Louis XIV fell in love with Versailles and Louise de La Vallière at the same time: Versailles was the love of his life. For years before he lived there, it was never out of his mind. When he was at the seat of government or away on hunting visits or with his army at the front, he had to be sent a daily report on the work in hand on his house down to the tiniest details; and he never stopped adding to and improving the place while there was breath in his body. This ‘undeserving favourite’ as the courtiers called it is part of his legend but in fact, the Sun King only lived there during the meridian and the sunset years: in his great morning he held his court, consisting of a few dozen officials, at the Louvre and Saint-Germain-en-Laye where he was born, with visits to Chambord, Fontainebleau and Vicennes. Like a feudal King, he was always on the move, generally at war, and his court was a bivouac between two campaigns.

Nobody ever knew when this secret man first conceived the design by which his father’s little hunting lodge was to become the hub of the universe, perhaps as early as 1661 when he began to give parties in the gardens there for his young mistress [Louise de la Vallière] and a band of friends, whose average age at that time was nineteen. Louis was twenty-three, had been married for a year and already had a son, but his kingdom had hitherto been governed by Cardinal Mazarin, his godfather; and his behaviour was still regulated by his mother, Queen Anne of Austria. He liked to disport himself away from the eye of the older generation and Versailles was a perfect place in which to do so, though the parties there had to take place in the garden; the house was much too small. The weather was always fine in those happy young days, the freshness of the evening a welcome change from the heat of noon.

—  The Sun King // Nancy Mitford