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La Victoire de Samothrace, Unknown, 190 BC


17th century


The gardens are one of the most famous features of Versailles.

It's estimated that 30% of the cost of the palace went into the gardens.

Off the initial 8,000 hectares of gardens, only 10% still exist today.

The gardens had more than 1,000 fountains.

This presented engineers with a massive challenge.

Indeed Versailles consumed more water than Paris - guzzling more than 12,000 cubic meters a day - draining all the ponds in the area.

A massive machine, the Machine of Marly, was built, pumping water directly from the Seine and bringing it over to the palace via an aqueduct.

The Machine took 3 years to build.

It had 250 pumps, gigantic 11m-diameter wheels and 60 staff working it... but it still wasn't enough.

So gardeners adopted a much more rudimentary system : they would whistle at each other when the king approached - so they could switch on and off the fountains!

Like a lot of artworks in Versailles, the fountains had a powerful symbolic function - to emphasise Louis XIV's absolute power.

The Fountain of Latona represents an episode when Apollo, his sister and his mother were thrown rocks by local peasants before being turned into frogs by Zeus.

The Fountain of Apollo represents Apollo riding into the sky on his chariot.

You also cannot miss the Grand Canal.

Measuring a massive 60m by 1.5km, it would have been full of boats - including a caravel, a galley and a frigate.

Louis XIV had barracks built near the canal to house all the sailors.

He also created 15 intimate gardens, enclosed by hedges : the bosquets.

These functioned like small salons, where people could meet to chat and organised parties.

One bosquet included a labyrinth with 300 statues illustrating Aesop's fables.

It was said to have helped teach the young Louis XV how to read.

Another was the backdrop of an infamous scandal involving Marie-Antoinette.

Indeed Louis XV had ordered a necklace to be made for one of his mistresses, which cost $14 million.

Unfortunately he died before he could pay for it.

Hearing of this, a woman at Versailles arranged a meeting between a rich cardinal and a woman pretending to be Marie-Antoinette.

After the meeting, the cardinal became convinced that Marie-Antoinette was madly in love with him and wanted him to buy her the necklace - which he did!

Louis XIV also organised a famous party in the gardens to celebrate the beginning of the building of Versailles.

It was a week's worth of festivities, full of music, plays, dances, banquets...

Thousands of nobles attended but the lack of rooms at the palace meant many had to sleep in their carriages!

La Joconde, de Vinci (1519)


The Trianon Estate

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