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Versailles’ American Splendor

The Château de Versailles is a symbol of French excellence in the arts, emblematic of absolute power and the height of the monarchy’s reign. But it actually owes part of its current grandeur and beauty to a number of Americans who financed its restoration throughout the 20th century.

"What I must do is not what other people do, but what other people cannot do," said John D. Rockefeller Junior. And the American businessman stuck to his word, donating a million dollars to the Château de Versailles, the Château de Fontainebleau, and Reims Cathedral in 1924.

France was still reeling after World War I, and raising money for the restoration and maintenance of Versailles was not a priority. Despite serving as a backdrop for the renowned treaty that put an end to the conflict, Versailles was in a sorry state; the roofs were leaking, and the gardens were overgrown. “It would be a privilege to offer my assistance [in preserving French monuments]” Rockefeller wrote to the French prime minister of the time, Raymond Poincaré. And with that, the

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