Versailles and the American War of Independence

Portrait de La Fayette, 1788 de Louis-Léopold Boilly (c) RMN – Grand Palais (château de Versailles) / Agence Bulloz

When was the last time you spent a day at Versailles? Seeing the exhibition “Versailles and the American War of Independence” in the Gallery of Great Battles at the Chateau of Versailles is perhaps the bonus that will bring you back one more time.

As the first country to recognize the United States of America as a new nation, France commemorates the 240th anniversary of the event, especially in Versailles where the war of independence was supported, where the decision was made in 1777 and where the peace treaty with England was signed in 1783. The exhibition aims to reveal facts often forgotten but which bear testimony to the circumstances, scale and consequences of France’s involvement in the war.

The exhibition is the result of collaboration with researchers from American museums and universities, the Congress and the Society of the Cincinnati, as well as French, Spanish and English historians. It aims to present different points of view in order to avoid presenting a perspective of the events which is too narrow. It talks about the French and English rivalries that were stewing, the international scope of the war, key figures and the decision making process at Versailles.

The Gallery of Battles was inaugurated in 1837 under Louis-Philippe (who decided that the palace should become a history museum) and contains 33 paintings of the great battles of France from Tolbiac in 496 to Wagram in 1809 including the final battle of the American Revolution “The Battle of Yorktown”. The exhibition is presented near this painting.

VersaillesTo reach the Gallery of Battles take the route through the chateau that includes the Hall of Mirrors and the King’s apartments. If you have already seen the Hall of Mirrors and want to avoid the crowds find the “back” entrance to this exhibition via the Queen’s staircase (escalier de la Reine) from the Cour Royal. Then again seeing Olafur Eliasson’s works inside the chateau is probably worth doing the circuit through the King’s apartments.

Bonus: If you go to the Chateau on a Tuesday, Saturday or Sunday the fountains (les Grandes eaux musicales) will be on. This extra bonus is my personal favorite and I never get tired of seeing the fountains dance. Eliasson also has works in the gardens which include a waterfall into the grand canal.

Versailles and the American War of Independence until 2 October 2016

Olafur Eliasson and Les Grandes Eaux until 30 October 2016

Combat naval devant la baie Chesapeake. Théodore Gudin (c) RMN-Grand Palais (château de Versailles) / Daniel Arnaudet / Gérard Blot