Court identities and the myth of Versailles in Europe: perception, adherence and rejection (18th-19th centuries)

Duration: 2017-...

The “modern” courts in Europe included the institutional, social, societal and cultural aspects concomitant with the political affirmation of personalities emerging, by agreement or through conflict, from communities exercising power together in order to seize authority for their own personal benefit and to develop a range of encomiastic processes for their own person. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the princely courts in Europe did not confine themselves to one single paradigm. There were as many courts as there were princely houses, as many “national” types, even if some, like the Burgundian court in the 15th century and the courts in northern and central Italy in the 15th and 16th centuries, proposed models and exercised influence from one end of Europe to the other, while accommodating indigenous influences. What was new was that in 18th and 19th century Europe the princely courts referred to a model that would become the archetype: Versailles. From the 1680s, when Louis XIV established his court at Versailles, the French court was held up as a paradigm in relation to which all the others positioned themselves. This system of reference continued throughout the 19th century. Even when Versailles had foundered, along with Louis XIV’s legacy of absolute monarchy, in October 1789, its aura was strengthened by European monarchies, which persisted and even multiplied, continuing until their collapse in 1918.

This model has a reality in the French court as configured by Louis XIV. But this configuration falls short of the model used as a reference. Versailles is a myth - developed, certainly, by the French, but equally, if not more so, by their European competitors. A phenomenon that requires investigation: why did Versailles become a key reference, or not, for European courts? There are two parts to this question:

  1. What are the elements that make up this myth? How do we define this archetypal court presented as ideal? What provided the impetus, and what were the processes through which this myth developed? This question stretches well beyond France, and should be put to all those in Europe who constructed – or not – the fantasy of Versailles.
  2. How was this myth received – adopted, resisted or refused?

Research will be organised along five different lines, through which the idea of the “perfect court”, such as we find at Versailles, can be defined: organisational model, public and private areas in the residence, reigning and governing in Europe, palace and democracy, State and palace rituals.


Scientific Director: Gérard Sabatier, Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the Université Grenoble II, Member of the Scientific Committee of the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles

Research program coordinator: Flavie Leroux, Researcher, Centre de recherche du château de Versailles.


  • Antonio Alvarez-Ossorio, Director del Madrid Institute for Advanced Study (MIAS), Universidad Autónoma de Madrid;
  • Mathieu da Vinha, Scientific Director, Centre de recherche du château de Versailles;
  • Maciej Forycki, Lecturer in Modern History, Uniwersytet Adam Mickiewicz, Poznań;
  • Mark Hengerer, Professor of Western European history at the start of the modern period, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich;
  • Christine Jeanneret, Researcher, Danish National Museum, Frederiksborg, Denmark;
  • Jean-Marie Le Gall, Professor of Modern History, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne;
  • Francine-Dominique Liechtenhan, Research Director, Centre national de la recherche scientifique;
  • Philip Mansel, President, comité scientifique du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles / The Society for Court Studies;
  • Andrea Merlotti, Director, Centro Studi La Venaria Reale;
  • Friedrich Polleroß, Vice president, Institut für die Erforschung der Frühen Neuzeit, Universität Wien;
  • José Luis Sancho Gaspar, Researcher, Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid;
  • Jonathan Spangler, Lecturer in modern European history, Manchester Metropolitan University;
  • Thomas W. Gaehtgens, Director Emeritus, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.


  • Database listing the accounts of foreign visitors to the domain, the Palace and the Court of Versailles, between the second half of the 17th century and the end of the 19th century.
  • Participation by Gérard Sabatier, Mathieu da Vinha and Flavie Leroux at the symposium “Cosmopolitanism, Cultural Exchange, Performing Arts, and Transnational History between France and Denmark (1660-1800)”, organized by Christine Jeanneret (3-4 June 2019, Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark).
    PDF - 861.3 kb
    Symposium Danemark
  • Workshop “Versailles and Poland” (Polish Academy of Sciences, Paris - March 5, 2019) organised with Maciej Forycki and Flavie Leroux.
    PDF - 421.6 kb
    Versailles and Poland (in french)

Productions planned

  • Publication of proceedings of the workshop “Récits de voyages à Versailles, XVIIe-XIXe siècles” (scheduled for March 23, 2020, canceled due to the health context), in the Bulletin du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles directed by Mathieu da Vinha, Flavie Leroux and Gérard Sabatier (summer 2020).
    PDF - 446.8 kb
    Programme (in french)
  • Publication of Proceedings of the “Versailles et la Pologne” Study Day in the Bulletin du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles, under the direction of Maciej Forycki, Katarzyna Kula and Flavie Leroux (at the end of 2020).
  • Publication of two articles of historiographical synthesis in the Bulletin du Centre de recherche du château de Versailles (at the end of 2020):
    >  « La recherche française récente sur Versailles et la cour. Problématiques et orientations », by Gérard Sabatier.
    >  « Les historiens et le mythe de Versailles, des années 60 à nos jours » [titre provisoire], by Flavie Leroux.
  • Publication of an article on “Louis Réau et Versailles”, by Flavie Leroux, in the proceedings of the Study Day “Que faire de Louis Réau ?”, Dir. Victor Claass, Marlen Schneider, collection “Passages online” (Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte) (early 2021).
  • Symposium “The Myth of Versailles and European Courts, 18th and 19th centuries” (château de Versailles, 17-19 June 2021).
    See our call for papers.

Call for publication

Consult our call for publication related to this area of research on the Bulletin du Centre de recherche.

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