Saturday, 19 July 2014

The King's Entertainments

The Menus-Plaisirs du Roi - directly translated to The King's Lesser Pleasures - were responsible for the entertainments at court down to every detail. It was quite an old part of the monarchy dating back to 1483. The "Menus" refers to nothing more exciting than everyday objects such as chests, beds, canopies, portraits etc, everything that could be used. To a court as pleasure-loving as the French this was an invaluable part of the household!

The entertainments in question was everything from masquerades and balls to operas and gambling parties. It became so extensive a department that an entire building was dedicated to storing the props and objects that would be used for the Menus-Plaisirs (L'Hôtel des Menus-Plaisirs) - this building was created in 1741-48. Here one could find theatre props, costumes and even sledges for winter. Originally, Louis XV had hired a few rooms in the town of Versailles for storage of the objects used for the celebrations of the birth of the Dauphin but after some years he had the Hôtel des Menus-Plaisirs built instead.
This Hôtel was also the place for sculptures and other works of art which meant that some of the greatest artists of the court had spent some time in the Hôtel. Later, the Hôtel would play a far more serious role when it became the frame of the Estates Generale in 1789 only a short period of time before the royal family was dragged off to Paris. It was also here that Robespierre was elected President.

The purpose might seem trivial to us but it employed quite a lot of people. Gardeners, carpenters, architects, actors and many more were all hand-picked by the King and expected to be ready by a specific date.

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