Science at Versailles is the name of the current exhibition at the palace of Louis XIV. The first exhibit, at the bottom of the staircase, is a stuffed rhinoceros. This is heavy. I go up the stairs. Upstairs we face the two hot-air balloons, not the ones launched by Louis XVI with the goats of Marie-Antoinette, but the two small balloons, one red and the other blue.We learn that from the age of eleven Louis XV is passionately studying astronomy. And it is the king and not Cassini II who owns the biggest telescope. Nevertheless Louis XV is very down-to-earth and if we were to choose a profession for the sovereign, it would probably be agronomy.
His grandson, whom revolutionaries had nick-named a locksmith, has 15 different labs and workshops at the palace of Versailles. He is personally involved in the scientific expedition of La Perouse, corrects and edits a good number of maps and atlases. Louis XVI is very competent in chemistry, physics, ballistics, explosives, mechanical engineering and even carpentry. He is very much involved with the French marine and is surrounded by ship-building projects. He does not collect art.
If Louis XV were to invest into the French and Indians War as much as Louis XVI had invested into the American Revolution, for sure, the Indians wouldn’t win. But Louis XV hated war and thought all his generals were retarded. Hm…
Louis XVI does not like politics, to him a Social Science is a pseudo-science. He reads and studies a lot, he balances his pocket-book: new boots — 36l., bath water — 3l., dish soap and brushes and tips for carrying the stuff — 2l., a bottle of red wine — 12s., bread — 18s., a dozen of herrings — 3l., hundred apricots to make jam — 12l., one basket of cherries and one of strawberries — 3l., a plate of green beans — 3l., fresh eggs — 9l., ham — 20l., for help cleaning the kitchen — 3l., to the Queen — 12,000l., to the Queen for M. Esterhazy — 15,000l…. Yea….
When the revolutionaries come to Versailles, when he is told he has to flee, he refuses, he does not understand…. why should he? the mob breaks into the palace and they drag him, his wife, the kids, the animals from the Royal Zoo to Paris, and someone, we don’t know who or why, but with the saber, sleighs the rhinoceros….