The most gorgeous palaces in France: astonishing architecture, amazing gardens and parks. Mysterious stories, facts and secrets of Versailles, Trévarez, Louvre, Saumur and Vaux-le-Vicomte.
French palaces are more than just elegant architecture. They also hide many intriguing historical secrets, love stories and art treasuries. Let’s look at the most beautiful and entrancing among them.
Versailles and the ghost of Marie Antoinette
The brainchild and favorite residence of the “Sun King” Louis XIV was built according to his strict orders in the year 1661. The largest and most elegant palace ensemble in Europe. It has been considered the benchmark of architecture throughout the last four centuries. When Peter the Great saw Versailles he decided to build Peterhof.
He resolved to maintain the fine traditions he had witnessed in Versailles. Sanssouci in Potsdam and Schönbrunn in Vienna were also built with the inspiration of this royal palace in mind.
Historians decided to calculate the total cost of the Versailles palace. They were surprised to discover that the entire palace is worth 260 billion Euro! And virtually half of this total consisted solely of the combined value of all the ornate decorative finishes.
Versailles is in possession of a very sad secret. They say that the ghost of Marie Antoinette still wanders around the grounds: a woman in white clothes is occasionally spotted strolling about, or sitting on a chair drawing upon her sketchpad
Trévarez and the betrayal of an enamored Louise
At the foot of the Black Mountains one can find the elegant pink palace of Trévarez with its spires looking up to the blue sky. This palace is five centuries old and its construction preserved the finest traditions of the Renaissance. Elegant gardens are decorated with marvelous sculptures and vases, whilst the flora is well-groomed, bursting with vibrant blossoming azaleas, hydrangeas and rhododendrons!
Nevertheless, people visit here not only to enjoy the breathtaking views, but also to learn about the scandalous story of the love and betrayal of Louise du Grego. Author Juliette Benzoni wrote a novel about her called “Beautiful strangers”. At the beginning of the French Revolution, the Viscount left the palace, while Louise continued to live there.
Not long after, she met General Lazare Hoche who became the love of her life. With the support of her beloved she played an equivocal role between the royalists and the republicans, and managed to retain ownership of the palace. Ultimately her husband was killed in an ambush. After the eventual death of Hoche she later married Hoche’s associate, Colonel Bonté and she continued as the the owner of Trévarez till the last days of her life.
Saumur — the the Poet King’s Castle of Love
The splendid Saumur, located on a mountain near Loire and Thouet is called a sorcerer’s castle and the palace of ghosts. It was built during the 10th century and every element of this antique castle looks extraordinary: it was built in the shape of an irregular triangle, has stark white towers, and an austere silhouette. This castle was initially created to be used as a military fort.
Despite its somber style, Saumur does leave you speechless when you first lay eyes on it. The poet king Rene of Anjou described this castle in his novel “Le Coeur D’Amour Epris”. The title of this book translates to “The Heart of Love”, and in it he transforms the palace into a Castle of Love containing crystal walls, ruby towers and a golden roof.
The Louvre — lost Tuileries
The Louvre is the most popular and famous palace in Paris and and has been continually built upon and transformed throughout the past millennium. The Louvre and Tuileries was used as a residence for artists immediately preceding the French Revolution, however, Tuileries was destroyed in a fire during the period of the Paris Commune.
These days The Louvre is the most visited museum in Europe and the world. This benchmark of French Renaissance architecture has been enhanced by a magnificent glass pyramid for more than 30 years. The Louvre was initially designed with the intention that it serve as a place to keep the paintings of Henry VI. However, the most precious masterpiece in its collection is the Mona Lisa.
Vaux-le-Vicomte — payback for vanity
Vaux-le-Vicomte is well known as the predecessor of Versailles. But, the ownership of this mansion was somewhat tragic for the French Minister of Finances, Nicolas Fouquet.
According to the legend, when Louis XIV saw Vaux-le-Vicomte, he declared that it was the finest palace in the world and that Fouquet was living in undeserved luxury. He was convinced that all the best things had to belong to the king. He couldn’t accept that a mere servant possessed something more precious.
It was in that moment that he stated his most famed words: “I am the State!” Fouquet was falsely accused of embezzlement and put in a jail where he eventually died.
The landscape architect of Vaux-le-Vicomte, André Le Nôtre was instrumental in the creation of its impressive gardens. Louis XIV made him his personal gardener after dealing with Fouquet.
In order to recreate the atmosphere of beauty and grandness that Fouquet had presented to the king, this palace holds candlelit evenings from the beginning of May till the end of October. They light 2000 candles throughout the palace and its parks, play classical music, and transport people back in time to that fateful day, the 17th of August in the year 1661.