New Palaces and Court Life

Louis XIV. had the palace at Versailles constructed to provide his kingdom with a new political and cultural center, in which the king would be the central figure. Versailles was intended as being the opposite of the Louvre, where young child-King Louis had been the virtual prisoner of scheming noblemen, during the Fronde (1648-1653).
Versailles had multiple functions; frequent festivities and performances would distract the court nobility from engaging in political schemes; attendance at the ballet, opera, theatre was, for courtiers, mandatory. Life at Versailles was costly for the nobles who chose to - and many did, for they regarded the country nobility backward, out of touch. The courtiers had to own a large garderobe, for they had to dress according to the situation. The maintenance of Versailles, her performances and festivities was costly for the Kings (Louis XIV, XV, XVI) was costly, too. It is estimated that Versailles cost about 4 % of the French budget.

The splendour of the court at Versailles impressed rulers elsewhere, and they followed the concept of constructing a new palace-administrative center outside the traditional capital - Sanssouci outside of Berlin (Prussia), Schönbrunn outside Vienna (Austria), Tsarskoe Selo outside St. Petersburg (Russia) neing the most important ones.
King Charles II. of England imitated the way Louis XIV. held court, as did Duke-Elector Frederick Augustus, as Augustus II. elected King of Poland, byname "the Strong". He sired 365 children.
Frederick the Great had the palace at Sanssouci built; yet he spent little on performances and parties. In Prussia much of state revenue was invested in the army, and among travellers of the time, the court in Dresden was preferred over that at Sanssouci, because of better food and entertainment.
At the court of Maria Theresia in Schönbrunn, family values, decency were emphasized. Maria Theresia was a devout Catholic and mother of sixteen children.

Website of the Chateau de Versailles
Potsdam-Sanssouci, from Sanssouci Sightseeing, in German
Website of Schloss Schönbrunn
Website of All About Copenhagen
Drottningholm Palace (near Stockholm 1662), from Destination Stockholm
La Cour du Roi Soleil (The Court of the Sun King), by Benedicte Tregaro, in French
Article Duc de Saint Simon, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Article Louis XIV, from Catholic Encyclopedia
Carlyle's "History of Friedrich II of Prussia", originally published 1858-1865. posted by Online Books
DOCUMENTS The Court of Louis XIV., Extract from the Memoires of the Duc de Saint-Simon, posted by Modern History Sourcebook and by the Hanover Historical Texts Project
Online edition of the Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon, from Projekt Gutenberg
The Duchess of Orleans : Versailles Etiquette, 1704, from Modern History Sourcebook
VIDEO Restoration, 1994 (on Charles II.'s court)
Amadeus, 1984, (on Joseph II.'s court)
La Prise de Pouvoir de Louis XIV, 1966, (Engl. subtitles)
Marie Antoinette, 1938

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on September 18th 2003, last revised on November 14th 2004

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