The palace, which was the seat of the monarchy before the French Revolution of 1789, is now a museum, but it is still used by French presidents to host leaders they want to impress, from Queen Victoria to Vladimir Putin.
‘Long live the king!’
France, which beheaded its own king and queen, has a long-running love affair with the British royal family and over the past 170 years has often wined and dined them at Versailles.
Emperor Napoleon III threw a ball for 1,200 guests at the royal opera in Versailles when Queen Victoria visited in 1855, the first trip to Paris by a British monarch in 400 years.
In 1938, as Europe stood on the threshold of another world war, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth swept into Paris to cries of “Long live the king!” and were too hosted at Versailles, in this case for lunch.
Less than two decades later, president Rene Coty pulled out all the stops for the young Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-serving monarch who died last year, on her first state visit to France with her husband Prince Philip.
After a night at the Paris Opera, the pair had lunch in Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, where the World War I reparations treaty was famously signed in 1919.
Fondness for foie gras
The land where food is king has served up an eye-popping array of delicacies for its British visitors.
But Victoria, known for her voracious appetite, had only faint praise for French cuisine, writing that while “the fowl and bouillon are quite delicious” French cooking has “less variety than ours”.
Her son Edward VII was treated to a 16-course feast in 1903, complete with fattened chicken, quail and glazed ducks.
By Elizabeth II’s time, the menu had been slimmed down to four or five courses, with one recurring staple: foie gras.
The Francophile queen had a fondness for the controversial pate obtained by force-feeding ducks or geese, but it is unlikely to feature on the menu for Charles, who has banned it from his household.
Open for business
Versailles has hosted many distinguished commoners as well.
In the post-war years, president Charles de Gaulle used it to host John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon when they were US presidents, as well as the Shah of Iran.
Socialist president Francois Mitterrand threw open the palace gates to communists, when he used it to host Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
By contrast, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande rarely used Versailles, with the exception of late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi for the former and Chinese President Xi Jinping for the latter.
In 2017, before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine turned him into a pariah, Russian President Vladimir Putin was welcomed there by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.
Macron has also used Versailles to tout France’s charms to foreign investors, including Tesla founder and X (formerly Twitter) owner Elon Musk who was invited to a business summit there in May.
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