The King’s State Bedroom was the ceremonial heart of the Château, but the Cabinet du conseil (Council Chamber) next door was its political heart.
All three kings who lived at Versailles spent many hours in this room. It was the venue for meetings of the Conseil d’Etat, the Council of State, which was effectively the cabinet. The King also chaired the meetings of the Conseil des Dépêches (Foreign Affairs) and the Conseil des Finances (Finance) here. Furthermore, foreign ambassadors presented their credentials in this room. Last but not least, all those who wished to join the court had to be presented to the King here by a sponsor. In 1745, Madame de Pompadour was presented, for instance.
Note the placement of the king’s fauteuil (armchair) in the photo above. It’s placed directly in front of the hearth, which was the warmest place in the room. The heating of this room was so much more effective than in the great state bedroom next door that Louis XV, when he was still sleeping there, used to come into the Council Chamber on winter mornings to warm himself before going back in the state bedroom for the ceremony of the Lever. In fact, he used to have a bed made up in the Council Chamber when he wasn’t feeling well. Ian Dunlop, author of the classic study Versailles, speculates that this might have given Louis XV the idea to create another bedroom in the Private Apartments.
Louis XV was not the only resident of the King’s apartments who appreciated the warmth of the Council Chamber. The King also had a beloved pet, an enormous white Angora cat. When the day’s business was done and the King and his ministers had left the room, a cushion of red damask was placed in front of the hearth for the feline to recline on. Dunlop relates an incident concerning this cat. One day the King’s pages amused themselves by feeding the cat spirits, causing it to run amok. The King, alerted by the boys’ shouts of laughter, suddenly reappeared and demanded to know what was going on. The youngsters claimed that they were laughing at a joke, but the King could obviously see the addled cat’s antics. Nonetheless, he only gave them a severe look, saying “Messieurs, je vous laisse ice, mais si vous voulez vous amuser, j’entend que ce n’est pas au dépens de mon chat!” (“Gentlemen, I’ll leave you here, but if you want to amuse yourselves, I want it understood that it’s not to be at the expense of my cat!”).
On the whole, the decor of the Council Chamber as we see it today is as Louis XV left it. He had it enlarged and redecorated in 1755. Previously, it had been furnished with furniture upholstered in a rich red velvet, while the table was covered in a green damask edged with gold. Louis XV also had more mirrors added to the walls so as to increase the reflection of light. Louis XVI seems to have used the room as it was, as indeed he did everywhere else but the library in the Private Apartments (see the previous post).
I still have numerous photos of the Château’s interior to share, including some of the state rooms and also Mme Adélaïde’s apartments. Please check back regularly for updates!