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Love, Sex & Death at Versailles

Kings and their women: Louis XIV, Louise de La Vallière, Louis XV & Madame de Pompadour

Were the King's mistresses the true rulers of Versailles? A palace of secret passages and doorways to a world of debauchery! 

Louise de La Vallière was one of Louis XIV's young, beautiful mistresses. She was incredibly pious, as was most of the court at Versailles, and struggled to reconcile her affair with the married Louis. Over the years, she had several children by him, and was totally besotted.

In the 17th century many believed in the divine right of kings meaning that God had appointed him to rule over France. They were a sort of mortal deity in their own right and Louise believed that if Louis is appointed by God, and if she goes to bed with him, then this is a form of worshipping God.

From 1732 several mistresses (“favorites”) played an important role in King Louis XV personal life. Madame de Pompadour lived at Versailles from 1745 until her death in 1764. At once mistress and then friend and finally adviser, she played a political role as well as wielding great influence in the field of the arts. After her the king soon took refuge in the bosom of another, the beguiling Madame du Barry, his mistress until his own death in 1774. It was Madame de Pompadour who convinced Louis XV to build a new palace: the Petit Trianon, the future residence of Marie-Antoinette.

Danger, intrigue, passion, politics and probably quite a lot of fun. National Gallery of Australia Director Gerard Vaughan comes to Muse to talk about the saucy life of the French court, plus tips on essential bedtime reading so you can fully appreciate the extraordinary exhibition that is Versailles: Treasures from the Palace.

You naughty minxes you.

Tickets: $10 (includes a complimentary glass of wine or soft drink)


A limited number of tickets will be available for purchase at the door.

Gerard Vaughan is Director of the National Gallery of Australia, which combines the national collection of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian art with broad collections of European, American, Asian and Pacific art. He was previously Director of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. From 1994-99 he was inaugural Director of the British Museum Development Trust in London. He has a doctorate in art history from Oxford University and as an art historian has always specialised in the history of taste and public and private collecting, public museology and the provenance of works of art.

Earlier Event: February 5
Diana Thompson - Unbridled Passion
Later Event: February 26
Rebecca Huntley - Still Lucky