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Versailles: A Biography of a Palace

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The behind-the-scenes story of the world’s most famous palace, painting a picture of the way its residents truly lived and examining the palace’s legacy, from French history through today. The story of Versailles is one of historical drama, under the last three kings of France’s old regime, mixed with the high camp and glamour of the European courts, all in an iconic home f The behind-the-scenes story of the world’s most famous palace, painting a picture of the way its residents truly lived and examining the palace’s legacy, from French history through today. The story of Versailles is one of historical drama, under the last three kings of France’s old regime, mixed with the high camp and glamour of the European courts, all in an iconic home for the French arts. The palace itself has been radically altered since 1789, and the court was long ago swept away. Versailles sets out to rediscover what is now a vanished world: a great center of power, seat of royal government, and, for thousands, a home both grand and squalid, bound by social codes almost incomprehensible to us today. Using eyewitness testimony as well as the latest historical research, Spawforth offers the first full account of Versailles in English in over thirty years. Blowing away the myths of Versailles, he analyses afresh the politics behind the Sun King’s construction of the palace and shows how Versailles worked as the seat of a royal court. He probes the conventional picture of a “perpetual house party” of courtiers and gives full weight to the darker side: not just the mounting discomfort of the aging buildings but also the intrigue and status anxiety of its aristocrats. The book brings out clearly the fateful consequences for the French monarchy of its relocation to Versailles and also examines the changing place of Versailles in France’s national identity since 1789.  Many books have told the stories of the royals and artists living in Versailles, but this is the first to turn its focus on the palace itself---from architecture and politics to scandal and restoration.


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The behind-the-scenes story of the world’s most famous palace, painting a picture of the way its residents truly lived and examining the palace’s legacy, from French history through today. The story of Versailles is one of historical drama, under the last three kings of France’s old regime, mixed with the high camp and glamour of the European courts, all in an iconic home f The behind-the-scenes story of the world’s most famous palace, painting a picture of the way its residents truly lived and examining the palace’s legacy, from French history through today. The story of Versailles is one of historical drama, under the last three kings of France’s old regime, mixed with the high camp and glamour of the European courts, all in an iconic home for the French arts. The palace itself has been radically altered since 1789, and the court was long ago swept away. Versailles sets out to rediscover what is now a vanished world: a great center of power, seat of royal government, and, for thousands, a home both grand and squalid, bound by social codes almost incomprehensible to us today. Using eyewitness testimony as well as the latest historical research, Spawforth offers the first full account of Versailles in English in over thirty years. Blowing away the myths of Versailles, he analyses afresh the politics behind the Sun King’s construction of the palace and shows how Versailles worked as the seat of a royal court. He probes the conventional picture of a “perpetual house party” of courtiers and gives full weight to the darker side: not just the mounting discomfort of the aging buildings but also the intrigue and status anxiety of its aristocrats. The book brings out clearly the fateful consequences for the French monarchy of its relocation to Versailles and also examines the changing place of Versailles in France’s national identity since 1789.  Many books have told the stories of the royals and artists living in Versailles, but this is the first to turn its focus on the palace itself---from architecture and politics to scandal and restoration.

