More than a palace, the Château of Versailles, Louis XIV‘s greatest creation, was conceived as a world unto itself.
Seat of government, permanent residence of the royal family and the cream of French nobility, it also functioned as a permanent exhibition of French grandeur and sophistication. The endless grounds were tamed into a geometry so perfect that even nature seemed to obey the Sun King‘s commands. Surrounding the palace and its formal gardens were the largest kitchen gardens in the kingdom, the only zoo, the largest artificial lake, acres of game-filled forest, a new town catering to the needs of the court, and two weekend retreats with their own ground, the Trianons.
The original château, built by Louis XII in 1631, was a modest hunting lodge. In 1661, Louis XIV announced his intention of moving his court to this deserted swamp 10 1/2 miles southwest of Paris, an astute way of isolating the nobility and his ministers while keeping and eye on his not too distant capital. Building hardly stopped until the king’s death in 1715.