VERSAILLES, a town of northern France, capital of the department of Seine-et-Oise, 12 m. by road W.S.W. of Paris, with which it is connected by rail and tram. Pop. (1906) town, 45,246; commune, 54,820. Versailles owes its existence to the palace built by Louis XIV. It stands 460 ft. above the sea, and its fresh healthy air and nearness to the capital attract many residents. The three avenues of St Cloud, Paris and Sceaux converge in the Place d'Armes. Between them stand the former stables of the palace, now occupied by the artillery and engineers. To the south lies the quarter of Satory, the oldest part of Versailles, with the cathedral of St Louis, and to the north the new quarter, with the church of Notre Dame. To the west a gilded 1 See Gay, Cart. ined. i. p. 367.
iron gate and a stone balustrade shut off the great court of the palace from the Place d'Armes. In this court, which slopes upwards from the gate, stand statues of Richelieu, Conde, Du Guesclin and other famous Frenchmen. At the highest point there is an equestrian statue in bronze of Louis XIV., and to the right and left of this stretch the long wings of the palace, while behind it extend the Cour Royale and the smaller Cour de Marbre, to the north, south and west of which rise the central buildings. The buildings clustered round the Cour de Marbre, which include the apartments of Louis XIV., project into the gardens on the west considerably beyond the rest of the facade. To the north the Chapel Court and to the south the Princes Court, with vaulted passages leading to the gardens, separate the side from the central buildings. On the other is the inscription, " A toutes les gloires de la France," which Louis Philippe justified by forming a collection of works of art (valued at 1,000,000), commemorating the great events and persons of French history. The palace chapel (1696-1710), the roof of which can be seen from afar rising above the rest of the building, was the last work of J. Hardouin-Mansart.
The ground-floor of the north wing on the garden side contains eleven halls of historical pictures from Clovis to Louis XVI., and on the side of the interior courts a gallery containing casts of royal funereal monuments. The Halls of the Crusades open off this gallery, and are decorated with the arms of crusaders and with modern pictures dealing with that period. On the first floor of the north wing on the garden side are ten halls of pictures commemorating historical events from 1795 to 1830; on the court side is the Gallery of Sculpture, which contains the Joan of Arc of the princess Marie of Orleans; and there are seven halls chiefly devoted to French campaigns and generals in Africa, Italy, the Crimea and Mexico, with some famous war pictures by Horace Vernet. The second storey has a portrait gallery. In the north wing is also the theatre built under Louis XV. by Jacques-Ange Gabriel, which was first used on the 16th of May 1770 on the marriage of the dauphin (afterwards Louis XVI.) and Marie Antoinette. Here, on the 2nd of October 1789, the celebrated banquet was given to the Gardes du Corps, the toasts at which provoked the riots that drove the royal family from Versailles; and here the National Assembly met from the loth of March 1871 till the proclamation of the constitution in 1875, and the Senate from the 8th of March 1876 till the return of the two chambers to Paris in 1879. On the ground-floor of the central buildings are the halls of celebrated warriors (once the anteroom of Madame de Pompadour), marshals, constables and admirals, and the suite of rooms known as the Dauphin's Apartments, now given up to historical portraits. The Galerie Basse, once known as the Gallery of Louis XIII., leads to the rooms surrounding the Marble Court, a series of which contains many plans of battles. The lobbies of the ground-floor are full of busts, statues and tombs of kings and celebrated men. The famous staterooms are on the first floor. On the garden side, facing the north, are a series of seven halls, some of them decorated with tapestries representing the life of Louis XIV. Among them may be mentioned the Hall of Hercules, till 1710 the upper half of the old chapel, where the dukes of Chartres, Maine and Burgundy were married, and Bossuet, Massillon and Bourdaloue preached; the Hall of Mercury, where the coffin of Louis XIV. stood for eight days after his death; and the Hall of Apollo, or throne room. To the front of the palace, facing the west, are the Galleries of War and Peace, with allegorical pictures, and the Glass Gallery, built by Mansart in 1678 (235 ft. long, 35 