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.

When the Court returned from Vincennes to Versailles in 1722, seven years after the death of Louis XIV, one of the new King's first undertakings was the construction of the Salon of Hercules, adjoining the chapel court. This splendid hall, which to-day serves as the entrance to the grand appartements, owed its design to Robert de Cotte. As in the time of Louis XIV and Mansard, marble was chosen as the main decorative medium. All the sculptural ornaments are in bronze and marble. The bases of the pilasters are of gilded bronze. Carvings in wood and stucco were contributed by a Flemish artist named Verberckt, to whom Louis XV assigned most of the sculptural work done at the chateau during his reign. It was he that modeled the two doors placed on either side the bronze and marble chimney-piece, and the sculptures of the cornice. The painting on the ceiling - the Apotheosis of Hercules - was first seen by His Majesty as he passed through the room on his way to mass on a day in September, 1736. He examined it with much attention (some one has taken the trouble to record), and demonstrated his satisfaction by forthwith naming Sire Le Moine, the creator of the work, his chief painter. And thereon hangs a tragic tale. So great was Le Moine's pride in the honor thus done him that he determined to bring his work to still higher perfection. He resolved to finish each detail with the same exactitude as though he were painting a canvas that was to be observed at close range. But the more he applied his brush to bring out intricate effects, the less the design pleased him. In a sudden revulsion for the completed work, he effaced it and began the entire painting anew. This time he was better satisfied, though critics attached to the Court esteemed the second canvas not so good as the one destroyed. Upon the completion of the decorative scheme, the Sovereign bestowed upon Le Moine 5,000 livres for the Salon d'Hercule. Then, to his chagrin, the over-careful artist discovered that he was out of pocket 24,000 livres by the transaction. The loss turned his head; seized by grief and disappointment he committed suicide.

This salon served during the reign of Louis XV as a ball-room, and here in March, 1749, the Monarch was formally presented with two young ostriches, brought from Egypt and destined for the Menagerie.

In contrast to the passion for ostentation exhibited by Louis XIV, his great-grandson and successor was chiefly occupied in finding ways to evade his gilded prison. When the demand of the Court necessitated his presence at Versailles, he sought diversion in changing the apartments, making them over, demolishing here, reconstructing there - expending vast sums at all times. In 1738, finding the chamber of Louis XIV cold and inconvenient, he ordered another suite to be arranged for him on the second floor of the chateau above the Marble Court, and here he lived at his ease, untrammeled by etiquette and far from the curious gaze of courtiers. Small living rooms, kitchens, grills and bakeries were built on the Court of the Stags, and above the private apartments of Louis XIV rooms were added for the favorites of the King.

The storied Staircase of the Ambassadors, by which ceremonious visitors were admitted to the presence of the Sun King, was leveled by the whim of Louis XV. Little mattered it to him that this superb entrance filled an essential role in the life of the royal residence. Forgetful of the scenes that had been enacted on the triumphal stair, the great-grandson of the builder of Versailles commanded the destruction of one of the noblest architectural works of the time. Its bas-reliefs, its incomparable marbles, its paintings on which Lebrun had exercised all the resources of his decorative genius - all disappeared at the nod of the ambitious Madame de Pompadour, who desired a theater to be erected on this site. In later years the theater disappeared to make room for the apartments of the King's fair daughter, Madame Adelaide.

The project to build another flight of steps ending in the Salon of Hercules was never carried out. Future guests were therefore admitted to the reception rooms by a dark, narrow entrance, or they made a long roundabout tour by way of the Queen's staircase across the Marble Court. The demolition of the stairway of honor was an irreparable loss. No other piece of wantonness equaled it in the tumultuous history of Versailles.

However, there remain in the chateau a number of memorials to the judgment and good taste of the third master of the chateau, among them, the exquisitely decorated rooms of the King, re-made on the site of those dedicated to Louis XIV; the seven rooms of Madame Adelaide, and the suites set apart for the mistresses that succeeded one another in the favor of Louis the Fifteenth. These apartments, evolved out of the confusion of orders and counter-orders, remain to-day as examples of the pure and elegant decorative styles of the eighteenth century. Especially admired is the Council Room. Richly adorned, but always in charming taste, it represents the transition period between the more severe ornamental art peculiar to the reign of Louis XIV and the warmer effects beloved by Louis XV. Behind the Council Room were installed, on the west side of the Court of the Stags, a cabinet de bains (bath-room) and a little room called the Salon of the Wigs. By these rooms access was gained to the Salon of Apollo.

The billiard-room, where King Louis XIV was wont to play with his hounds before retiring, became the bed-room of his heir. After the year 1738, Louis XV occupied this chamber, and here he died thirty-six years later. It then became the sleeping-room of the ill-starred Louis XVI - who died in no bed. Locks, door-knobs, chimney ornaments - each detail in gilded bronze reflected rare taste and workmanship. The bed stood in an alcove enclosed between two columns, railed in by a balustrade of elaborate design, and curtained by wonderful tapestries. Ordinarily the King slept in this room; when he wakened in the morning he put on a robe and passed through the Council Room to the salon where the "rising" was celebrated with traditional pomp.

