Lunéville was a renowned resort in the 18th century, known as the capital of Lorraine. The grand Château de Lunéville, built in 1702 for Leopold, Duke of Lorraine to replace an older palace, was the residence of the duke of Lorraine until the duchy was annexed by France in 1766. The château was designed in the style of Versailles to satisfy Leopold's wife, Élisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans, the niece of Louis XIV, and became known as the "Versailles of Lorraine". It includes a chapel designed by Germain Boffrand. Leopold and his wife were the parents of Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor (through him they were the grandparents of Marie Antoinette).
The last duke of Lorraine was Stanislaus I, the former king of Poland. A devout Catholic, an author and a philanthropist, Stanislaus had a church built and several follies in his gardens for the amusement and education of visiting Polish nobility and followers of the Enlightenment. The more famous visitors to his court were Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, André Morellet, and Montesquieu. After the death of his father-in-law in 1766, Louis XV of France annexed the duchy and turned the castle into a barracks, but much of the original construction has survived, and what remains is open to the public and the château's intricate parterre gardens, designed by Yves Hours (a pupil of André Le Nôtre) in 1711 and Louis de Nesle in 1724, are a public park today.
It was over the nearby Forêt de Parroy, directly east of Lunéville, only some 11 months after the breakout of World War I, that the first aerial victory by a fighter aircraft armed with a synchronised machine gun occurred on July 1, 1915, as Leutnant Kurt Wintgens of the German Fliegertruppe forced down an Aeronautique Militaire Morane-Saulnier L parasol monoplane. Neither member of the French aircrew was seriously wounded, while the French aircraft's Gnome Lambda engine received multiple hits to disable the aircraft.
The Treaty of Lunéville was signed in the Treaty House, one of the houses built up against the château gardens of Lunéville on 9 February 1801, between the French Republic and the Austrian Empire by Count Ludwig von Cobenzl and Joseph Bonaparte.
Another treaty, signed in Germany, was the Treaty of Frankfurt (1871), which made Lunéville into a border town attracting the best and the brightest of Alsace and Moselle who relocated to keep their French nationality. A new period of economic prosperity, known as the Belle Époque, restored some of the glory of Stanislas's ducal court of the 18th century.