Before I move on with writing about other destinations, I have one final post to share in which I’ll wrap up our 3 week exploration of Paris from June-July 2017. This post will include a miscellaneous collection of pictures that I have not yet shared in my other posts about Paris1. I’ll begin with some photos of the apartment we stayed in, which was located in the historic neighbourhood of Les Marais. Then I’ll share some photos I took of the Porte Saint-Martin, the Seine River, the Hôtel de Ville, the Fontaine du Palmier, the Saint-Jacques Tower, the Tuileries Gardens, the Place de la Concorde, the Opéra Garnier, and their surrounding neighbourhoods.
First up, our super cute apartment! Below is the main living area.
We ate several loaves of fresh French bread at the dining table shown below, accompanied by a bottle (or two) of sparkly pink rosé.
The kitchen was narrow, but it had everything that we needed to cook up a few meals.
The kitchen had a tiny balcony that was just wide enough to lean out on and smoke a cigarette. You could probably keep a small planter of herbs there, if you wanted. I liked the tulips on the window!
The view below the window.
The view down the street.
A bedroom just big enough to fit a bed.
The bathroom had a bathtub that did not have a flat bottom, which was a surprise to me the first time I used it.
There was an old, narrow stairwell that we had to navigate when exiting and entering the apartment.
With the apartment covered, I’m now going to move onto a few things I photographed near where we were staying. The very first thing that I took a picture of in Paris was the Porte Saint-Martin, a triumphal arch that Louis XIV had commissioned in 1674 in honour of his victories in the Franco-Dutch War (for more information, see my first post on the history of the Château de Versailles). The Porte Saint-Martin replaced a medieval gate that had been formerly part of the city wall of Charles V (built 1356-1383, demolished 1670—more information can be found in my post on the Louvre). The north side of the monument, shown below, depicts Louis XIV on the left as Mars, the Roman god of war. He is using the shield of France to push a German eagle back from a woman and an old man. The Porte Saint-Martin pre-dates the Arc de Triomphe (begun in 1806) by 132 years! It is located just north of Le Marais, near the République train station.
Below is an example of a Haussman-style apartment building that was nearby. You can read more about Haussman’s renovation of Paris (1853-1870) in my post on Le Marais.
A close-up on the left façade of the building, to better show the detail of the iron railings on the balconies.
Another Haussman-style apartment building is shown below. I didn’t know what they were at the time, but I thought they were beautiful.
A close-up look at more balconies on a different apartment building (I was a little obsessed with them).
Now we’ll begin walking west along the Right (north) Bank of the Seine river. Below is the Pont (Bridge) de Sully, and to its left is the Île Saint-Louis.
A little further west down the Seine you’ll find the Pont Marie, which marks the mid-way point of the Île Saint-Louis.
A closer look at the bridge, as a tour boat approaches it.
We’ve now walked past the westernmost tip of the Île Saint-Louis, which you can see on the left in the photo below. You can see the Pont Louis-Philippe as well. To the right is the beginning of a second Seine river island, the Île de la Cité. It is the larger of the two river islands situated at the heart of downtown Paris.
As we walk further west down the Right Bank overlooking the Île de la Cité, you’ll be able to spot the spire and the two bell towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral (this picture was taken in June 2017, prior to the devastating fire of April 15, 2019 that destroyed the spire). The bridge up ahead is the Pont d’Arcole.
A slightly closer look at the Île de la Cité.
We’ve now crossed the Pont d’Arcole into the Île de la Cité. We’ve taken a left down the Rue d’Arcole so that we can walk towards the back of Notre-Dame. Along Rue d’Arcole you’ll find the picturesque restaurant, Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole (which roughly translates to “in Old Paris”).
My pictures of this restaurant didn’t turn out as nicely as the ones you can find on Pinterest. Probably because the midday sun was shining mercilessly, so the lighting was really harsh. Oh, well! We had lots of other things to see and photograph!
Here are some cool buildings I saw as we were walking further down the Rue d’Arcole.
I love the pattern on the red brick apartment building.
Neil and I grabbed food one morning at a café near Notre-Dame Cathedral. It was fun sitting along the sidewalk and watching people go by!
I had a croque madame, which is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with a fried egg. It was tasty!
We’ve now left the Île de la Cité and crossed the Pont d’Arcole over to the Left (south) Bank of the Seine. That’s where you’ll find the English-language bookstore, Shakespeare and Company. You’re not allowed to take photos inside the shop, so these exterior shots will have to suffice. The inside of the bookstore was really cute, and they had lots of great titles. Definitely worth a visit!
In front of the bookstore, Neil and I came across an interesting piece of Parisian history. It is the green cast-iron sculpture that can be seen on the left in the photo below. The sculpture is actually a public drinking fountain known as a Wallace Fountain, and they are located in many popular areas throughout the city of Paris. They are named after the man who funded them, English philanthropist Sir Richard Wallace. Wallace was living in Paris when the Franco-Prussian War broke out on July 19, 1870. Shortly thereafter, in August, Wallace inherited a large fortune from his father. Wallace decided that he would use that money to help the citizens of Paris. When the Prussian army surrounded the city on September 19, Wallace insisted on remaining in his Paris home instead of evacuating to one of his estates in the countryside. Throughout the four-month Siege of Paris, Wallace donated large sums of money (2.5 million francs, roughly $10.8 million USD today) that helped to fund field hospitals, surgical facilities, transportation, and other forms of medical assistance. Wallace’s contributions earned him the respect and appreciation of the Paris people. He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, and a boulevard was named after him.
The city suffered a lot of damage during the Siege of Paris and the subsequent Paris Commune (March 18 – May 28, 1871). Many of the city’s aqueducts were destroyed, which severely limited the supply of freshwater. As a result, the cost of water increased substantially. In many cases, vendors would just sell water that they had taken from the Seine River. This water had a high likelihood of being dirty and contaminated, as numerous sewers and streets drained into the Seine. The city’s poorest citizens were hit particularly hard by this development. In 1872, Wallace decided to do something about the need for clean, free drinking water by arranging to have 50 public drinking fountains installed. Wallace designed the fountains himself and had sculptor Charles-Auguste Lebourg make them.
Wallace wanted the fountains to be beautiful and useful. The fountains consist of a dome that is supported by four caryatids (sculpted female figures) that are representative of kindness, simplicity, charity, and sobriety. Water falls from the centre of the dome in a small, steady stream into a basin that is protected by a grille. Thirsty patrons can reach through the caryatids to the stream and fill their cup or bottle. The fountains were made of cast-iron as the material was affordable, easy to shape, weather-resistant, and simple to maintain. The height, dark-green colour, and locations of the fountains were all carefully chosen so that they would blend in with the city landscape. The fountains were an immediate success, and soon more were installed throughout the city. A couple of simplified models, including one with a push-button feature, were also introduced. Today, there are nearly 100 of these fountains in Paris. They can also be found in other French cities such as Nantes (in honour of Lebourg, who was from there) and Bordeaux. The fountains also have an international presence in many foreign cities including Barcelona (where they were donated for the 1888 World Fair); Lisburn, Ireland (where Wallace also had a home); Montreal; Moscow; and Zürich.
All right, we’ve now crossed all the way back to the Right Bank of the Seine. We are standing on the Pont au Change bridge looking back towards the Île de la Cité. The building in the photo below is the Conciergerie, which is one of the few remaining traces of the historic Palais de la Cité (Sainte-Chapelle is the other). The Palais de la Cité was first built on the western end of the Île de la Cité in the middle of the 5th century. It served as the main royal residence of the Capetian kings until Charles V moved to the Louvre in 1358. In the 15th century, the Conciergerie became one of the biggest prisons in France. During the French Revolution, it held more than 2,700 prisoners destined for the guillotine—including Marie Antoinette! Many of the palace’s structures were replaced in the 19th century when the Palais de Justice was built. The four towers of the Conciergerie, shown below, were restored in the 19th century to the appearance they would have had in 1585. The tour de l’horlage (clock tower), located on the left, is the most famous of the four. The other three are the César, Montgomery, and Bonbec towers.
