Located just outside Paris, the Palace of Versailles is one of the world’s most opulent buildings. The national landmark is the former royal residence of Louis XIV, who used the palace as a way of controlling the French aristocracy. It was originally built for Louis XIII in the 17th Century as a relatively modest hunting lodge. However, the site underwent major renovations during the reign of Louis XIV, who transformed it into the mega-palace we know today.
The Sun King is thought to have shelled out £1.5billion in today’s money on the building to create the building of his dreams.
Louis would host up to 10,000 royals, aristocrats, and courtiers in the enormous 700-room building.
One of the most famous parts of the palace is the Hall of Mirrors, which features 17 arches filled with 257 mirrors.
Due to the sheer scale of this room, during construction Louis’ finance minister was forced to turn to Venetian mirror makers to provide huge quantities of bespoke glass, which could not be made in France.
The Italian craftsmen were part of a secretive guild in Venice who were threatened with their lives if they took their glass-making skills abroad.
Louis XIV’s mirror makers murdered over plot to smuggle them from Venice to Versailles
Versailles: Luxurious French palace
Historian Dr Ed Owens discussed the French plot to smuggle the Artisan glassworkers out of Venice during an episode of Channel 5’s ‘Secrets of the Royal Palaces’ in January.
He said: “He managed to smuggle a handful of Venetian mirror makers out of Venice, into France and install them in a factory.
“The secret got out and the closed guild of Venetian mirror makers back in Venice sent an assassin to get rid of those mirror makers.”
Narrator Samantha Bond added: “It is believed the assassins were successful. Two glassmakers suddenly turned up dead.
“But the secret was out. Now the French knew how to produce Venetian-style mirrors.”
Versailles: Hall of mirrors at palace
He said: “If you wanted a mirror in 17th Century Europe you might go to Murano, the famous glassmaking centre – an island off Venice.
“The problem was if you wanted large mirrors to totally surround a room you couldn’t buy them.
“Murano off Venice is only making tiny ones, so where do you go? Well, you make them yourself.”
Historian Dr Anna Whitelock, who also appeared in the programme explained how important glassmaking was to the Venetians at the time.
Skilled: A modern Murano glass maker
She said: “The Venetians went to great lengths to protect the method of mirror making.
“It was an important part of their economy.
“So, laws were passed and attempts were made for their method not to be made public.”
Dr Foyle claimed that the French production of mirrors boosted their popularity across the continent.
Sun King: Louis XIV renovated Versailles
He said: “When people walked in they had never seen anything like it.
“It is because the French made mirrors suddenly on this scale that they became fashionable across Europe. Suddenly everyone wanted one.”
‘Secrets of the Royal Palaces’ is available to stream on My5.
Source: EXPRESS CO UK