The Palace of Versailles is celebrating its 400th anniversary and hosting King Charles III for a state dinner
Paris (AFP) – France rolls out the red carpet for… State visit of King Charles III In one of the most wonderful and symbolic monuments: the Palace of Versailles, which celebrates the four hundredth anniversary of its founding.
Charles and Queen Camilla’s three-day trip to Paris and Bordeaux, which begins on Wednesday, will include a grand dinner in Versailles with more than 150 guests in the Hall of Mirrors.
It comes as the Palace of Versailles opened to the public an exhibition tracing its history, from its establishment as a modest hunting lodge in 1623 through the key diplomatic events of the last century – including visits by Charles’ ancestors.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said that Wednesday’s dinner was reminiscent of the state visit made by Queen Elizabeth II in 1972, when she was received at the palace by President Georges Pompidou. King Charles liked the idea of following in his mother’s footsteps, according to Macron’s office.
Elizabeth II also visited the palace in 1958 and ten years earlier, when she was not yet queen.
Catherine Bigard, president of the Palace of Versailles, praised the palace’s “never-ending story” which “includes visits by French children who come to Versailles with their lessons, as well as visits by His Majesty the King of England or tourists who arrive from Asia and are less familiar with the history.”
“And we have a story to tell for every one of them,” she told The Associated Press.
Usually filled with chaotic crowds of photo-taking tourists from all over the world, the Hall of Mirrors will be closed to visitors on Wednesday to prepare for the royal banquet. Details about the menu have not yet been provided, but the French presidency said it would be an opportunity to showcase France’s cultural and gastronomic excellence.
Charles’s visit will mark another milestone in the palace’s long history from King Louis XIII through the French Revolution to the modern era, which is presented on the ground floor in the newly opened palace history gallery.
The exhibition contains 11 rooms, each largely thematic and temporary, presenting more than 120 works intended to provide visitors from around the world with an immediate understanding of the complex history of the palace.
It brings together recently acquired works alongside paintings and art objects that remained unseen for many years because they were in reserve and other works that have now been restored and better enhanced.
Laurent Salomé, director of the National Museum of Versailles and Trianon, said that the exhibition includes a number of artistic masterpieces.
“Our goal was to create a wonderful first moment of pleasure for visitors. First of all, because they have traveled a lot. They have dreamed of Versailles for a long time. We did not want to give them a boring lesson to start their visit,” he said.
Some of the works come from the original version of the palace and its gardens during the reign of its great builder Louis XIV, who decided to expand his father’s hunting lodge.
“It is a history made not only by one king, but also by a tremendous team of artists – the greatest artists. The good thing about absolute monarchy is the ability to bring together the best people in the same place,” Salomé stressed.
Today the palace contains 2,300 rooms spread over 63,154 square meters (679,784 square feet).
The history gallery also provides an opportunity to discover tidbits about palace life – such as some of the paintings of the “Chinese Room” of Queen Marie Leszczynska, wife of Louis XV, which she partly painted herself.
In the final rooms, visitors can see the famous office where the 1919 Treaty of Versailles was signed that officially ended World War I, as well as photo and video archives of heads of state and royalty who were honored at the palace during the 20th century.
“The idea is also to show that there has been a gradual transformation of the Palace of Versailles, which has always remained alive through the centuries, from its creation to the present day,” Salomé said.