Another view of the Conciergerie from the Pont au Change bridge, looking further west down the Seine towards the Pont Neuf bridge.
Below is a panorama showing the four towers of the Conciergerie on the left, and the building housing the Cour de Cassation (Supreme Court) on the right (part of the Palais de Justice, built 1857-1868).
On a side note: one night, Neil and I met up with a group of CouchSurfers for an evening picnic along the Seine river. While we were hanging out with them, I noticed these pups nearby and couldn’t resist taking their picture.
Our next stop is city hall, the Hôtel de Ville, which is situated on a spot that has served as the municipal heart of Paris since 1357. In 1533, François I decided that Paris deserved a grander centre for its civic administration. He had two architects, Italian Dominique de Cortone and Frenchman Pierre Chambiges, construct a new building in the French Renaissance style that François I had already popularized in the châteaux of the Loire Valley. The south wing was built from 1535-1551, and a north wing was later added from 1605-1628. However, the Hôtel de Ville was heavily damaged by fire during the Paris Commune in May 1871. It was rebuilt adhering to its original exterior design, but on a slightly larger scale, from 1874-1882.
Below is a photograph taken in 1871 that shows the ruins of the original Hôtel de Ville. The surviving stone shell was used in the building’s reconstruction, while the interior was entirely redone.
The Hôtel de Ville served as the headquarters of the French Revolution and was the site of several notable scenes during this time, such as: the murder of provost Jacques de Fleselles by an angry mob on July 14, 1789; the forming of a new municipal government on July 15, with the election of Jean-Sylvain Bailly as Paris’ first city mayor; a visit paid by Louis XVI on July 17, who faced a large crowd of Parisians from a balcony as he dutifully pinned a tricolour cockade to his hat; as well as the gathering place for a large group of Parisian women prior to their march on Versailles on October 5, 1789 (see my fourth post on the History of the Château de Versailles for more information about all of that!).
The Hôtel de Ville also served as the centre of the afore-mentioned Paris Commune from March 18 – May 28, 1871. The Communards set fire to the Hôtel as their defeat became imminent with the approach of the French army (for more information on the Paris Commune, see my post on Montmartre). In addition to the building, nearly all of the city’s archives were also lost in the blaze, as were several paintings and sculptures.
On August 25, 1944, Charles de Gaulle gave a speech at the Hôtel de Ville to mark the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation, saying (translated into English): “Paris! Paris outraged! Paris broken! Paris martyred! But Paris liberated! Liberated by itself, liberated by its people with the help of the French armies, with the support and the help of all France, of the France that fights, of the only France, the real France, of the eternal France!”
Standing outside of the Hôtel de Ville during our visit was a temporary pavilion, shown below, that had been made of reused materials including 180 wooden doors that had been discarded during the refurbishment of an apartment building. The Circular Pavilion is named not for its shape but for the concept of a circular economy that aims to eliminate waste through the continual use of resources. The pavilion was an architectural experiment designed by Encore Heureux, a collective of architects founded by Nicola Delon and Julien Choppin in 2001, to demonstrate the possibilities of material reuse. It was designed for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which was held in Paris.
Next up is the Fontaine du Palmier (Fountain of the Palm Tree), which is located in the Place du Châtelet a couple of streets away from the Hôtel de Ville. When Napoleon took office as the First Consul of the French in 1799, he asked his Minister of the Interior, Jean-Antoine Chaptal, what would be the most useful thing he could do for Paris. “Give it water,” Chaptal replied. Napoleon obliged by ordering the construction of several freshwater canals that brought water into Paris from rivers outside the city. He also had many of the old fountains in Paris cleaned and repaired. In 1806, he commissioned the building of 15 new drinking fountains; the Fontaine du Palmier was one of these. The fountains were modelled after the design of Roman triumphal columns, and they all shared a common theme of celebrating Napoleon’s military accomplishments.
The Fontaine du Palmier was designed by François-Jean Bralle. It features an 18 meter (59 foot) column that is topped by a statue of Victory holding several pairs of laurel wreaths (the present statue is a copy; the original is now at the Musée Carnavalet). The bands of bronze adorning the column pay tribute to Napoleon’s victories in his Egyptian campaign such as the Siege of Danzig, the Battle of Ulm, and the Battle of the Pyramids. The fountain gets its name from the sculpted palm leaves located at the top of the column, although it is also known as the Fontaine du Châtelet or the Fontaine de la Victoire. The fountain was completed in 1808.
The Tour Saint-Jacques can be found near the Fontaine du Palmier and the Hôtel de Ville. This 52 metre (170 foot) tower is all that remains of the former church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie (Saint James of the Butchers). The church was named after its generous patrons, the wholesale butchers of the nearby Les Halles market. It was built around the end of the 11th to the beginning of the 12th century, and was enlarged in the 14th-15th centuries. The tower, which features a Flamboyant Gothic design, was added in 1509-1523. Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie served as a starting point for pilgrims heading to Tours to embark on the Way of Saint James, which led to the major pilgrimage destination of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.
Nicolas Flamel, the French scribe and manuscript-seller who posthumously acquired a (false) reputation as the alchemist who discovered the philosopher’s stone, was a patron of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie. In 1418, he was buried beneath the nave of the church. Most of the church was demolished in 1797 during the French Revolution, although the tower was spared. Architect Théodore Ballu restored the tower between 1852-1870 and designed a small city park around it. Further restoration work took place from 2008-2009 to address structural issues.
The Tour Saint-Jacques is a ten minute-walk away from the Temple Protestant de l’Oratorie du Louvre (also known as the Église Reformée de l’Oratorie du Louvre), a historic Protestant church that was founded in 1611 by Pierre de Bérulle. This large church, shown below, is located just across the street from the Louvre.
On December 23, 1623, Louis XIII designated the Église Reformée de l’Oratorie du Louvre as the royal chapel of the Louvre Palace. The church later hosted the funerals of both Louis XIII (1643) and his chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu (1642).
In 1889 a statue and monument to Admiral Gaspard de Coligny was added to the church; Coligny was a Protestant Huguenot leader who was assassinated nearby during the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre on August 24, 1572.
Also near the Louvre is a striking belfry, shown below, that joins the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois with the town hall of the 1st arrondissement of Paris. The belfry is 38 meters (124 feet) high and contains 38 bells. It was constructed in 1858 by Théodore Ballu, the same man who restored the Tour Saint-Jacques.
A close-up of the top of the belfry.
In the picture below you can see the town hall on the left (north) side of the belfry, and the church on its right (south) side.
Just the church and the belfry are shown in the photo below. The Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois is a Roman-Catholic church that was originally founded in the 7th century and has since been rebuilt many times over the centuries. The present building was erected mostly in the 15th century, although parts of it date back to the 13th century. It used to serve as the parish church for inhabitants of the neighbouring Louvre Palace when it was a royal residence from 1360-1682. One of the church’s bells, Marie, rang out during the night of August 23, 1572 when the St. Bartholomew’s Massacre began. Thousands of Protestant Huguenots, who were visiting Paris to celebrate a royal wedding, were killed in the ensuing violence.
Just the town hall and the belfry are shown below. The town hall was built from 1858-1860 by architect Jacques Hittorff, and its Eclectic Gothic design was inspired by the Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois. The belfry was built at the same time by Ballu.
A wider angle of the town hall and belfry.
A fuller angle of both the town hall and the belfry.
