of joy against sadness, of springtime against cold winter, of licentiousness against the exacting restrictions of etiquette. Affairs in the Court had reached a turning point, and it was the logical mind of Madame de Maintenon that saw it. When Madame de Montespan was in the ascendancy, the Court had reached a condition of voluptuous indulgence that could not continue long. The Princess Palatine, wife of the brother of Louis XIV, wrote: "I hear and see every day so many villainous things that it disgusts me with life. You have good reason to say that the good Queen is now happier than we are, and if any one would do me, as to her and her mother, the service of sending me in twenty-four hours from this world to the other, I would certainly bear him no ill will."
However we may question the soul sincerity of Madame de Maintenon, to her at least we must give credit for checking the corrupt tendencies of the Court and, with correcting finger, pointing the way toward better things. After Louis XIV, as Saint-Amand points out, the conditions of the Court of France were reflected even more vividly in the characters of the women of Versailles. "With compression and reserve," he observes, "there followed scandal. During the regency and the reign of Louis XV the morals of the Court fast deteriorated. A new epoch opened—troublous, lewd, dissolute. And was not the Duchess of Berry eccentric, capricious, passionate, the very image of the time? The favorites of Louis XV indicate to us in their own sad history the conditions of debasing humiliation and moral decadence of monarchical power. At first Louis XV chose his favorites from among ladies of quality—after that, from the middle classes, and, finally, from the common women of the people." He did not stop at the low-born shop girl or the frequenter of evil resorts.
Louis began with the Duchesse de Chateauroux, the exquisite, who lasted, as we might say, but a day. From that he turned to the Marquise de Pompadour, a descent sufficiently significant, but it was only the beginning of decadence. The King's feeling for the Marquise was wholly unworthy, and it soon wore itself out. Her death caused him no regret. On the day of her funeral, during a heavy rainstorm, the King, standing at one of the windows of Versailles, watched the carriage bearing the body of his former favorite to Paris, and observed carelessly: "The Marquise will not have fine weather for her journey." Louis soon turned to Madame Dubarry—and a lower step was taken. The prestige and dignity of the Court suffered. "Vice," as Saint-Amand observes, "threw off all semblance of disguise" and yet, while the King slowly submerged his nature in a slough of corruption, and his associates made of the Court a carnival of immorality, there was still one figure in whom the traditional morals and manners were maintained—the Queen Marie Leczinska. She was the one pure and virtuous figure in the Court life. "Her domestic hearth," writes Saint-Amand, "was near the boudoir of the favorites, but it was she that preserved for the Court the traditions of decency and decorum.
"Last of all of the women of Versailles, came Marie Antoinette, the woman who, in the most striking and tragic of all destinies, represents not solely the majesty and the griefs of royalty, but all the graces and all the agonies, all the joys and all the sufferings, of her sex."
THE VERSAILLES OF LOUIS XV
Louis the Great, in commanding immense and costly edifices to rise out of the earth, was moved, at least in part, by a desire to assure the monarchy and its established ceremonial a worthy background. Louis XV, in the numerous graceful additions to the chateau made by him, sought only to satisfy his own caprice and convenience.
When the Court returned from Vincennes to Versailles in 1722, seven years after the death of Louis XIV, one of the new King's first undertakings was the construction of the Salon of Hercules, adjoining the chapel court. This splendid hall, which to-day serves as the entrance to the grand appartements, owed its design to Robert de Cotte. As in the time of Louis XIV and Mansard, marble was chosen as the main decorative medium. All the sculptural ornaments are in bronze and marble. The bases of the pilasters are of gilded bronze. Carvings in wood and stucco were contributed by a Flemish artist named Verberckt, to whom Louis XV assigned most of the sculptural work done at the chateau during his reign. It was he that modeled the two doors placed on either side the bronze and marble chimney-piece, and the sculptures of the cornice. The painting on the ceiling—the Apotheosis of Hercules—was first seen by His Majesty as he passed through the room on his way to mass on a day in September, 1736. He examined it with much attention (some one has taken the trouble to record), and demonstrated his satisfaction by forthwith naming Sire Le Moine, the creator of the work, his chief painter. And thereon hangs a tragic tale. So great was Le Moine's pride in the honor thus done him that he determined to bring his work to still higher perfection. He resolved to finish each detail with the same exactitude as though he were painting a canvas that was to be observed at close range. But the more he applied his brush to bring out intricate effects, the less the design pleased him. In a sudden revulsion for the completed work, he effaced it and began the entire painting anew. This time he was better satisfied, though critics attached to the Court esteemed the second canvas not so good as the one destroyed. Upon the completion of the decorative scheme, the Sovereign bestowed upon Le Moine 5,000 livres for the Salon d'Hercule. Then, to his chagrin, the over-careful artist discovered that he was out of pocket 24,000 livres by the transaction. The loss turned his head; seized by grief and disappointment he committed suicide.
This salon served during the reign of Louis XV as a ball-room, and here in March, 1749, the Monarch was formally presented with two young ostriches, brought from Egypt and destined for the Menagerie.
In contrast to the passion for ostentation exhibited by Louis XIV, his great-grandson and successor was chiefly occupied in finding ways to evade his gilded prison. When the demand of the Court necessitated his presence at Versailles, he sought diversion in changing the apartments, making them over, demolishing here, reconstructing there—expending vast sums at all times. In 1738, finding the chamber of Louis XIV cold and inconvenient, he ordered another suite to be arranged for him on the second floor of the chateau above the Marble Court, and here he lived at his ease, untrammeled by etiquette and far from the curious gaze of courtiers. Small living rooms, kitchens, grills and bakeries were built on the Court of the Stags, and above the private apartments of Louis XIV rooms were added for the favorites of the King.
