10 largest cities in France




Versailles is a French commune, capital of the Yvelines department in the Île-de-France region, known worldwide for its castle as well as for its gardens, sites classified under the aegis of UNESCO in the list of world heritage of humanity. According to the 2015 census, the city's population is 85,771.

A new city created by the will of King Louis XIV, it was the seat of French political power for a century, from 1682 to 1789, but also in 1871 and became one of the cradles of the French Revolution, with the city of Vizille (which began the Revolution on July 21, 1788).

After losing its status as a royal city, it became the capital of the department of Seine-et-Oise in 1790, then that of Yvelines in 1968, and of a bishopric.

Versailles is also historically known for having been the place of signature of two treaties: the Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the American War of Independence, the Treaty of Versailles signed at the end of the First World War.

Located in the western suburbs of the French capital, 17.1 km from the center of Paris, Versailles was a wealthy residential city in the 21st century with a mainly tertiary economy and a leading international tourist destination. It is always in Versailles that congress at the castle, deputies and senators meet, to ratify any modification of the constitution. Headquarters of the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin (UVSQ) and home to many companies, the city is part of the Paris-Saclay technological competitiveness cluster project.



The origins
The site of Versailles was probably not inhabited in prehistoric times since no archaeological remains have been found there. However, as the land was greatly disturbed during the construction of the castle and the development of the park, some traces may have been destroyed. In the immediate vicinity, covered alleys from the Neolithic period, belonging to the “Seine-et-Marne-Oise” civilization, were found in L'Étang-la-Ville and Marly-le-Roi.

In Gallo-Roman times, the site was on the route from Paris to Normandy via Villepreux and Neauphle-le-Château.

The first mention of Versailles is cited in a charter, dated the year 1038, of the abbey of Saint-Père de Chartres in which the name of a local lord, a certain Hugues de Versailles (Hugo de Versalliis) is mentioned. . He would be the first known lord of Versailles.

A second allusion appears in 1065 in an act by which a certain Geoffroy de Gometz founded on that date the priory of Bazainville, not far from Houdan, which he gave to the abbey of Marmoutier in Tours. To ensure regular and sufficient resources, he granted him several lands and privileges, with in particular “three prebends at Versailles, one of which is in domino”. From these three canonical prebends, we can hypothesize that that in domino came under the lord of Versailles, the other two from the Touraine abbey. The village of Versailles would therefore have been born around the middle of the eleventh century from a double seigniorial and religious initiative.

In the feudal system of medieval France, the lords of Versailles were directly subordinated to the king, with no overlord between them and the king. They were not very important then.

By the end of the eleventh century, the first village had been established near a medieval manor house and around the Saint-Julien church. The parish of Saint-Julien de Versailles is mentioned in a charter of 1084. Its agricultural activity and its position on the road from Paris to Dreux and Normandy made it a prosperous village, especially during the thirteenth century known as the "century of Saint Louis ”, which was a period of prosperity in the north of France, marked by the construction of Gothic cathedrals.

The fourteenth century brought the Black Death and the Hundred Years' War, with their processions of death and destruction. At the end of the Hundred Years War in the 15th century, the village began to rebuild itself with a population of only 100. At that time two other villages existed in the territory of the current commune: Choisy-aux-Bœufs and Trianon. They subsequently disappeared into the castle grounds. The name of Choisy-aux-Bœufs recalls that this village was on the path by which the herds of oxen coming from Normandy were taken to Paris.

In the fourteenth century, Gilles de Versailles held the office of the king's bailiff.

In 1561, Martial de Loménie, Secretary of State for Finance to King Charles IX, became sole lord of Versailles. He obtained permission to establish four annual fairs and a weekly Thursday market. The population of Versailles then reached 500 inhabitants. Castle and land hardly resembled what they later became under Louis XIV. They nevertheless aroused the jealousy and greed of the family of Retz. On April 6, 1571, Martial, prosecuted under the guise of Protestantism, in fact, because of his attachment to the young Henry IV and his family, was deprived of his charges by arrest and imprisoned. The Duke of Retz Albert de Gondi, originally from Florence, arrived in France with Catherine de Medici (who later became Marshal de Retz), went to find him in his prison. During a dramatic scene, "using atrocious threats", he made her sign the sale at a low price of the Lordship of Versailles for his benefit. Martial was nonetheless slaughtered in his prison on Saint-Barthélémy Day (August 24, 1572). From then on, Versailles was the property of the Gondi, a family of rich and influential jurists in the Parliament of Paris. Albert’s grandson, Henri de Gondi, who became cardinal, received King Henry IV on several occasions in his mansion in Versailles. In the 1610s, the Gondi several times invited the young king Louis XIII to hunting parties in the vast forests of Versailles.


