With the history covered, it’s now time to take a tour of the Grand Trianon! This was the last stop that Neil and I made on our long day-trip to Versailles. Consequently, our legs and feet were screaming with pain by the time we made it there. Neil wearily exclaimed, as we approached the Grand Trianon, “it’s an entire palace! We could spend a whole day just touring this!” We didn’t. I think we spent 30 minutes at the most before we admitted we could walk no further. Consequently, I don’t have a lot of pictures of it—I’ve had to use Wikipedia, Pixabay, and the website of the Château de Versailles to supplement my meagre collection of photos. Again, if you’re able to, I highly recommend splitting your tour of Versailles, its grounds, and its other residences across a period of (at least) two days. It’s massive! You’ll find that the ample crowds wandering the halls of the main Château will start to thin as you move beyond the main residence. You may be fortunate enough to end up having entire rooms to yourself as you wander the halls of the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon, even at the height of tourist season.
Below are a few pictures I took of the exterior of the Grand Trianon. The first three pictures were taken from its east side while standing at the gate leading into the main courtyard. The first picture was taken while looking left towards the south wing. You can also see the peristyle in the distance, which connects the south and north wings. When Louis XIV had the peristyle built, he had the arches on this courtyard-facing side fitted with glass panels; they were removed in 1910 (more on this later).
Looking right across the courtyard towards the north wing.
In the photos below, I’ve taken a few steps back to show you the (closed) gate leading into the courtyard through which I took the above pictures.
Spiky, yet elegant!
In the photo below we’ve now walked to the other side of the Grand Trianon, the one that faces west, where the gardens and the main entrance are located. This picture was taken as we were walking towards the main entrance through the gardens, looking left at the north-east corner of the Grand Trianon. Note the single-storey height of the building, as well as its flat roof and accompanying balustrade (now bare of ornamentation, as Napoleon wasn’t a fan of it).
Below is another angle of that same corner.
Looking towards the steps leading up to the main entrance.
Below are some detail shots of the building façades with their characteristic pink Languedoc marble.
Before I move the tour inside the Grand Trianon, I want to remind you that all of its original furnishings were lost during the French Revolution. As a result, most of the rooms are decorated to look as they did when Napoleon used the residence from 1805-1813.
I’m going to use a floor map of the Grand Trianon from 1715 to provide a rough understanding of how its rooms are laid out. You may be familiar with it as I used it in my previous post about the history of the Grand Trianon. However, it is important to note that this map is over 300 years old and so there will be some differences between how the rooms existed at the time of the map’s creation and how they are currently laid out; I’ll make a note of any significant changes as I move through the rooms. I’ll also not be covering every room shown on this map as they were not all open to the public at the time of our visit.
As you can see in the floor plan above, a large entry courtyard separates the two principal wings of the Grand Trianon. The south wing is shown on the left, and contains rooms numbered 1-7. This south wing encloses a second courtyard, labelled as the Cour des Offices (Office Courtyard). The north wing is shown on the right, and contains rooms numbered 8-26. The south and north wings of the Grand Trianon are connected via its peristyle—a layout which mimics how the Hall of Mirrors connects the King’s and Queen’s State Apartments back at the main residence of Versailles. The painting below provides a good complementary aerial view of the Grand Trianon.
The north wing of the Grand Trianon is larger than the south. I’m going to divide the north wing into four different blocks to assist with our exploration. These blocks can be identified in the image below, moving from left to right, as: Block 1, with rooms numbered 8-12, which is laid out from west to east along the main courtyard; Block 2, which spans a set of rooms starting with 13-14 in the south and extending to 21-22 in the north; Block 3, consisting of a long gallery arm that extends to the west with rooms numbered 23-24; and Block 4, known as the Trianon-sous-Boise wing, stretching north with rooms numbered 25-26.
I’m going to return to the full map for a moment in order to explain the different areas of the Grand Trianon where Louis XIV set up his private suite of apartments. He would eventually have these moved three times before he was happy with their location. From 1688-1691, they were first situated in Block 2 of the northern wing in rooms 13-22. They were placed companionably alongside rooms 14-22, which were used by his chief mistress and secret wife Françoise d’Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon. He then had them relocated to the south wing, rooms 1-7, in 1691. They were moved for the third and final time in 1703 back to the north wing, but into Block 1 (rooms 8-12) instead of Block 2. They remained there until his death in 1715. As the floor plan I’m referencing dates to 1715, this final room configuration is the one that it reflects.
