Friends groups exist everywhere and they are useful to raise funds and promote a site. Friends of Museums, Opera Houses, Theatres, Palaces, Gardens, etc. All have in common raising funds and promoting a place and attracting others to their project.
The Palace of Versailles was built between 1631 and 1715. Then after 1792 when it was closed by the Revolutionary government, it’s furniture and all its fixtures where sold off to foreign collectors. The Wallace Collection in London has an incredible array of furniture and objects from the Palace and it is all beautifully presented at Hertford House in Manchester Square, the former townhouse of the Seymour family, Marquesses of Hertford. It is named after Sir Richard Wallace, who built the extensive collection, along with the Marquesses of Hertford.
During the 19th century the Palace was remodelled to accommodate the French Senate and Legislative assembly. Great painting galleries were built from the former apartments of the Great Princes. Other buildings like Trianon and Le Hameau de la Reine were left to decay, this including the fountains and the extensive gardens and statuary.
When I first visited Versailles in 1969 with my parents, the palace looked a little sad and neglected. Yes, you could see the great rooms of the palace like la gallerie des glaces and the royal bedrooms, but they were empty of furniture, no candelabras or curtains on the windows. It was difficult to imagine how the King lived in such a place surrounded by a large number of Courtisans. The guided tours only gave the most perfunctory information mostly the major dates and details well known to all. My father remarked that the way the tour was given you had the impression that everything had been sent out for cleaning but would be back next week.
Les Amis du Chateau de Versailles is more than 100 year old association. In 1998 a group of wealthy Americans formed what is known as the American Friends of Versailles. Their goal was simple, raise funds to promote and support major restoration projects for the Palace and gardens and to support the French group of Les Amis, promoting friendship between France and the USA.
It goes without saying that any restoration work at Versailles requires experts in many fields, including archeologists, artists, historians and scholars plus artisan builders. The cost is always in the millions of Euros and the French Government and the European Union participate financially. Versailles is a UNESCO site.
In the last few years restoration projects were done or are under way at Le Hameau de la Reine, which is this little farm built for Marie-Antoinette so she could play the Bergère and pretend she lived a simple life. The Royal Gate was rebuilt in front of the Chateau, it had been torn down at the Revolution, the roof top of the entire palace was re-gilded in gold leaf as it was in the 18th century. Major fountains in the park were totally restored. Now the Royal Chapel completed in 1715 is being restored and repaired, this multi-year project should be completed in the Spring of 2021. It is the first major restoration of the Chapel since its construction. The roof with its giant wood beams and slate roof had not been touched in 300 years.
These are only some of the numerous projects underway at Versailles. The last time I visited was 1989 for the sad anniversary of the so called French Revolution which now is called a Civil War by historians, at that time some furniture had returned and some restoration had been done.
In recent YouTube videos you can see the work being done on the Palace. It is nothing short of breathtaking. There is also an active program to recover some of the original furniture of the Palace, however the Wallace Collection in London is not parting with any of its royal furniture.
Restauration de la Chapelle Royale de Versailles.