Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI were all passionate hunters and as such took great interest in their horses. The royal stables at Versailles are divided into two: the Grand Écurie (Great Stable) and Petite Écurie (Small Stable). Strangely enough the two stables are actually the same size but belonged to different parts of the administration.
The Grand Écurie
The Grand Equerry was responsible for the Grand Écurie where the horses were expertly trained for either huntings or warfare. These horses were reserved for the King and the princes alone. Since especially Louis XIV was fond of equestrian entertainments the Grand Écurie was often used for court entertainments such as horse races which would take place on the area immediately outside the Grand Écurie as well as displays of dressage. This usage is also shown in the very design of the stable which has been built with carved wooden beams and frescoes depicting horses.
It was Jules Hardouin Mansart who also added the two stables which were finished in 1683. Originally they were built to house no less than 600 horses. Chandeliers of glass hangs from the ceiling as a gentle reminder of the splendour of the nearby palace. Today the Grand Écruie is used to house the collection of coaches and carts collected by Louis-Philippe.
|The Grand Écurie|
Under the administration of the First Equerry the Petite Écurie was used for housing the many carriages and carts belonging to the royal family. Here were also horses available for the courtiers who did not have the right to have a horse in the Grand Écurie - it was not uncommon that the King unexpectedly would invite a courtier to join the hunt in the last moment and then a horse had to be provided for him. These horses counted draught horses as well as saddle horses.
|The Petite Écurie|
|Detail of the entrance|