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The Bulletin du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles is a peer-reviewed electronic journal produced by the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles (CRCV), publishing scientific articles and studies on European court societies from the 16th to the 19th century. It welcomes contributions from scholars, postgraduates and senior researchers from all countries, disciplines and institutions.

Latest issue
23 | 2023
Le mythe de Versailles et l’Europe des cours, XVIIe-XXe siècles

The Myth of Versailles and European Courts, Seventeenth–Twentieth Centuries
Edited by Mathieu da Vinha, Flavie Leroux and Gérard Sabatier

Proceedings of the international symposium organised on 27-29 January 2022 in the auditorium of the Château de Versailles as part of its research programme ‘Court identities and the myth of Versailles in Europe: perception, adherence and rejection (18th-19th centuries)’.

At the end of the feudal period, in Europe, there emerged a new phenomenon of royal and princely courts that had political, social and cultural ramifications: the monopolisation of power for the benefit of a single person; the convergence of a group of individuals around a sovereign and his or her family (princes, courtiers, officers of domestic and military households); the development of a specific sociability and lifestyle marked by ceremony, a desire for ostentatious display and entertainments. These courts were as numerous and diverse as the dynasties at their head; nevertheless, some of them acquired a normative value, such as the fifteenth-century court of Burgundy and the sixteenth-century Italian courts. In the seventeenth century, and above all in the eighteenth, the French court of the Bourbons, in particular that of Louis XIV, began to acquire an archetypal value: growing out of a reality that was seen and experienced by the contemporaries of the kings of France, a mythology was created that obsessed European monarchies for a long time, up until most of them disappeared at the beginning of the twentieth century, at a time when political configurations were changing, ranging from power sharing to the assemblies that emerged with the creation of republics.

The two contradictory but complementary elements that characterise the idea of myth – the real and the reconstruction of the real – found, in the case of France, their most complete embodiment in Versailles. Simultaneously a royal space and a mode of government and social formation, Versailles was an architectural, administrative and visual formulation of ‘absolute’ power linked with the figure of Louis XIV. The aim of the programme ‘Court identities and the myth of Versailles in Europe: perception, adherence and rejection (18th-19th centuries)’, which this symposium and its proceedings conclude, is to analyse the modus operandi of this myth of Versailles in the monarchical Europe of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Two fundamental questions must be asked: how did the mythology created by Versailles among the contemporaries who frequented the court during the Ancien Régime and later among the visitors who went there in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries develop and what did it consist of? And in a reciprocal movement, how was this mythology implemented in the courts of Europe, with all the possible nuances, ranging from imitation and simple approval to rejection? There is thus a twofold issue here: understanding how the different aspects specific to the identity of Versailles were able to feed into a mythology, and understanding how this mythology gave rise to other realisations – architectural, ritual and political.

See the complete programme and the detailed booklet on the website of the Centre de Recherche du Château de Versailles.

Translators: Jean-Philippe Follet, Marianne Millon, Justyna Nowakowska, Bernard Wooding

Copyeditors: Judith Lévitan, Robert Owens

Fourteen of the twenty conference papers are published here in full text.

Date of publication: 3/05/2023



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