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Versailles: A Biography of a Palace by Tony…
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Versailles: A Biography of a Palace

by Tony Spawforth

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1061174,167 (3.63)2

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The book was very promising but in the end it was lacking in original research and new insight. Primarily the book covers reigns of Louis XIV, XV, and XVI, with precious little information about the palace after the Revolution. I would say about 30% of the narrative is based on the memoirs of Duc de Saint Simon; and while it is not bad thing in itself, I would prefer to read a standalone memoir rather than its abridged version masquerading as a biography of a palace. In addition the book was jumping back in forth in time which made it hard to follow. Sometimes I had to come back and re-read paragraphs to clarify which of the kings author was talking about.
Overall it is an ok book to read if you never read anything about Versailles, otherwise I would not recommend it. ( )
1 vote anutany | Apr 2, 2009 |
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Only an aerial viewpoint starts to do justice to the size of Versailles.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312357850, Hardcover)

The behind-the-scenes story of the world’s most famous palace, painting a picture of the way its residents truly lived and examining the palace’s legacy, from French history through today

The story of Versailles is one of historical drama, under the last three kings of France’s old regime, 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, and the court was long ago swept away. Versailles sets out to rediscover what is now a vanished world: a great center of power, seat of royal government, and, for thousands, a home both grand and squalid, bound by social codes almost incomprehensible to us today.

Using eyewitness testimony as well as the latest historical research, Spawforth offers the first full account of Versailles in English in over thirty years. Blowing away the myths of Versailles, he analyses afresh the politics behind the Sun King’s construction of the palace and shows how Versailles worked as the seat of a royal court. He probes the conventional picture of a “perpetual house party” of courtiers and gives full weight to the darker side: not just the mounting discomfort of the aging buildings but also the intrigue and status anxiety of its aristocrats. The book brings out clearly the fateful consequences for the French monarchy of its relocation to Versailles and also examines 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 and politics to scandal and restoration.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:03 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

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. Spawforth probes the conventional picture of the palace, and gives full weight to the darker side, as well as its changing place in France's national identity since 1789.

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