What’s new? Versailles!
Never opened to the public over the last 200 years, the Hamlet of the Queen of France in the parc of the Palace of Versailles is now open to visitors. This hidden gem was offered to Marie-Antoinette by her husband, King Louis XVI in order to offer a getaway from the heavy protocole of the court.
The reconfiguration of the Trianon gardens can be divided into two distinct phases. The first, starting in 1777, corresponds to the creation of the English garden. Subsequently, in 1783, she tasked Richard Mique with extending the gardens to the north and building a whole model village around an artificial lake. Work began in the summer of 1783 and was completed in 1786. The Queen’s Hamlet does not belong to any particular style, combining as it does various influences from rural architecture, but it does succeed in creating a sense of aesthetic coherency. The cottages are set on the eastern bank of the lake, arranged in a crescent formation which is ideally viewed from across the water.
The hamlet shows three distinct spaces. The first, to the south of the stone bridge which spans the stream, contains the reception facilities: the windmill (whose wheel is purely decorative), the boudoir, the Queen’s House, the billiard room and the stove room. These are cottages whose rustic exteriors concealed interiors which were carefully-decorated and often richly furnished, where the queen could host small parties of guests invited to join her on the Trianon estate. On the other side of the bridge stand the structures actually used for agricultural purposes: the barn, the working dairy, the model dairy, the fisherman’s cottage and the guard house. The tower overlooking the lake was named the ‘Marlborough Tower’, in reference to a popular song of the day. Further down the bank stands the farm, which was a going concern until the onset of the Revolution, complete with stables, pig sty, sheep pen and hen house. Contrary to the deeply-entrenched public image of Marie-Antoinette, the queen and her entourage did not “play at being farmers” amidst these bucolic surroundings, complete with sheep trussed up in ribbons. The queen actually used the hamlet as a place for relaxing walks, or to host small gatherings. The fact that the hamlet was also a functioning farm, a point upon which the queen insisted, meant that it served an educational role for the Royal children.
This royal retreat has been renovated thanks to the sponsoring of Christian Dior fashion group over several years of hard labor to recreate the inside decors and refurnish the interiors.
A must see if you visit the Versailles Royal Estate using the little train or rented bicycles inside the park.
Chateau de Versailles
from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm
Estate of Trianon
from 12:00 pm to 6:30 pm
closed on Mondays