We’ll now go on a stroll through the Tuileries Gardens. In 1564, Catherine de Medici decided she wanted a new Renaissance-style palace built to suit her tastes, as she found the medieval Louvre too unfashionable. The Tuileries Palace was constructed not far from the Louvre, just on the other side of the still-existing city wall of Charles V, on the site of a former tuile (tile) factory (to learn more about the Louvre and the Tuileries Palace, see my post on the history of the Louvre). To the west of the palace she had an Italian Renaissance garden installed, measuring 500 meters (0.31 miles) long by 300 meters (0.186 miles) wide. It was the largest and most beautiful garden in Paris at the time and contained flowerbeds, trees, fountains, vineyards, kitchen gardens, a labyrinth, a grotto, and more.
The Tuileries Gardens were first opened to the public in 1667, and they became an official public park after the French Revolution. The gardens were soon very popular, as they provided Parisians with a relaxing place to meet up and go on short walks. In addition to the fresh air and greenery, the public also enjoyed various entertainments on the grounds including concerts, puppet theatres, and acrobatics. Refreshments were available at lemonade stands, and toy sailboats could be rented for use on the water ponds. Artists such as Édouard Manet, Camille Pissarro, and Claude Monet took advantage of the opportunity to paint the gardens en plain air (outside).
In May of 1871, during the Paris Commune, the Tuileries Palace was packed with explosives and set ablaze. The fire raged for 48 hours and gutted the building. The ruins of the palace stood in place for several years before it was finally demolished in 1883-1884.
When the site of the Tuileries Palace was finally cleared it was incorporated into the gardens. The diagram below shows where the Tuileries Palace was formerly situated, at the west end of the Louvre between the northern Richelieu wing and the southern Denon wing. Interestingly, there has been talk since 2003 about the possibility of rebuilding the Tuileries Palace. One benefit of such a project would be that the Louvre could expand its collections into the rebuilt palace. However, I imagine reconstruction priorities have recently changed due to the fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in April 2019.
Some places of note in the Tuileries Garden include the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (see my post on the history of the Louvre for more information), the Musée de l’Orangerie, and the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume,
At the west end of the Tuileries Gardens you’ll come upon a set of gates, a panel of which is shown below. Exiting through these gates will take you to the Place de la Concorde.
A glance up at the gate panel. It’s very pretty!
The Place de la Concorde is situated between the Tuileries Garden (to the east), the Avenue des Champs-Élysées (to the west), and the Seine River (to the south). It is the largest public square in Paris, and is octagonal in shape. It features a large Egyptian obelisk and two fountains encircled by a traffic roundabout, as can be seen in the aerial photo below.
The Egyptian obelisk standing at the heart of the Place de la Concorde once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple. It is over 3,300 years old and is adorned with hieroglyphics that detail the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramessess II, who reigned from 1279-1213 B.C.E. The obelisk is made of yellow granite, stands 23 meters (75 feet) high, and weighs over 250 tonnes.
The obelisk was gifted to France by Egypt in 1829. It was raised in the square a few years later on October 25, 1836, as it took some time for the monument to make its way to France. The details on how that journey was undertaken can be found on the pedestal beneath the obelisk—no small feat!
Two fountains were added to the Place de la Concorde shortly after the installation of the Luxor Obelisk from 1836-1840. They were designed by Jacques-Ignace Hittorff, who took inspiration from the fountains of Rome—particularly Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers located in the Piazza Navona (Hittorff also built the town hall of the 1st arrondissement of Paris, discussed earlier). The two Fontaines de la Concorde are located to the north and south of the Luxor Obelisk. The fountains share a marine theme: the motif of the north fountain, the Fontaine des Rivières (fountain of the rivers), features the Rhône and Rhine rivers; the south fountain, the Fontaine des Mers (fountain of the seas), centers on the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
The fountains also share a structural form. They both have a circular stone pool as their base, in which six alternating male and female figures (tritons and naiads/water nymphs) hold fish that spout water upwards.
I’m mildly amused and delighted by the triton figure below.
Behind the tritons and naiads are six seated sculptural figures who have their feet placed on the prows of ships. Above them is a middle circular basin. These figures are allegorical. The sculpted figures in the north fountain, the Fontaine des Rivières, are meant to represent the harvesting of flowers, fruits, and grapes as well as the “geniuses” of river navigation, industry, and agriculture. The ones in the south fountain, the Fontaine des Mers, depict the harvesting of coral and fish, the collection of pearls and shellfish, as well as the “geniuses” of astronomy, navigation, and commerce.
The middle basin of both fountains contain a further grouping of four allegorical statues. The fountains are then topped by an inverted circular basin.
The Place de la Concorde also contains eight statues (one for each octagonal side) that are meant to depict eight French cities: Brest, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nantes, Rouen, and Strasbourg. When the province of Alsace-Lorraine was lost to Germany following the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, the statue of Strasbourg (the region’s capital city) was covered with black-mourning crepe on state occasions; this practice ended when the territory was recovered at the end of WWI. (I admire the melodrama of this).
The Place de la Concorde also has several beautiful lampposts that complement the style of the Fontaines des Concorde.
The Place de la Concorde has an interesting history. It was originally designed in 1755 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel2 as the Place Louis XV to honour the current French king. The centre of the square featured a large equestrian statue of Louis XV. In 1789, this statue was torn down by revolutionaries and the square was renamed the Place de la Révolution. A guillotine was then set up and it was here that Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Maximilien Robespierre, and other prominent figures were executed during the French Revolution. In 1795, the French Directory changed the name of the square to the Place de la Concorde as a gesture of reconciliation. The square underwent a couple more name changes in 1814 (back to the Place Louis XV) and 1826 (to the Place Louis XVI) before permanently becoming the Place de la Concorde in 1830.
Below is an illustration that shows what the square would have originally looked like, with the equestrian statue of Louis XV at its centre.
Below is an image of Louis XVI’s execution by guillotine in the renamed Place de la Révolution. The empty pedestal on the right side of the painting is where the equestrian statue of Louis XVI’s predecessor and grandfather, Louis XV, had been located.
Our final stop on this tour of Paris will take us to the Palais Garnier, which is about a 17-minute walk northeast of the Place de la Concorde. The Palais Garnier is a 1,979 seat opera house that was built in the Napoleon III style by Charles Garnier from 1861-1875. This style is highly eclectic and borrows from many historical sources including Baroque, Palladian Classicism, and Renaissance architecture. The Napoleon III style is highly ornamental, leaving no space free of decoration. This can be seen on the main south façade of the opera, which overlooks the Place de l’Opéra. 14 painters, mosaicists, and 73 sculptors created the decorative elements that can be seen here.
I should note that in the picture above, I was standing at an angle that doesn’t let you see the full roof of the opera house. You can see it in the photo below. The two gilded sculptural groups located on the left and right side of the roof of the opera house were made by Charles Gumery. The one on the left is L’Harmonie (harmony) and the one on the right is La Poésie (poetry). Both of Gumery’s sculptural groups are made of gilt copper electrotype. A border of tragic antique masks, sculpted by Jean-Baptiste-Jules Klagmann, line the roof below them. The sculptural group in the middle of the roof, at the top of the green dome, is Apollo, Poésie, et Musique by Aimé Millet.
A little lower on the façade, beneath the Academie Nationale De Musique lettering, there is a line of busts that pay tribute to several renowned composers. They are, from left to right: Gioachino Antonio Rossini; Daniel François Esprit Auber; Ludwig van Beethoven; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Gaspare Luigi Pacifico Spontini; Giacomo Meyerbeer; and Jacques-François-Fromental-Élie Halévy.
Beethoven, Mozart, and Spontini can be seen below.
A close-up on Beethoven.
A close-up on Mozart.
