Destinations: Versailles (1987)

Only about 10 kilometres from Paris is located Versailles about which we had read in History and Political Science books. Its Palace hosted quite a few peace conferences during the preceding centuries. The most important was perhaps the Treaty of Versailles after the conclusion of World War I about a hundred years ago.
Beginning as a hunting lodge for the French monarch Louis XIII it graduated into an opulent palace from where the royal functions of French monarchy used to be discharged. Yes, it used to be the capital of France during the reigns of Louis XIV, XV and XVI, the last, however, couldn’t complete his reign as he was overtaken by the revolutionary forces and was hauled out of Versailles and housed in the Tuileries Palace in Paris only to be charge for treason and guillotined in 1793. A few months later his queen Marie Antoinette, too, was executed. Revolutionaries can be pretty cruel and hateful. The Palace has since then lost all the importance apart from being a site for tourists whose heavy footfalls keeps the neighbouring town happy. The Palace, called the Chateau de Versailles is also used whenever the French Congress – the National Assembly and the Senate – have to meet to amend the Constitution.

From the books on my home town Gwalior in central India I understood that the town’s Jai Vilas Palace was built on the pattern of the Palace of Versailles. It seems the then ruling Prince Jayajirao Scindia had sent one of his sardars (minister), Sir Michel Filose, to see the palaces around the world and then build one for him. It was then said that the palace that eventually Filose built and equipped for occupation in 1873 named as Jay Vilas was patterned on the Versailles Palace. May be the opulence of the Darbar Hall with glass, mirror, two huge chandeliers and the gilding was an attempted copy of the famous Hall of Mirrors of the Versailles Palace. Otherwise from outside Jai Vilas looks more like Buckingham Palace, perhaps slightly even better. 

We had only a few hours in Versailles. It is a massive palace, having been built over centuries. Every king who resided here added to what was built by King Louis XIV. It was impossible to go over everything because of the massiveness of the place and hence the concentration was on the Hall of Mirrors and the gardens where beautiful sculptures were aesthetically placed. I regret for not being able to take any photograph of the Hall of Mirrors as there were far too many people jostling in there. Besides, it was a sultry day. The heat and the jostling crowd made it quite uncomfortable. Honestly speaking, the whole thing was nothing new as we had had occasion to see numerous old palaces. The personal apartments of the king and the queen were certainly richly done up and, of course, one couldn’t probably find better French furniture elsewhere. They were just exquisite.

The gardens of the Palace cover approximately 800 hectares and they are said to be the most visited sites in France. The gardens are huge and have beautifully patterned hedges in different designs. Beautifully manicured lawns and the flower beds laid in various styles, the sculpture and the fountains make them captivating. Once out in the gardens one could see the vastness of the place. The forests on the fringes make them even more beautiful. Having been to quite a few royal gardens during our trip through Europe I, having no expertise in horticulture, found this one to be aesthetically the best


More by :  Proloy Bagchi

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