I love to watch YouTube videos about historical places. There are quite a few made on French chateaux like Versailles and the numerous renovations it is going through, currently the roof of the Chapelle of the Palace is being rebuilt, it has never been done since the construction of the Palace as we know it today in 1668.
There was another Chateau called Marly, not very far by carriage or horse ride from Versailles. Louis XIV love going there, it was very small and simple if compared to Versailles. Marly was an hermitage or refuge for the King from the daily State Ceremonial of Versailles. Marly was abandoned or neglected after Louis XIV death in September 1715. At the revolution it was sold to a merchant who dismantled it and sold off the stones and wood of the building. Today what remains is the beautiful gardens surrounding the footprint of Marly and the great water works.
Extensive archeological work has taken place on the foundation of Marly and what has been discovered gives an excellent idea of what life was like. Much details of the building exist thanks to archival material and extensive architectural drawings. Louis XIV came to Marly to relax and only 100 persons could come by INVITATION only. An even smaller number could stay overnight in the small pavilion built on either side of the palace. You can count 6 pavilion on either side. The closer the pavilion was to the main house where the King lived the closer that person was considered to be to the King.
To bring the water to Marly as shown above was a feat of engineering and a huge pumping machine had to be built so that each day the hydraulics would pump enough water to feed the pools and let the fountains play. The cost alone annually was by today’s standard in the millions of dollars.
To be invited to Marly was an honour anyone at Court was willing to fight viciously over. To suggest to the King that you wanted to be invited, if he looked at you or said a few words, you could exclaim; A Marly Sire! ( take me to Marly Sire) and maybe Louis would take the hint and then maybe not.
In the course of all the archeological investigation, even the latrines were examined. Medical pathologists were brought in to study the general health of people living at Marly at the time of Louis XIV. It turns out that it made no difference if you were the King, a great aristocrat or a minor one, or just a servant, everyone had worms. To such an extent that excrements were alive with them. Doctors of the period would examine feces and make detailed notes, even drawings of the various worms infecting a person. Some of the drawings are fanciful, like little dragons or creatures. It appears that people would live with the condition because it was a common situation in society in general, sanitation was not a concern.
Louis XIV lived to be 76 years old and died of diabetes and gangrene. Others Courtiers lived to be in their 80’s.
If Versailles with thousands of Courtiers living there had no toilets and no bathing facilities, you did your business under the great staircases or in a corner. Marly had latrines, the King used chamber pots, a special chair was designed for this purpose and he would perform this natural functions surrounded by Courtiers who were given special access to observe. The person of the King was viewed as State Property by all, so the King and Queen were on stage 24/7, what a life!
This being an age where messages from the most mundane to the very important had to be written and sent with your seal to the intended party you can imagine the message traffic. If today we have gmail and some of us get a lot of emails each day, imagine getting on average 50 letters per day or more. What to do with all those billets? Paper then was not like today and did not have the same stiffness or acidity we have in our paper. So it could be re-used and so it was as toilet paper. You only kept the most valuable or important letters or billet and the rest was put to good use. The remnants of letters were discovered by the archeologists in the latrines of Marly.
In old age Louis XIV suffered from numerous health problems, he had lost all his teeth, a common condition then for anyone over 35 years of age. His palate had been perforated by his doctors, a mishap while trying to cure something else. He had gout, he also had diabetes and the disease was so advanced that in July of 1715 his doctors suggested amputating his leg. His advisors rejected that idea, the King was brought back to Versailles, everyone knew he was condemned, he declined quickly and he died in September. Having lost all this children to various diseases, his great-grandson Louis XV became King.
This photo shows a square area which is the footprint of the Chateau of Marly with the surrounding forest and gardens with statues. The last pair of statues were installed in the presence of the King only 2 months before his death.