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Map of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is noted worldwide for its luxurious furnishings, intricate gardens, and overall extravagance.  However, it was actually established in 1624 as a relatively humble hunting lodge for King Louis XIII.  After various remodelings, expansions, and facelifts, it eventually became the royal residence from 1682 until 1789. 

Versailles, which is capable of holding up to 20,000 people, has 700 rooms, more than 2,000 windows, 1,250 chimneys, and 67 staircases.  Not only did the immediate royal family reside there, but the palace also housed many members of the French nobility, as well as all official government offices. 

Up to 3,000 princes, courtesans, ministers, and servants lived there at any given time.  Palace inhabitants coveted spaces nearest the king's apartments, as this proximity offered status.  It was vital to see and be seen by the king!  Attending to the king's rising, mealtimes, or bedtime was an additional honor for royal residents.   

But it wasn't just the aristocracy who enjoyed Versailles. In 1682, the castle doors were opened to anyone wishing to visit.  Guards insured that no tourist carried weapons, and security was strict.  However, even the humblest subject was allowed to visit if he or she observed proper etiquette. (For example, all visitors were required to wear a hat and sword, which were available for rental at the palace entrance.)  Once properly outfitted, the masses enjoyed the breathtaking French and Italian paintings, sculpture, tapestries, and other fine art that adorned every room.

While Versailles' extravagance is dreamlike, keeping it running was a financial nightmare.  Some estimates say that maintaining the palace, including caring for and feeding the Royal Family and their massive staff, consumed anywhere from 6-25% of the entire French government income. 

Actual building costs for Versailles are debated by modern historians, because currency values are uncertain.  However, Versailles' price tag ranges anywhere from two billion dollars (in 1994 USD) all the way up to a maximum cost of $299,520,000,000!

These expenses are but one way to underscore the differences in day-to-day life between the lavish habits of the French aristocracy and the struggles of the common citizen.  

Royal Life

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