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Visiteurs de Versailles

Directed by Danielle Kisluk-Grosheide and Bertrand Rondot

On 5 October 1789, the Parisian mob, led by the fishmongers’ wives, headed to Versailles to seek out “the baker, the baker’s wife, and the little helper”. It was a very rare case of intrusion by the crowds in the castle of the kings of France. But, as shown in this book – and in the exhibition it accompanies that will run until 25 February 2018 -, visitors have never lacked in the royal residence. Indeed, they were from a different species, more like dukes and cousins, generals and allied princes, or ambassadors. Europeans easily complied with the strict protocol, especially when it came to exchanging gifts: Louis XIV liked to offer portrait boxes, while Louis XV gave tobacco boxes. But the “exotic” guests were more difficult to discipline! Persian Reza Bey, in 1715, took the freedom for example of smoking in the carriage of the Sun King and only offered a medicinal balsam, while the Bey of Tunis, in 1777, had the nerve to show up at the audience with a dagger. The famous embassy of Siam in 1686 was greatly documented by the stories. The assets are sumptuous, the gifts were surprising – such as the canons in hammered silver -, but were things very different from the economic missions in our times? The ambassadors, invited to visit the industrial plant of Saint-Gobain, usually return with an order for 4, 000 mirrors.

Visiteurs de Versailles, directed by Danielle Kisluk-Grosheide and Bertrand Rondot, Château de Versailles/Gallimard, 2017, 336 p., €45.

Visiteurs de Versailles - Directed by Danielle Kisluk-Grosheide and Bertrand Rondot

Review published in the newsletter #498 - from 18 January 2018 to 24 January 2018

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