The storied Staircase of the Ambassadors, by which ceremonious visitors were admitted to the presence of the Sun King, was leveled by the whim of Louis XV. Little mattered it to him that this superb entrance filled an essential role in the life of the royal residence. Forgetful of the scenes that had been enacted on the triumphal stair, the great-grandson of the builder of Versailles commanded the destruction of one of the noblest architectural works of the time. Its bas-reliefs, its incomparable marbles, its paintings on which Lebrun had exercised all the resources of his decorative genius—all disappeared at the nod of the ambitious Madame de Pompadour, who desired a theater to be erected on this site. In later years the theater disappeared to make room for the apartments of the King's fair daughter, Madame Adelaide.
The project to build another flight of steps ending in the Salon of Hercules was never carried out. Future guests were therefore admitted to the reception rooms by a dark, narrow entrance, or they made a long roundabout tour by way of the Queen's staircase across the Marble Court. The demolition of the stairway of honor was an irreparable loss. No other piece of wantonness equaled it in the tumultuous history of Versailles.
However, there remain in the chateau a number of memorials to the judgment and good taste of the third master of the chateau, among them, the exquisitely decorated rooms of the King, re-made on the site of those dedicated to Louis XIV; the seven rooms of Madame Adelaide, and the suites set apart for the mistresses that succeeded one another in the favor of Louis the Fifteenth. These apartments, evolved out of the confusion of orders and counter-orders, remain to-day as examples of the pure and elegant decorative styles of the eighteenth century. Especially admired is the Council Room. Richly adorned, but always in charming taste, it represents the transition period between the more severe ornamental art peculiar to the reign of Louis XIV and the warmer effects beloved by Louis XV. Behind the Council Room were installed, on the west side of the Court of the Stags, a cabinet de bains (bath-room) and a little room called the Salon of the Wigs. By these rooms access was gained to the Salon of Apollo.
The billiard-room, where King Louis XIV was wont to play with his hounds before retiring, became the bed-room of his heir. After the year 1738, Louis XV occupied this chamber, and here he died thirty-six years later. It then became the sleeping-room of the ill-starred Louis XVI—who died in no bed. Locks, door-knobs, chimney ornaments—each detail in gilded bronze reflected rare taste and workmanship. The bed stood in an alcove enclosed between two columns, railed in by a balustrade of elaborate design, and curtained by wonderful tapestries. Ordinarily the King slept in this room; when he wakened in the morning he put on a robe and passed through the Council Room to the salon where the "rising" was celebrated with traditional pomp.
If Louis XV indulged in an orgy of building and repair, it was because he pined with an ennui that was only relieved by constant diversion. If at the cost of unnumbered thousands of francs, Madame de Pompadour urged on her royal lover and contrived new outlets for his craze for building, it was because she was adroit enough to enliven by this means an existence that often palled upon him. If, throughout the long series of decisions and contradictions regarding changes in the chateau, the Monarch commanded one day that a library and marble bath be added to the apartments of his daughter, and on another that useful halls, staircases and offices be removed; if he ordered the construction of a great Opera House with a facade like a temple, and, in another mood, made away with insignificant rooms that consumed no more space than would have filled a remote corner of this great hall of the theater—the motive was ever the same: to banish for the time-being the hovering specter of boredom and melancholy. "Louis XV," comments the author of "France Under Louis XV," "was not a man that sought relief from ceremony and adulation in any useful work; but, on the other hand, this dull grandeur was not dear to his heart; he did not derive from it the majestic satisfaction that it furnished to his predecessor. From youth to age the King was bored; he wearied of his throne, his court, himself; he was indifferent to all things, and unconcerned as to the weal or the woe of his people."
One of the Salons on which he lavished all the art of his epoch was the reception-room of the royal Adelaide. Here all was carved and gilded in a manner exquisite beyond words—chimney, doors, ceiling, window embrasures, mirror frames. Musical instruments were employed as sculpture motifs, for in this room the princess liked to sit and play her violoncello. In the dining-room, the decorative designs were delicately carved rosettes, arabesques, garlands of fruits and flowers, crowns and medallions.
The supreme ruler of Louis XV's affections—the amazing Madame Dubarry—was lodged "in a suite of delectable boudoirs" facing the Marble Court, above the private apartments of the King. Everywhere appeared the initial L linked with the torches of Love. One of the objects most admired in the drawing-room was an English piano-forte, with a case adorned with rosewood medallions, blue and white mosaics and gilded metal. In this room there were chests of drawers of antique lacquer and ebony, statues of marble, and garnishings of sculptured bronze. At night all was ablaze with the lights of the great luster of rock-crystal that hung from the center of the ceiling, and had cost, it was said, a sum equaling three thousand American dollars. In varying form, but with equal richness, all the apartments of Dubarry were beautified at the King's behest.
In January, 1747, the "theater of the little apartments" of the King was inaugurated by a representation of "Tartuffe" with Madame de Pompadour in the cast. The King frequently permitted himself to be distracted with music and the play in this hall in the Little Gallery. Here was an orchestra of twenty-eight musicians, a ballet, and a chorus of twenty-six, under the direction of Monsieur de Bury, Lully's successor as master of the Court music. Actors, singers, dancers, all were supplied with gorgeous costumes, and given the services of Sire Notrelle, the most celebrated wig-maker in Paris, who had in his day a prodigious vogue. One of his advertisements announced his ability to imitate the coiffures of "gods, demons, heroes and shepherds, tritons, cyclops, naiads and furies." Astounding were the head-dresses of the actors and actresses that graced the stage of Versailles.
Invitations to a dramatic performance were given by the King himself, and, for many years, to men guests only. Sometimes the Pompadour played the comedies of Voltaire, whom she favored against the will of all the royal family. Occasionally, performances were of necessity postponed out of respect to a member of the Court that had been slain in a duel; but not for long did the King and his train pause in their restless pursuit of pleasure.
