The queen’s state apartments reediscovered
From 16 April 2019, visitors to the Palace will, once again, be able to access the Queen’s State Apartments, which have been closed since January 2016 for technical works required to upgrade the security and safety of the main part of the Palace on the south side. Necessary, large-scale work was undertaken to protect visitors and the collections from the risk of fire. The air-conditioning system was also upgraded to safeguard the artworks from temperature fluctuations and changing humidity levels. These systems now function behind the scenes, out of sight of the public.
While this work was going on, the opportunity was taken to carry out heritage restoration efforts, which were conducted under the supervision of Frédéric Didier, Architect-in-Chief of Historic Monuments, and the teams at the Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon. In addition, the décor of the Queen’s Guard Room has been restored to its former magnificence thanks to the generosity of the American Friends of Versailles and the Société des Amis de Versailles. The spectacular Rococo décor in the Queen’s Bedchamber, too, has regained its original clarity and splendour.
It is therefore a true rediscovery of the Queen’s State Apartments that awaits visitors today.
The queen's state apartments
The sovereigns’ State Apartments are where official duties were carried out and public life was conducted. They have been open to visitors since the Palace was established and are where all of the royal couple’s official obligations were fulfilled, whether they related to etiquette (the first and grand getting-up and going-to-bed ceremonies observed by the public, etc.), State politics (ambassadors’ receptions, etc.) or even religion. It is in these spaces, too, where all public audiences were conducted, courtiers were presented to the Court and certain festivities were held (balls, evening gatherings, etc.). The King and Queen each had such a ceremonial apartment, on the north and south sides of the royal residence, respectively. Courtiers made their way to see the Queen by taking the monumental Queen’s Staircase, which was at the heart of daily life at the Palace, as it gave access to both the King’s and Queen’s apartments, from 1680 onwards.
The State Apartments of the King and Queen were designed at the same time, starting in 1672, and were initially laid out symmetrically. The Queen’s State Apartments, although slightly truncated by the creation of the Hall of Mirrors in 1678, encompassed all the space necessary for the performance of official duties: a Guard Room, two antechambers, a parade room and a large private chamber.
The ceiling décor featured the same gods and planets as those in the corresponding rooms on the north side; the only difference is in the moulded panels, which depict heroines here, rather than heroes. Unlike the King’s Apartment, which Louis XIV abandoned in 1684 in favour of accommodation around the Marble Courtyard, leaving the adjoining spaces of the north side to host Court receptions, the Queen’s official apartment remained unchanged. It was occupied by three queens and two dauphines, one after the other, between 1682 and 1789. Its décor and layout evolved more or less according to the women who resided there, which is why the rooms here are not as consistent as those in the King’s Apartments.
Today, the Queen’s State Apartments comprise four rooms, which are visited in the opposite order to that dictated by tradition. It is one of the most spectacular and popular areas of the Palace of Versailles, welcoming more than 8 million visitors a year..
A much-needed operation
Works undertaken between January 2016 and February 2019.
This operation marked the start of phase 2 of the renovations, following the urgent works carried out during phase 1 of the development plan to renovate the Palace of Versailles authorised in 2003 by the French Ministry for Culture and Communication. This latest phase involved renovating all the technical networks, upgrading the security and safety of the State Apartments in the southern part of the central section of the Palace of Versailles, i.e. the Dauphin and Dauphine’s Apartments, the Queen’s State Apartments, the Queen’s Private Apartments and chambers, Madame de Maintenon’s Apartment, as well as the Coronation Chamber, the Pope’s Chamber and the Chimay Attic within the Museum of the History of France. A partial air-conditioning system was also installed to enhance preservation of the décors and collections.