Versailles: A Biography of a Palace

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9780312603465: Versailles: A Biography of a Palace

Called "fast-paced" (Kirkus Reviews) and "highly engrossing" (Publishers Weekly), this is the behind-the-scenes story of the world's most famous palace.

The story of Versailles is one of high historical drama mixed with the high camp and glamour of the European courts, all in an iconic home for the French arts. The palace itself has been radically altered since 1789. Versailles sets out to rediscover what is now a vanished world: a great center of power and, for thousands, a home both grand and squalid.

Using the latest historical research, Spawforth offers the first full account of Versailles in English in over thirty years. He probes the conventional picture of this "perpetual house party" and gives full weight to the darker side: not just the mounting discomfort of the aging palace but also the intrigue and status anxiety of its aristocrats, as well as the changing place of Versailles in France's national identity since 1789.

Many books have told the stories of the royals and artists living in Versailles, but this is the first to turn its focus on the palace itself―from architecture to politics to scandal to restoration.

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About the Author:

As well as having a rich broadcast history, TONY SPAWFORTH is the author and editor of numerous books on the ancient world. He is currently professor of ancient history at Newcastle University in England.

From School Library Journal:

Starred Review. This fascinating, immensely readable book will be welcomed by both general readers and those interested in French culture. Using an impressive array of sources, Spawforth (ancient history, Newcastle Univ.; The Complete Greek Temples) re-creates the history of Versailles and its inhabitants, focusing not merely on architectural details but on the many human stories hidden within its lengthy past. Meticulously tracing the growth and changing usages of the palace from the days of Louis XIII to the ill-fated departure of Louis XVI in the upheaval of the Revolution, he offers vivid insights into a vanished world of royal and aristocratic splendor as he describes the clothing, rituals, habits, ceremonies, and entertainments of a social set obsessed with the "fetishes of rank." No detail appears to have escaped his purview as he looks at the court's dress codes, standards of service, etiquette rituals, and sanitary facilities. Even more important are the glimpses he provides into the lives of those servants and townspeople who made life at Versailles possible, individuals such as the "water waiter" who oversaw a kind of underground economy by redistributing leftovers from royal tables. This book thoughtfully analyzes how Versailles has been both a living community and a symbol of many things—royal magnificence, despotism, extravagance, isolation, and, finally, national pride. Most intriguing is the little-known story of what became of Versailles after the Revolution and the key role played by conservators like Pierre de Nolhac in preserving and reconstructing its history. Highly recommended for large public libraries.—Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell Coll., N.J.
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Book Description St Martin s Press, United States, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Called fast-paced (Kirkus Reviews) and highly engrossing (Publishers Weekly), this is the behind-the-scenes story of the world s most famous palace. The story of Versailles is one of high historical drama mixed with the high camp and glamour of the European courts, all in an iconic home for the French arts. The palace itself has been radically altered since 1789. Versailles sets out to rediscover what is now a vanished world: a great center of power and, for thousands, a home both grand and squalid. Using the latest historical research, Spawforth offers the first full account of Versailles in English in over thirty years. He probes the conventional picture of this perpetual house party and gives full weight to the darker side: not just the mounting discomfort of the aging palace but also the intrigue and status anxiety of its aristocrats, as well as the changing place of Versailles in France s national identity since 1789. Many books have told the stories of the royals and artists living in Versailles, but this is the first to turn its focus on the palace itself--from architecture to politics to scandal to restoration. Bookseller Inventory # ABZ9780312603465

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