A new theater was installed, with more room for auditors, troupe and musicians. Finally, in 1753, the Opera House was begun according to designs submitted by Gabriel, first architect to the King. After long delays the edifice was completed in time for the marriage fetes of the Dauphin (Louis XVI) and Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria. The hall of the Opera was so surpassingly fine in its dress of fine woodwork, green marble and gilding that a writer of the period, addressing a friend in Paris, where all were discontented with the Opera House just built in the capital, bade him "come with the crowd of curious folk to Versailles and admire the magnificent building of the Court Opera. Besides the beautiful outer view it presents," said he, "and the splendor of its ensemble, the mechanism of the interior is amazing." In this imposing auditorium the Court of Louis XVI heard the operas of Lully and Rameau, the tragedies of Racine and Voltaire. Here at a banquet in October, 1789, Louis XVI called on his supporters at Versailles to oppose the Revolution. And a short time later, the hall of the Opera served as a meeting-place for the insurrectionists.
In 1837, Louis Phillipe, last of the Bourbon kings, restored the building and redecorated it in red marble. In memory of Louis XIV, the reigning King commanded his troupe to perform a comedy by Moliere. Extracts from Meyerbeer's opera, Robert le Diable, and a piece written by Auber concluded the fete organized by this monarch to recall the golden days of Louis the Superb.
When, in the summer of 1855, Napoleon III entertained Queen Victoria at Versailles, the supper that terminated a day of brilliant celebrations was laid in the banquet hall of the Opera. The last theatrical performance given in this worthy memorial to the building enterprise of Louis XV was witnessed by Napoleon III, Empress Eugenie, and the King of Spain.
THE TWILIGHT OF THE BOURBON KINGS
It was on a May morning in the year 1770 that the child-bride of the Dauphin of France arrived at Versailles—the graceful, winsome, golden-haired Marie Antoinette, daughter of Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria. The future Queen of France was then not fifteen years of age, and her affianced husband was but a few months older.
A letter in her own hand, dated at Versailles on the 24th of May, 1770, describes the incidents of her ceremonious journey from Austria, and her reception by Louis XV and his heir. Other letters to her family give us glimpses of the wedding in the chapel of Versailles, of the fetes, the balls at the palace, the function of distributing bread and wine to the people, the hunts in nearby forests, the dances, musicales and informal assemblages of the royal family in the intimate apartments of the chateau.
"Our life here is perpetual movement," wrote the Dauphine to her sister; and to her mother she sent this quaint epistle a few weeks after her arrival in France: "You wish to know how I spend my time habitually. I will say, therefore, that I rise at ten o'clock or nine, or half-past nine, and after dressing I say my prayers; then I breakfast, after which I go to my aunts' (Madame Adelaide, Victoire and Sophie), where I usually meet the King. At eleven I go to have my hair dressed. At noon the Chambre is called, and any one of sufficient rank may come in. I put on my rouge and wash my hands before everybody; then the gentlemen go out; the ladies stay, and I dress before them. At twelve is mass; when the King is at Versailles I go to mass with him and my husband and my aunts. After mass we dine together before everybody, but it is over by half-past one, as we both eat quickly. (Marie Antoinette always found the custom of eating in public most distasteful.) I then go to Monsieur the Dauphin; if he is busy I return to my own apartments, where I read, I write, or I work, for I am embroidering a vest for the King, which does not get on quickly, but I trust that, with God's help, it will be finished in a few years! At three I go to my aunts', where the King usually comes at that time. At four the Abbe (her literary mentor) comes to me; at five the master for the harpsichord, or the singing-master, till six. At half-past six I generally go to my aunts' when I do not go out. You must know that my husband almost always comes with me to my aunts'. At seven, card-playing till nine. When the weather is fine I go out; then the card-playing takes place in my aunts' apartments instead of mine. At nine, supper; when the King is absent my aunts come to take supper with us; if the King is there, we go to them after supper, and we wait for the King, who comes usually at a quarter before eleven; but I lie on a large sofa and sleep till his arrival; when he is not expected we go to bed at eleven. Such is my day.
"I entreat you, my very dear mother, to, forgive me if my letter is too long. I ask pardon also for the blotted letter, but I have had to write two days running at my toilet, having no other time at my disposal."
In the winter the Court made merry with sleighing, skating and dancing parties, and formal affairs in honor of foreign princes. "There is too much etiquette here to live the family life," lamented the child to her mother. "Altogether, the Court at Versailles is a little dull, the formalities are so fatiguing. But I am happy, for Monsieur the Dauphin is very polite to me and always attentive." In another letter she recounted the triumph attending the first presentation of the opera Iphigenie, by Gluck. "The Dauphin applauded everything and Gluck showed himself very well pleased. . . . He has written me some pieces that I sing to the harpsichord."
Several times a week, the awkward, bashful boy who was to become Louis XVI of France pleased his light-hearted wife by taking dancing lessons with her. Hours were spent with him in the park at Versailles, skipping about, laughing, playing pranks like the little girl she was. Sometimes there were charades, and plays by amateurs and professionals behind the "closed doors" of their own rooms.
In 1774, four years after the marriage of Marie Antoinette to the Dauphin, Louis XV was taken ill of smallpox during a sojourn at the Little Trianon, and was removed to Versailles. Within a fortnight he was dead, and a scandalous reign was ended. "The rush of the courtiers, with a noise like thunder, as they hastened to pay homage to the new sovereign," says a narrator of the Queen's story, "was the first announcement of the great event to the young heir and his wife." The new King had not yet reached his twentieth year. "God help and protect us!" they both cried on their knees. "We are too young to reign!"
As Queen of France, Marie Antoinette occupied a series of superbly appointed rooms in the left wing of the palace. Beyond a dark passageway were her husband's apartments. Her bed-chamber was the scene of the formal toilet, a ceremony always irksome to the youthful sovereign. In this sumptuous room, where queens had borne kings-to-be, and had closed their eyes forever upon a melancholy existence, she gave birth to four children. The royal bed was raised on steps and surrounded by a gilt balustrade; nearby was a gorgeously fitted dressing-table. There were also armchairs, we are told, with down cushions, "tables for writing, and two chests of drawers of elaborate workmanship. The curtains and hangings were of rich but plain blue silk. The stools for those that had the privilege of being seated in the royal presence, with a sofa for the Queen's use, were placed against the walls, according to the formal custom of the time. The canopy of the bed was adorned with Cupids playing with garlands and holding gilt lilies, the royal flower."
