Versailles and the Sun King

Written by Jasmine Grace, High School intern

Summer Gardens of Versailles

Summer Gardens of Versailles

Today, Versailles is a gorgeous estate just outside of Paris. The sprawling Palace holds some 2,300 rooms inside, and outside it’s surrounded by seemingly endless gardens. This Palace today is far from modest, but it began as a simple hunting lodge in what used to be an area of wilderness.




Versailles before the Sun King

Old Forests of Versailles

That wilderness was full of pheasants and boars, and being so near to Paris made it a convenient hunting ground for royalty. Louis XIII was particularly fond of the area, and in 1623 built a simple lodge there. Eight years later, he laid the grounds that his son would eventually build Versailles from. 

His son’s first visit to Versailles was in October of 1641. Little Louis was three years old, and was there to escape a smallpox outbreak back home. Years later, he returned to hunt, and fell in love with the place. 

Louis XIV

Louis XIV

Louis XIV


He became king at the age of four, and was nine when civil war broke out. This conflict is known as Le Fronde. The nobles and the Paris Parliament (a powerful court of law) rose against the crown, led by Prime Minister Jules Cardinal Mazarin. 

Louis suffered greatly from this rebellion, and never forgave the nobles for their betrayal. 

In 1663, Mazarin won power, and took young Louis as his pupil. Louis never disputed Mazarin’s power, and even shared his passion for the arts. 



Rise of the Sun King

After Mazarin’s death, Louis XIV seized power. Not just the power of a king, all the power there was to be had. Louis claimed to be God’s representative on Earth, and anyone against him automatically became a sinner. This notion of a divine dictator was his own, and was a break in tradition of monarchs at the time. And with this new style of ruling, he was incredibly successful. He managed every little detail of France, from its courts to its troops. Louis began to call himself the Sun King, because everything in France revolved around him. 

Symbol of the Sun King

Symbol of the Sun King

He even managed to subdue the nobility with a clever trick. This same nobility had previously been quite unruly. They had started eleven civil wars over the past four decades. 

Louis was also a great patron of writers and the arts, and built many monuments throughout France, Versailles among them. Major renovations took place in 1661, and Versailles transformed from a lodge to a grand venue for parties and entertainment. Then in 1682, it became the main residence of the French government and court. 



Versailles Today

The Inside of Versailles

The Inside of Versailles

The Sun King has long since reached the height of his power and his inevitable fall, but Versailles still stands in all its glory. It is no longer a center of government, but for a while it stood as a museum to the glory of France, and since 1979, has been listed as a World Heritage site. 

World of French: Normandy

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

Normandy, a beautiful region in northern France, proudly showcases a remarkable blend of historical significance, breathtaking landscapes, and cultural treasures. From its Viking origins to the monumental events of D-Day, Normandy stands as a testament to courage, resilience, and human triumph. 

The Founding of Normandy

Statue of Viking Chieftain Rollo

The history of Normandy stretches back to the 10th century when the region was established as a duchy by the Viking chieftain Rollo. Under Rollo’s leadership, the Norsemen settled in the area, mingled with the local population, and created a unique fusion of Norman culture. Throughout history, the Dukes of Normandy played pivotal roles in European politics. One of these included William the Conqueror, who conquered England in 1066, forever altering the course of history (including having an immense French influence on the English language). 





D-Day and the Battle of Normandy

Normandy really made its name in the history books on June 6, 1944, during the infamous D-Day landings. Operation Overlord, as it was codenamed, marked the beginning of the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi occupation during World War II. The sandy beaches of Normandy, codenamed Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword, were the place of the heroic sacrifices of Allied forces from the United States, Britain, Canada, and other nations. 

D-Day Landing Beaches

The Battle of Normandy lasted for approximately three months, with fierce battles fought across the Normandy countryside. The Allies faced significant challenges such as hedgerow fighting, fortified German positions, and unpredictable weather conditions. However, their air superiority, combined with effective ground operations and relentless perseverance, gradually weakened German defenses. By August 1944, the Allies successfully broke through German lines and liberated Paris. The Battle of Normandy marked a turning point in the war, as the Allies gained a significant foothold in Western Europe and began their advance toward Germany.

Today, the D-Day landing sites are powerful reminders of the courage and resilience of those who fought in the war. Visiting Normandy allows us to pay homage to the heroes of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. Preserving the D-Day landing sites with great care allows for reflection and remembrance of the sacrifices made by the Allied Forces as they restored freedom across Europe. 

Exploring Normandy’s Cultural Gems

Mont Saint-Michel

Beyond its historical significance, Normandy captivates visitors with its vibrant cultural scene. The region showcases a plethora of architectural marvels, including the majestic Mont Saint-Michel, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and an iconic abbey perched on a rocky island. Art enthusiasts are enticed by the picturesque streets of the charming harbor town of Honfleur and its association with renowned painters such as Claude Monet. The Bayeux Tapestry, a remarkable historical artifact depicting the events leading up to the Norman Conquest, is another must-see treasure in Normandy.

Gastronomy of Normandy 

Known for its apple orchards, Normandy produces an array of delectable apple-based products, including crisp ciders, rich pommeau, and the renowned Calvados brandy. Cheese lovers are in for a treat with Normandy’s iconic Camembert, Pont-l’Évêque, and Livarot cheeses, each with its distinct flavor and character. The region’s coastal location also offers an abundance of fresh seafood, from plump oysters to succulent mussels and flavorful fish. 


Normandy is a region of remarkable historical significance, breathtaking landscapes, vibrant culture, and culinary delights. From Viking origins to the heroic D-Day landings to its architectural marvels and artistic treasures, Normandy exemplifies resilience and the human spirit. The preserved D-Day landing sites serve as powerful reminders of the sacrifices made, while the region’s cultural gems and gastronomy offer a sensory delight for modern tourists. Normandy beckons visitors to immerse themselves in its rich cultural scene, leaving an unforgettable impression of a destination that flawlessly blends history, beauty, culture, and gastronomy.