The west façade of the Palais Garnier contains the Pavilion de l’Empereur, which was designed to give Napoleon III direct and secure access to the opera house via a double ramp into the building. The Emperor’s security was a prime concern when constructing this new opera house, as a previous assassination attempt had been made on Napoleon III when he was entering the opera house at the Salle Le Peletier on January 14, 1858. Three bombs were thrown at the imperial carriage by Italian revolutionary Felice Orsini and his accomplices. 8 people were killed and 142 injured, although Napoleon III and Empress Éugenie were unhurt. This pavilion now houses the Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra de Paris (Paris Opera Library Museum). The east façade of the Palais Garnier (not pictured) contains a matching pavilion, the Pavilion des Abonnés, which allowed opera subscribers similar direct access from their carriages into the building.
That’s it for Paris, at long last! I hope you enjoyed reading my posts!
When I first set out to write about the Château de Versailles on June 1, 2019 I thought it was going to be a two-post endeavour, maybe three at most. The first post would cover the main residence and its history, while a second would encompass the gardens and the other residences. Wow, did I ever underestimate myself. On December 19, 201 days and 12 posts later, I finished my last round of edits and tallied the results. I had written about 97,208 words (around 216 pages) and undertaken 451 hours of researching, writing, and editing.
It was arduous yet invigorating work. I have endured many long moments of incredible self-doubt during the process. Who is it for? What is it worth? Why bother?I have so many other places to write about! At this rate, it’s going to take me at least five years to cover everything else! Why am I spending all this time on one place? I don’t really know. The only answer I can give is because I want to. When I sit down at my laptop, entire hours fly by in the blink of an eye. I want to know everything. And I feel compelled to share what I learn—in fact, I learn even more as I shape my ideas for an imaginary audience. Maybe only a handful of people will ever manage to read what I’ve created so far. And I get it! I’m not writing a light and breezy travel blog. My posts are long enough to be book chapters. But that’s okay. Because, right now, I’m writing these for me.
For years, I struggled with writing anything. All I managed was to crank out a hundred pages here and there of boring, way less-than-mediocre fiction. I didn’t have any ideas that fired up my interest and passion in any meaningful way. Now, I have the opposite problem. I am too curious and enthusiastic about my subjects. I write twelve posts in place of two. But I would rather have too much I want to write about than nothing at all. And it’s great practice. Even if the work I put in writing about the Château de Versailles doesn’t go anywhere beyond here, the experience of doing it is preparing me for future projects. It’s teaching me that I have the discipline and stamina required to do the work. So I’m going to follow this thread of inspiration where it takes me—even if it doesn’t make a lot of sense right now.
One of the things I’ve really appreciated while writing about the Château de Versailles is the exceptional quality of its website. It has been an essential part of my digital research, and the extent of its online collections catalogue is remarkable. I’m going to really miss using it as I move onto other topics. There were many interesting photographs, paintings, sketches, and other works of art available to discover. And although I managed to find a place for many of the images I wanted to share, there are a few that didn’t quite fit in with the main narrative. So I wanted to use this post as a means to share them here and, in so doing, celebrate the end of a long Versailles journey. Most of these images I found on the collections website of the Château de Versailles. A couple of them come from other locations—I’ve made sure to indicate where. I’m going to present them in (mostly) chronological order. I have commentary for a few of them, but not all.
Below is an illustration of the procession that accompanied Marie Antoinette as she set out from Vienna for Versailles on April 21, 1770. There were 132 dignitaries and over 250 members of staff (servants, hairdressers, doctors, blacksmiths, cooks, etc.) in the party. There were 57 coaches pulled by 376 horses—20,000 replacement horses were posted along the route. The journey took two and a half weeks, with some days of travel lasting over nine hours. Marie Antoinette was officially handed over to France on a small island in the middle of the Rhine river near Kehl, Germany and Strasbourg, France. There, Marie Antoinette was stripped of her Austrian clothing down to her stockings and underwear, and then dressed in French-made garments. Etiquette required that she retain nothing that belonged to the foreign Austrian court. This included nearly all of the Austrian attendants who had journeyed with her, as only one of them (Georg Adam, the Prince of Starhemberg, Imperial Ambassador and confidant of Marie-Teresa) would continue on with her through France. Marie Antoinette was even forced to bid farewell to her pug, Mops—happily, Mops would be later reunited with his mistress at Versailles. On May 14, Marie Antoinette first met her future husband, Louis-Auguste (the future Louis XVI), as well as Louis XV and other members of the royal family in a forest near Compiègne.
On May 16, Marie Antoinette and Louis-Auguste were married at Versailles. Below is an invitation to their wedding ball. Admission to Versailles for the wedding was by ticket only, and around 6,000 people of all ranks attended.
I’m now going to share a few images of French court fashion in the late 18th century. The image below is taken from the “18th Book of French Costume, 12th suite of fashionable clothing in 1779.” The illustration is of a “costume of a court lady during the reign of Louis XVI, used for the balls of the Queen in 1774, 1775, 1776 and adopted for the role for the Marquise de Lenoncourt in the drama entitled The Battle of Ivry, executed in Lyon by Sir P.N. Sarrazin, Costumer of the Royal Family.”
Extravagant hairstyles and dress were already the fashion of the French court by the time Marie Antoinette arrived on the scene in 1770. For years, members of the French court had already been required to powder their hair. Marie Antoinette was expected to match and even surpass the example of those around her. In order to do so, she enlisted the services of hair stylist Léonard-Alexis Autié and milliner Rose Bertin. In April 1774 one of Léonard’s other noble clients, Louise-Marie-Adélaïde de Bourbon, the Duchess d’Orléans, debuted a hairstyle he had invented known as a pouf. When Marie Antoinette wore her hair in a pouf at Louis XVI’s coronation in June 1775, the style became wildly popular with other members of the upper-class. Below is an illustration of Marie Antoinette with her hair styled in a pouf.
Hours were needed to create a pouf. First, a thin metal frame was used to base and structure the hair. A triangular pillow made of fabric or cork could also be used for support. Real hair was then threaded through the wire frame and intertwined with wool, flax tow, and other padding to acquire the volume that was needed for these exuberant coiffures. Heated clay curlers lined with strips of thin paper were used to curl the hair. Generous amounts of hair pins and pomade (variously composed of bone marrow, hazelnut oil, pork lard, and mutton fat) were used to hold it in place. The requisite white powder was applied. Then, the elaborate decoration could begin. Feathers, flowers, gauze, jewels, ornaments, and a large variety of novelty items were used for embellishment. The height of the hair usually varied from one to two feet, but Marie Antoinette’s was known to reach three! The higher and more elaborate, the more fashionable a style was considered to be. Below is a painting of the Princess de Lamballe, one of Marie Antoinette’s closest friends, sporting an exceptional pouf.
One of Marie Antoinette’s most famous poufs is shown in the illustration below, which I sourced from the website of the Musée Franco-Americain. The hairstyle, designed by Léonard and Rose Bertin, was inspired by the events of June 17, 1778 when a French frigate, La Belle Poule, battled an English ship, TheArethus, off the coast of Brittany. It was a minor naval engagement that took place prior to the official declaration of the Anglo-French War (June 1778-September 1783). The battle was celebrated as a victory by both sides. Marie Antoinette chose to commemorate the occasion by having a miniature version of La Belle Poule added to her coiffure.
Hot-air balloons became all the rage in dress and pouf-iture (not a real word but it should be) thanks to the demonstration held at Versailles by the Montgolfier brothers on September 19, 1783. This sudden passion for hot air balloons became known as balloonomania. If I were to ever go all-out on a Halloween costume, this would be a top outfit contender.
Below is an illustration of Rose Bertin who, in addition to hats and hair, designed dresses for Marie Antoinette. She is celebrated as the first French fashion designer, and was called “the Minister of Fashion” by her detractors.