Other rooms prepared for the Queen faced an inner court, and here with music, small talk and embroidery she spent contented moments, remote from the demands of her high estate.
Usually the mistress of Versailles was wakened at eight o'clock by a lady of the bedchamber, whose first duty it was to proffer a ponderous volume containing samples of the dresses that were in the royal wardrobe. Marie Antoinette marked with pins, taken from an embroidered cushion, the costumes she wished to put on for the various events of the day—the brocaded and hooped Court dress for the morning mass, the negligee to be worn during leisure hours in her own living rooms, and the gown to be donned for evening festivities. These vital matters determined, the Queen proceeded with her bath and her breakfast of chocolate and rolls. She was accustomed then to return to bed, and, with her tapestry-work in hand, receive various persons attached to her service. Physicians, reader, secretary, came to ask her wishes and do her bidding. At noon followed the "rising," and the stately progress of the Queen and her attendants through the Salon of Peace to the dazzling Hall of Mirrors, where the King awaited her on his way to chapel. Often at this hour there were admitted to the Grand Gallery of Mirrors respectful groups of commoners, who gathered to watch the passing of the gracious Marie Antoinette beside the husband whose uncouth gait and features were ever in forbidding contrast to her own comely bearing.
Amid all the follies and splendors of life at Versailles appeared the sturdy American figure of Dr. Benjamin Franklin. In the year 1767 he was presented at Court on the occasion of his first visit to Paris.
"You see," said he, in a letter to Miss Stevenson, daughter of his landlady in London, "I speak of the Queen as if I had seen her; and so I have, for you must know I have been at Court. We went to Versailles last Sunday, and had the honor of being presented to the King, Louis XV. In the evening we were at the Grand Convert, where the family sup in public. The table was half a hollow square, the service of gold. . . . An officer of the Court brought us up through the crowd of spectators, and placed Sir John (Pringle) so as to stand between the Queen and Madame Victoire. The King talked a good deal to Sir John, and did me, too, the honor of taking some notice of me.
"Versailles has had infinite sums laid out in building it and supplying it with water. Some say the expenses exceeded eighty millions sterling ($400,000,000). The range of buildings is immense; the garden-front most magnificent, all of hewn stone; the number of statues, figures, urns, etc., in marble and bronze of exquisite workmanship, is beyond conception. But the water-works are out of repair, and so is a great part of the front next the town, looking, with its shabby, half-brick walls, and broken windows, not much better than the houses in Durham Yard. There is, in short, both at Versailles and Paris, a prodigious mixture of magnificence and negligence with every kind of elegance except that of cleanliness, and what we call tidiness."
Franklin next appeared at the Court of Versailles upon the momentous occasion of the ratification of the alliance signed in 1778 by France and America. Dressed in a black velvet suit with ruffles of snowy white, white silk stockings and silver buckles, the emissary of the United States appeared in a gorgeous coach at the portals of Versailles. It is related that the chamberlain hesitated a moment to admit him, for he was without the wig and sword Court etiquette demanded, "but it was only for a moment; and all the Court were captivated at the democratic effrontery of his conduct." Franklin and the four envoys that accompanied him were conducted to the dressing-room of Louis XVI, who, without ceremony, assured them of his friendship for the new-born country they represented. In the evening the Americans were invited to watch the play of the royal family at the gaming-table, and Dr. Franklin, so Madame Campan relates, "was honored by the particular notice of the Queen, who courteously desired him to stand near to her, and as often as the game did not require her immediate attention, she took occasion to speak to him in very obliging terms."
The _New York Journal_, under date of July 6, 1778, recounted another picturesque detail of this presentation of the American envoys at Versailles. When they entered the inner part of the palace, so the dispatch ran, "they were received by _les Cents Suisses_ (Swiss Guards), the major of which announced, '_Les Ambassadeurs des treize provinces unies,' i.e., The Ambassadors from the Thirteen United Provinces."
During the Revolution in America the newspapers made much of Marie Antoinette's liking for Benjamin Franklin. Among others, the New Hampshire Gazette printed this story, which went the rounds of the States. "Franklin being lately in the gardens of Versailles, showing the Queen some electrical experiment, she asked him in a fit of raillery if he did not dread the fate of Prometheus, who was so severely served for stealing fire from Heaven. 'Yes, please your Majesty' (replied old Franklin, with infinite gallantry), 'if I did not behold a pair of eyes pass unpunished which have stolen infinitely more fire from Jove than I ever did, though they do more mischief in a week than I have done in all my experiments.'"
On January 20, 1783, at the office of the Count de Vergennes at Versailles, in the presence of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, the representatives of England, France and Spain affixed their signatures to the preliminary documents declaring war at an end between America and England. A little over seven months later, on September 3, 1783, at the Hotel de York in Paris, the final treaty between Great Britain and the United States was signed. Later on the same day, the definitive treaty between England and France was concluded at Versailles. When Franklin was about to take leave of France and return to Philadelphia, Louis XVI presented to him the royal portrait, framed by 408 diamonds, the value of which was estimated at $10,000.
No less than his predecessor had the new Monarch of Versailles and his gay, ease-loving, oft-times imprudent young wife disregarded the traditions and dignity of the Sun King's palace. If Louis XV demolished the Staircase of the Ambassadors and mutilated the grands appartements, Marie Antoinette imitated his desecrations in the royal dwelling by commanding any change that pleased her fancy, by reducing rooms of state to mere private chambers, and shutting herself off from the irritating claims of Court life. Many of the trees in the park died that had been set out at the proud command of Louis XIV. The gardens became neglected and desolate. The famous Labyrinth of Aesop's fountains disappeared.
A grove planted on the place formerly beautified by the Grotto of Thetis (or Tethys) gave sanctuary to the impious scheming of that Madame de Lamotte, whose intrigue and evil ambition brought upon the Queen in 1785 the scandal of the Diamond Necklace, with the subsequent dramatic arrest of Cardinal de Rohan in the fateful Hall of Mirrors, and the humiliating trial of Marie Antoinette.