I’ll begin our tour in the south wing of the Grand Trianon. Below is a close-up of the south wing from the floor plan of 1715. The rooms we’ll be spending time in include: room 1, the Salon de Glaces (Salon of Mirrors); room 2, the Empress’ Apartment; room 4, the Salon de la Chapelle (Salon of the Chapel); room 5, La Chapelle (the Chapel); as well as room 6, the Salon des Seigneurs (Salon of the Lords). I will be skipping room 3, the Empress’ Antechamber, as I do not have a picture of it and I have been unable to source one from elsewhere. I’m also skipping all of the rooms labelled with a number 7 as they were not open to the public at the time of our visit. The south wing served as the second location of Louis XIV’s apartment suite from 1691-1703. In 1703, he moved them to Block 1 of the north wing and his son, Louis the Grand Dauphin, took up the now-vacated apartments in the south wing. Because of this, some of the rooms in the map below refer to Monseigneur, the name by which Louis the Grand Dauphin was known at court to distinguish him from his father.
The first room on this tour of the south wing is the Salon des Glaces (Salon of Mirrors), room 1. It is situated in the southwest corner of the Grand Trianon, and is arguably one of the nicest spaces in the residence. There is a good view of the northeast crossarm of the Grand Canal through its windows. The design of its mirrored walls was inspired by the Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) in Versailles, and was similarly meant to impress. It was the final room that made up Louis XIV’s suite of apartments when they were located here from 1691-1703; he used it as a council chamber.
Empress Marie-Louise later used this space as a cabinet and reception room. The furniture currently on display belonged to her, and was made by Jacob-Desmalter.
There is an interesting looking clock on display in the middle of the room. It was made by watchmaker Jean-Paul Chapuy-Lépine. Its shape is that of a bronze basket containing gilded bronze flowers, supported by four draped female figures known as caryatids. A rotating dial marks the minutes of the day along the edge of the basket, and the hours of the day are similarly indicated above it along the crown of flowers. This clock was presented at the Exposition of Products and Industry in Paris in 1823. It was brought to the Grand Trianon in 1851.
The 1715 floor map does not reflect that a small service room located east of the Salon des Glaces was later made into a Boudoir for Empress Marie-Louise. I did not take pictures of it myself, but I was able to source an old postcard of it, shown below. As you can see from the carpeting, the appeal of animal-print (jaguar in this case?) is timeless, although I would argue it is always better when it is faux (possibly not in this case, but hard to determine from just a photo).
The next room on the tour of the south wing is known as the Empress’ Bedroom, room 2. Previously, it served as a bedroom for Louis XIV from 1691-1703. In 1703, Louis XIV moved his apartments to block 1 in the north wing of the Grand Trianon and his son, Louis the Grand Dauphin, resided here until his death from smallpox in 1911.
During the reign of Louis XV, this was the bedroom of Queen Maria Leszczsyńska. Napoleon later had the room set up for his mother, but she found the Grand Trianon too outdated for her taste and never stayed here.
From 1810-1814 this bedroom was used by Napoleon’s second wife, Empress Marie-Louise (for whom the room is named). She selected all of the furniture that can be seen here with the exception of the bed, which stood in Napoleon’s bedroom at the Tuileries Palace. Queen Marie-Amélie was the next occupant of this room when her husband, Louis-Philippe I, reigned as King of France from 1830-1848.
The bed on display in this room used to contain the shield of Emperor Napoleon flanked by two eagles. Louis XVIII had the imperial symbols removed when he came into possession of the bed in 1814, and had them replaced with lilies.
In 1819, famous French carpenter Françoise-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter sculpted the royal arms and had them framed by two cornucopias. Louis XVIII died in this bed in 1824, and his body was displayed in it for a short period afterwards. The bed was brought to the Grand Trianon in 1838 to be used by Queen Marie-Amélie. The coat of arms now on display are those of her husband, Louis-Philippe I.
Next up on the tour are rooms 4-5, which were initially just one room when the Grand Trianon was first built. At the time, this space was used as a chapel. When Louis XIV relocated his apartments to the south wing in 1691, he split this room into two. A large main room was converted into an antechamber (now room 4, the Salon de la Chapelle) and a small alcove, located behind a door, contained an altar (now room 5, La Chapelle). Thus, the space was able to retain its function as a chapel when the door was open. When mass was over, the door could be closed and the large room used as a salon.