wide and 42 high), having 34 arches, 17 of which are filled with windows looking on the gardens and 17 with large mirrors. The gallery is overloaded with ornament, and the pictures by Charles Lcbrun, the trophies and figures of children by Antoine Coysevox, and the inscriptions attributed to Boileau and Racine, all glorify Louis XIV. This gallery was used by him as a throne room on state occasions. Here the king of Prussia was proclaimed emperor of Germany on the 18th of January 1871. Connected with the Gallery of Peace are the queen's apartments, occupied successively by Marie Therese, Marie Leczinska and Marie Antoinette, where the duchess of Angouleme was born, the duchess of Burgundy died, and Marie Antoinette was almost assassinated on the 6th of October 1789. Behind the Glass Gallery on the side of the court are the rooms of Louis XIV. The CEil de Boeuf, named from its oval window, was the anteroom where the courtiers waited till the king rose. In it is a picture representing Louis XIV. and his family as Olympian deities; and it leads to the bedroom in which Louis XIV. died, after using it from 1701, and which Louis XV. occupied from 1722 to 1738. In the south wing of the palace, on the ground-floor, is the Gallery of the Republic and the First Empire, the rooms of which contain paintings of scenes in the life of Napoleon I. A sculpture gallery contains busts of celebrated scholars, artists, generals and public men from the time of Louis XVI. onwards. In the south wing is also the room where the Chamber of Deputies met from 1876 till 1879, and where the Congress has since sat to revise the constitution voted at Versailles in 1875 and to elect the president of the republic. The first floor is almost entirely occupied by the Battle Gallery (394 ft. long and 43 wide), opened in 1836 on the site of rooms used by Monsieur the brother of Louis XIV. and the duke and duchess of Chartres. It is lighted from above, and the walls are hung with pictures of French victories. In the window openings are the names of soldiers killed while fighting for France, with the names of the battles in which they fell, and there are more than eighty busts of princes, admirals, constables, marshals and celebrated warriors who met a similar death. Another room is given up to the events of 1830 and the accession of Louis Philippe, and a gallery contains the statues and busts of kings and celebrities.
The gardens of Versailles were planned by Andre Le N6tre. The ground falls away on every side from a terrace adorned with ornamental basins, statues and bronze groups. Westwards from the palace extends a broad avenue, planted with large trees, and having along its centre the grass of the " Tapis Vert "; it is continued by the Grand Canal, 200 ft. wide and i m. long. On the south of the terrace two splendid staircases lead past the Orangery to the Swiss Lake, beyond which is the wood of Satory. On the north an avenue, with twenty-two groups of three children, each group holding a marble basin from which a jet of water rises, slopes gently down to the Basin of Neptune, remarkable for its fine sculptures and abundant water. The Orangery (built in 1685 by Mansart) is the finest piece of architecture at Versailles; the central gallery is 508 ft. long and 42 wide, and each of the side galleries is 375 ft. long. There are 1200 orange trees, one of which is said to date from 1421, and 300 other kinds of trees.
The alleys of the parks are ornamented with statues, vases and regularly cut yews, and bordered by hedges surrounding the shrubberies. Between the central terrace and the Tapis Vert is the Basin of Latona or the Frogs, with a white marble group of Latona with Apollo and Diana. Beyond the Tapis Vert is the large Basin of Apollo, who is represented in his chariot drawn by four horses; there are three jets of water, one 60, the others 50 ft- in height. The Grand Canal is still used for nautical displays; under Louis XIV. it was covered with Venetian gondolas and other boats, and the evening entertainments usually ended with a display of fireworks. Around the Tapis Vert are numerous groves, the most remarkable being the Ballroom or Rockery, with a waterfall ; the Queen's Shrubbery, the scene of the intrigue of the diamond necklace; that of the Colonnade, with thirty-two marble columns and a group of Pluto carrying off Prosperine, by Frangois Girardon ; the King's Shrubbery, laid out in the English style by Louis Philippe; the beautiful Grove of Apollo, with a group of that god and the nymphs, by Girardon; and the Basin of Enceladus, with a jet of water 75 ft. high.
