This ugly little structure is an entrance into Versailles Women’s Prison. It is located in a nice part of town, right across the street from Hotel of Madame du Barry. The building behind has a lot more class, its construction began in 1750 and it was originally designed as a reform school for the local prostitutes. At first it was ran by the nuns, but little by little the sisters were re-placed by professionals, bars were added to the windows, nobody had even noticed…
One sultry summer night, right on the eve of his Russian campaign, Napoleon went out for a stroll in the park of Chateau de Versailles. He did not get very far when he heard a woman’s voice offer him all sorts of happiness all for the nominal charge a soldier could afford. The Emperor got angry. How the heck did she get through, was all he wanted to know. No, just like Marie-Antoinette, she wouldn’t use the secret passage. Women, if they put their mind to it, can walk through walls.
Louis XIV was very much aware of their abilities. This is why he would specify in his decree that those who wanted to do it in his park for money risked being publicly whipped. The problem with every romantic location is that it has a tendency to turn into an open air bordello.
Louis XV understood the problem somewhat differently, the issue was not the money, but rather the disease you could buy for it; so, he had his First Valet check out the girls first, the First, of course, wouldn’t do it himself, the Second Valet? Whichever was the pecking order, the king had to wait for his turn.
The Duke of Orleans had introduced a totally new approach: he had his valets “finish” the job for him, but he was a radical. And then he preferred Paris to Versailles. Meanwhile here the local hotels had a number of specials: a bed, a meal, and a girl, all for just one sou! This was like Vegas, not everyone liked gambling, some people came here for a buffet.
To figure out the peaks of prostitution, you would need a help of a demographer: When the single-male population of Versailles, between the construction workers and the soldiers, approached seventy thousand… Well, this brings back the memories of Iraq: The harshness of many an army regulation is compensated by its being not mandatory.