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In his recent book " In the service of the King », Mathieu da Vinha shows us that Versailles is not only a magnificent castle, but first of all a place of life where thousands of people gather, from the royal family, through the great lords to the small servants. All were essential for the proper functioning of this residence and contributed to the glory of Versailles. You can find all the trades there: cook, water carrier, chair carrier, mason worker, merchant, clergyman, valet, officer of the guard, great of the kingdom.
A guarantee of social success
Whether the servants or the soldiers, these characters were holders of office and who according to their talent, acceded to positions of trust, increasing their income and their property, introducing their family and ensuring a future for their descendants by making alliances. often in the financial and aristocratic circles. Thus, entire dynasties worked for Louis XIV until the descendants who did it for Louis XVI.
In the service of the king for life, because no one could resign, all these characters aspired to become "beneficiaries of royal favor", what today we would call social success.
To support these remarks, Mathieu da Vinha offers us a fine selection: well-known characters, having had setbacks but who have managed to rise in the King's esteem or less known people, who have acceded to great responsibilities, transmitting them to their descendants, by dint of will and work.
Dynasties of servants
Among them, we get to know the “Mazière and Bergeron” who were originally masons, allying themselves with entrepreneurs in order to obtain a monopoly on the works of Versailles, Trianon and other buildings; some "Nyert" whose father played the lute for Louis XIII helping the king until his last breath thanks to his musical arias and whose son had "the ear of Louis XIV", arriving governor of Limoges and possessing a beautiful apartment of which "many great lords would have damned themselves to have it"; of Pierre Manseau, butler of the Marquise de Maintenon, becoming her steward and obtaining a place in survival as ordinary valet of the king's chamber, ordinary writing desk and controller of wages; from the Maréchale de la Mothe-Houdancourt, governess of the three generations of the children of France to the brother of Louis XV, owner of three mansions and transmitting his office until 1782; the "Lazure" beginning in the office of the goblet, the elite of the house-mouth in 1660, establishing the small suppers of Louis XV and one of the heiresses will go down in history under the name of Fanny Beauharnais, relative of the future Empress of the French; the "La Roche" captains of the hunting guards of Versailles and Marly, taking care of the Menagerie of Versailles ... and certain others.
The appendices are of high quality, and we discover an important bibliography, numerous sources and the genealogy of the main characters mentioned. A very interesting work and in the logical continuation of “Unknowns of Versailles” by Jacques Levron.
In the service of the king - Behind the scenes of Versailles, by Mathieu da Vinha. Tallandier, March 2015.