Culture and Grandeur in France

                 The American Friends of Versailles 


Catharine Hamilton and le Vicomte de Rohan, American Friends of Versailles co-founders, at the gala





From Megan McKinney


During a glorious long weekend last month The American Friends of Versailles celebrated its 25 year anniversary.  We bring you today a complete and delightful description of the festive four day celebration directly from the Chicago-headquartered organization.


The exquisite Catharine Hamilton, founder and for twenty-five years president, of the American Friends of Versailles at  June’s 25 year anniversary celebration.

The American Friends of Versailles a philanthropy headquartered in Chicago, hosted an extraordinary benefit weekend in France from June 9th to the 12th, 2023. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the events brought together esteemed guests from around the world for a series of enthralling experiences in both Paris and Versailles.

Catharine Hamilton speaking at the American Residence in Paris

Since its founding in 1998 by Mrs. David R. Hamilton (Catharine), the American Friends of Versailles extends its heartfelt appreciation to all its generous donors and gracious hosts. AFV has supported remarkable restoration initiatives such as reviving the splendor of the Trois Fontaines Bosquet, the Pavillon Frais, the Queens’ Guards Room fresco ceiling, and the replanting of Virginia Tulip trees in Marie Antoinette’s Grove. Whether it is funding restoration projects, replanting trees after a devastating storm, or providing assistance to cultural seminars, AFV strives to ensure this world treasure continues to radiate its magnificence for future generations.

American Friends of Versailles Founder Catharine Hamilton with Susan Gutfreund, left, and Josée Nadeau, right.

Each brushstroke upon the Chateau’s ceiling paintings and each intricately carved detail of its furniture, walls and floors, whispers the tales of the greatest craftsmen who poured their souls into creating a masterpiece that transcends centuries. The Palace of Versailles stands not merely as a physical entity but as a testament to the boundless possibilities of human creativity and the enduring legacy of artistic expression. Over 1 million Americans are enticed to visit here annually.

Kristin Smith, American Friends of Versailles Executive Director, in the American Residence in Paris

The pinnacle of the long weekend was an elegant black-tie dinner held at the Grand Trianon of Versailles, culminating in a spectacular display of 18th-century-style fireworks perfectly synchronized with regal baroque music.

Liz Parker Crow with Augusta Crow and Keith Crow

Other events encompassed a breakfast and guided tour of the marvelous Dior Museum on Avenue Montaigne before it opened to the public,  a delectable lunch with Piper-Heidsieck’s Rare champagne (whose first vintage debuted at Versailles in 1976) in the private residence of H.E. Shaikha Paula Al-Sabah of Kuwait and a lovely cocktail reception where US Ambassador Denise Bauer cordially greeted everyone in the American Residence, an historic, grand Hôtel Particulier on Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

Katherine Harris, Princess Beatrice de Bourbon de Deux Sicles, Josée Nadeau, Comte de Rohan  and Ivan Dvorak

Josée Nadeau and Ivan Dvorak in the American Residence in Paris

An exceptional candlelit dinner was held in the Marais at a residence owned by Joseph Achkar and Michel Charriere, renowned architects and collectors of 18th-century pieces. With their keen eye for design and restoration, these tastemakers had overseen the historic renovation of the Hôtel de la Marine (the French Navy) on the Place de la Concorde.

A brunch and private piano performance by Warner Classics Recording Artist Andrew von Oeyen was presented in the sumptuous apartment overlooking the Seine of H.R.H. Prince Charles of Bourbon Two Sicilies, Duke of Castro, Head of the Royal House, and H.R.H. Princess Camilla, Duchess of Castro.

Catharine Hamilton and Maria Manetti

A private organ concert was given in the Cathédrale Saint-Louis, of the Hôtel des Invalides, followed by a cocktail soirée in the Grand Salon where General Henry Medlege, Director of the Army Museum, welcomed guests.

David and Katie  Galvin with John and Karen Krehbiel

The rare privilege of walking through the Hall of Mirrors and La Salle des Gardes de la Reine (the Queens’ Guards Room) when they were closed to the public was enjoyed by guests. The fresco ceiling of the Guards’ room had been restored with funding from the American Friends of Versailles. On the main visitors’ tour, over 4 million people visit this room annually.

Bonnie Deutsch Hartung and Philip Hartung

A delightful picnic was originally planned to be in the picturesque Bosquet de la Reine, known as the Queen’s Grove. However, due to an expected rainy forecast, the picnic location was shifted indoors to the Orangerie. Despite the change, guests were treated to a guided grove tour led by Veronique Ciampini, the head of its recent restoration. The Queen’s Grove, which replaced the renowned Labyrinth, was exclusively reserved for Marie-Antoinette. This enchanting grove showcased beautifully landscaped garden rooms, seamlessly blending the precision of the traditional French formal layout with meandering paths inspired by English designs. At its heart stood America’s fragrant Virginia tulip trees, Marie-Antoinette’s personal favorite. AFV sponsored the replanting of these magnificent trees.

Cindy Galvin and Steffi Galvin

The weekend festivities reached their grand finale with a farewell fête held at the magnificent Hôtel Claude Passart, the private residence of AFV Vice Presidents, architect Juan Pablo Molyneux, and his wife, Pilar. Nestled in the charming Marais district, this exquisite 17th-century mansion boasts breathtaking interiors and a delightful garden that they designed.

Ballgowns galore!

The American Friends of Versailles remains dedicated to the preservation of history and beauty. Cheers to the next 25 years of restoring, preserving, celebrating, and sharing the magic of the Chateau and its park! For further information please visit

Photo Credit: Francis Hammond Photography