Versailles etiquette was as complicated and ornate as the furniture and artwork filling the great chambers of the French royal palace. The smallest details of life at court, including personal hygiene, were dictated, regulated, and policed. But more often than not, court etiquette at Versailles was more bizarre than it was dignified.
The palace of Versailles was meant to awe. In 1682, King Louis XIV officially moved his court to Versailles, which had previously been a royal hunting lodge used for entertaining. Louis transformed the structure into an opulent, palatial symbol of French monarchy. With its exceptional gardens, impressive hallways, and larger-than-life artwork, Louis and subsequent French kings used Versailles - which wasn't quite as glamorous as it may seem in retrospect to display their authority. From the Sun King to Marie Antoinette, Versailles was the center of the royal world - and remained so until the French Revolution changed everything.
Versailles was also a world unto itself, with a wild system of etiquette built on hierarchy and rank. The rules at Versailles were clear: every single courtier was there to lend their service to the king and become part of the elaborate court rituals that clearly defined the nobility’s place.
While it is true that Versailles rules were rigidly enforced, 17th and 18th century French etiquette could also be ridiculous. Weird French court etiquette - and not just the king - apparently ruled at Versailles.
People Literally Watched The King And Queen Eat In An Elaborate Dinner Ritual
Royals at Versailles did nearly everything before the eyes of courtiers - sometimes including eating. Though the king tended to eat alone, multiple dinner ceremonies were held at Versailles. These events would be massive public spectacles that could involve over 300 people.
At the grand couvert, the king dined with his family - and nobles literally sat on stools to watch them. Visitors to Versailles often viewed the ceremony, as well. A young Mozart, for example, received the mark of royal favor when he was beckoned to stand next to the royal table.
Versailles Was Full Of Double Doors - But They Didn't Open All The Way For Just Anyone
Rank and position at Versailles shaped nearly every aspect of a courtier's life. That was even true of what doors ushers opened. Though the sprawling palace boasted plenty of double doors, ushers opened only one of the two doors for the majority of courtiers.
The practice was a reminder of one's place, as the only people who had the honor of having both doors open were the king and his close family.