The location for the Chateau Versailles was chosen on the hill, right where the old windmill used to turn its interminable arms. Louis XIV once asked Duke Vendome if the latter still remembered that windmill on the hill. What the duke answered is a perfect example of irony: it is funny, but also sad and even terrifying, depending on the context in which we examine his words. “Of course, Sire,” said the duke, “but even though the windmill is no longer there, the wind still is.”
The Chateau Versailles was a draughty uncomfortable place where the chimneys never worked because of the poor suction, and where the courtiers shivered through most of the seasons. Louis XIV hated the shiveres! The small dogs which had become so fashionable in those years were the portable braziers for the ladies. Louis had a few of those dogs himself; but the Spartan opulence with its gold and marble on the outside and the collapsible army beds on the inside was his own way to drill the French nobility into that formidable corps of courtiers that terrified Duke Saint-Simon.
As you walk across the city to the Chateau the wind is the first thing you notice, and the closer you get to the building, the stronger it blows. As you pass through the Southern Gate you are practically pushed through by the current of air. Then it quiets down almost immediately so that in the park you forget this disagreeable experience; but you will have to live through it again, on your way out.
The park repeats the palace, but how? There is an enfilade of rooms as there is an enfilade of groves, there are courts that keep their own pool of time like the dried-out fountains or the dripping foscets which may remind you that someone has stopped the count, but not for you. For you there is a group of noisy school children running by, grimacing, squeezing ink out of their notebooks. You frown at your own reflection in the water. You don’t know whether to smack the brat or to break the palisades.
In the Marble Court the giant clock which crowns the antechamber of Louis XVI, broke off one of the arms, the other marks the hour when the blade had slid between his shoulders and the head. Ha! They have replaced the arm, they have replaced the mechanism, they have repaired, repainted, re-guilded. They have…. What have they done?! Ah? Ah! After Louis-Philippe whatever they did is OK.