One of the functions of Louis XIV's Versailles was to provide a setting for the receptions of ambassadors, heads of state, and other visiting dignitaries who conducted diplomatic and political business with France. These activities became particularly important after Versailles was proclaimed the new seat of the monarchy and government in 1682.
Diplomatic Tours in the Gardens of Versailles Under Louis XIV is the first book to examine how the vast gardens of Versailles were used for these diplomatic receptions during the reign of the Sun King (1661-1715). The gardens were the final mise en scène of an elaborate ritual, which included the housing of the foreigners in Paris, their journey to Versailles, and their official audience with the king in the palace. A showcase for the achievements of royal artists, landscape architects, and hydraulic engineers, the gardens were soon regarded as one of the wonders of the modern world, proclaiming the wealth, power, and artistic taste of France and the French monarchy.
The diplomatic tours were programmed every step of the way, with trained guides leading their guests on prescribed itineraries. Beginning in 1689, the king himself drafted a series of comprehensive itineraries, collectively called the Manière de montrer les jardins de Versailles, for the use of his guides (a newly discovered version of the Manière appears for the first time in this book). These itineraries changed over the years in concert with modifications and additions to the gardens, attesting to a constant search for an ideal itinerary—a subtheme of Diplomatic Tours.
Robert W. Berger is an independent scholar who has published extensively on the art and architecture of the era of Louis XIV and on the history of Paris. His books include A Royal Passion: Louis XIV as Patron of Architecture.
Thomas F. Hedin is Professor of Art History at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. His publications have focused on the art and architecture of Versailles and on the patronage of sculpture during the reign of Louis XIV.