Bored by incessant publicity, finding no pleasure in the formal promenades of the palace park, the Queen pleaded for "a house of her own," where she could find recreation after her own tastes, unobserved by the curious and the critical. Louis XV had built near the Grand Trianon a small villa for Madame de Pompadour. On the modest estate were several small outbuildings, to which were added a pavilion for open-air pastimes and a "French garden." It was Gabriel, architect of the Opera House, that drew the plans for the little chateau, begun in 1762. But Madame de Pompadour died before the villa of her fancy was completed. Dubarry succeeded her as chatelaine, and richly embellished the interior of the delectable retreat.
When Marie Antoinette desired to possess a maison de plaisance of which she should be sole mistress, the King, always eager to satisfy her whims, bade her accept for her own use both the Grand and the Petit Trianon. Said he, graciously, "These charming houses have always been the repair of favorites of the reigning king—consequently they should now be yours." The Queen was much pleased with the gift and with her husband's gallantry. She responded, laughingly, that she would accept the Little Trianon on condition that he would not come there except when invited!
During the tenancy of Marie Antoinette, some of the rooms of the Petit Trianon were altered according to the elaborate style that received the name of Louis XVI. Sculptures, wood-work, gilded chimneys, staircases, were fashioned by the hands of master artists. No sooner was she possessor of her new domain than the Queen desired a garden after the pastoral English style that was then coming in favor. A lake, a stream with ornamental bridges, clusters of trees, supplanted the symmetrical design of a botanical garden that had been much admired. A gallant attached to the Court wrote an Elegie in praise of the Petit Trianon, its flowers, tulip trees and fragrant walks. At one end of the lake a hamlet was created, with a picture-mill and a dairy, fitted with marble tables and cream jugs of rare porcelain. There was also a farm where the Queen pastured a splendid herd of Swiss cattle. Among these bucolic surroundings the King of France, forgetful of his people and their growing anguish, played shepherd to his shepherdess Queen. In the Temple of Love they basked on summer days among rosy vines, while the music of Court players wafted through the trees from a nearby pavilion. Every Sunday during the summer season there was a ball in the park, where any one might dance whose clothes and behavior were respectable. The Queen, sensing the need to propitiate a disgruntled populace, shared in the afternoon's revelries, petted the children that flocked about her knees, chatted with their nurses and parents. Often, Marie Antoinette resided for weeks at a time at her favorite dwelling, fishing in the lake, tending her herd, picking berries in her garden patch. The King and the princes came every day for supper, and were received by a Queen dressed in white with a fichu of net—sometimes in a "rumpled gown of cotton." A score of favorites composed the Court of the Little Trianon. All others were excluded. Heavy silks and towering head-dresses were forgotten in the simple life of the Petit Trianon. Tiresome etiquette was banished, together with thoughts of international matters of portent and impending calamity. Occasionally, comedies were given, or groves and canal were illuminated in honor of a visitor of high degree—the Emperor Joseph of Austria (brother of the Queen), the King of Sweden, ambassadors, princes, archduchesses.
Surrounded by the persons and the objects she most loved—free to go and come unattended by a train of attendants—those were the least unhappy days in the life of Marie Antoinette at Versailles.
At the Little Trianon, Madame Vigee Lebrun made, in 1787, the painting of Marie Antoinette with her children, which the Queen's intimates counted the truest likeness among all her portraits. Two years later, on the fifth day of October, the Queen was at Trianon when news came of the approach of the mob of starving, angry women that stormed the road from Paris, swept across the Place d'Armes, and surged about the doors of the despised palace. On that day, Marie Antoinette left her "little house," never to see it again.
For many months the clouds had been gathering on the horizon of the Bourbon King, whose extravagance and weak will were matched by the childish indiscretions of his Austrian consort.
In November, 1787, the Notables assembled at Versailles in the grand hall of the palace guards. In May, 1789, the Salon of Hercules witnessed the presentation of the twelve hundred deputies elected by the people in all parts of France to the States-General. The Assembly, "the true era of the birth of the French people," opened on May fifth in the immense Salle des Menus, on the Paris Avenue, outside the gates of the palace. During the thirty days that the deputies sat inactive under the oratory of the King, of Necker, Mirabeau and Robespierre, work ceased throughout the kingdom. "He who had but his hands, his daily labor, to supply the day, went to look for work, found none, begged, got nothing, robbed. Starving gangs over-ran the country; wherever they found any resistance, they became furious, killed, and burned. Horror spread far and near; communications ceased, and famine went on increasing." At last the Assembly was founded, but the nation remained in tumult, the King vacillating, the Queen in retirement, mourning the death of the little Dauphin. On June twentieth, the people's representatives gathered, in spite of the King, in the bare tennis-court, without the walls of the chateau, and made oath as citizens of France never to adjourn until they had given their country a constitution. On the same day Marie Antoinette inscribed a letter from Versailles whose import was in piteous contrast to the prattling epistles of her girlhood. "The Chambre Nationale is declared," she wrote. "They are deliberating, but I am in despair to see nothing come of their deliberations; every one is greatly alarmed. The nobility may be wiped out forever. But the kingdom will be calm; if not, one cannot estimate the evils by which we shall be menaced. . . . Not far away civil war exists, and, besides, bread is lacking. God give us courage!" Three days later the King read to the deputies an arbitrary declaration that had been composed by interested advisers. He commanded the assembly to disperse, and met a calm and silent resistance. Workmen entered to demolish the amphitheater, but laid down their tools on the declaration of Mirabeau that "whoever laid hands on a deputy was a traitor, infamous and worthy of death." At last the King, wearied and confused, commanded, "Let them alone."
The parterres, the courts, even the salons of the palace swarmed with ruffians that had marched out from Paris to menace Versailles. By June 25th there was open revolt in the capital. "A stormy, heavy, gloomy time, like a feverish, painful dream," prefaced the furious deeds of the 14th of July. Every day witnessed some new outbreak. July was a month of insurrections and murders. The Bastille was assailed by rioters. News came to the King that the ancient fortress had fallen. "Sire," announced the Duke of Orleans to the sleepy Monarch in his bedchamber, "it is a Revolution!"
