The Palace of Versailles, the French royal getaway that began as a humble hunting lodge before expanding into the world's largest palace, holds more than 720,000 square feet under its roof, most in the resplendent Baroque style of Louis XIV. The Sun King employed some 30,000 laborers and nearly emptied the French national treasury to produce the masterpiece. It has, for better and usually for worse, become a model for extravagant private homes the world over, mostly in the big house-happy United States. Recently, a Versailles "replica" famously became the bane of timeshare billionaire David Siegel, who set about building America's largest private home before the financial crisis got in the way, spawning the documentary The Queen of Versailles. Other wealthy Americans have pursued similar follies, most of which suffer from too little scale and a frightening lack of craftsmanship.
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