This week I thought I had to go to Versailles to interview FAUVE, an agitprop pop/hip hop collective who are just about the hottest young band in France right now. I felt pleased to be doing their first interview in English and that they turned out to be a far more amiable bunch than I could have expected, and I was also relieved to discover the café I was after was on Avenue de Versailles in the 16eme and not actually the address Google gave me that was next to the palace. That could have been embarrassing.
Anyway, now we’ve got that humble brag out of the way, having been in conference with pretenders to French pop’s throne I finally got to walk in the shadow of the Sun King himself this weekend as we headed off for Versailles proper. I’ve wanted to go there since before I moved to Paris, and given that today was peasant’s day (free museums on the first Sunday of the month), we decided to take a trek out there. Clearly lots of people had a similar idea, and we found ourselves pushing through barriers, knocking past tourists and scrambling out of the station like 10 year olds in order to beat the rush, and it worked bloody marvellously actually.
A walk through la galerie des Glaces makes you realise why the Royal Family had to get their heads chopped off. It’s all ridiculously, detestably opulent, and it’s hard to gaze upon the chinless Madame Pompadour and not feel like killing them all yourself. It’s certainly worth a visit, though once you’ve seen one royal château you feel like you’ve pretty much seen them all. Versailles is naturally a cut above though, and as much as I enjoy living in la République française, it’s hard not to have a sneaking admiration for Louis XIV himself. I suspect a lot of French people feel the same. He was a warmongering, womanising, autocrat who lived far too long, mercilessly sapping the proletariat in order to live in the style he was accustom to, but he did have a certain flair and joie de vivre, and history records him as a very good dancer. Although you wouldn’t have told him if he wasn’t.
Indeed it’s easy to forget the fact that Royalty were reinstalled for a while, though the contribution Louis Philippe made to Versailles is positively tasteful compared with the monstrous war-rooms installed by his predecessor, the Emperor of France. You can only imagine how sore portraitiste Jacques-Louis David’s arms must have been, and as for his tongue, well he must have pulled a muscle every week.
Spare a thought for poor, stupid Louis Auguste who was guillotined in 1793, though since then it’s all been liberté, égalité and fraternité as far as the eye can see. Question is, if Versailles now belongs to the people, then how come it’ll cost you money to get in on any other day of the month you choose to show up? Is it a bit like RBS?Follow @jeres