Marie Antoinette's Estate in Versailles Paris

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The Estate of Marie Antoinette

Chateau de Versailles is one of the most beautiful and opulent palaces in Europe. However, the it isn't to everyone's taste. Marie Antoinette lived here, but quickly tired of the rigours of Court etiquette. She sought a more bucolic existence. Conveniently, there was a spot to retire to half a mile away in from the palace in the "back garden". In 1774, King Louis XVI presented her with a 86-acre Domaine here.


The estate comprises three main areas

  • The Petit Trianon
  • The Grand Trianon
  • Le Hameau (The Queen's Hamlet)

All three are complimented by their own grounds and subset of landmarks.


Petite Trianon

Most of the Queen's time was spent at the Petit Trianon. This is a small (in comparison to the main chateau) but stately building and gardens.


It was constructed between 1763-1768 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel. It was intended as a residence for Louis XV's long-term mistress, Madame de Pompadour. She died four years before the building was completed. It was her successor, Madame du Barry, who initially occupied it.


However, when Louis XVI came to the throne he then offered the building to Marie Antoinette. She embraced it. It was her haven of privacy away from palace life.


Everything here was done 'par ordre de la Reine' (by order of the Queen). No one could enter without her permission. Not even her husband. Only Marie Antoinette's inner circle were invited.


The Trianon's construction coincided with an epochal shift in architectural tastes. Things went from Rococo to "Greek", the later being in vogue at the time. Both of these styles feature in its elegant yet simple design.


Inside, the Queen's private apartments are now open to the public. On entering you get a good feel of pre-revolutionary France. Her boudoir is worth seeing. Full-length mirrors rise up from the floor following the simple turning of a crank. Many of the furnishings here, including the bed in the rather modest bedchamber, belonged to and were used by Marie Antoinette herself.


The Grand Trianon

Next door to the Petite Trianon is the Grand Trianon. Its name, like that of its neighbour, comes from the village of Trianon that used to exist here. The village was demolished to make room for the regal estate.


The building is made from a beautiful pink-and-white marble. It was completed in 1687. Napoleon occupied it from 1805-1815 and refurbished it with Empire pieces. It is now a museum that is worth a look around.


Adjoining both Trianons is the English Garden, which again was par ordre de la Reine. Here, Marie Antoinette ordered the large rock gardens, theatre, pavilion, Chinese tilting ring and the Temple of Love to be installed. The last of these was built so it could be seen from the Queens bedroom. Some of these were at the expense of Louis XV's botanical garden, much to the dismay of the scientific community.


Le Hameau - The Queen's Hamlet

At the north end of the garden, on the edge of the manmade lake, is the queen's most intriguing and bizarre conception. The Hamlet is a village built to resemble an arcadian 18th-century scene and a "return to nature". It was constructed by Mique, to the Queens design and wishes. It was completed sometime around 1785.


It comprises twelve buildings, including a water mill, barn, pigeon loft, thatched cottages and a dairy, as well as some slightly less pastoral structures, e.g. the isolated boudoir. The largest building on the lake is the Queen's House. This is an impressive chalet that dwarves the other buildings. The second floor of it has been completely restored. It houses the Queen's bedroom and a small dining room that she converted into a billiard hall.


Acknowledgements: Beatrix Saule (Head Curator and director of the Chateau de Versailles research centre)