30 review for Versailles: A Biography of a Palace

  1. 5 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    It is estimated that the building of Versailles cost 91.7 million livres, creating the myth that its construction was a cause of the French Revolution. But this price is " dwarfed by the expenditure of the military: 114 million livres in one year alone." There was obviously an impression of endless bounty during the last century and a half of the French monarchy. One courtier was quoted as thinking the king of France had followed the ancient example of opulent Darius of Persia and not the auster It is estimated that the building of Versailles cost 91.7 million livres, creating the myth that its construction was a cause of the French Revolution. But this price is " dwarfed by the expenditure of the military: 114 million livres in one year alone." There was obviously an impression of endless bounty during the last century and a half of the French monarchy. One courtier was quoted as thinking the king of France had followed the ancient example of opulent Darius of Persia and not the austere Alexander the Great. For example, Louis XVI had 2,000 horses in his Grand Stable. Versailles became a fantasy made from extravagance and licentiousness. It was only 12 miles from the capital, but the common population may as well have been hundreds of miles away for as much as they could view of the court. Rumors flew regarding furnishings, festivities, and fellowship. For various reasons, the great revolution broke out, and Versailles was part of the drama. Over a century of monarchical rule, then suddenly it's filled by citizens of the Republic, namely Napoleon. We all know the story behind his toppling, which led to multiple, random governments, all who utilized the palace in one way or another, finally turning it into a museum. Probably the most enduring political use of Versailles in modern times is the possession by Wilhelm I of Germany, followed by the signing of the Treaty of Versailles ending WWI two decades later, which was a major trigger of WWII. Although the book was quite informative, the chapters seemed a bit haphazard. I could never quite figure out how the author was organizing his thoughts. Also, the book spent ONE chapter on time from napoleon on. That makes no sense to me. If it's a biography of the palace, then it seems shortchanged.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Manuel

    I have read many books about the last three French kings before the revolution, but this is the first book that actually gave a behind the scenes look into the everyday life of Versailles. Starting with Louis XIV's distrust of Paris and his need to feel in control; he not only built a home for himself but transferred the entire government to his palace, never mind the cost to France. Eventually Versailles became a world unto itself, ignoring Paris and the rest of France. If you wanted to succeed y I have read many books about the last three French kings before the revolution, but this is the first book that actually gave a behind the scenes look into the everyday life of Versailles. Starting with Louis XIV's distrust of Paris and his need to feel in control; he not only built a home for himself but transferred the entire government to his palace, never mind the cost to France. Eventually Versailles became a world unto itself, ignoring Paris and the rest of France. If you wanted to succeed you moved with the court to Versailles. Eventually Louis' great palace would be the home to over 3000 courtiers and their families. The book captures in wonderful detail, the highly entrenched etiquette that made life uncomfortable for not just the courtiers but to the royals themselves. On more the one occasion, Marie Antoinette had to wait naked and shivering because her dressing gown could only be presented by the highest ranking noblewoman in the room; and each minute another Duchess or Princess entered the room. This process had to be repeated in reverse when she went to bed. The book answered all those questions I wanted to ask when I visited Versailles myself, but I was too embarrassed to ask. How and where did the royals relieve themselves, where and how they ate and entertained themselves. I was especially surprised by the lack of privacy of all the kings. Everyone knew when the king and queen were going to have sex, because the king had to walk through his antechamber full of courtiers to reach the queens bedroom. My only complaint about this book, is a lack of maps and charts giving the layout of Versailles. Tony Spawforth gives so much detail about particular rooms and salons, it would have been nice to see where they were located. This book is not for everyone, but if you are already somewhat familiar with LOUIS XIV, XV, and XVI you will greatly enjoy it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    3.5 stars This is mostly a social history of Versailles in the reigns of Louis XIV through Louis XVI, and as such it’s pretty interesting (though the first couple of chapters, which focus more on the architectural history of the palace, were less so to me). It answers questions such as: how did people (mostly nobility) get jobs at court, and why did they want them? How did courtiers gain access to the king? How much privacy did the monarchs and their families actually have? Did these people even 3.5 stars This is mostly a social history of Versailles in the reigns of Louis XIV through Louis XVI, and as such it’s pretty interesting (though the first couple of chapters, which focus more on the architectural history of the palace, were less so to me). It answers questions such as: how did people (mostly nobility) get jobs at court, and why did they want them? How did courtiers gain access to the king? How much privacy did the monarchs and their families actually have? Did these people even bathe? (Answer: rarely, and in many cases only for medicinal purposes.) Although it’s interesting material at a relatively short length (254 pages of text followed by endnotes) and Spawforth’s writing is perfectly readable, I still moved through it a bit slowly and wasn’t as engaged as I would have liked. This might be because I recently read a similar book about the English court at the same time – which in many ways wasn’t as different as you might expect. However, I think the real reason is that while Spawforth conveys facts well enough, he isn’t much of a storyteller: there are a lot of recurring “characters” here, mostly royalty and a handful of nobles who wrote prolifically about their life at court, but little personality emerges and there’s not much sense of what their lives were like outside the context of the specific anecdotes illustrating the author’s points. At any rate, interesting and accessible book, but not one I’d recommend you go out of your way to find unless you have a special interest in the subject matter.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    The book is arranged loosely by subject, each chapter recovering the 17th and 18th centuries with different facts. The stop, start, back up, move forward, repeat formula was giving me motion sickness. I prefer my history presented in strict chronological order, thankyouverymuch. Also, surprisingly, there is nothing after the royals are forced to move out - despite the rather major events that Versailles hosted in the 20th century.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brie