The time of kings
Under Louis XIII
In 1623, King Louis XIII had a hunting lodge built on land of one hundred and seventeen arpents (or about 350 hectares) bought from various owners.

On April 8, 1632, Louis XIII bought the entire seigneury of Versailles from his last lord, Jean-François de Gondi, Archbishop of Paris for the sum of 66,000 pounds. It is the decisive turning point in the installation of royalty in Versailles. That same year, he appointed his valet de chambre, Arnault, as governor of Versailles, whose function was to administer the domain, that is to say both the city and the castle.

In 1634, the work entrusted to the architect Philibert Le Roy was completed. The first manor house was rebuilt and extended on site in the “Louis XIII” style.

When the king died in 1643, the village of Versailles had changed little.

Under Louis XIV
To promote the construction of the city, King Louis XIV took two important decisions, on May 22, 1671, by donating building land against the commitment to build and the payment of a fee, modest, of five sols per acre and on November 24, 1672 by making the buildings built elusive.

In 1673, it was decided to destroy the old village of Versailles. A new Saint-Julien church, intended to replace that of the old village, was built in 1681-1682 near the new cemetery of Ville Neuve. From 1684, work began on the construction of the new Notre-Dame church intended to replace it. Located in the axis of rue Dauphine, it was consecrated in 1686 and became the royal parish of Versailles.

In 1682, the Small Stable and the Large Stable were completed, intended to house saddle horses and royal coaches. Built by Jules-Hardouin Mansart, on both sides of the avenue de Paris, they complete the Place d'Armes opposite the castle.

In 1694, representatives of the inhabitants, the quaterniers, were elected for the first time, headed by a syndic.

In 1713, the privilege of exemption from seizure of buildings established in 1672 was revoked to put an end to abuses.

With the installation of King Louis XIV and his court on May 6, 1682, the small city will experience a flamboyant destiny during the latter's reign with a population of about 30,000 inhabitants at his death and will continue to grow under his rule. successors until reaching 50,000 souls when the Revolution arrives.

Under Louis XV
When Louis XIV died on September 1, 1715, the regent Philippe d'Orléans decided to transfer the Court to Paris. Then began a phase of decline for the city which saw its population rapidly halving: the real estate market collapsed.

The situation was restored seven years later, on June 15, 1722, with the return of King Louis XV, then aged twelve.

In 1737, the Clagny pond, located north of Ville Neuve and which had then become a cesspool receiving all the sewers, was filled in and made it possible to recover twenty-four hectares immediately open to construction.

In 1740, a riot took place in the flour store in the Ville Neuve market, known as the “Weight the King”. In a context of bad harvest, the Versaillaises, wanting to oppose the removal of flour by Parisian bakers, were repressed by the Swiss guards.

In 1743, under the direction of Jacques Hardouin-Mansart de Sagonne, began the construction of the Saint-Louis church which was completed nine years later, and contributed with the creation of the "Carrés Saint-Louis" market. to the urbanization of the Saint-Louis district.

In 1759, to accommodate the services of the State, in particular the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and War, the king had the architect Jean-Baptiste Berthier built, on the one hand, the Hôtel de la Marine et des Affaires foreign affairs and, on the other hand, that of War. Many mansions were also built at this time.

Under Louis XVI
On November 18, 1777, the Versailles theater, one of the oldest in France, was inaugurated on rue des Reservoirs, on the initiative of Miss Montansier.

One of the first hot-air balloon flights took place in Versailles on September 19, 1783. A balloon, prepared by Étienne de Montgolfier, carrying a sheep, a rooster and a duck, rose from the place of the castle to rest three kilometers further.

In 1787, the suburb of Montreuil was annexed to Versailles, both for fiscal reasons and to improve public security by extending the scope of the police.

