BN.com Gift Guide

Versailles: A Biography of a Palace

Overview

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...

See more details below
Paperback (First Edition)
$15.74
BN.com price
(Save 21%)$19.99 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (20) from $4.00   
  • New (9) from $11.46   
  • Used (11) from $4.00   
Versailles: A Biography of a Palace

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook - First Edition)
$9.99
BN.com price

Overview

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.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An illuminating portrait.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Sparkling, elegant prose…. Spawforth brings the palace to glorious life.” —Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion

“Irresistible to anyone interested in the interactions of power, sexuality, and topography.” —Philip Mansel, author of Paris Between Empires

J. Courtney Sullivan
For any tourist who has visited the Palace of Versailles and wondered about the generations of royals who lived there, Spawforth's well-researched book offers an illuminating portrait…If the details that Spawforth, a British historian, provides in Versailles sometimes border on too much information, he makes up for it with vivid stories about the royals' personal choices and the ensuing architectural changes.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

British historian Spawforth animates the palace that was home to "the most charismatic monarchy in Europe" for a century, until the French Revolution. The glamour and pageantry of the palace hid a multitude of sins. The clothes-conscious Louis XIV, for instance, created a new office, grand master of the wardrobe, and appointed a duke whom the memoirist Saint-Simon likened to a slave. A handsome aristocratic page to Marie-Antoinette, Alexandre de Tilly, recounted his sexual intrigues at age 16 with a 36-year-old widowed countess, conducted in various palace locations. At Versailles the royals ate publicly, a display that was supposed to humanize them as spectators raced around to watch each member of the royal family dine; the crowd horrified a Russian princess in 1768. Chamber pots on the palace's the upper stories were frequently emptied into the interior courts below; Marie-Antoinette was hit-intentionally, she believed-as she passed under the windows of Madame du Barry, her father-in-law the king's mistress. This well-researched and highly engrossing account conjures a bygone era with all its opulence, deference and perilous insularity. 8 pages of color photos. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

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.

Kirkus Reviews

Portrait of the evolution of French court life and politics at Versailles.

British scholar Spawforth (Ancient History/Newcastle Univ.; The Complete Greek Temples, 2006, etc.) details the construction, restoration and daily intrigues at the royal palace—the opulent official residence and center of government—from the reign of Louis XIV to Louis XVI, the last kings of France. From 1682, when Louis XIV moved his then Paris-based court 12 miles west to the sleepy village of Versailles, until 1789, when thousands rose in protest against the flagrant excesses of the monarchy, the royal palace stood as a symbol of the grandeur and disgrace of France. About the public disaffection with aristocrats in advance of the French Revolution, the author writes, "Did Louis XVI need two thousand horses when Louis XIV had managed with seven hundred?" Drawing on memoirs, diaries, invoices, architectural plans and holdings from the palace archives, Spawforth elevates Versailles from an upscale tourist attraction to a breathing monument with a spellbinding flesh-and-blood history. Among other fascinating tidbits, readers learn that the monarchy routinely sold menial household jobs to poor families who coveted the social cachet of the palace. Positions such as royal chimney sweep, table clearer, clock winder and bearer of the king's chamber pot were purchased by status-conscious commoners as investments and passed from father to son for generations. In a fast-paced narrative, the author discusses the importance of dance, haute cuisine, costume balls and couture at Versailles, noting that clothes were a major expense of court life. In addition to dozens of wardrobe valets and 13 dressers whose sole dutywas to pass Louis XIV his cane, cloak and gloves, the king kept a lacemaker at the ready for mending. The gross disparities between the nobles at Versailles and the suffering masses in France in the 1780s made inevitable, Spawforth asserts, the gruesome end for Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI.

Arch, authoritative and richly descriptive.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312603465
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 3/16/2010
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 936,634
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet 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.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Builders of the Labyrinth 1

2 "Rome in one palace" 25

3 A Gilded Cage? 44

4 "How right to insist on ceremony..." 69

5 Follow the King! 98

6 "All the pleasures" 122

7 Comforts, or Lack of Them 145

8 Behind Closed Doors 168

9 A Garden with Flowers 195

10 "The royal zoo" 218

11 After the Deluge 242

Notes 255

Sources 279

Index 291

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 2, 2011

    Little Boring...

    This book has a lot of information but I found that it is presented all over the place because there are so many people involved. Instead of information presented in a time line, it is presented by topic and the author jumps from monarch to courtier to mistress and then to another monarch. I love Versailles but I found this a little boring...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Juicy!

    A book that makes architecture full of juicy human content, not just bricks and mortar, but how people interact w/ their very specicfic, odd and gorgeous environment. Fills in alot of blanks for 18th C French history buffs, "makes things make more sense" once you've read this book, and understand the palace itself better. Highly recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 11, 2012

    Outstanding book on the culture of the times - not just the buil

    Outstanding book on the culture of the times - not just the building. I hope this author writes many more like this.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2011

    Made my experience 100 times better...

    this year (June 2011) when I was able to visit the Palace of Versailles. I read this book before I went and it made my experience so much better. I had already read so many details and then experienced the enormity of Versailles first-hand. Definitely a great read to not just learn of the architecture but of the people who called Versailles "home".

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)