Lafayette, back from the war across the sea, became the unwilling leader of the National Guard. On the evening of the first of October occurred the fatal banquet of the King's guard, held, not in the Orangery or in some other informal hall, but in the palace theater, where no fete had been given since the visit of the Emperor Joseph II of Austria. A French writer describes the scene. "The doors open. Behold the King and the Queen! The King has been prevailed on to visit them on his return from the chase. The Queen walks round to every table, looking beautiful, and adorned with the child she bears in her arms.
"So beautiful and yet so unfortunate! As she was departing with the King, the band played the affecting air: 'O Richard, O my King, abandoned by the whole world!' Every heart melted at that appeal. Several tore off their cockades, and took that of the Queen, the black Austrian cockade, devoting themselves to her service. . . .
"On the 3rd of October, another dinner; they grow more daring, their tongues are untied, and the counter-revolution showed itself boldly. In the long gallery, and in the apartments, the ladies no longer allow the tricolor cockade to circulate. With their handkerchiefs and ribands they make white cockades, and tie them themselves."
Stories of royalist revels and open insults to the cockade of the Revolutionists still further inflamed starving Paris. On the fifth of October there were thousands of inhabitants that had tasted no food for thirty hours. And then the ravenous women of Paris arose—mothers, shop-girls, courtesans—and, gathering recruits as they swept through the restless city streets, they rolled like an angry flood out the eleven-mile road to Versailles. The King was hunting at Meudon; a courier was sent for him. The Queen Consort was in her retreat at Trianon. The messenger found her, sad and contemplative, seated in her grotto. Hastily she was brought back to the palace. Later, she and the King would have fled the anger of the crowd whose shouts of "Bread! Bread!" echoed across the Marble Court to the windows of the royal apartments. But their decision, put off from moment to moment, came too late. The gates were closed. They were prisoners within the walls of Versailles.
"It was a rainy night," relates a French historian of the Revolution. "The crowd took shelter where they could; some burst open the gates of the great stables, where the regiment of Flanders was stationed, and mixed pell-mell with the soldiers. Others, about four thousand in number, had remained in the Assembly. The men were quiet enough, but the women were impatient at that state of inaction; they talked, shouted, and made an uproar.
"The King's heart was beginning to fail him; he perceived that the Queen was in peril. However agonizing it was to his conscience to consecrate the legislative work of philosophy, at ten o'clock in the evening he signed the Declaration of Rights.
"Mounier was at last able to depart. He hastened to resume his place as president before the arrival of that vast army from Paris, whose projects were not yet known. He reentered the hall; but there was no longer any Assembly; it had broken up; the crowd, ever growing more clamorous and exacting, had demanded that the prices of bread and meat should be lowered. Mounier found in his place, in the president's chair, a tall, fine, well-behaved woman, holding the bell in her hand, who left the chair with reluctance. He gave orders that they were to try to collect the deputies again; meanwhile, he announced to the people that the King had just accepted the constitutional article. The women, crowding about him, then entreated him to give them copies of them; others said: 'But, Monsieur President, will this be very advantageous? Will this give bread to the poor people of Paris?' Others exclaimed: 'We are very hungry. We have eaten nothing to-day.' Mounier ordered bread to be fetched from the bakers. Provisions then came in on all sides. They all began eating in the hall with much clamour."
At midnight Lafayette arrived at the head of twenty thousand men of the National Guard. To the amazement of the soldiers and onlookers, he dared to pass unattended through the palace doors to the Bull's Eye. "He appeared very calm," says Madame de Stael, Necker's observant daughter. "Nobody ever saw him otherwise." When he had reported his arrival to the King, Lafayette stationed guards about the palace, and, worn with hours of marching in the rain and mud, so far forgot his duty to his Sovereign and his command that he retired to his house in the town of Versailles to seek sleep. In the masses of people outside the gates were thieves and men of violence. "What a delightful prospect was opened for pillage in the wonderful palace of Versailles, where the riches of France had been amassed for more than a century!" exclaims the commentator, Michelet. Here follows a dramatic account of what followed, based on the story of Madame de Stael, who witnessed many of the bloody scenes in person. "At five in the morning, before daylight, a large crowd was already prowling about the gates, armed with pikes, spits, and scythes. About six o'clock, this crowd, composed of Parisians and people of Versailles, scale or force the gates, and advance into the courts with fear and hesitation. The first who was killed, if we believe the Royalists, died from a fall, having slipped in the Marble Court. According to another and a more likely version, he was shot dead by the body-guard.
"Some took to the left, toward the Queen's apartment, others to the right, toward the chapel stairs, nearer the King's apartment. On the left, a Parisian running unarmed, among the foremost, met one of the body guard, who stabbed him with a knife. The guardsman was killed. On the right, the foremost was a militia-man of the guard of Versailles, a diminutive locksmith, with sunken eyes, almost bald, and his hands chapped by the heat of the forge. This man and another, without answering the guard, who had come down a few steps and was speaking to him on the stairs, strove to pull him down by his belt, and hand him over to the crowd rushing behind. The guards pulled him towards them; but two of them were killed. They all fled along the Grand Gallery, as far as the Oeil-de-boeuf (Bull's Eye), between the apartments of the King and the Queen. Other guards were already there.
"The most furious attack had been made in the direction of the Queen's apartment. The sister of her femme de chambre, Madame de Campan, having half opened the door, saw a guardsman covered with blood, trying to stop the furious rabble. She quickly bolted that door and the next, put a petticoat on the Queen, and tried to lead her to the King. An awful moment! The door was bolted on the other side! They knock again and again. The King was not within; he had gone round by another passage to reach the Queen. At that moment a pistol was fired, and then a gun close to them. 'My friends, my dear friends,' cried the Queen, bursting into tears, 'save me and my children!' At length the door was opened, and she rushed into the King's apartment.