If Louis XV indulged in an orgy of building and repair, it was because he pined with an ennui that was only relieved by constant diversion. If at the cost of unnumbered thousands of francs, Madame de Pompadour urged on her royal lover and contrived new outlets for his craze for building, it was because she was adroit enough to enliven by this means an existence that often palled upon him. If, throughout the long series of decisions and contradictions regarding changes in the chateau, the Monarch commanded one day that a library and marble bath be added to the apartments of his daughter, and on another that useful halls, staircases and offices be removed; if he ordered the construction of a great Opera House with a facade like a temple, and, in another mood, made away with insignificant rooms that consumed no more space than would have filled a remote corner of this great hall of the theater - the motive was ever the same: to banish for the time-being the hovering specter of boredom and melancholy. "Louis XV," comments the author of "France Under Louis XV," "was not a man that sought relief from ceremony and adulation in any useful work; but, on the other hand, this dull grandeur was not dear to his heart; he did not derive from it the majestic satisfaction that it furnished to his predecessor. From youth to age the King was bored; he wearied of his throne, his court, himself; he was indifferent to all things, and unconcerned as to the weal or the woe of his people."

One of the Salons on which he lavished all the art of his epoch was the reception-room of the royal Adelaide. Here all was carved and gilded in a manner exquisite beyond words - chimney, doors, ceiling, window embrasures, mirror frames. Musical instruments were employed as sculpture motifs, for in this room the princess liked to sit and play her violoncello. In the dining-room, the decorative designs were delicately carved rosettes, arabesques, garlands of fruits and flowers, crowns and medallions.

The supreme ruler of Louis XV's affections - the amazing Madame Dubarry - was lodged "in a suite of delectable boudoirs" facing the Marble Court, above the private apartments of the King. Everywhere appeared the initial L linked with the torches of Love. One of the objects most admired in the drawing-room was an English piano-forte, with a case adorned with rosewood medallions, blue and white mosaics and gilded metal. In this room there were chests of drawers of antique lacquer and ebony, statues of marble, and garnishings of sculptured bronze. At night all was ablaze with the lights of the great luster of rock-crystal that hung from the center of the ceiling, and had cost, it was said, a sum equaling three thousand American dollars. In varying form, but with equal richness, all the apartments of Dubarry were beautified at the King's behest.

In January, 1747, the "theater of the little apartments" of the King was inaugurated by a representation of "Tartuffe" with Madame de Pompadour in the cast. The King frequently permitted himself to be distracted with music and the play in this hall in the Little Gallery. Here was an orchestra of twenty-eight musicians, a ballet, and a chorus of twenty-six, under the direction of Monsieur de Bury, Lully's successor as master of the Court music. Actors, singers, dancers, all were supplied with gorgeous costumes, and given the services of Sire Notrelle, the most celebrated wig-maker in Paris, who had in his day a prodigious vogue. One of his advertisements announced his ability to imitate the coiffures of "gods, demons, heroes and shepherds, tritons, cyclops, naiads and furies." Astounding were the head-dresses of the actors and actresses that graced the stage of Versailles.

Invitations to a dramatic performance were given by the King himself, and, for many years, to men guests only. Sometimes the Pompadour played the comedies of Voltaire, whom she favored against the will of all the royal family. Occasionally, performances were of necessity postponed out of respect to a member of the Court that had been slain in a duel; but not for long did the King and his train pause in their restless pursuit of pleasure.

A new theater was installed, with more room for auditors, troupe and musicians. Finally, in 1753, the Opera House was begun according to designs submitted by Gabriel, first architect to the King. After long delays the edifice was completed in time for the marriage fetes of the Dauphin (Louis XVI) and Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria. The hall of the Opera was so surpassingly fine in its dress of fine woodwork, green marble and gilding that a writer of the period, addressing a friend in Paris, where all were discontented with the Opera House just built in the capital, bade him "come with the crowd of curious folk to Versailles and admire the magnificent building of the Court Opera. Besides the beautiful outer view it presents," said he, "and the splendor of its ensemble, the mechanism of the interior is amazing." In this imposing auditorium the Court of Louis XVI heard the operas of Lully and Rameau, the tragedies of Racine and Voltaire. Here at a banquet in October, 1789, Louis XVI called on his supporters at Versailles to oppose the Revolution. And a short time later, the hall of the Opera served as a meeting-place for the insurrectionists.

In 1837, Louis Phillipe, last of the Bourbon kings, restored the building and redecorated it in red marble. In memory of Louis XIV, the reigning King commanded his troupe to perform a comedy by Moliere. Extracts from Meyerbeer's opera, Robert le Diable, and a piece written by Auber concluded the fete organized by this monarch to recall the golden days of Louis the Superb.

When, in the summer of 1855, Napoleon III entertained Queen Victoria at Versailles, the supper that terminated a day of brilliant celebrations was laid in the banquet hall of the Opera. The last theatrical performance given in this worthy memorial to the building enterprise of Louis XV was witnessed by Napoleon III, Empress Eugenie, and the King of Spain.