Are Palaces All They are Cracked Up To Be?

I mean, they look great. But as a practical matter, how much room do you actually need? Kink Louis XIV had Versailles…which looks neat (plus the gardens). But how much of it did the king actually live in/use? Same today-once you have over 40,000 square feet, do you really need more?

Modern Palaces like Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle have Apartment suites where the occupant actually lives, an offcie complex for them and the staff and the occassional public areas as well as the ceremonial parts. They don’t actually live in most of the 100,000 sq feet of space.
As to the second part; Palaces can be quite uncomfotable. In the early 1970’s, Queen Elizabeth II found Buck House too outdated and run down for her young family and threatened to move out and purchase a house for herself until the Government agreed to repairs.

In some places (and also in modern planned cities) the “Palace” etc is actually more like an estate and the occupants home is a cottage on the grounds.

Almost all of Versailles was used to house the rest of the court. Vast swathes of the building were areas that the king would never visit. At the risk of some oversimplification, the king really only ‘lived’ in some of the rooms around the central courtyard. Louis XIV did actually use some of the rooms in the appartement du roi and he slept in the central bedchamber. But his successors mostly retreated to the petit appartement, where the rooms were much smaller, even almost domestic. They did so because that’s the way they preferred it.

Most visitors to Versailles never see the various private apartments. That they are not that big means that the French authorities have to limit the numbers who visit them. The result is that most visitors leave with a completely distorted sense as to what life there was actually like.

Its not about what you need but how much power and wealth you project out. The bigger the palace, the better you look, until you bankrupt the country and the peasants storm the palace and cut off your head

Think about the White House. There are living quarters for the President and family. But there are offices, kitchens, public rooms, ceremonial rooms, places where the staff can get some coffee, garages, security stations, restrooms for the staff, and on and on. The living quarters for the family are only a small part of the building.

And so if a palace has vast kitchens and dining rooms, it’s not that the King needs a gigantic feast every night for himself to eat alone. It’s that everyone who lives and works and visits the palace needs to eat, there are hundreds of people who live and work there, and they all need to be fed. All those people need places to sleep, even if it’s just a dormitory bed, or a pile of straw on the floor. And the more people who work at the palace you need even more people whose job is to take care of those people. People visiting means you need a stable. That means stablehands, who need to be fed and housed. It means a blacksmith and farrier. It means guys who bring in wagons of hay and grain and carry out wagons of horseshit.

So the palace isn’t just a fancy house for the King to live in. It’s an administrative center, it’s a production center since most things need to be manufactured on site, it’s a military headquarters, it’s home to hundreds of people, it’s a place to entertain visitors and host official ceremonies.

And also note that in the days before all the mod cons, everything had to be done in person. You want clothes, you have to hire a guy to make you clothes, and he has to find a guy to make the cloth. You want clean clothes, someone has to laboriously hand launder everything. You want food someone has to cook it, and harvest it, and grow it. You can’t just run down to the mall or flip a switch, everything has to be done by human labor. That means vast swarms of servants just to keep one person in comfort.

I have been to a few of Sadam’s Palaces and you’d be amazed at how great they looked from a distance and how crapy the construction was close up. Slave labor just isn’t what it used to be…

If you read about Versailles, it becomes evident that it was quite unpleasant during its heyday. Nobles were crammed into crowded apartments, much less comfortable than they enjoyed at home, but they couldn’t risk being away from the center of power. Sanitation was poor, and supposedly the whole place stank because it was easier to find an out of the way stairwell than a bathroom during the night.

One of the problems modern palace dwellers have is how to pay for food and clothing. Its actually quite a hassel, security concerns being what they are, it would actually be cheaper to just buy food for the First/Royal/PM’s family rather then spend several thousand taking them to the grocery store or boutique. OTH, you get bad press if it is reported they eat on the state’s dime.

The way most get around it is that simply buy the stuff for them; and write it on the books as coming from salary; i.e you say "the P.M salary is $300,000 of which $200,000 is basic pay and $100,000 is food, clothing allowance.