    4.5 This book makes a nice companion to Versailles, the show. I was interested in reading more about this period, after watching, and found this book. I loved Spawforth's style; it's academically informal – informative in a conversational manner. It evokes the splendor and lushness of the subject matter and is not afraid to be a little humorous. It's the kind of writing style I like best in nonfiction. This book stays true to its purpose – to tell the history of Versailles beginning mostly with L 4.5 This book makes a nice companion to Versailles, the show. I was interested in reading more about this period, after watching, and found this book. I loved Spawforth's style; it's academically informal – informative in a conversational manner. It evokes the splendor and lushness of the subject matter and is not afraid to be a little humorous. It's the kind of writing style I like best in nonfiction. This book stays true to its purpose – to tell the history of Versailles beginning mostly with Louis XIV's grand plans for expansion. It traces throughout the years everything that went on in the palace, from changes in the architecture to the lives of the people inside it. Topics such as privacy, entertainment, and women's activity at Versailles bring to life the palace's history as a home up until the Revolution in 1789. Considering that the palace has been known as museum for a long time now, I really enjoyed reading this book and finally putting puzzle pieces of history together that had been laying around my brain.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sidney

    And now I need to visit again.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I’m going to Versailles for the first time in July, and this book was read in preparation even though it’s been sat on my bookshelf for about eighteen months. In many ways I feel like I’d have enjoyed this book more if I’d been to Versailles already; even though there are two maps at the start, it was confusing trying to work out what passages led to what rooms, where things were located in the palace etc. I had no sense of distance or space despite the maps. The book also jumped around a lot. I I’m going to Versailles for the first time in July, and this book was read in preparation even though it’s been sat on my bookshelf for about eighteen months. In many ways I feel like I’d have enjoyed this book more if I’d been to Versailles already; even though there are two maps at the start, it was confusing trying to work out what passages led to what rooms, where things were located in the palace etc. I had no sense of distance or space despite the maps. The book also jumped around a lot. I get that as it’s about the palace, the author chose to look at different aspects of the palace thematically rather than taking a chronological approach, but I found it a little confusing since French history really isn’t my forte. Anyone with more background knowledge would probably find this perfectly fine, but Marie-Antoinette’s affair of the diamond necklace was mentioned at least three or four times in the book before we were ever given any further explanation as to what it was. Overall it was a very well informed read, and I’ve certainly got stuff to look out for when we go in July, but perhaps a re-read afterwards is necessary to appreciate this book properly.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Sobey