The first municipality of Versailles, created by ordinance of Louis XVI, met for the first time on January 4, 1788. It comprised thirty-two elected officials, under the direction of the trustee, Marc-Antoine Thierry, baron of Ville-d'Avray , the king's first valet. Its main mission was to vote for the city budget. The police remained the prerogative of the bailiff.


French Revolution
Seat of political power, Versailles naturally became the cradle of the French Revolution. The States General met in Versailles on May 5, 1789 at the Hôtel des Menus Plaisirs and on June 17, 1789, on the proposal of Father Sieyès, they took the title of "National Assembly". The king having closed the Hôtel des Menus Plaisirs, the members of the Third Estate occupied the Jeu de Paume room on June 20, 1789, where they took the famous oath. After the storming of the Bastille, the first nobles to emigrate, including the Comte d'Artois, future Charles X, brother of Louis XVI, left Versailles. The Constituent Assembly abolished feudalism and all privileges - in particular those of "class" and "corporation" - on August 4, 1789, and drew up the declaration of human rights between July 9 and August 26 of the same year. Finally, on October 5 and 6, 1789, a crowd from Paris invaded the castle and forced the royal family to return to Paris. Shortly afterwards, the Constituent Assembly followed the king to Paris and Versailles's role as capital came to an end.

At the time of the Revolution, the town had proposed to the Convention to rename Versailles in "Cradle-of-Liberty", but had to retract in the face of the reluctance of a large part of the population.

The city subsequently lost a good part of its inhabitants. From 50,000, the population dropped to 28,000 in 1824.

On February 8, 1791, the city elected its first mayor, Jean-François Coste. On September 9, 1792, prisoners of Orleans who were to be taken to Paris were massacred by rioters from outside the city, despite the courageous behavior of the new mayor Hyacinthe Richaud.

The castle, stripped of its furniture and ornaments during the Revolution, was abandoned. However, it is not destroyed. Under the Directory, a special museum of the French School was set up there. Napoleon stayed there briefly, spending only one night, before abandoning it for good.

nineteenth century
On January 3, 1805, Pope Pius VII, who came to Paris to crown Napoleon, was invited to Versailles. He was received by the first bishop of Versailles, Mgr Charrier de la Roche, at Saint-Louis cathedral and then blessed the crowd gathered in front of the castle.

On March 31, 1814, the Prussian army occupied the city.

On July 1, 1815, General Exelmans' cavalry met at Vélizy a Prussian vanguard made up of two regiments of hussars which were overthrown. The routed Prussians fled by Versailles and crossing the city, at a gallop, by the boulevard du Roi, the rue des Reservoirs, the place d'Armes, the avenue de Paris, the rue des Chantiers, seeking to reach Saint -Germain-en-Laye, attacked by the French cavalry assisted by the local national guards acting as skirmishers at the Saint-Antoine gate, they fell into an ambush at Rocquencourt. The next day, July 2, Blücher militarily occupied Versailles, ordered the inhabitants to surrender all their weapons and, when no one was able to defend themselves or take revenge, he ordered looting. A large number of houses were destroyed and of the weapons factory only the walls remained. The villages of Rocquencourt, Chesnay and Vélizy suffered the same fate.

They remained in Versailles until October 12, 1815, when they were replaced by the English who left definitively on December 12 of the same year.

On June 10, 1837, the French King Louis-Philippe, inaugurated in the castle, the Museum of French History, a museum of paintings and sculptures dedicated to the "Glories of France".

In 1839 and 1840, the “right bank” and “left bank (castle)” railways were put into service which connect the city to Paris, respectively, to the Saint-Lazare station and the Montparnasse station.

In 1858, a new hydraulic machine, capable of raising 20,000 m3 per day, due to the engineer Dufrayer, replaced the Marly machine.

The importance of this large city will therefore decline, while it is abandoned by the power. This decline will cease after 1871, following the insurrection of the Paris Commune, when the government of Thiers moved to Versailles, a situation which lasted until 1879.


The city was again occupied by Prussian troops from September 19, 1870, while Paris was besieged. The occupation will last 174 days until March 12, 1871. Versailles had to face heavy requisitions. Opposing excessive demands, the mayor, Charles-Victor Chevrey-Rameau, and three of his advisers were imprisoned on December 31, 1870 and released on January 6 after the merchants had paid the ransom. King William I of Prussia settled in the Palace of Versailles and was proclaimed Emperor of Germany on January 18, 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors.