The themed decor, OTOH, was apparently something else altogether to look at…

There was also no indoor plumbing, so water and products of excretion also had to be toted by hand.

I wish I could remember where exactly I read this, but I can’t so I can only paraphrase from memory.

It was a monarch from one of the European countries. I think a northern European country. He was speaking about the main palace where the royal family was supposed to reside while in the city. This palace was located on prime real estate in the middle of the city. The monarch said (paraphrased) that either this palace is mine in which case I’m going to put it on the market immediately and buy some nice, comfortable home for me and my family to live in or this palace isn’t mine in which case I expect the government to fix it up.

I know I read that in few months ago when I was researching royal public housing for the “grace and favour” section of The Myth of Princess Margaret’s Tragic Life, but the monarch and royal family weren’t the British royal family, so I didn’t make a note of it other than thinking this was a sharp, funny monarch they had. I’ll let my mind dwell on it and see if I can’t remember more details as I dislike posting a paraphrase or not having a link for a quote. If I can figure it out, I’ll post the exact quote and link to the news article where I read it.

I mentioned Louis XIV, but thinking more about modern palace dwellers…like Patriots QB Tom Brady and his supermodel wife. They own an 80,000 sq. ft. palace in Brentwood, along with half a dozen other huge mansions. how much of this excess do they even walk into? The upkeep must be a killer, even for such rich people.

I don’t know about that particular couple, but. I do know a few people who own huge houses and typivally the part the actally spend most of their time in is small.

One old money couple I know own a house abiut as large as you mentioned. It has three dinning rooms. A huge one; which is used perhaps twice a year. A big one for when they ae entertaining friends and a snall sized one which they actually use day to day.

My aunt and her husband live on an estate and while she does not have three dinning rooms, only very little of her place is used day aftwer day. Most of the rest of the place is a “look how rich we are”.

heck, we have rooms we never go into in a 4000 sf house…

The Forbidden City in China would have sucked ass to live in as the emperor. I mean, as Emperor of China, it should be great. Sure, much better than being a peasant, but modern luxury it did not have.

In the US in the old days when transportation was slow when rich people visited they didnt just spend a day or two, it was more like a month. Plus they often brought their own servants so those mega mansions had lots of extra rooms.

Check out Biltmore Estate.

I dont know about him but many a mansion has been sold or even abandoned by the heirs because it was just too darn big and expensive to keep up. I’ve read that in places like Newport Rhode Island several big homes needed expensive repairs and upgrades because they were built in the 1800’s and by the 1900’s the roof was beginning to leak, the foundation to sag, it needed electricity and modern plumbing, etc… not to mention the enormous tax bills on those properties, and the kids just didnt have the mega million gramps had so they basically just walked away from the property.

Now local groups took them over and made hotels out of them.

Actually even in other countries the owners have had to allow tours and such to bring in extra income to support such a house. Staff isnt as cheap as it used to be.

Even Graceland isnt even owned by the Presley family anymore.

The Biltmore hasnt actually had a family living there since the 1950’s and its now just a big museum and they have a winery on the grounds.

I have been to several castles/palaces (open to public ones) in my time and I have always been struck by how small and often spartan the ostensible occupants quarters were. Palaces are first and foremost, office buildings. How would living quarters in your office look like?

Which explains why many monarch have perferred to spend time away from their official residences.

I’ve never been inside it but theres this mansion on Ward Parkway I’ve been told has both public and private areas in it. The public areas are where they hold events like art shows and that area even has its own kitchen. The family actually lives in another area wheres its just like any other families with kids pictures on the refrigerator and all.

The Versailles website highlights the Petit Trianon–built for Madame Pompadour but identified with Marie Antoinette. Who had a “village” built so she could get away from it all…

I have heard this before, frankly, it makes no sense. they did have chamber pots…no need to befoul a marble stairwell. The chief complaint about Versailles seems to be its isolation. As far as bathrooms, they had plenty of water (over 400 fountains and pools); couldn’t they manage running water indoors?