    Basically the author has written a book about Louis XIV's elaborate court and etiquette, but it fails to explore what happened to Versailles after 1789. It's a fascinating insight into the daily life at the Palace; using some new sources, although Luynes and Saint-Simon feature heavily. The author rigorously details Court etiquette and even how the Palace's inhabitants ate. But this biography essentially stops dead in 1789. When the palace ceased to be the King's seat and the epicentre of French Basically the author has written a book about Louis XIV's elaborate court and etiquette, but it fails to explore what happened to Versailles after 1789. It's a fascinating insight into the daily life at the Palace; using some new sources, although Luynes and Saint-Simon feature heavily. The author rigorously details Court etiquette and even how the Palace's inhabitants ate. But this biography essentially stops dead in 1789. When the palace ceased to be the King's seat and the epicentre of French Royal government, the author seems to lose all interest in what happened to the bricks and mortar that remained. The period 1680-1789 is covered extensively in 10 beautifully detailed chapters. Yet the two hundred years from 1789 to the present day is covered in one meagre chapter of less than 20 pages. And this was the period that called for a more detailed examination by an author writing in English. The changes to this palace over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries and the relationship the French people and their governments had with this former symbol of French absolutism, are given scant regard. It seems particularly puzzling that Louis-Philippe's huge program of works are given such cursory examination. These works transformed the Palace, which been structurally untouched since 1789, into a museum. We are given no indication as to why they were undertaken, how much this programme cost or the drivers behind these decisions. There is no examination of the compromised feelings of both Louis XVIII and Charles X toward their childhood home. It was also very disappointing that there was no sense at all of how 20th century Republican governments have treated Versailles and the scale of investment made toward its upkeep.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laura C.

    Having read over the years numerous books about the last two hundred years of the French Bourbon Kings, here is a book about the place so much of it took place: the sprawling palace complex of Versailles. At the time Louis XIV began to enlarge the hunting retreat of his father, he was not quite on the top of the heap of European power and prestige. His new palace was meant to send an unmistakable message to everyone that la France was the center of politics, fashion, religion, and architecture, Having read over the years numerous books about the last two hundred years of the French Bourbon Kings, here is a book about the place so much of it took place: the sprawling palace complex of Versailles. At the time Louis XIV began to enlarge the hunting retreat of his father, he was not quite on the top of the heap of European power and prestige. His new palace was meant to send an unmistakable message to everyone that la France was the center of politics, fashion, religion, and architecture, and that the reins of state were firmly held in his own remarkable person. Versailles was a giant dormitory for the nobility. But how did they live there? How did they keep warm (they didn’t), eat (at the common table – the privilege of a kitchen was rarely awarded), use the bathroom (apparently women did not wear underwear), keep clean (water was seen as dangerous), have affairs (there was no privacy to speak of, especially for royalty), give birth (if you were the Queen, in front of everyone so that there was no chance of switching babies), etc.? This giant publicity stunt became a liability within 3 generations as the language of culture moved on. When Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were removed from the grounds in 1780, even the Kings own bodyguards had deflected. The building built to reflect French superiority had become a symbol of its excesses. I found it fascinating.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Spawforth's Versailles is more a biography of court life than a biography of the palace itself. The chapters do more to illustrate what life was like at Versailles than to show a biography of the palace itself. Therefore, the sub-title A Biography of a Palace is misleading. Spawforth, however, does illustrate in somewhat entertaining detail what court life at the palace was like. He includes detail about etiquette, for instance, when men could put their hats back on, as well as daily life of the Spawforth's Versailles is more a biography of court life than a biography of the palace itself. The chapters do more to illustrate what life was like at Versailles than to show a biography of the palace itself. Therefore, the sub-title A Biography of a Palace is misleading. Spawforth, however, does illustrate in somewhat entertaining detail what court life at the palace was like. He includes detail about etiquette, for instance, when men could put their hats back on, as well as daily life of the courtiers who lived there. He even includes a bit about the absence of toilets. It does help, however, to have a working general knowledge of French history. You don't need an in-depth knowledge, but enough to keep all the Louis straight. What really saves the book from becoming a tedious list of stories is Spawforth's prose. Every sentence makes the book easy to read. Every sentence conveys Spawforth's love for the palace. (And the editor was nice enough to place the picture insert at the end of a chapter instead of in the middle of one).

