søndag den 18. august 2013

The Court Moves to Versailles

Louis XIV moved between his many residences on a frequent basis but in time he decided to settle at one palace and then visit others occasionally. The great move was finalized when the King himself moved to Versailles on 6 May 1682.

Actually, this was another one of the clever moves meant to keep the ever-conspiring courtiers in check. The thing is that when the King moved to Versailles he created the very stage for his power. Every courtier who wanted to make a career had to go to Versailles to see the King and at the same time the King could keep a constant eye on his courtiers. Also, Louis XIV demanded that every courtiers of a noticeable rank had to spent a certain amount of time at Versailles - this prevented them from establishing another power centre that could rival his own. No less than 5.000 aristocrats moved into Versailles which was the largest château in France at the time.
There was another reason as to why Louis XIV transferred his court from the Louvre to Versailles: security. Louis XIV had always been suspicious of the Parisians and worried that they would endanger his position as an absolute monarch (considering what happened to Louis XVI, he had a point...). So, now he was just far enough outside Paris to be alerted in time if something were to happen but could still visit his capital if he wished to do so. With the King the government was also moved to Versailles where the official offices of state would also be established.

Of course it should be said that Louis XIV did not build Versailles from scratch. The palace had been a favoured hunting lodge of the King who had to enlarge it many times over (in total four campaigns were begun over time to make room for the rising number of courtiers) to make room both for the large number of courtiers but also the underline the sublime architecture and richness of the crown.

When the palace was completed Louis XIV had succeeded in his original plan: to become the centre of power, the sun of the French power universe.

Engraving of Versailles, 1682

File:Etching of the Palace of Versailles in circa 1680 by Adam Perelle.png
Etching of the palace as seen from the garden, around the time when the court moved there

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