At the start of the Paris Commune, the government of Thiers fled the Parisian uprising of March 18 and moved to Versailles, followed by a crowd of Parisians whose number was estimated at more than 70,000 by the mayor while the city did not had only 44,000 inhabitants in the 1866 census. From July 1871, several thousand Communards, taken prisoner by the "Versailles" troops of Marshal Mac-Mahon, were detained - in extremely summary conditions [archive] - in various places of Versailles - the Conciergerie and the Satory camp in particular - where Louise Michel was imprisoned and where twenty-five Communards were shot, including Colonel Louis Rossel and the Blanquist activist Théophile Ferré. Louise Michel declared during her trial:
"What I am asking from you who give yourselves as my judges is the field of Satory where our brothers fell ..."

A hemicycle was built in 1875 in the south wing of the castle to accommodate the Chamber of Deputies while the Senate sat at the Opera. The two chambers voted on June 19, 1879 to transfer them to Paris.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Jewish community of Versailles lived a great page with Mahir Charleville, chief rabbi of Versailles, the development was deeply marked by a certain modernism. In particular, he inaugurated the temple in rue Albert Joly, donated by Cécile Furtado-Heine and the Versailles community at the dawn of the new century.

In 1897, Alfred Le Chatelier opened a stoneware and porcelain ceramic factory in Glatigny, a still isolated district of the city; this workshop produced remarkable pieces until 1902.

At the end of the century, Versailles was evolving like a provincial town with all the pomp of an important tourist town.

Twentieth century
It was not until 1901 that Versailles regained its population level of 1790, with 54,982 inhabitants in the 1901 census.

In 1919, at the end of the First World War, Versailles was once again in the spotlight when the various treaties ending the war were negotiated and signed in the castle itself or at the Grand Trianon; in particular, on June 28, 1919, the signing of the Treaty of Versailles took place in the Hall of Mirrors of the castle.

In the years 1923-1932, an American industrialist, John D. Rockefeller, made donations totaling 23 million dollars which greatly contributed to the restoration of the castle and the park, in particular the repair of the roofs.

In 1932, took place the inauguration of the Chantiers station by Raoul Dautry.

During the Second World War, Versailles was occupied by German troops from June 14, 1940 to August 24, 1944, the date of entry of the first armored vehicles of the 2nd Armored Division under General Leclerc. It was subjected, in particular in February and June 1944, to major bombardments targeting the Chantiers station and the Satory camp, which claimed more than 300 victims.

Two facts marked the Resistance in Versailles. On August 27, 1941, during a ceremony in the Borgnis-Desbordes barracks (in which the Legion of French Volunteers against Bolshevism was located), young Paul Collette attempted to kill Pierre Laval and Marcel Déat by firing five revolver bullets . This event had no political consequences. On May 13, 1944, young Versaillais set fire to the census file in the STO services, place Hoche. Afterwards arrested on denunciation, they died in deportation.

On March 3, 1957, the Versailles Tramways network was closed and replaced by buses. The same year was completed after six years of work the restoration of the Royal Opera, which also serves as the assembly of the Senate.

On February 25, 1965, a decree fixed Versailles as the capital of the new Yvelines department, officially created on January 1, 1968 in application of Law No. 64-707 of July 10, 1964 on the reorganization of the Paris region.


In 1966, the restoration and new furnishings of the Grand Trianon castle, at the instigation of André Malraux, Minister of Culture, was completed. The Grand Trianon is both museum and residence of the official hosts of France.

From June 4 to 6, 1982, the 8th meeting of the G7 known as the Versailles Summit was held at the château.

On February 17 and 19, 1986, the first summit of the Francophonie was held in Versailles, in the castle, under the presidency of François Mitterrand. Besides France, it brought together representatives from 42 countries, including sixteen heads of state and ten heads of government.

The great storm of December 26, 1999 devastated the plantations of the park and allowed, in return, the establishment of a major program of replanting of the original species in their alignments of the time.

21st century
Today, with the growth of the suburb of Paris, Versailles, is included in the Parisian agglomeration. The role of Versailles as an administrative and judicial center was reinforced in the 1960s and 1970s; the city remains one of the notable poles of the western suburbs of Paris, with a sluggish demography and economy.

On June 25, 2007, the Hall of Mirrors, restored after four years of work, is reopened for visitors.