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Huston

    This was another book that I was pleasantly surprised by. It's full of all sorts of trivia, all built around the history of the palace of Versailles, including the town and the people within. This one is a must read for anyone interest in Ancient Regime France. For the longer review, please go here: http://www.epinions.com/review/Book_V... This was another book that I was pleasantly surprised by. It's full of all sorts of trivia, all built around the history of the palace of Versailles, including the town and the people within. This one is a must read for anyone interest in Ancient Regime France. For the longer review, please go here: http://www.epinions.com/review/Book_V...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Rather saucy, with interesting details and accounts from those who inhabited the glamorous palace. From the time of the Sun King to Louis XVI, this 'biography' recalls interesting bits of history that took place under the guilt roofs of the Palace. The sheer gossip and juicy stories keep the pages turning. Read more Rather saucy, with interesting details and accounts from those who inhabited the glamorous palace. From the time of the Sun King to Louis XVI, this 'biography' recalls interesting bits of history that took place under the guilt roofs of the Palace. The sheer gossip and juicy stories keep the pages turning. Read more

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jess Sabo

    This book was engaging and informative. I could definitely picture Versailles and its inhabitants, and he has researched many structures within the castle that have since been demolished (such as the private quarters Marie Antoinette built in the attics). The organization of the book was a little challenging for me: he divided the chapters into topics, such as "mistresses" or "religion in the palace," and then he went through all three Louis (14, 15, & 16) in each chapter. That made it a little This book was engaging and informative. I could definitely picture Versailles and its inhabitants, and he has researched many structures within the castle that have since been demolished (such as the private quarters Marie Antoinette built in the attics). The organization of the book was a little challenging for me: he divided the chapters into topics, such as "mistresses" or "religion in the palace," and then he went through all three Louis (14, 15, & 16) in each chapter. That made it a little difficult for me to formulate a full picture of any one era. The author also switched back and forth BETWEEN different Louis: I often had to backtrack and work to figure out who I was reading about in any given paragraph. I enjoyed the book much more after I started picturing myself sitting next to the author while he spun yarns from memory about all of his studies. I appreciate his sharing his passion for the subject and great storytelling with me.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Simone

    A detailed, yet highly readable account of the palace and how it was used. We learn of the messy additions and renovations, the constant reshuffling of courtier's lodgings, and the desperate attempts of the latter royals to carve out private niches in the very public palace. The ruinous cost of running the palace opera, the education of the palace pages and the tension between the Versailles villagers and the court are all documented. This is for any lover of Versailles or domestic history in ge A detailed, yet highly readable account of the palace and how it was used. We learn of the messy additions and renovations, the constant reshuffling of courtier's lodgings, and the desperate attempts of the latter royals to carve out private niches in the very public palace. The ruinous cost of running the palace opera, the education of the palace pages and the tension between the Versailles villagers and the court are all documented. This is for any lover of Versailles or domestic history in general. A well researched and well written book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Maranda

    An interesting take on French history by using the perspective of the palace. All the events discussed are linked to the palace in some way. Definitely an I intriguing read for French history lovers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    Hard to read at times-but my goal was to gain some knowledge on the history on Versailles before our trip. I definitely learned some history!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Found this book through Ingrid Mida's web page: FASHION IS MY MUSE. She travels extensively and writes wonderfully so this book is a fairly exciting read. Spawforth is a writer that just allows one more picture into the life of the Bourbon Kings and Queens influence on Paris. A Capet not a Cadet... Though I was in France in 1979, I chose not to take the usual too busy tourist jaunt, and now know that was a mistake. Versailles' architecture, social behaviors and royal gossip was part of the rea Found this book through Ingrid Mida's web page: FASHION IS MY MUSE. She travels extensively and writes wonderfully so this book is a fairly exciting read. Spawforth is a writer that just allows one more picture into the life of the Bourbon Kings and Queens influence on Paris. A Capet not a Cadet... Though I was in France in 1979, I chose not to take the usual too busy tourist jaunt, and now know that was a mistake. Versailles' architecture, social behaviors and royal gossip was part of the reason I chose to finish this book. A court gossiper Colbert said that Louis XIV transformed the former hunting lodge into a "architecture" nightmare. Spawforth wrote that Colbert was seen as a small man with a big head. The tales of Jeanne du Barry, Marie Antoinette's battle with this beautiful woman who outdistanced her in fame for a time were well written. A few insights that not all authors pick out to write on French pre and post revolution. The Versailles Palace expanded, was demolished for royal court members, and built even more to hold royals, household staff and the Kings' systems of government, place art, theater, architecture, costume as an added bonus to this book. Pictorial histories on Versailles are good, but details into its secrets and haunts make this Spaworth book added reading. What else is there that lies hidden in the ghost corners of this death trap for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steven Ferre

