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Le Printemps what a lovely season, the weather is getting warmer by the day, Friday should be 22 C. which is Summer weather. This coming weekend is also the first official Long Weekend of Summer, the signal to open the cottage and start up the bar-b-q.

I was looking up recent photos of Versailles which re-opens today after months of being shut to all due to the pandemic restrictions in France. During these longs months the restorers of the Palace did a lot of work in various areas of the vast Chateau. This included a deep clean of various rooms and the return of furniture from the central national warehouse of important historical furniture of France. One piece in particular was the work desk of Louis XV made up of 20 different types of precious woods and of a secret mechanism operated with one key to close and lock it. This desk stayed in the bureau of the King until the revolution. It is now back where it belong, a magnificent piece of furniture. The restoration of the desk was paid for by Caterpillar France and Rolex, the desk has a two face clock which allows the king and his visitor on the other side to see the time. This wonderful piece of furniture was made in 1769, a real marvel and the clock works perfectly.

Many other private rooms or intimate rooms used by the King or Queen or other members of the Royal family have also been restored recently including carpets and drapes, all reproduce in the original fabric. This work is made possible due to archives and detailed descriptions, drawings and paintings and some piece of fabric which survived. You can see these rooms by appointment with a guide only. The rooms contain unique original artifacts of the period, rare books and porcelain and you would not want someone to bump into something.

The caveat is that Versailles you see today, the inside of the Palace evolved and is not what Louis XIV or Louis XV or even Louis XVI would have known, the palace was transformed and redecorated with each king and time and fashion dictate. Then the Palace was closed at the revolution, the furniture sold in most part to British and other European collectors for a pittance. Some was saved by Napoleon and by the return of the Bourbon Kings in 1814 under Louis XVIII and his brother Charles X and then their cousin Louis-Philippe remodelled wings of the palace where the apartments of the various Princes of the Kingdom were located into great galleries for his painting collection. So when visiting it is important to keep that in mind. Same for the gardens and le Petit and Grand Trianon or even le Hameau de la Reine which lost all its original furniture and is now decorated with Empire style furniture belonging to Empress Marie-Louise the second wife of Napoleon.

What has been recently recreated is the Grille Royale, which was the inner golden gate of the Cour d’Honneur which separated the first inner courtyard from a more sacred area which brought the special visitor within the proximity of the King. This golden gate was taken down at the revolution and was only restored starting in 2007, the work based on original drawings took 2 years to complete, cost 5 million Euros, is 80 meters long and weighs 15 tons, some 100,000 sheets of gold leaf was use to cover the gate.

The first gate on the street which allowed people to enter the first courtyard in the morning and at the back the Golden Gate which only opened for those the king wanted to see. Notice also the roof line, all in gold leaf and the window frames, all that was done in recent years and gives a wonderful impression of what it was like under Louis XIV when visitors came to Versailles they were suitably impressed. This is why the Palace was built to impress.

In this photo around 2000 you can see the roof before it was restored and the Cour d’Honneur being excavated, archeologists know from very early description of the time of Louis XIII when Versailles was nothing more than a Hunting Mansion, they wanted to see where the early foundation of the mansion and early palace were, finding many artifacts and the original traces of the old gate to the palace. There are large teams of artisans and art historians working on such projects. This is not the only palace in France where important restoration is taking place. Look at Chantilly the residence of the Duc d’Aumale.

Here we see two artisans applying gold leaf to the Crown of France on the roof top of the Chapelle Royale during the restoration of that building which lasted several years. You can also see the brown coating applied to the lead sculpture of the putti and window frame, this type of putty is to make the application of the gold leaf stick and prevent rust, a painstaking job but the final results are stunning.

here is the finished look of the roof top of the Chapelle Royale which is by far the tallest building of the palace, indicating that God is above the King.

Gold leaf and blue slate of the roof.

Here it is the final look as you arrive at Versailles looking to the right the Chapelle in sunlight, the blue of the slate of the roof and the gold leaf. The inside of the Chapelle also was restored including rebuilding the original 17th century organ which has a different more nasal sound than today’s instruments.