"The crowd was knocking louder and louder to enter the Oeil-de-boeuf. The guards barricaded the place, piling up benches, stools, and other pieces of furniture; the lower panel was burst in. They expected nothing but death; but suddenly the uproar ceased, and a kind clear voice exclaimed: 'Open!' As they did not obey, the same voice repeated: 'Come, open to us, body-guard; we have not forgotten that you men saved us French Guards at Fontenoy.'
"It was indeed the French Guards, now become National Guards, with the brave and generous Hoche, then a simple sergeant-major—it was the people, who had come to save the nobility. They opened, threw themselves into one another's arms, and wept.
"At that moment, the King, believing the passage forced, and mistaking his saviors for his assassins, opened his door himself, by an impulse of courageous humanity, saying to those without: 'Do not hurt my guards.'
"The danger was past, and the crowd dispersed; the thieves alone were unwilling to be inactive. Wholly engaged in their own business, they were pillaging and moving away the furniture. The grenadiers turned that rabble out of the castle.
"Lafayette, awakened but too late, then arrived on horseback. He saw one of the body-guards whom they had taken and dragged near the body of one of those killed by the guards, in order to kill him by way of retaliation. 'I have given my word to the King,' cried Lafayette, 'to save his men. Cause my word to be respected.'
"He then entered the castle. Madame Adelaide, the King's aunt, went up to him and embraced him: 'It is you,' cried she, 'who have saved us.' He ran to the King's cabinet. Who would believe that etiquette still subsisted? A grand officer stopped him for a moment, and then allowed him to pass: 'Sir,' said he seriously, 'the King grants you les grandes entrees.'
"The King showed himself at the balcony, and was welcomed with the unanimous shout of 'God save the King.' 'Vive le Roi!'
"At that moment several voices raised a formidable shout: 'The Queen!' The people wanted to see her in the balcony. She hesitated: 'What!' said she, 'all alone?' 'Madame, be not afraid,' said Lafayette. She went, but not alone, holding an admirable safeguard—in one hand her daughter, in the other her son. The Court of Marble was terrible, in awful commotion, like the sea in its fury; the National Guards, lining every side, could not answer for the center; there were fire-arms, and men blind with rage. Lafayette's conduct was admirable; for that trembling woman, he risked his popularity, his destiny, his very life; he appeared with her on the balcony, and kissed her hand.
"The crowd felt all that; the emotion was unanimous. They saw there the woman and the mother, nothing more. 'Oh! how beautiful she is! What! is that the Queen? How she fondles her children!'"
The King, overcome by dread, was forced to agree to the demand of the people that he go to Paris. In leaving his palace, he realized that he was finally surrendering all his claims to royalty. About noon on the sixth day of October, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, under the protection of the Marquis de Lafayette, turned their faces forever from Versailles. Little they knew that they were even then traveling the long road to the guillotine. A rabble of men and women surrounded them, some on foot, some in carts and carriages. "All were very merry and amiable in their own fashion, except a few jokes addressed to the Queen."
Such was the end of royal Versailles. Who can contest its tragic grandeur? In these halls, these gardens, these secluded villas the supreme destiny of the Bourbon monarchy was achieved. They witnessed the apogee, the decline, and the ruin of the dynasty.
THE SHRINE OF ROYAL MEMORIES, THE SCENE OF WORLD ADJUSTMENTS
It was not long after the enforced departure of Louis XVI and the Court that the immense sepulcher of regal glory was dismantled and forsaken. During the Revolution some of the furnishings were taken to Paris to supply the needs of the king and his family at the Tuileries. A number of pictures and objects of art contained in the palace and the two Trianons were removed to the Museum of the Louvre, which had been founded in 1775. Some of these paintings, including the Joconde by da Vinci, and famous canvases by Titian, del Sarto, Rubens and Van Dyck, still hang on the walls of the first national gallery of France. Agitated discussions arose as to the final destiny of the palace and its contents. A group of law-makers would have sold the building outright. But in July, 1793, the Convention decreed the establishment at Versailles of a provincial school, a museum of art objects taken from the houses of those that had emigrated from troublous France, a public library, a French museum for painting and sculpture, and a natural history exhibition. There were, however, Revolutionaries that so despised the relics of royalty that they continued to urge from time to time the complete demolition of the palace and park—chief works of Louis XIV's reign. The most diligent defenders of the chateau were the inhabitants of the town of Versailles, who were keenly aware that the continued existence of the palace would insure a measure of prosperity to the community. They protested, that, just object of the people's venom as the edifice was, it nevertheless stood as a monument to the arts and crafts of France during two centuries. The assailants that made hideous the days of October fifth and sixth, 1789, had done comparatively little material damage within the palace precincts. Gun shots of the Paris mob had disfigured two statues at the main entry to the courtyard, had destroyed the grill that separated the Royal Court from the Court of the Ministers; lunges of their bayonets had broken the mirrors in the Grand Gallery, while pursuing the Guards to massacre them. Otherwise, the historic walls and gardens bore no evidence of Revolutionary fury.
After several years of contention, plan and counter-plan, the Convention definitely saved Versailles for the nation by the decrees of 1794 and 1795. During this epoch of violence and revolt, thousands of articles were offered for sale at the stables of Versailles, in the presence of appointed representatives of the people. Linen, utensils, mirrors, clocks, cabinets, chandeliers, stoves, damask curtains, carriages, wines of Madeira, Malaga and Corinth, coffee, Sevres porcelains, engravings, paintings, drawings, and some fine furniture went for a song at this colossal auction. In 1796 the Minister of finance ordered that remaining pieces of furniture of great beauty and value be put on sale. In this way were summarily dispersed chairs of tapestry and gilt that would to-day command extravagant sums; desks of exquisite marquetry, at which kingly documents and billets doux had been penned; dressing-tables whose mirrors had reflected the faces, sad or gay, frank or subtle, of queens and mistresses; wardrobes that had held the linens and brocades of princes and courtiers; clocks of gold and enamel that had registered the hours of portentous births and marriages. Tables of mosaic and satinwood, cushions of gold brocade, cameo medallions, porcelain panels, plaques of lacquer and bronze were included on the list of articles to be disposed of. In the original inventory, discovered in the library at Versailles, were included pieces of Saxony ware, Watteau figures, Sevres vases, dishes and cups, Beauvais tapestries, clocks made by Robin and de Sotian, candelabra of crystal, chandeliers of silver—all from the apartments of the King, the Queen and the Dauphin. For 20,000 francs there was sold a tapestry emblematic of the American Revolution. Creditors of the new Government were paid in furniture and art works whose value they estimated to please their own purses. A brochure published at Paris by Charles Davillier recites the romance of "The Sale of the Furnishings of Versailles during the Terror." To a certain Monsieur Lanchere, a former cab driver who had undertaken the conduct of military convoys and transports for the State, were assigned clocks, carpets, statuary, chests, secretaries and consoles that embarrassed every nook and corner of the spacious Paris mansion of which he became proprietor.