The final room we’ll tour in the south wing is room 6, the Salon des Seigneurs (Salon of the Lords). This name refers to its original use. Louis XIV later had it converted into an antechamber in 1691 when he set up his apartment suite in the south wing. This was also its role during the time of Empress Marie-Louise. The room features a table made in 1823 by Felix Rémond; its top is made of a single piece of teak with a diameter of 2.77 metres (9.09 feet). It was initially located in the Tuileries Palace but was sent to the Grand Trianon in 1851. The painting overtop of the marble fireplace is that of Louis the Grand Dauphin with his wife, Marie-Anne of Bavaria, and their three sons. This room leads out to the peristyle.
That concludes our tour of the south wing! Next, we’ll make our way towards the north wing through the peristyle that connects the south wing with the rest of the Grand Trianon.
The peristyle of the Grand Trianon is one of its most celebrated and attractive architectural features. It was built by architect Robert de Cotte1 and consists of a sheltered hallway of columns with a black-and-white tiled marble floor. Calling it a peristyle, though, is a bit of a misnomer. A peristyle is actually a row of columns that runs all the way around a building or courtyard. As this colonnade only connects the north and south wings, it only has one of the four arms required of a proper peristyle. But this is the name that Louis XIV applied to it, and so it stuck. I doubt there were many people keen to correct him.
During the time of Louis XIV, the peristyle was closed off on its east/court-facing side by French windows. Napoleon had both sides glassed in, as he found it otherwise too cold to comfortably walk from Empress Marie-Louise’s apartments in the south wing to his in the north. He also lined the peristyle with stoves to heat it. The glass windows were removed on both sides of the peristyle in 1910, allowing for direct access between the courtyard and gardens.
For fun, I’ve included some old illustrations and images of the peristyle below that predate the removal of the glass windows in 1910.
The postcard below shows the peristyle shortly after its windows were removed in 1910.
Next up on our tour is the north wing of the Grand Trianon, part of which I’ve shown below in a close-up of the 1715 floor map. We’ll begin with what I referred to earlier as Block 1, rooms 8-12. Louis XIV relocated his apartments to Block 1 in 1703, where they remained until his death in 1715. The 1715 floor map reflects this third and final configuration. Louis XV later had these apartments turned into reception rooms, but they were then converted back into apartments by Louis-Philippe I for the use of his children. My exploration of Block 1 will be short, consisting only of rooms 8-9, as rooms 10-12 were closed to the public when Neil and I visited the Grand Trianon. We’ll begin in room 8, the Round Room, and conclude with room 9, the Emperor’s Family Room.
The Round Room, room 8, is also known as the Salon des Colonnes (Salon of Columns). It was originally named after the eight Corinthian columns found within it. The Round Room served as a vestibule entrance to the King’s apartments when they were originally located in Block 2 of the north wing from 1688-1691, as well as when they were later moved back to the north wing to Block 1 in 1703. The columns, marble floor slabs, and wall paintings are all original to the room. To the right of the fireplace, a sculpted wooden panel hides a staircase that was used by musicians to reach a balcony that overlooked the adjoining north room in Block 2, the Music Room (room 13), where Louis XIV hosted small dinners.
The second room in Block 1, room 9, is known as the Emperor’s Family Room. When the Grand Trianon was first built, this part of the north wing was used as a theatre. In 1703, Louis XIV got rid of the theatre and set up his third and final suite of apartments in this wing. He used Room 9 as an antechamber. During the reign of Louis XV, it became a Games Room. Napoleon then converted it into a Family Room.
That concludes our look at Block 1 of the north wing, as rooms 10-12 were closed to the public at the time of my visit. We’ll now move onto Block 2 of the north wing, which contains rooms 13-22. Louis XIV’s apartments were originally located in this part of the north wing from 1688-1691. However, you won’t really notice anything to indicate this in the floor map below as it was created in 1715; Louis XIV’s apartment suite had already been moved two times by this point.
Rooms 13, 15-17, and 21-22 make up the State Apartments, which are open to the public. Rooms 14 and 18-20 are known as the Emperor’s Private Chambers—they are closed to the general public, but available to see via a guided tour. We’ll be visiting all of the rooms in this blog post. However, I only took pictures of the State Apartments as Neil and I did not go on a guided tour of the Emperor’s Private Chambers. I have sourced photos of the latter from elsewhere. The State Apartments consist of: room 13, the Music Room; rooms 15-16, which were combined following the creation of this floor plan into Louis-Philippe I’s Family Room; room 17, the Malachite Room; room 22, the Cool Living Room; and room 21, the Emperor’s Map Room.