Below is a sketch of fireworks that were held by the city of Paris to celebrate the long-awaited arrival of Louis XVI’s and Marie-Antoinette’s first son. A fireworks celebration held nearly twelve years earlier on May 30, 1770 to celebrate their marriage had tragic consequences: a gust of wind blew several partially exploded rockets onto the crowd below. The audience panicked and raced down the narrow Rue Royale to escape, trampling many in their haste to escape. The official government death toll was 133, but many people felt that massively underestimated the true number of casualties. It is still considered the world’s deadliest fireworks accident, and may have been seen as a bad omen for the royal couple. Presumably, the fireworks company (the Ruggieri brothers) and Paris city officials managed to sort some issues out in time for the 1782 celebration.
The sheet below, dated to 1793, discusses the discovery of a monument at Herculaneum. My French is not good enough to translate anything more, but I thought it was a cool find. Herculaneum, like Pompeii, was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E. Also like Pompeii, Herculaneum was buried in layers of ash and other volcanic material. Both cities were forgotten by time until they were rediscovered in 1709 (Herculaneum) and 1748 (Pompeii).
Below is a political cartoon that is critical of the relationship between Queen Victoria and several prominent French political figures.
While looking for the first photos of Versailles taken by French photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, I came across a charming image of his on the website of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Visitor calling cards, known in French as a carte-de-visite, were used by members of the upper-class when paying social visits. If an individual went to see a friend or acquaintance at home but found them absent, the individual would then leave a card behind to inform them of their attempted encounter. One side of the card was decorated and personalized with the individual’s name, address, and maybe an image, while the other was left blank so a hand-written note could be added. The proper use of these cards signified one’s social status. Disdéri noted the popularity of these calling cards in the mid-1800s and seized upon the idea of pasting photographs to these cards. They quickly became a hit, with images of celebrities and performers being in high demand. One of these cards is shown below, and it features a collection of dancers’ legs—one pair belongs to the famed Russian ballerina Marie Petipa.
In my fifth post on the history of the Château de Versailles, I mentioned that Napoleon III liked to use Versailles as a venue to receive important state figures. Queen Victoria was one noted example in 1855. In the image below, the King and Queen of Netherlands are seen touring the Hameau de la Reine in 1862.
Below is a visitor pass that grants “Ch. O’Conor” access to visit the “Imperial Palace of Trianon” in July 1868 from noon to 4:00 pm.
At the beginning of my sixth post on the history of the Château de Versailles I included a picture that had been taken inside the Tuileries Palace after it was burned during the Paris Commune of 1871. I did this in order to show the damage that Versailles may have suffered if the demonstrators of the Women’s March had similarly decided to storm the Château on October 5-6, 1789. Below are a couple of other pictures taken of the interior of the Tuileries in 1782-1783. The ruins remained in place for 11 years until the palace was finally demolished in 1883.
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, visited Paris and Versailles in October of 1896; this took place a mere five months after their own coronation in Russia. Their arrival was eagerly anticipated and warmly celebrated by the French people. This might seem surprising, considering the anti-monarchical stance of the Third French Republic. However, the Franco-Russian Alliance had been recently signed in 1894 and both countries were interested in working together to contain the growing power of Germany. Paris was richly decorated in anticipation of the royal visit, with all of the city’s chestnut trees being covered in artificial blooms.
Tsarina Alexandra’s favourite part of the trip was the time spent at the Château de Versailles. Several of Marie Antoinette’s rooms were allocated for her personal use. Below are a couple of pictures of the rooms that show how they were decorated for the Tsarina’s visit. The Tsarina was delighted, but her superstitious companions were quietly horrified—they did not think it boded well for their Empress to stay in rooms that had once belonged to the doomed French Queen. They might have been on to something, as Empress Alexandra and her family would be brutally murdered by their own political opponents some 22 years later.
On a lighter note, one highlight of the Russian couple’s evening at Versailles was a theatrical performance held in the Hercules Salon that featured famed French actress Sarah Bernhardt dressed as a wood nymph.
The photo below shows a few visitors standing outside the Model/Refreshment Dairy around the turn of the 20th century.
My favourite random finds from the collections website of Versailles can be found below. There is a program, a pair of admission tickets, and several photos from a celebration that was held on the grounds of the Petit Trianon (including the Hameau de la Reine) on June 27, 1901. The festivities included dancing, tea, a luncheon, and fireworks.
I love these photos of the Hameau de la Reine during the party that can be seen below. Until time travel becomes a viable option for me, these photos are the closest I’ll get to witnessing the legendary celebrations hosted at Versailles during the Ancien Régime. Well, this and maybe attending one of the night-time musical fountain shows… if I felt I could handle the crowds.
An interesting detail is that this party took place six weeks prior to the day, August 10, 1901, on which two British academics would later claim to have had a haunting experience while wandering the gardens of the Petit Trianon. I previously tried writing about the Moberly-Jourdain incident, as this is known, back in November but found I wasn’t able to fit my account of it into the main narrative of my history posts without having it take over the entire discussion. I may return to the subject in the future as I would love to write about it still—perhaps for a Halloween-themed post!
The photos below were taken around the Château de Versailles on the day that the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919. It looks like a thin wooden fence was erected to limit access to some areas of the Château and its grounds.
The fence appears to have been taller in some areas than others.
In the photo below, a man is setting up one of these short barricades. The caption for this photo is interesting, reading: “surrounded by enemy plenipotentiaries.” “Plenipotentiary” is a fancy word for “diplomat.”
I really like the photo below, which was taken from behind the crowd and several statues as they overlook the Château de Versailles.
Below is a cute picture of a woman dressed in the style of a flapper as she visits the gardens of the Petit Trianon. Have you heard of “Disney-bounding”? It’s when visitors dress up as Disney characters when they go to Disneyland. I’m sure “Versailles-bounding” is a thing, but dressing as the woman below would probably be more practical than going as Marie Antoinette or Madame Pompadour.
Speaking of Versailles-bounding, the photo below shows actress Norma Shearer in costume for her lead role as the tragic French Queen in the 1938 film Marie Antoinette.
There were a few interesting pictures in the digital collections of the Versailles website that show Nazi soldiers on the grounds of Versailles during their occupation of France in World War II. A couple of those photos did make it into my sixth post about the history of the Château de Versailles; a few more are shown below.
The caption of the photo below only has one word: “Humiliation.” It appears to have been taken during the arrival of the occupying Nazi forces at Versailles in 1940. Check out the crop lines! They probably indicate how the photo was trimmed for use in a newspaper publication.
That’s it! Thank you for joining me on this miscellaneous tour of the Versailles digital collections. I hope you enjoyed the images I’ve shared as much as I did! Also, if you’re keeping score (which I am), this now makes: 213 days; 13 posts; 101,495 words (225.5 pages); and 463 hours. A New Year means new topics on the horizon!
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.
The Grand Trianon is a château located on the grounds of the Château de Versailles, situated about 2.2 kms (1.37 miles) northwest of the main palace. The Grand Trianon was built from 1687-1688 and is the second of two residences that were constructed on this site for Louis XIV. The first was the Porcelain Trianon which was built from 1668-1672 and then demolished in 1687. The Grand Trianon is set within its own park, the Estate of Trianon, which also includes the smaller château of the Petit Trianon (built from 1762-1768), the Hameau de la Reine (the Queen’s Hamlet, 1783-1786), and a variety of ornamental gardens.
Below is an aerial view of the Grand Trianon. The main residence of the Château de Versailles can be seen towards the top right of the photo.
A closer look at just the Grand Trianon.
In the map below, the Grand Trianon is shown in relation to the Château de Versailles. The Grand Trianon is marked by a green flag that can be found to the right of the northeast cross-arm of the Grand Canal. The Château is indicated by a red pin located towards the bottom right. It takes about 26 minutes to walk between them. You can also find green flags for the Petit Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet, which can be seen further north and east of the Grand Trianon.
The château and grounds of the Grand Trianon were once the site of a medieval village named Trianon (referred to as Triarnum in a papal bull of 1163). Louis XIV purchased the lands and village of Trianon from the monks of the Saint-Geneviève Abbey of Paris in 1662. He then had the church and thatched cottages of the village torn down in 1663 to make way for an enlargement of his Versailles estate. A garden was initially planted where the village of Trianon had once stood, but Louis XIV soon decided that he wanted to use the space for something more.
