On June 1, 1961, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States, and his wife, Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy visited the Palace of Versailles. It was the first official visit by an American head of state since Woodrow Wilson in 1919.
The visit featured a tour of the palace and a dinner in the Hall of Mirrors with the President of the Republic, General Charles de Gaulle. The dinner featured Baccarat crystal, Sèvres tableware and pieces from the Grand Vermeil once belonging to Napoleon. The tableware and dinner menu followed the traditions of the Presidency of the French Republic.
After dinner, the guests walked along the North Statue Gallery to the Royal Opera House where a performance was given for the guests, the first major event since the restoration of the Royal Opera House and the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1957.
At the end of the evening, General de Gaulle accompanied the Kennedys through the palace gardens where the fountains were in operation and had been lit for the occasion.
The presidential visit to Paris led to a broader reflection on the need to find a residence in Paris or the surrounding area to host foreign guests of the French Republic. In 1963, General de Gaulle ordered the full restoration of the Grand Trianon for this purpose.
Of all the diplomatic receptions held under the Fifth Republic at Versailles, the one for John and Jackie Kennedy is particularly memorable for its unique splendor. To dine in the Hall of Mirrors is a great honor that had previously been granted on only a few rare occasions, a fact that underlined the friendship between France and the United States.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can make a tax-deductible contribution to support the Palace of Versailles, please contact Debra Dunn, Executive Director of the French-American Cultural Foundation, at email@example.com.