    A well-written history of the building and various remodeling efforts undertaken at Versailles, this book managed on a several occasions to prove interesting. However, I found the amount of detail on the actual construction of the palace to be, on the whole, rather meager; greater emphasis was devoted to the ridiculous court etiquette. As noted in the book, there were a a few occasions where court etiquette necessitated a quirky floor plan or structural modification to the palace, but on the who A well-written history of the building and various remodeling efforts undertaken at Versailles, this book managed on a several occasions to prove interesting. However, I found the amount of detail on the actual construction of the palace to be, on the whole, rather meager; greater emphasis was devoted to the ridiculous court etiquette. As noted in the book, there were a a few occasions where court etiquette necessitated a quirky floor plan or structural modification to the palace, but on the whole the emphasis on etiquette seemed odd. Also, strangely, the history of the palace after the revolution, particularly int he 19th century during which most of the modifications were made to the palace in its transition to a museum and conceivably better documented, were glossed over. Warning to fellow e-book readers - there were no illustrations and the formatting/footnotes were useless. There were also a myriad of typos and punctuation errors, which I presume happened during the translation into an electronic format. Lastly, I laughed-out-loud when the author lamented that Versailles is a victim of global warming, because a 200+ year-old tree planted by Marie Antoinette was felled by a recent windstorm. Um...old trees have been toppled by wind since there were old trees and wind.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leah

    Reading Challenge Category: A book that takes place in your hometown. Well, technically Versailles may not be my hometown, but it's where I lived in France and will always be my second home. I loved that this book not only delved into the history of the palace and those who lived there, but also touched on the relationship between the palace and the town, and how the town grew after the revolution. When I lived in Versailles, I would often think about how everything I saw, from the grand palace t Reading Challenge Category: A book that takes place in your hometown. Well, technically Versailles may not be my hometown, but it's where I lived in France and will always be my second home. I loved that this book not only delved into the history of the palace and those who lived there, but also touched on the relationship between the palace and the town, and how the town grew after the revolution. When I lived in Versailles, I would often think about how everything I saw, from the grand palace to the churches to the market square to the layout of the streets--even the street where I lived--was there because of the will of one man, Louis XIV. His vision brought all this out of a swampy hunting ground. But Versailles is so much more than the story of the Sun King, and Spawforth's "Biography of a Palace" is a great way to get acquainted with other aspects of this famous place.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Laura Holford-Green

    I love this book. As the author of a book series that revolves around the French Revolution I am always on the lookout for new information regarding that time in history. Tony Spawforth does an excellent job of bringing Versailles to life in the minds eye. One would think reading about a palace would be dry-reading but not in this case. Of course this isn't just any palace he is writing about. Truly, in the world there are 5 maybe 6 truly great palaces and Versailles is one of them. This book is I love this book. As the author of a book series that revolves around the French Revolution I am always on the lookout for new information regarding that time in history. Tony Spawforth does an excellent job of bringing Versailles to life in the minds eye. One would think reading about a palace would be dry-reading but not in this case. Of course this isn't just any palace he is writing about. Truly, in the world there are 5 maybe 6 truly great palaces and Versailles is one of them. This book is a must read for French history buffs along with fans of historical architecture and just anyone that would like more info on this grand estate.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Janis Williams

