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The Bride of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles was signed at Trinon Palace. Charlatan checks-in to the Waldorf Astoria and learns that power is where power goes.

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Petit Trianon via Wikipedia

Intended as a gift from a royal lover to his mistress, Petit Trianon was the king’s cottage and built just far enough away from the Palace of Versailles to ensure the monarch’s decadent counterculture be kept a secret. But when it passed into the hands of his successor — a shy and by all accounts awkward 19-year old king — Louis XVI properly gifted it to his young bride, Marie Antionette.

The Trianon Palace Versailles, a luxury hotel by Hilton, was inspired by Marie Antionette’s Petit Trianon, and like its predecessor was built in the shadows of the Palace of Versailles. The majestic neoclassic masterpiece opened in 1910 as a luxury hotel, though its fate lies in the wake of 20th century history; serving as a military hospital during World War I, the headquarters of the German Luftwaffe in World War II, and by 1944 was occupied by military figures like General Charles de Gaulle, Patton and Eisenhower. Even the Treaty of Versailles was drafted by George Clemenceau in the hotel's reception salon.

A century on, the hotel was acquired by Hilton who restored the luster to this imposter. Architect René Sergent took his inspiration from the Petit Trianon, the pink-marble hideaway built by Louis XIV as an escape with his mistress, yet there were few architectural distinctions between the triplex of mansions known as the Petit, Grand, and Trianon Palaces. All are neoclassical versions of the other, and surround, attend and serve the Chateau of Versailles as adoring bridesmaids. In fact, the only way one can see or explore and gain access to Versailles after dark is as a registered guest at the Waldorf Astoria Versailles — Trianon Palace.

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Palace of Versailles via Wikipedia

A Movable Feast

If the Palace of Versailles began as Louis XV’s modest hunting lodge in 1623, its vision didn’t come to fruition until 1660; when his son Louis XIV developed a passion for the site. Transforming the lodge into a country retreat, it was the young king’s intention to relocate the seat of government from Paris 25 kilometers into the countryside.

Louis XVI became king at 5 years old when his father, sensing imminent death, defied the custom of leaving the regency of France to his Queen, instead declaring a council that would rule on his son's behalf. The ensuring revolt, led by courtiers and aristocratic families on both sides of the aisle, marred most of his childhood and when he assumed the mantel of monarch at age 13 it was the greatest respect for internal conflict and revolution.

The palace grew exponentially over the next 50 years; first as a full-time residence for courtiers and aristocratic families, and subsequently as the official seat of the French government. Farms, gardens and villages came along in due course creating the infrastructure of a fortress and alternative to Paris. Even a Grand Trianon, a French style baroque chateau, was added in 1687 as a retreat for the king. The Petit Trianon, of course, was commissioned for his mistresses.

The Chateau of Versailles served as a principal royal residence and the official seat of government from 1682 until the French Revolution in 1789, and today is a historical monument and UNESCO World Heritage site. With upwards of 10 million visitors a year, the Palace of Versailles is the most visited historic site in the world.

Trianon Palace Versailles

By the end of World War II, the newly renovated Trianon Palace Versailles was again welcoming guests including internationally renowned figures in politics, major artist, writers and royalty. In 1990 major renovations were undertaken, and the new Pavilion de Trianon added a state-of-the-art conference center to its amenities. The Waldorf Astoria Hotel was given the management of the Trianon Palace in 2009 and presides over a historic venue of hospitality.

Trianon Palace accommodates 85 rooms and 15 suites, offering stunning views over the Park of Versailles or the hotel’s gardens. From innovative French cuisine at Gordon Ramsay au Trianon to contemporary continental dishes at La Veranda, Waldorf Astoria Versailles – Trianon Palace invites you to set out on an unforgettable gastronomic adventure.

Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace Versailles is also home to the stunning Spa Guerlain, a 2,800m sanctuary of beauty, relaxation, and fitness. Designed to harmonize body and mind, this elegant spa offers the perfect reflection of the hotel's serene woodland surroundings. Majestic Roman pillars blend with an alluring modern design, crafting the perfect romance of ancient healing and contemporary luxury. It can fairly be said that Waldorf Astoria’s Trianon Palace is curating the experience of 18th century Versailles.

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Trianon Palace via Waldorf Astoria

To End All Wars

It was decadence, in fact, and extravagance for which the French Queen Marie Antionette was accused and ultimately died. On 5 October a large crowd mainly composed of women marched on and seized the palace. It was a day and time when the king was hunting and the queen was strolling in Trianon.

Though its widely held that the excess and extravagance of the French King Louis XVI, and his queen, Marie Antionette, led to the French Revolution, it was more practically a series of interlinking factors including economic recession, social disruption and a rampant plague called Tuberculosis that was leaving the nation destitute, impoverished and dead. The revolt bought the new and improved Republic of France a scant 100 years of relative peace until the Great War effectively engaged the entire world. World War I had over 40 million casualties, and 23 million wounded, making it the greatest anthropogenic disaster in human history. The ensuing Spanish Flu would infect 500 million people around the world, and while its death toll is debated between 17 - 100 million it is distinguished as the 2nd deadliest pandemic in human history.

The Palace of Versailles received 8,700,000 visitors in 2019 before the Coronavirus Pandemic marched through France touching 4 million people and leaving 100,000 dead. The pandemic ranks as the 7th most deadly in human history, having claimed 3 million around the world as of March 2021. Once again, Versailles is a veritable ghost town.

If the Treaty of Versailles was drafted in the Trianon Palace by the French Prime Minister, George Clemenceau, it was summarily signed by each and every member of the Allied Powers at the Palace of Versailles. It effectively ended the Great War and held Germany accountable for $442 Billion in reparations. Indeed, a heavy debt that was met by the rise of Nazi Germany.

We’ve learned through our sad experiences that economic hardships are conducive to radical nationalism, and the Treaty of Versailles thus became a recurring and popular theme of Nazi propaganda. Scorned as a “diktat” imposed by an “international clique,” Adolf Hitler referred to the treaty as “The bride of Versailles.”

Originally built as a country house, it was decided by Louis XIV that Versailles would become a showcase. A gulf into which the labor of France poured its earnings for nearly 100 years. That the nation evolved from a kingdom to the Republic of France presupposes that the collective consciousness was evolving, too. Little by little the old-world crumbles and while the emperor, king, chancellor and queen never imagined those pieces would fall around them, a young prince — the mastermind of Versailles — was wise enough to pity and care.

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