Louis XIV already had his mind set towards making Versailles the official seat of the French government and royal court. He knew that as this project progressed, he would want to have another residence available nearby that would be reserved for his exclusive use; one that would provide him with a private retreat from the formality and structure of court life. He didn’t need this new residence to be as big or as formal as a château. In fact, the more intimate it was, the better. Louis XIV had a new chief mistress, Françoise-Athénaïse de Rochechouart de Mortemart, the Marquise de Montespan, and he wanted something suitably romantic and discreet in which to entertain her. A garden situated northwest of the main Château presented a suitable location. Perhaps a garden-style pavilion would suit the King’s accommodation needs? Louis XIV was on-board with the idea. He could call his new residence the “Pavilion de Flore” (the Floral Pavilion) and surround it, literally, with a million potted flowers.
Louis XIV had his chief architect, Louis Le Vau, come up with a design for the Pavilion de Flore. Rather than settling on just one pavilion, the layout included five detached pavilions of varying sizes arranged around three courtyards (shown in the 3-D reconstruction and floor plan below). A main pavilion, named the King’s Pavilion, was the largest of the five. It was placed at the head of a central oval-shaped courtyard. This central courtyard was flanked on its shorter sides by two medium-sized pavilions, with an entrance gate set along its lower side. The two medium pavilions each had a forecourt. These forecourts each contained a small pavilion in their outside corner and a curve of the entry gate in their interior corner. Although this project had now expanded to feature five pavilions in place of just one, it continued to be referred to as the “Pavilion de Flore.” It was built from 1668-1672. When Le Vau died in 1670, the work was completed by his son-in-law and successor, François d’Orbay.
Below is an illustration of the completed residence. I’ve been calling it the Pavilion de Flore up to this point, but you’ll notice that a couple of these captions refer to it as the Porcelain Trianon. I’m going to tell you why, next.
The five pavilions were made of brick and their façades covered with blue and white ceramic tiles. The Chinese style of these tiles was inspired by the famous porcelain Nanjing Tower1, which at the time was occasionally being listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. European craftsmen had not yet learned how to manufacture porcelain, so the tiles used on the Pavilion de Flore were only a tin-glazed earthenware imitation2. The authenticity of the ceramic material did not matter, though, as rumours quickly spread that the pavilions were made entirely of porcelain. Louis XIV knew better than to let the truth get in the way of a good story, especially because porcelain was more valuable than gold at the time. It certainly benefited his image to be seen as a leader who was rich and powerful enough to have a mere garden dwelling made of porcelain, let alone a main residence. In this way, the material supposedly used in the construction of the pavilions soon became more celebrated than their garden location (which served as the inspiration behind their first name). Thus, the “Pavilion de Flore” became known instead as “the Porcelain Trianon.” This latter name also incorporated a reference to the historic village that the new residence had supplanted.
All of the decoration, stucco, woodwork, and furniture of the five pavilions were painted blue and white to match their exterior ceramic tiles. Similar tiles were also used to pave the interior floors, and the ceilings were richly painted as well. The King’s Pavilion was the largest of the five, measuring 6.7 metres (19 feet) in width by 5.7 metres (22 feet) in length. The other four pavilions were dedicated to the preparation and tasting of various culinary delicacies: one was for desserts; a second for jams; a third for fruits; and a fourth for soups, starters, and hors d’oeuvres.
The interior of the King’s Pavilion contained two apartments set on either side of a lounge-vestibule: the “Apartment of Love” and the “Diane Apartment.” Each apartment had a fireplace and a carpet. The Apartment of Love was inlaid with Venetian mirrors, and contained a bed made of carved and gilded wood. It should be noted that despite the presence of a bed, Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan never spent the night at the Porcelain Trianon. The pavilions were designed to serve as a pleasurable day time retreat for the King and his mistress, but they were not equipped with the amenities necessary to host them overnight. A sketch below shows what the Diane Apartment may have looked like3.
Very few items survive from this first Trianon residence. There is only one piece of furniture, a small writing desk, known to still exist. The desk is covered with ivory and horn with decorative details painted in blue. It is currently part of the collection of the Getty Museum, shown below.
Another rare item relating to the Porcelain Trianon includes the painting below, which was originally made to adorn a fan. It may have even been commissioned by the King’s mistress, Madame de Montespan. The painting offers a rare view of the interior of the King’s Pavilion of the Porcelain Trianon. Madame de Montespan is shown comfortably reclining in the middle of the scene, surrounded by examples of the most luxurious furnishings available at court at the time. There are lavish tapestries, ornate mirrors, and richly appointed furniture. She sits, bare-breasted, with her gown carelessly strewn across a jewel cabinet and shoes kicked off to the side of her foot rest. Three ladies attend to her while various putti offer her flowers, play instruments, cool her with fans, hold up a mirror, and fill vases up with water. Exotic birds peck at red berries. A putti on the left side of the painting flies through one of the windows, where the blue and white ceramic tiles decorating the exterior of the pavilion can be seen. Putti on the right side of the painting are attending to a young brown-haired boy in a pool; this may be Louis-Auguste, the Duke of Main, an illegitimate son of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. The age of the boy may provide a clue to the year in which this intimate portrait was set. The boy looks to be around four years of age, which is what he would have been in 1674. 1674 was a good year to be Madame de Montespan! She finally became the King’s undisputed chief mistress after her rival (François-Louise de la Baume Le Blanc, the Duchess de la Vallière, the King’s first chief mistress) retired to a convent. The Grand Fête was also held that summer in her honour, and the Porcelain Trianon hosted a ballet performance by Lully, L’Eclogue de Versailles, on July 11 (for more information on the Grand Fête, see my first post on the history of the Château de Versailles here).
Below is an illustration depicting that July 11 ballet performance, which took place in the gardens of the Porcelain Trianon.
The gardens of the Porcelain Trianon were extraordinary. Their care was entrusted to Michel III Le Bouteux, nephew of André Le Nôtre (the French landscape architect and garden designer responsible for the main grounds of Versailles). Bouteux worked very hard to ensure that Louis XIV enjoyed a luxurious garden that was always in flower and full of rare, colourful, and beautifully scented species. Flowers were planted in pots and then buried in the beds, so that they could be dug up and changed on a daily basis. Flowers from all over France (mainly Provence) and abroad (including tulips from Holland and jasmine from Spain) were brought in. There were thousands of tuberoses, daffodils, anemones, hyacinths, and cyclamens. They were arranged by colour in a palette of blue and white to complement the royal fleur-de-lys, as well as red for the Virgin Mary. There was even a small building dedicated to scented flowers, which was used by the King and his guests to enjoy the different fragrances featured in the garden. There was also a line of orange trees planted in the ground near the canal; every winter, they had to be covered with glass panes. The decor scheme of the Porcelain Trianon extended throughout the gardens as well, with blue and white ceramic tiles and/or paint used to decorate the flower pots and fountains.
Although elegant, the exterior decoration of the Porcelain Trianon was fragile. The ceramic tiles tended to fracture and became detached from the buildings under the strain of cold weather. The required maintenance was constant and costly. By 1687, the condition of the Porcelain Trianon had deteriorated to the point that Louis XIV ordered its demolition. It had been several years since Madame de Montespan, the woman for whom the Porcelain Trianon was built, had left court. She had been replaced in 1680 by Louis XIV’s third chief mistress, Françoise d’Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon. After Queen Marie Theresa’s death in 1683, Louis XIV and Madame de Maintenon were secretly married. Louis XIV was tired of toying around with garden-style pavilions and day-time retreats. Now, he wanted to built a proper château of stone and marble that would allow him to spend longer periods of time away from Versailles, including overnight.