Among the chief attractions of Versailles are the fountains and waterworks made by Louis XIV. in imitation of those he had seen at Fouquet's chateau of Vaux. Owing to the scarcity of water at Versailles, the works at Marly-le-Roi were constructed in order to bring water from the Seine; but part of the supply thus obtained was diverted to the newly erected chateau of Marly. Vast sums of money were spent and many lives lost in an attempt to bring water from the Eure, but the work was stopped by the war of 1688. At last the waters of the plateau between Versailles and Rambouillet were collected and led by channels (total length 98 m.) to the gardens, the soil of which covers innumerable pipes, vaults and aqueducts.
Beyond the present park, but within that of Louis XIV., are the two Trianons. The Grand Trianon was originally erected as a retreat for Louis XIV. in 1670, but in 1687 Mansart built a new palace on its site. Louis XV., after establishing a botanic garden, made Gabriel build in 1766 the small pavilion of the Petit Trianon, where the machinery is still shown by which his supper-table came up through the floor. It was a favourite residence of Marie Antoinette, who had a garden laid out in the English style, with rustic villas in which the ladies of the court led a mimic peasant-life. The Grand Trianon is a one-storeyed building with two wings, and has been occupied by Monsieur (Louis XIV.'s brother), by the Great Dauphin, Napoleon I., and Louis Philippe and his court. The gardens of the Grand Trianon are in the same style as those of Versailles, and there is a museum with a curious collection of state carriages, old harness, etc.
Apart from the palace, there are no buildings of interest in Versailles; the church of Notre Dame, built by Mansart, the cathedral of St Louis, built by his grandson, the Protestant church and the English chapel being in no way remarkable. The celebrated tennis-court (Jeu de Paume) is now used as a museum. The large and sumptuous palace of the prefecture was built during the second empire, and was a residence of the president of the republic from 1871 'to 1879. The library consists of 60,000 volumes; and the military hospital formerly accommodated 2000 people in the service of the palace. There are statues of General Hoche and of Abbe de 1'Epee in the town. A school of horticulture was founded in 1874, attached to an excellent garden, near the Swiss Lake.
Versailles is the seat of a bishopric, a prefect and a court of assizes, and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, a chamber of comrnerce and a branch of the Bank of France, and, among its educational establishments, lycees and training colleges for both sexes and a technical school. It is an important garrison town and has a school of military engineering and artillery. Distilling, boot and shoe making, and marketgardening employ many of the people, but the town has no specially characteristic industry. The links of the Paris Golf Club are at La Boulie near Versailles.
Louis XIII. often hunted in the woods of Versailles, and built a small pavilion at the corner of what is now the rue de la Pompe and the avenue of St Cloud. In 1627 he entrusted Jacques Lemercier with the plan of a chateau. In 1661 Louis Levau made some additions which were further developed by him in 1668. In 1678 Mansart took over the work, the Galerie des Glaces, the chapel and the two wings being due to him. In 1682 Louis XIV. took up his residence in the chateau. It is estimated that 20 million pounds were spent on the palace, gardens and works of art, the accounts for which were destroyed by the king. Till his time the town was represented by a few houses to the south of the present Place d'Armes; but land was given to the lords of the court and new houses sprang up, chiefly in the north quarter. Under Louis XV. the parish of St Louis was formed to the south for the increasing population, and new streets were built to the north on the meadows of Clagny, where in 1674 Mansart had built at Louis XIV.'s orders a chateau for Madame de Montespan, which was now pulled down. Under Louis XVI. the town extended to the east and received a municipality; in 1802 it gave its name to a bishopric. In 1783 the armistice preliminary to the treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States was signed at Versailles. The states-general met here on the sth of May 1789, and on the 20th of June took the solemn oath in the Tennis Court by which they bound themselves not to separate till they had given France a constitution. Napoleon neglected, and Louis XVIII. and Charles X. merely kept up, Versailles, but Louis Philippe restored its ancient splendour at the cost of 1,000,000. In 1870 and 1871 the town was the headquarters of the German army besieging Paris. After the peace Versailles was the seat of the French National Assembly while the commune was triumphant in Paris, and of the two chambers till 1879, being declared the official capital of France.
See A. P. Gille, Versailles et les deux Trianons, with illustrations by M. Lambert (Tours, 1899, 1900); P. de Nolhac, La Creation de Versailles (Versailles, 1901); J. E. Farmer, Versailles and the Court under Louis XIV. (New York, 1905).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)