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Warfare in the Middle Ages
(Shakespeare - Henry V)
One of the most visited monuments in France, amongst the three most visited, is the Palace of Versailles. Wanting to escape the busy life in Paris, and to keep the nobility under his control, Louis XIV built this chateau in which he set up home and installed the government. Louis Le Vau was commissioned to renovate and extend an old hunting lodge, Le Notre created the gardens from swamp land, and Mansart masterminded the hydraulic display of the fountains.
Beginning in 1664, the construction of the château lasted viltually until Louis XlV's death in 1715. the Palace of Versailles was never meant to be a home; kings were not homely people. Second only to God, and the head of an immensely powerful state, Louis XIV was an institution rather than a private individual. His instability, comings and goings, were minutely regulated and rigidly encased in cere- mony, attendance at which was an honour much sought after by courtiers. Versailles was the headquarters of every arm of the state.
After the death of Louis XlV, the château was abandoned for a few years. Then Louis XV moved in in 1722. It remained the residence of the royal family until the Revolution of 1789, and at this time the furniture was sold and the pictures dispatched to the Louvre. Thereafter it fell into ruin and was nearly demolished by Louis- Philippe.
And in 1871, during the Paris Commune, it became the seat of the nationalist government, and the French parliament continued to meet in Louis XV's opera building until 1879. The restoration only began between the two world wars.
The many buildings attached to the chateau form a small town. The whole complex is a magnificent monument. The garden facade is 575 metres long with various annexes dotted here and there in a park which is several kilometres in both length and breadth. The park shows the skill of Le Notre in making good use of the natural resources on the site.
The Chateau proposes two itineraries; either a guided tour or not. Apart from the state apartments of the king and queen and the Galerie des Glaces (the Hall of Mirrors, where the Treaty of Versailles was signed to end World War 1), which you can visit on your own, most of the palace can only be viewed in guided groups, and whose times are much more restricted. Long queues are common.
Unfortunately, only a small part of the palace can be visited : the State Apartments of the King and Queen, and the Hall of Mirrors. The worst time to visit the Chateau is on Sunday when the entrance fee is reduced and the queues are interminable. A guided tour for an extra twenty-four francs takes you in the King's Private Bedroom, the Royal Opera, and the rooms occupied by Madame du Barry. And, for a little more you can visit the pavilions of the Grand and Petit Trianons.
Don't set out to see all the palace in one day - it's not possible. Quite apart from the size, tours of both Mme du Barry's apartments and of the Dauphin and Dauphine's apartments take place at 2 pm.
The park and Grand and Petit Trianons
If you just feel like taking a stroll, the park is free and the scenery is better the further you go from the palace. There are even informal groups of trees near the lesser outcrops of royal mania : the Italianate Grand Trianon, designed by Hardouin-Mansart in 1687 as a "country retreat" for Louis XIV, and the more modest Greek Petit Trianon, built by Gabriel in the 1760s.
More charming and rustic than either of these is Le hameau de Marie-Antoinette, a play-village and farm built in 1783 for Louis XVI's queen to indulge the fashionable Rousseau-inspired fantasy of returning to the natural life.
The park is extremely large. If you find that you cannot manage them by foot, a small train shuttles between the terrace in front of the château and the Trianons. There are also bicycles for rent by the Grand Canal, itself a good fifteen minutes' walk across the formal gardens, and boats for rent on the canal.
NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE, Germany
This is King Ludwig's magnificent and most famous castle, built in the neo-late romanesque style. With its turrets and mock-medievalism, its interior styles ranging from Byzantine through Romanesque to Gothic its a real fairy-tale fantasy come true. It was built between 1869 and 1886 for the Bavarian King Ludwig II. A splendid and imaginative "fairy-tale castle" high above the Alpsee lake with the Alps towering above it.
Only about a third of the building was actually completed. The 15 rooms you see on the tour show astonishing craftsmanship and richness of detail. Woodcarving in Ludwig's bedroom took 14 carpenters 4 1/2 years to complete. Wagner's operas feature everywhere in the form of murals.
The best view of the castle and a 45m waterfall is from the nearby Mary's Bridge (Marienbruecke), which spans a deep gorge. On the path between this bridge and the castle is a wonderful view of Hohenschwangau and the Alpsee.
Guided tours take about 35 minutes. You have to walk 170 steps up and down, a lift is not available. The castle (like Hohenschwangau) is open daily April to October, 8.30-5.30, November to March 10-4.
WINDSOR CASTLE, Great Britain
Windsor Castle is an official residence of The Queen and the largest occupied castle in the world. A royal palace and fortress for over 900 years, the Castle remains a working palace today. Visitors can walk around the State Apartments, extensive suites of rooms at the heart of the working palace; for part of the year visitors can also see the Semi State rooms, which are some of the most splendid interiors in the castle. They are furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection including paintings by Holbein, Rubens, Van Dyck and Lawrence, fine tapestries and porcelain, sculpture and armour.
Within the Castle complex there are many additional attractions. In the Drawings Gallery regular exhibitions of treasures from the Royal Library are mounted. Another popular feature is the Queen Mary's Dolls' House, a miniature mansion built to perfection. The fourteenth-century St. George's Chapel is the burial place of ten sovereigns, home of the Order of the Garter, and setting for many royal weddings. Nearby on the Windsor Estate is Frogmore House, an attractive country residence with strong associations to three queens - Queen Charlotte, Queen Victoria and Queen Mary.
In celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen, a new landscape garden has been created by the designer and Chelsea Gold Medallist Tom Stuart-Smith. The garden, the first to be made at the Castle since the 1820s, transforms the visitor entrance and provides a setting for band concerts throughout the year. The informal design takes its inspiration from Windsor's historic parkland landscape and the picturesque character of the Castle, introduced by the architect Sir Jeffry Wyatville for George IV in the 1820s.
There has been a castle at Windsor for over 900 years. William the Conqueror chose the site, high above the River Thames and on the edge of a Saxon hunting ground. It was a day's march from the Tower of London and intended to guard the western approaches to the capital. Since those early days Windsor Castle has been inhabited continuously and improved upon by successive sovereigns. Some were great builders, strengthening the Castle against uprising and rebellion; others, living in more peaceful times, created a palatial royal residence.
Nine centuries after its foundation, the castle continues to perform its prime role as one of The Queen's official residences. Pivotal to this role are the State Apartments, which are the formal rooms used for Court ceremonial and State and official occasions. They range from the smaller intimate rooms of Charles II's Apartments to the vast area of the Waterloo Chamber, built to commemorate the famous victory over Napoleon in 1815.
Windsor Castle provides a step back into history, and within its precincts stands St George's Chapel, the resting place of ten sovereigns. Founded by Edward IV in 1475 and completed by Henry VIII, the Chapel is dedicated to the patron saint of the Order of the Garter, Britain's highest Order of Chivalry, and ranks among the finest examples of late medieval architecture in the United Kingdom.
In recent history, one event stands out. On 20 November 1992 a fire broke out in Windsor Castle. It began in the Private Chapel when a spotlight came into contact with a curtain over a prolonged period and ignited the material. It took 15 hours and a million and a half gallons of water to put out the blaze. Nine principal rooms and over 100 other rooms over an area of 9,000 square metres were damaged or destroyed by the fire, approximately one-fifth of the Castle area.
The next five years were spent restoring the Castle to its former glory, resulting in the greatest historic building project to have been undertaken in this country in the twentieth century.
This work was divided into four phases. In the first phase, with the assistance of English Heritage, debris was cleared, and salvaged pieces sorted, dried and numbered. The building was also stabilised. In Phase 2 permanent roofing was placed over the Grand Reception Room and Chester Tower. Roofing was completed in Phase 3 and staff and service areas were reinstated. The restoration of the Great Kitchen was completed and a new kitchen service wing was constructed. The Duke of Edinburgh performed the 'topping out' ceremony to complete the roof on St George's Hall, which marked a key stage in the restoration process.
The final stage was the reinstatement of the nine principal rooms, a complex process managed by the Royal Household Property Section, reporting to The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh. Five of the rooms were reinstated as they were before the fire to accommodate the rescued original furnishings and works of art. In the remaining principal areas, including the Private Chapel, the Lantern Lobby and the ceiling of St George's Hall, new designs were called for, enabling the best of twentieth-century architecture to contribute to the evolution of Windsor Castle. The process demonstrated that traditional British craftsmanship is still very much alive, and during the process several interesting archaeological finds came to light.
After five years' intensive work the restoration of Windsor Castle was completed six months ahead of schedule on 20 November 1997 at a cost of £37 million (US $59.2 million), £3 million below budget. Seventy per cent of the necessary revenue was raised from opening the Buckingham Palace State Rooms to visitors in August and September, and keeping open the Precincts of Windsor Castle throughout the year. The remaining 30 per cent of the cost was met by the annual Grant-in-Aid funding from Parliament for the maintenance and upkeep of the occupied Royal Palaces. The restoration was undertaken at no additional cost to the taxpayer.
To mark the completion The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh held a 'thank you' reception in the restored rooms on 14 November 1997 for 1,500 contractors, and on 20 November they celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary with a ball also held at Windsor Castle.
The most recent addition to the Castle is the new garden designed by Chelsea Gold Medallist Tom Stuart-Smith, which extends from the main gates to St. George's Gate on Castle Hill. Visitors now enter the Castle along the new pathway, which is edged with bold groupings of evergreen and deciduous shrubs over a carpet of herbaceous plants. A large shrubbery on the south side will be planted with a mixture of flowering shrubs and trees for interest throughout the seasons. For continuity with the historic landscape, the trees have been chosen to echo those already in the environs of the Castle and parks.
BALMORAL CASTLE, Great Britain
Balmoral Castle on the Balmoral Estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland is the private residence of The Queen. Beloved by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Balmoral Castle has remained a favourite residence for The Queen and her family during the summer holiday period in August and September. The Castle is located on the large Balmoral Estate, a working estate which aims to protect the environment while contributing to the local economy.
The Estate grounds, gardens and the Castle Ballroom are open to visitors from mid-April to the end of July each year, under the management of the Balmoral Estate Office.
The history of Balmoral Castle starts with Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. During holiday visit to the Scottish Highlands, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert grew to love the scenery and people and decided to buy a private home there for private holiday periods.
Balmoral Castle and the original estate were purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852. The original Balmoral Castle was built in the fifteenth century but it was considered too small. A new castle was constructed on the site about 90 metres (100 yards) north from the old building. Prince Albert planned the grounds and helped with the design of the castle itself, which was completed in 1856.
The castle has been handed down through their descendants, and today is the traditional holiday home for The Queen and members of her family during the summer vacation period. Over the years, improvements have been made by successive generations of the Royal family; most recently by The Duke of Edinburgh who has enlarged the flower and vegetable garden and created the water garden.
PALLADIO'S ROTONDA (VILLA CAPRA), Italy