The Music Room, room 13, is the first stop on our tour of the State Apartments. It is connected to room 8 of Block 1, the Round Room/Salon of Columns. Remember how I mentioned that there was a secret staircase hidden behind a wooden panel in that room? That staircase led up to a raised platform located behind the walls of this room. Musicians would perform on that platform while Louis XIV’s dinner guests enjoyed their meal here, in this room, below them. Shutters located above the doors in this room were used to conceal the performers. Napoleon later used this room as a lounge for his officers, and Louis-Philippe I converted it into its present appearance as a billiards room.
Next up on our tour of the State Apartments is Louis-Philippe I’s Family Room. Louis-Philippe I had rooms 15 (the Games Room) and 16 (the Chamber of Sleep) combined to create this space. He and his family enjoyed spending their evenings together in this lounge, which was comfortably furnished with padded armchairs and sofas. Gaming and sewing tables were both provided to allow for a companionable passing of time by all family members.
Below is a close-up of the material used to decorate the walls, which matches the contemporary style of the furniture.
The Malachite Room, room 17, was originally known as the “Cabinet of the Sunset.” It was later used as a bedroom by the Duchess of Burgundy, wife of Louis the Petit Dauphin. The room’s current name refers to a gift of Siberian malachite that was given to Napoleon by Tsar Alexander I of Russia in 1808. Napoleon had French architects Pierre-Françoise-Leonard Fontaine and Charles Percier draw up plans to have the green stone converted into furniture, which was then done by French cabinetmaker Jacob-Desmalter. The pieces include the green columns of two candelabra, a wash basin, and the top of a cabinet (located on the right side of the photo below, in front of a mirror). These items were placed on display in the Grand Trianon in 1811.
I really liked the details of the beautiful carpet that was also on display in this room!
The Cool Living Room, room 22, acquired its name because its north-facing location made it ideal to use as a summer dining room. The paintings and wood paneling of the walls are original to the room. The furniture dates to the First French Empire, when Napoleon used the room as a council chamber.
The Emperor’s Map Room, room 21, was originally known as the Salon de Sources because its windows looked out onto the Bosquet de Sources (the Grove of Springs), a small woodland criss-crossed by streams. In 1810, Napoleon decided to turn this space into a map room and also had the grove cut down.
The image below shows what the grove of springs, located north of Block 2, looked like.
That concludes our look at the State Apartments of Block 2. We’ll now move onto another set of rooms that are also located in Block 2: the Emperor’s Private Chambers, which are available to visit through a guided tour. On the 1715 floor plan we’ve been referencing, these apartments are numbered 14 and 18-20 and reflect their configuration when they were occupied by Louis XIV’s chief mistress, Madame de Maintenon. However, some of these rooms underwent a major renovation in 1750 during the reign of Louis XV. As a result, this floor plan is slightly outdated. The stairwell between apartments 14 and 18 was removed, and the dimensions of these spaces were changed in order to increase the number of rooms here from two to three (this becomes three-and-a-half if you include the addition of a water closet in room 18). As a result, a bonus apartment now exists between 14 and 18—the Breakfast Room (discussed below). With that change in mind, we’ll now begin our tour of the Emperor’s Private Chambers! We’re going to view them in descending order: room 20, the Antechamber; room 19, the Private Chamber; room 18, the Emperor’s Bedroom (which includes a Water Closet); the unnumbered Breakfast Room; and room 14, the Bedchamber of the Queen of the Belgians.
The first of these five apartments is the Antechamber, room 20. This room was originally used as a lounge by Madame de Maintenon, and was known as “the Cabinet of the Sunrise” because it faced east over the royal gardens. Its companion, the Cabinet of the Sunset, looked west—it is now the Malachite Room. The Antechamber was also used as a bedroom by Madame de Pompadour and (occasionally) Marie Antoinette. It then served as an office for Napoleon’s secretary. The walls are lined with damask silk in an ochre colour known as “Egyptian Earth.”
The next room is the Private Chamber, room 19. It was formerly Madame de Maintenon’s bedroom, and was called “the Resting Room.” It is decorated as it would have appeared in 1813, featuring a bright green damask wall covering that is bordered by gold brocade. The chairs were originally used by Napoleon at the Château de Saint-Cloud, but were later transferred here.
The Water Closet marks the beginning of the rooms that were renovated for Louis XV’s use in 1750. This bathroom space makes up part of what used to be room 18. The walls and chairs are covered with a sheer white cotton fabric (known as dimity). The bathtub is hidden by a green bench seat. If you look closely, you may notice that the rug in this room also features a jaguar print.