Louis XIV’s new château was built by architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart from June 1687-January 1688. It was modelled in the style of an Italian palace with elements of classical French architecture mixed in. It is mostly a single-storey in height, and stretches across several wings. It is flanked by gardens on its west side and a courtyard on its east. The building is made of blond Saint-Leu stone and pink Languedoc marble veined with white. A balustrade runs across the flat roof, and was originally decorated with sculptures; Napoleon had these removed in 1810. The new residence was first christened “the Marble Trianon”, following the tradition established by its (faux) porcelain predecessor whereby the structure ended up being named after its celebrated exterior material. The château didn’t acquire its current name of “the Grand Trianon” until the 1760s, when a new residence known as “the Petit Trianon” was built nearby. However, for the sake of simplicity, I am going to refer to it as the Grand Trianon from this point on.
The floor plan and painting shown below will help with my explanation of the layout of the Grand Trianon. A large entry courtyard separates the two principal wings. The south wing is shown on the left, and contains rooms numbered 1-7. This south wing encloses a second courtyard, labelled below 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 Jardin du Roy was the King’s private enclosed garden and the Bosquet des Sources, labelled here as Les Sources, was a wooded grove criss-crossed with streams.
The north wing of the Grand Trianon is larger than the south. There are four different areas that make up the north wing (moving left to right in the floor plan above): Block 1, with rooms numbered 8-12, is laid out from west to east along the main courtyard; Block 2 spans a set of rooms starting with 13 & 14 in the south to 21 & 22 in the north; Block 3 consists of a long gallery arm that extends to the west with rooms numbered 23-24; Block 4, known as the Trianon-sous-Boise (Trianon-under-the-forest) wing, stretches north once more, with rooms numbered 25-26. I have a tour of the rooms of the Grand Trianon available in a separate post.
Although the new marble residence was radically different from its porcelain predecessor, the layout of the Trianon gardens was kept largely the same; they remain so to this day. The gardens of the Trianon were one of the features that Louis XIV most cherished, and he made sure that there was a view of them from every room in the new château. He had the long gallery of Block 3 built largely so that this new wing would protect the flowerbeds from the strong winter winds. Occasionally, Louis XIV’s love for his garden and adoration of its heavily-perfumed flowers backfired. In a letter written on August 8, 1689, Madame de Maintenon wrote: “the tuberoses cause us to abandon the Trianon every evening… [m]en and women feel ill, overwhelmed by the scents.” Even the Sun King could end up with too much of a good thing.
Louis XIV is quoted as saying: “I built Versailles for my court, Marly4 for my friends, and Trianon for me and my family.” Madame de Maintenon came from an impoverished background, and her inferior social position meant that she could not be openly acknowledged as Louis XIV’s wife. Within the privacy of the Grand Trianon, they had more freedom to be together. The simple decor and relaxed atmosphere of Trianon also provided respite from the ostentatiousness and formality experienced at the main residence. Louis XIV and Madame de Maintenon first ate dinner at the Grand Trianon on January 22, 1688. They officially inaugurated the residence in the summer of 1688. Although they would often go there during the day, they had to wait until the Trianon was fully furnished before spending their first night there on July 11, 1691 (one assumes the perfume of the tuberoses was also suitably cut back by this point).
Guests were admitted to the Trianon only through royal invitation, and then usually only for a light dinner hosted by the King. Few guests were given the privilege of sleeping overnight, as there was limited space available for them. As the King had said, Trianon was for him and his family. In respect to the latter, the Grand Trianon increasingly found itself housing more members of Louis XIV’s extended family. Here is a list of royal relations of Louis XIV that, at some point, called the Grand Trianon their home throughout the latter years of his reign (and for a few years following):
Louis the Grand Dauphin, son of Louis XIV, moved into the Grand Trianon in 1703. The Grand Dauphin lived at Trianon until he died of smallpox in 1711 at the age of 49.
In 1708, Louis XIV had a second storey added to the Trianon-sous-Boise wing in order to accommodate the family of his younger brother (and only sibling), Philippe d’Orléans. Philippe died in 1701, but was survived by his second wife, Elizabeth-Charlotte of the Palatinate, and their two children (a surviving daughter from his first marriage was already married and living in Sardinia by this point). Elizabeth-Charlotte moved into the Grand Trianon when the Trianon-sous-Boise wing was completed.
Elizabeth-Charlotte had a son, Philippe II d’Orléans, who was also given a set of apartments in the Trianon-sous-Boise wing in 1708. He moved in there with his wife, Françoise-Marie de Bourbon, and their children. Françoise was a legitimized daughter of Louis XIV; her mother had been Madame de Montespan.
After Louis the Grand Dauphin died in 1711, his eldest son Louis the Petit Dauphin, Duke of Burgundy, moved into the Grand Trianon. The Petit Dauphin lived there from 1711-1712 with his wife, Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy, the Duchess of Burgundy. They lived there with their two young sons until February 1712, when they both died of measles.
In 1712, Louis XIV’s youngest grandson, Charles, the Duke of Berry, moved into the Grand Trianon with his wife, Marie-Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans, the Duchess of Berry. Charles was the youngest of the Grand Dauphin’s three sons (the eldest had just died of measles, the second was busy ruling Spain as Philip V). The Duchess of Berry was the daughter of Philippe II d’Orléans and Françoise-Marie de Bourbon. The Duke and Duchess of Berry resided at the Grand Trianon until the Duke passed away in 1714; the Duchess went on to live a slightly scandalous life at the Palais du Luxembourg.
In 1720, Louis XIV’s eldest legitimized daughter with Madame de Maintenon, Louise-Françoise, the Duchess of Bourbon, came to live at the Grand Trianon. She liked the château so much that she decided to have her Parisian residence, the Palais Bourbon5, modelled after it.
In the summer of 1717, the Grand Trianon hosted a prominent royal visitor from Russia. Pyotr Alexeyovich Romanov, also known as “Peter the Great,” had long been interested in visiting France. However, Louis XIV had refused to host the Russian Tsar at his court. After Louis XIV died in 1715, an invitation was finally extended to Peter I by Philippe II d’Orléans, who was acting as Regent of France during Louis XV’s minority. Peter I visited France from May-June of 1717 and resided at the Grand Trianon from June 3-12. He was fascinated by the Château of Versailles and its grounds, using them as inspiration for his building of the Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg from 1714-1723. Neil and I visited Versailles on the 200th anniversary of Peter I’s stay at the Grand Trianon. There was an exhibit dedicated to his time there, and I’ll share some of the photos I took of it at the end of this post.
Louis XV moved the royal court back to Versailles in 1722 when he was twelve years old. Although he had a lot of appreciation for the main residence, he did not have a lot of initial interest in the Grand Trianon. He gifted the château to his wife, Queen Maria Leszczsyńska, in 1741. Queen Maria was delighted with the Grand Trianon, and spent her summer months there. She loved it as much as Marie Antoinette would later come to love the Petit Trianon. Queen Maria’s father, Stanislaw Leszczsynski, the deposed King of Poland, stayed at the Trianon during his visits to Versailles from 1740-1743 (see my post on the Château de Chambord for more information about him).
In 1749, Louis XV’s chief mistress, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, the Marquise de Pompadour, saw the potential the Grand Trianon offered them as a private retreat from the royal court of Versailles. She and Louis XV began to spend more time there. In 1750, Louis XV renovated several rooms in the north wing of the Grand Trianon and began making improvements to its surrounding gardens. He added a vegetable garden, a botanical garden, a fig orchard and several greenhouses (which were still a rare innovation at the time). He also had two new structures built in the French Garden: the French Pavilion in 1750, and the Cool Pavilion in 1753 (more on those in my post about the Petit Trianon). In 1762, construction began on a small château located 450 meters (1,476 feet) east of the Grand Trianon (a short five minute walk away). This new residence was called “the Petit Trianon” and was designed according to the taste and preferences of Madame de Pompadour. The building of the Petit Trianon led to the rechristening of the Marble Trianon as “the Grand Trianon.” Sadly, Madame de Pompadour passed away in 1764—four years before the Petit Trianon’s completion in 1768. Her successor, Jeanne Bécu, the Comtesse du Barry, would occupy the château in her stead.