    Very interesting history of this place. Here is a but from the book which I have to pass along that I found in the chapter called Comforts-or lack of them: “The great advantage of the new device (the toilet) was the absence of smell. A luxurious installation of marble, porcelain, and mahogany, the king’s was kept so clean that Louis XVI once sat down without noticing an enormous angora cat curled up contentedly in the perfumed bowl. When events galvanized the cat into attacking the sovereign from Very interesting history of this place. Here is a but from the book which I have to pass along that I found in the chapter called Comforts-or lack of them: “The great advantage of the new device (the toilet) was the absence of smell. A luxurious installation of marble, porcelain, and mahogany, the king’s was kept so clean that Louis XVI once sat down without noticing an enormous angora cat curled up contentedly in the perfumed bowl. When events galvanized the cat into attacking the sovereign from below, a dazed Louis XVI fled, stockings in hand, ‘ringing all the bell-pulls.’”

  22. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I enjoyed this book a lot, as it gave me a greater appreciation for what it must have been like to really live there. I have 2 criticisms- 1: I found the way that the author switched between monarchs and time frames a bit confusing to follow. I would have liked his book organized more clearly by theme and chronology. 2: The description of Versailles' 'life' after the Revolution was too brief, I wanted to know more! Still, overall, a good book for people who love to read about France and its roya I enjoyed this book a lot, as it gave me a greater appreciation for what it must have been like to really live there. I have 2 criticisms- 1: I found the way that the author switched between monarchs and time frames a bit confusing to follow. I would have liked his book organized more clearly by theme and chronology. 2: The description of Versailles' 'life' after the Revolution was too brief, I wanted to know more! Still, overall, a good book for people who love to read about France and its royal family.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This was less a biography of a palace than a loosely strung series of vignettes that served only to remind me that I knew all this stuff about the kings...and I still don't know anything about this palace. It doesn't even have that many pictures. You'd think that a biography of a palace would have...I don't know...floor plans...it had one...of one area. The only map of the area was the end papers. Seriously, people. I don't ask a whole lot, but a map would have been nice.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christina Maria

    This really is an excellent book. The density may be a little intimidating, but the detail is what makes it great. In addition to covering the construction and numerous remodeling of the building itself, it goes into the laborious but all powerful system of etiquette, what it was like to live there daily, and several great anecdotes from the lives of the royals, nobles, and courtiers who lived there.

  25. 4 out of 5

    William

    The facts themselves are always interesting, but the thematic chapters that the author has created do not seem to give the book any cohesion when he quickly jumps around in time. Maybe a more traditional chronological overview of Versailles would have been better. At minimum, more diagrams and illustrations of the palace in the context of the narrative would have helped immensely.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Phoebe

    An extremely readable history of the palace and the politics and social network within it. Totally fascinating, very well organized, and clearly written. Spawforth helpfully includes interesting facts about Versailles in modern day and the restorations being done to it. Could have included more photographs though.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    I'm very interested in French cultural history and found this to be an enlightening book. The first two chapters were quite dry, but the work became much richer as the complex lives of the court and their servants were examined. It truly provides a sense of the palace and the challenges of living there. It made me want to visit Versailles again.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ellena Downes

    It was interesting to see how regimented the court of the last Kings of France were and ultimately how out of touch with the French people they were. Hiding away in ever evolving palace that was in itself a kingdom. I liked the way the three different Kings were compared and the bitchy comments of courtiers showed how they were really seen.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Well researched but I was hoping for more. I wanted it to be about the society of Versailles in the 18th Century, what it was like to actually live there (which must have been like an utterly insane version of high school) and it talked about that for part, but a lot more on the history of the building, etc., than I had frankly wanted (a bit dull....)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    Loved little bits of information, like how Marie-Antoinette got hit by a careless servant emptying a chamber pot! The information about the actual building (construction, renovations etc...) was a bit dry. I suppose I was mostly in it for the 18th century Star Magazine info

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