by David Chazan at The Telegraph
PARIS — It was a gilded symbol of monarchical opulence in pre-revolutionary France, but the Palace of Versailles has fallen upon hard times, now forcing it to open a hotel to raise revenue.
More than seven million people visit the state-owned palace and its celebrated Hall of Mirrors each year. But while visitor numbers have more than doubled in a decade, successive governments have slashed funding. To make up the shortfall, the palace is inviting bids from private companies to create and run the hotel in three 17th-century mansions around 100 yards from the main building.
Some rooms will have a view of the Orangerie, the gallery that sheltered Louis XIV’s 3,000 orange trees in winter.
“There will be no other hotel in the world like this one,” said a palace spokesman. “This is an emblem of French history and a cultural landmark. It will be an authentically royal experience.” Until the Revolution, one of the mansions was occupied by the comptroller-general of finances. More recently they served as an officers’ mess, but they have stood empty for seven years.
State funding for the palace has been cut from 47.4 million euros (US$53 million) in 2013 to euros 40.5 million (US$45 million) this year, and some of the royal apartments are overdue for renovation. Versailles was transformed by King Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” in the 17th century from a hunting lodge into the dazzling heart of an absolutist state. Tenders for a 60-year hotel concession on the Grand Controle, Petit Controle and Pavillon buildings will close on Sept 14.
When the Hotel de l’Orangerie, as it has tentatively been named, is completed, it will let overnight guests eat cake, drink champagne and stroll in the royal gardens for the first time in 300 years.
Louis XVI might have been shocked, but Marie-Antoinette, presumably, would have sent down more brioches.