Candles in Versailles
Until the 19th century, street lighting was scarce and inadequate. It is hard to imagine today, with electricity. Candles appeared in the Middle Ages. At that time, crimes were numerous, because darkness was almost everywhere at night. Life was much more dangerous.
At the Palace of Versailles, the problem was the same. Candles were the only way to get light in the dark.
Trudon was one of the most famous candle maker. The company still exists, there are two stores in Paris. The Trudon family worked for the court from the 17th century. The manufacture used beeswax to make its candles. Its motto « Deo regique laborant » meant « They work for God and the King ». The court of Louis XV was seduced by the manufacture of candles. They burned for a long time and did not stammer.
The candles were of two kinds: the white one, used only on the table and private apartments, and the yellow ones, of lower-quality, burning faster.
The price for a candle was 30 coins under Louis XIV, a soldier was earning 5 coins per day, or 150 coins per month.
The candle budget was determined by the Maison du Roi, the King’s Household. It included the military, domestic and religious entourage of the French royal family.
But candles were a part of the royal gifts: the king was offering, for example, few pounds of candle to the chiefs of his household. Some servants were earning money by bringing back to the household the remains of the wax. It became a very protected right, fiercely defended by them.
Candles were political! Sometimes the servants wanted to be paid with candles. Otherwise, they occasionally refused to obey !
If the budget was limited for everyday life, the pump was a common thread for parties. Their organization depended on the « Premier gentilhomme de la chambre du roi » (First gentleman of the King’s bedroom).
It was a challenge sometime, as in 1739, when a great ball required 24,000 candles. They were placed on huge candelabras decorated with ribbons.
In the Hall of Mirrors in 1751, 8,000 candles were lit to celebrate the birth of a royal child. This was not a success because the candelabras were too high and the ladies looked older because of the shade.
To be more effective, the candles were settled close from mirrors. They reflected the light. Its is easy to imagine the effect produced in the Hall of Mirrors! In the 17th century, this room was perhaps the most luxurious in the world.
The passion for mirrors, originally from Venice, was limitless.
Candles were used in the apartments of the nobles in the Palace, but oil lamps were used in the corridors, the stairs, from 1780.
With the arrival of electricity, the candles where slowly abandoned but still used by the poorest part of the population.
Today, a candlelight dinner “aux chandelles” is something we love for its romanticism!