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Francis Loring Payne

by Francis Loring Payne

 

A dreary expanse of low-lying marsh-land, dismal, gloomy and full of quicksands, where the only objects that relieved the eye were the crumbling walls of old farm buildings, and a lonely windmill, standing on a roll of higher ground and stretching its gaunt arms toward the sky as if in mute appeal against its desolate surroundings - such was Versailles in 1624.

The Luxurious Chateau and Parkland of Louis XIV

The Splendors of the Chateau - its Apartments and Gardens, the Hall of Mirrors

The first gardens of Versailles - those that gave a modest setting to the villa constructed for Louis XIII, comprised a few parterres of flowers and shrubs bounded by well trimmed box hedges, and two groves planted on each side of the Allee Royale. To Jacques Boyceau is accredited the first plan of the gardens of Versailles, but Andre Le Notre greatly amplified and improved the original scheme. Le Notre's achievements at Versailles gave him rank as the most distinguished landscape gardener of his time, and of all time.

Louis the Magnificent, we must agree with that profuse and sharp-witted chronicler, the Duke of Saint-Simon, was made for a brilliant Court. "In the midst of other men, his figure, his courage, his grace, his beauty, his grand mien, even the tone of his voice and the majestic and natural charm of all his person, distinguished him till his death as the King Bee, and showed that if he had been born only a simple private gentleman, he would have excelled in fetes, pleasures and gallantry. . . . He liked splendor, magnificence and profusion in everything.

The Gayety and Fashion of Versailles Life. The Prodigal Frivolities and Diversions of the Court.

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.

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.

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.

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