BY BONNIE HARTUNG
I have immensely enjoyed serving on the Board of the American Friends of Versailles with Mrs. David Hamilton (Catharine), its founder and president, since its inception in 1988. We raise money for various restoration projects at Versailles and build international friendships through the cultural arena.
Our most recent project is the ceiling of the Queen’s Guard Room. Catharine has lead us through twenty amazing years and almost magically, the benefit events in France outdo the previous ones every year. It is important to note that four million visitors view this room every year and one million of them are Americans, more than any other foreign nationality.
This year, as in the past, every day of the benefit week was filled with exceptional events, due in large part to Catherine Pégard, the president of Versailles. She assisted in obtaining one spectacular event after another (two or three each day). One was a very private tour of the Elysée Palace with a surprise guest: Mrs. Macron herself! We toured the cooks’ chambers, where we saw the State sterling ware, tableware, and crystal that was laid out for us to personally view, as well as to her office and to various formal meeting rooms. The wife of the President of France then graciously joined us in a photo on the steps of the Palace.
As usual, the fundraising gala at the Chateau de Versailles was as magnificent as the Hall of Mirrors, where we sipped champagne before dinner. The dinner itself was a vision of what Marie Antoinette herself may have planned, with an over-abundance of flower in every color of the rainbow, candles, and the soft glow of the golden stone walls. Another surprise was the live Royal Chapel Organ music that began to play immediately after dessert and summoned us out to the gardens, by the flowing Latona fountain, where fireworks danced to baroque music—an incredible ending to a very dazzling event!
Bravo, American Friends of Versailles and all the contributors, donors, highly skilled artisans and craftsmen who work together to preserve and restore the Chateau’s inspirational beauty for future generations to enjoy.