Talk about the history of palaces, and chances are that there are little or none who come quite close to the Palace of Versailles. Be it the site of the French Revolution, the home and the power seat of some of the most dynamic kings or queens, or the only place that contains in its wall more drama of power, deceit, romance and scandals than reams of history books. Truth be said, there’s nothing like this royal residence- a place whose grandeur is legendary and yet unseen. And if you, like us, have been enamored by the mysticism of this historic place, then here’s news for you. Come 2011, and the age old palace will see a transformation from the royal residence of the yesteryear royalty to a luxury hotel par excellence.
Yes really. As per the agreement between the Culture Ministry and the Secretariat of State for Tourism in 2009, one of the satellite buildings of palace is being turned into a luxury hotel. The Hotel du Grand Controle, the traditional home of the chateau’s treasurers, is to be converted into a “luxury hotel,” Jean-Jacques Aillagon, president of the Chateau de Versailles, said Tuesday.
The palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site deemed one of the crowning achievements of 18th-century French art, is one of Europe’s most popular tourist attractions. Famed for its Hall of Mirrors and home to the French court from 1682, the complex was transformed and expanded under the Sun King Louis XIV into a monument to royal grandeur and absolutism. It remained the official seat of power until the French Revolution in 1789, when Marie-Antoinette fled the palace via a secret passage.
A concession has been granted to the Belgian company Ivy International SA, which is to renovate and develop the satellite building that dates back to the 17th century, over 30 years. Built in the 1680s by the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the 1,700 square-metre (18,000 square-feet) Hotel du Grand Controle served as an officers’ mess until 2006.
Ivy will pay for the renovation works, estimated at 5.5 million euros (7.3 million dollars), which will be led by historic monuments architect-in-chief Frederic Didier. The palace, ordered by Louis XV and is considered a jewel of French patrimony. The opening of the 23-bedroom establishment, in which some rooms will look out onto the “Orangerie” – the chateau’s elaborate greenhouse – or the Swiss ornamental lake, is planned for late 2011.