Ten thousand persons lived at Versailles in the days of Louis XIV. Nobles living away from Paris wanted to be noticed by Louis XIV. However, Louis could not house his country cousins who had difficulty finding lodging in Paris, which hasn’t changed. If they had a fortune, aristocrats owned a fine home in Paris as well as a horse and carriage. Blaise Pascal helped poorer courtiers by introducing the chaise à porteurs. It was the first public transit system. The chaises à porteurs were like taxis. One paid a fee.
As for the not so wealthy, they sometimes spent years courting Louis in the hope of living at Versailles. Louis could not help courtiers significantly because of the cost of Versailles. Louis XIV wanted the King of France to live in as grand a castle as Fouquet‘s Vaux-le-Vicomte, but Versailles cost a fortune.
Hundreds of country cousins praised Louis in the hope of being given a room at Versailles. Therefore, what Molière wrote about “hangers-on” is true. In his remarkable Splendid Century, W. H. Lewis writes the following:
So a new courtier has arrived at Versailles. Not of course to live in the château, for many weary years will have to pass before he is even considered for a vacant attic; unless some lucky accident befall him such as happened to the Marquis de Dangeau when impromptu verse making was in fashion. The King one day jokingly offered him a room if he could fill in a set of verses on the spot; Dangeau did so, and Louis, who never broke a promise, gave him the coveted room.The Splendid Century by W. H. Lewis (New York: Double Day Anchor Books, 1957) p. 38.
W. H. Lewis also tells about the cherchemidis, courtiers who searched for a place to dine. Dinner was at noon (midi), and the evening meal was supper, le souper.
If he had no luck in town there was always his patron’s table to fall back on, or he may insinuate himself into a seat at that of the King’s gentleman-servitors, who were among the five-hundred-odd people who ate at Versailles daily at the King’s expense, and for whom he kept a special kitchen, the cuisine de commun.
The Splendid Century by W. H. Lewis (New York: Double Day Anchor Books, 1957) p. 49.
W. H. Lewis was a soldier and an historian. However, he was also C. S. Lewis‘ brother, the author of fantasy literature, such as The Chronicles of Narnia. Both were fine writers, but C. S. Lewis’ fantasy books were so popular that he needed help and found a colleague in his brother, W. H. Lewis. They lived at Oxford.
The Splendid Century is an Internet Archive publication. The book was first published by William Sloane Associates, in 1953.
Love to everyone 💕
© Micheline Walker
12 December 2020