Period costume ball brings France's Sun King back to life in Versailles

VIDEO: REUTERS

VERSAILLES, France (AFP) - Nearly 700 people in period costume paraded through the sumptuous apartments of France's Louis XIV at his palace in Versailles just outside Paris for the fifth edition of the "Fetes Galantes".

The annual fancy dress ball aims to re-create the baroque splendour of the Sun King's dazzling court feasts held to show off the wealth and power of France's longest-reigning monarch, who was born in 1638, ascended to the throne at the age of four and remained king until his death in 1715.

"The Duke and Duchess of La Malmaison... welcome to Versailles!" two masters of ceremony call out at the foot of the grand staircase as guests arrive in lavish costumes, rented for the night at a price of several hundred euros or meticulously sewn by hand.

The theme of this year's ball held late on Monday (May 27) was "Marie-Antoinette and fashion".

Daniel, in his 50s, said he spent more than 500 hours making his cardinal's outfit from red silk with a scarlet train several metres in length.

He and his husband, Bruno, who is dressed as a prince, are regulars of the event and also attend the annual carnival in Venice every year.

For tickets costing several hundred euros, depending on category, guests can wander through the private apartments of the chateau, which is a World Heritage site and one of France's biggest tourist attractions - from the Hercules Salon, where a specialist dance company gives a demonstration of baroque era dance, to the world-famous Hall of Mirrors.

"It's the only occasion in the year where you can come to Versailles in costume," says Laurent Brunner, head of the palace's Royal Opera house, where more than 600 of the costumed guests were photographed for the first time this year.

In 2020, the Palace of Versailles will celebrate the 250th anniversary of both the Royal Opera, and the wedding of Marie-Antoinette and the future King Louis XVI.