The next apartment we’ll tour is the Emperor’s Bedroom which, along with the Water Closet, is mostly located where room 18 would have been. This space served as Louis XV’s bedroom following the renovations of 1750. The room’s current set-up reflects its use as Napoleon’s bedroom. The beautiful “lemon-wood” moire fabrics with their lilac and silver brocade borders were woven in Lyons in 1807 for Napoleon’s first wife, Empress Josephine. Interestingly, Napoleon opted to use these fabrics in his room despite the fact that his first extended stay at the Grand Trianon coincided with his separation from Josephine in December 1809.
The Breakfast Room is located where that stairwell between apartments 14 and 18 used to be situated. After the renovations of 1750, Louis XV used this space as a personal office. Napoleon later decided to transform it into a breakfast room.
The fifth and final room on our tour of the Emperor’s Private Chambers is the Bedchamber of the Queen of the Belgians. This space is mostly located where room 14 used to be; its dimensions were changed during the renovations in 1750 to allow for the addition of the Breakfast Room next door. During Louis XIV’s time, this room was known as the Buffet. It retained this use under Louis XV and Napoleon. It was later converted into a bedchamber by Louis-Philippe I for his daughter Louise, who became the first Queen of the Belgians as the second wife of King Leopold I. The bed in this room once belonged to Empress Josephine, and was brought to the Grand Trianon from the Tuileries Palace.
That wraps up our look at Block 2 of the north wing! Next we’ll move onto Block 3 of the north wing, which contains rooms 23-24. This block consists of a long gallery arm that extends west from the main part of the Grand Trianon, where it connects with the Trianon-sous-Boise wing.
The Cotelle Gallery, room 23, was built by Louis XIV to shelter his Trianon flowerbeds from the rough winter winds. The gallery features eleven full-length windows along the south-facing wall and five on the north side (possibly the direction from which those winds were blowing). It is 52 meters (171 feet) in length and 7 meters (23 feet) in width. The gallery is lined with 24 paintings, 21 of which are by French painter Jean Cotelle the Younger (for whom the gallery is named). They were commissioned by Louis XIV in 1687 and portray the groves of Versailles and Trianon. The hallway is adorned with five crystal chandeliers.
Napoleon did not like the style of Cotelle’s paintings and had them taken down. He planned on having them replaced with works that celebrated his own accomplishments, but fate intervened before this was completed. Cotelle’s paintings were restored to the gallery in 1913. Louis XIV originally had the window recesses furnished with sofas, but Louis-Philippe I had them removed. The Treaty of Trianon, mentioned in my post about the history of the Grand Trianon, was signed in the gallery on June 4, 1920. It also hosted a dinner on May 15, 1972 that was attended by Queen Elizabeth II and French President Georges Pompidou.
The Garden Room, room 24, is located at the far western end of the Cotelle Gallery. It has a great view of the gardens and the northeast cross arm of the Grand Canal. Louis XIV had a games table placed in the centre of this room, which was later replaced by a billiards table.
The Trianon-sous-Boise wing, Block 4, will be the last stop we make on our tour of the Grand Trianon. On the floor map of 1715 that we’ve been referencing, it contains several rooms numbered 25-26. Trianon-sous-Boise translates into English as “Trianon-under-the-Forest.”
Louis XIV used this part of the residence to house the members of his younger brother’s family. In fact, in 1708 he had a second storey added to this wing by architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart—it is the only part of the Grand Trianon that deviates from its original single-storey design.
In 1959, French President General Charles de Gaulle decided to transform the Grand Trianon into a presidential home. Renovation work was carried out between January 1963 and June 1966 under the direction of French architect Marc Saltet and conservator Gérald Van der Kemp. Air conditioning and electricity were installed throughout the building. The wing of the Trianon-sous-Boise was completely remodelled in order to provide modern living accommodations; its basement was also installed with professional kitchens. In 1999, President Jacques Chirac authorized the reopening of the French presidential apartments to the public. I’m not sure if they are available to the public to tour at this point, as Neil and I did not make it that far in our physical tour of the Grand Trianon. It’s possible that some of the rooms are open, while others are still in the process of being renovated.
The Trianon-sous-Boise contains a Chapel, which was created by Louis-Philippe I on the site of a former billiards room. Louis-Philippe I’s second daughter, Princess Marie, was married in this room on October 17, 1837 to Duke Alexander of Württemberg.
That concludes our tour of the Grand Trianon! Thank you for reading!
1 Robert de Cotte was a student of Jules Hardouin-Mansart before becoming his brother-in-law and collaborator. He would later finish Mansart’s work on the Grand Trianon and the Royal Chapel of Versailles after Mansart’s passing in 1708.