"Paris," narrates Monsieur Davillier, "was gorged after the sale at the chateau of Versailles with priceless furniture and objects of vertu." Newspapers were filled with the advertisements of second-hand dealers offering to the public these souvenirs—redolent, splendid, tragic—of a dead-and-gone dynasty, of an epoch vanished never to return.
The institutions whose establishment at Versailles definitely saved the chateau and its dependencies for posterity, were, at the Palace, a conservatory of arts and sciences and a library of 30,000 volumes; in the Kitchen Garden a school of gardening and husbandry; at the Grand Commune, a manufactory of arms; at the Menagerie, a school of agriculture. Halls that had echoed to the dance and the clink of gold at gaming-tables now heard profound lectures on history, ancient languages, mathematics, chemistry, and political economy! Classic exercises beneath the painted ceilings of these memoried rooms! Scholastic discourse where music and laughter had vibrated for a hundred extravagant years!
The galleries at the Louvre contributed to the new Versailles museum all the canvases of French artists that it possessed. Fragonard and Greuze, Lebrun, Claude Lorrain, Mignard, Poussin, Rigaud, Vanloo, Vernet—all were represented, some of them by numerous examples of their graceful art. Besides, there was a Rubens Gallery, and two salons filled with the works of Paul Veronese. Some of these treasures were later removed to the Luxembourg Palace, where the French Senate was sitting, and to the palace of Saint-Cloud, residence of Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul. Little by little the canvases were dispersed, until, at the end of the Empire, the Versailles Museum of French Art ceased to be.
At the beginning of the year 1800, Napoleon Bonaparte established at Versailles a branch of the Hotel des Invalides in Paris, and wounded veterans of the Revolution to the number of 2,000 were installed for two years in the vast apartments of Louis XV and in rooms overlooking the garden and the Court of Ministers. During this period several of the salons were opened to the people for exhibitions and assemblies, and the public were free to enjoy the park, the Orangery and the fragrant bosques of Trianon. Fetes of the Republic frequently took place about a national altar raised near the Lake of the Swiss Guards, and a Tree of Liberty was planted with great solemnity in the court of the chateau, where the equestrian statue of Louis XIV now stands. In illuminating contrast to the regal celebrations it succeeded was this latter ceremony, which was inaugurated by a meeting in the historic Tennis Court, where loyal republicans took a new oath of hatred for all things royal, and swore devotion to the constitution. Into the dwelling of former sovereigns the people then crowded to witness the ceremony of breaking a scepter and crown into a thousand pieces. Next, they gathered around the Liberty Oak to consecrate it; they hung it with ribbons of the tricolor of France, a band played "a republican air," and an orator delivered a speech in commemoration of the glorious anniversary of the day on which "the last tyrant of the French" had been guillotined. Fortunately for the peace of mind of the Sixteenth Louis, he had no gift of prevision!
With the beginning of Napoleon's reign, Versailles and the Trianon became once more part of the Crown lands. The Emperor ordered necessary repairs to be made. In the theater the royal troupe of comedians was sometimes heard. The canal, which had nearly dried up during the neglectful rule of the Republic, was again filled with water. The park and the facades of the palace were restored, and in the Gallery and State Apartments artists renewed the colors of the mural decorations. Many of the repairs and changes made by Dufour, Napoleon's architect, have remained to the present time. Certain parts of the palace giving on the courts were in ruins, Louis XV and his heir having had no money to spare for their restoration. In 1811, after the Peace of Vienna, Napoleon, then in residence at the Grand Trianon, took under advisement the complete reconstruction of the palace. In consternation he surveyed the tumbling walls and the general confusion that confronted him during one of his promenades in the park and Orangery. "Why," cried he, "did the Revolution, which destroyed everything else, spare the chateau of Versailles! Then I would not have had on my hands this embarrassing legacy from Louis XIV—an old chateau poorly built—one much favored without just cause."
Architects busied themselves with innumerable plans for re-making the shabby pile. Some would have torn down the Council Hall, the bed-chamber of Louis XIV, the antechamber of the Bull's Eye, and all the rest of the palace except the apartments of the King and Queen, the Gallery with the salons at either end, the Chapel and the Opera House. Napoleon was willing to spend 6,000 francs on the construction of suites for himself and his family "and fifty others." "Then," said he, "we could perhaps come to Versailles to pass a summer." The disasters of the year 1812 and the fall of the Empire saved the palace from the threatened renovation.
When Louis XVIII ascended the throne of his Bourbon ancestors after the extinction of Napoleon's Star of Hope, he conceived a new plan "to put the chateau of Versailles in a habitable state." During the next six years (1814-1820) the King restored the Hall of Mirrors and all that was especially associated with Louis XIV. He finished the facade on the Paris side, begun by Gabriel under Louis XV, and built a pavilion corresponding to the one designed and erected by this same architect. He did away with a maze of small apartments, cleaned and simplified the interior, restored painted ceilings and gilt embellishments, and with great care put in order the entire palace and its surroundings. The chapel was repaired and blessed anew by the Bishop of Strassbourg.