The Palace of Versailles


All right, get out your history books and follow along. You’ll need to brush up on your Robespierre, your Marat, and your Bonaparte. Get up to speed on the French Revolution. Or you can just enjoy the song. You can totally just do that. But I think you may be inspired to go learn something. Al Stewart sees beauty in history; where you see just something that may have at some point been forced into your brain by the educational curriculum (or very possibly not, if you’re an American), Al sees great stories waiting to be retold.  In this case, of course, he’s got his work cut out. Unlike many historical things that remain of interest only to historians, Versailles and its inhabitants have never lost their glamour. We’re still stunned by the sheer opulence and beauty of the place. And we’re still fascinated by the ill-fated King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, whose affluenza was the downfall of their family, their court, their system of government and the very concept of absolute rule by dynastic monarchy. Plenty of monarchs have lost their status and their heads for their incompetence, but few have permeated pop culture like those two. It seems that history has softened its view of them; despite all the misdeeds they were demonized for, the fruit of their self-indulgence turned out to be its own reward. The palace still stands, a national treasure, object of fascination, major tourist trap, the ultimate symbol of luxury and tragic glamour, proof that beauty and art transcend whatever bloodshed was the cost of their creation.

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