It was while Louis XV was spending time with Madame du Barry at the Petit Trianon that he became ill with smallpox. He was moved back to the main residence of Versailles, where he died a few days later on May 10, 1774. He was succeeded by his grandson, Louis XVI. Two weeks later, Louis XVI gifted the Petit Trianon to his wife. Louis XVI would often stay at the “men’s palace” of the Grand Trianon with their eldest son, Louis-Joseph-Xavier-François (born in 1781, died in June 1789), while Marie Antoinette resided at the “women’s palace” of Petit Trianon with their daughter, Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte (born 1778). Marie Antoinette preferred the Petit Trianon, and so the Grand Trianon did not play a prominent role in their reign beyond hosting a few parties.
During the French Revolution the Château de Versailles, its grounds, and its associated residences (including the Grand Trianon) were declared national property. When the monarchy was overthrown in July 1792, it was decided that all of the furniture, mirrors, bronzes, art works, and other valuables at Versailles would be sold off with the exception of those items deemed to have historic or artistic value. The Grand Trianon’s original furnishings were all lost during this time. The residence was largely neglected for a number of years, although its condition did not deteriorate as badly as that of the Petit Trianon and the Hameau de la Reine.
Napoleon’s coronation as Emperor of France took place on December 2, 1804. He had Versailles designated as an imperial palace, although he never lived there. Instead, he mostly resided in the Tuileries Palace in central Paris, and moved between several official residences located throughout France such as the Château de Malmaison and the Château de Fontainebleau. Napoleon first visited Versailles and the Grand Trianon in March 1805. Instead of having apartments set up in the main château, Napoleon decided to use the Grand Trianon as a summer residence. He planned to stay there while hunting in the woods nearby—this was the same appeal, it just so happens, that had first brought a young Louis XIII to Versailles nearly two hundred years earlier in 1607 and encouraged him to build his first hunting lodge in 1623. Napoleon planned to have the south wing of the Grand Trianon fixed up to house his mother, Maria Letizia Ramolino, and the north wing for himself and his wife, Empress Josephine. Napoleon would also have the Petit Trianon set up as a summer residence for his favourite sister, Pauline Borghèse. He wanted all the arrangements to be ready by May 21, 1805, but it would be July before they were even close. His mother arrived at the Grand Trianon on May 6 and refused to take up residence in the south wing. She felt the château was outdated and ill-suited to modern needs. Pauline was happier with the Petit Trianon, and stayed there from June to July.
Napoleon continued to have improvements made to the grounds and the châteaux of both the Grand and Petit Trianon over the next few years, restoring them to their former glory. He had the Grand Canal reopened, and decided to build a bridge between the Trianon residences. To achieve this, he destroyed part of the enclosing wall of Louis XIV’s private garden. He then had an iron bridge constructed to span a sunken pathway, which connected the King’s Garden with the gardens of the Petit Trianon. He also cut down the Bosquet de Sources. Napoleon made his first extended stay at the Trianon following the announcement that he was divorcing his wife Empress Josephine. He left the Tuileries at 4:00 pm on December 15, 1809 and arrived at the Grand Trianon that night. It was a painful separation. Pauline came to stay at the Petit Trianon so that she could be nearby to offer him support. Napoleon went to see Josephine a few times over the following weeks, and invited her to dinner at the Grand Trianon on Christmas Day. It was a sad occasion. Josephine was indisposed for a few days after the meeting, and Napoleon threw himself headlong into plans for his next marriage. He had the Grand Trianon completely refurnished between 1809 and 1810; by the spring of 1810, it was completely finished and ready to be inhabited. He married his second wife, Marie-Louise, daughter of his conquered enemy Emperor Francis I of Austria, in April 1810.
Napoleon brought Empress Marie-Louise to Versailles for the first time on June 10, 1810. They returned at the beginning of August and stayed there for a few days, with Marie-Louise residing at the Petit Trianon. At this point, Napoleon decided to have the ruins of the Hameau de la Reine, the Queen’s Hamlet, restored for his wife. Interestingly, Marie-Louise was a great-niece of Marie Antoinette; her grandmother was one of Marie Antoinette’s many sisters, Maria-Carolina (her favourite, in fact, as they were closest in age). Austrian diplomat Prince Charles de Clary-et-Aldringen visited Versailles that same summer and described the Grand Trianon as being furnished with a “fairy-tale luxury.” He further states, “the Orient has never known, I believe, anything so beautiful in bronzes, embroidered velvets, porcelains, paintings, parquet floors, fireplaces, and all is of the best taste.”
Napoleon and Marie-Louise hosted three separate entertainments during their summers at Versailles. On August 9, 1810, a Molière play was staged at the newly-restored Queen’s Theatre of the Petit Trianon, and a big party was held the next day in the gardens. A circus, built especially for the occasion, hosted a performance of the Franconi brothers, Laurent and Henri. In July 1811, a gondola once more cruised the Grand Canal, this time with Napoleon and Marie-Louise on board. On August 25, 1811 the imperial couple hosted a grand party, “the Feast of the Empress”, which was attended by hundreds of people. The châteaux were lit up by lanterns in different colours, the lakes were illuminated and filled with boats, and guests were entertained by musicians and a choir. The Trianon Theatre hosted both a play and a ballet performance. A lavish feast was served in the Grand Trianon. It was a magnificent celebration, an echo of the great entertainments that had once been staged at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV. Attendees of this party must have felt that the night had been like a fairytale.
Napoleon and Marie-Louise visited Versailles for the last time in March 1813, shortly after Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign. Napoleon was forced to abdicate just over a year later in April 1814, and the Bourbon monarchy was restored to power. The younger brothers of Louis XVI, Louis XVIII and Charles X, chose not to live at Versailles, which had been their former home. It would be March 1832 before another monarch, their cousin and successor Louis-Philippe I, took an interest in Versailles. Louis-Philippe I was a descendant of Louis XIV’s younger brother, Philippe d’Orléans. Louis-Philippe’s wife, Queen Marie-Amélie, was also related to Marie Antoinette6.
Like Napoleon, Louis-Philippe I took up residence in the Grand Trianon. He dedicated himself to the task of turning Versailles into a museum, which was inaugurated on June 10, 1837. Also in June of 1837 his son and daughter-in-law, Ferdinand-Philippe and Hélène Louise Élisabeth, the Duke and Duchess of Orléans, settled into the attic of the Petit Trianon. In October, one of Louis-Philippe’s daughters, Marie d’Orléans, married Alexander of Württemberg in the chapel at the Grand Trianon. Louis-Philippe I was later forced to abdicate during the French Revolution of 1848. Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon I, ruled France as President from 1848-1851 and then Emperor from 1852-1870.
The Grand Trianon next took centre stage on June 4, 1920, where it hosted the negotiation and signing of the Treaty of Trianon. The Treaty of Trianon followed the earlier signing of the Treaty of Versailles (June 28, 1919) and the Treaty of Saint-Germaine-en-Laye (September 10, 1919). The treaty left Hungary with an area that was less than one third of what it had held prior to the breakout of World War I: it went from 325,411 kms² (202,201 miles²) to 93,028 kms² (57,804 miles²). Hungary lost access to the sea in Croatia; five of its ten most populous cities; 55-65% of its forests; all of its gold, silver, mercury, copper, and salt mines; as well as numerous railways, factories, canals, arable land, and banking institutions. It was a national trauma, and today the word “Trianon” remains synonymous with that heavy loss.
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 Gerald 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. The Trianon-sous-Boise wing has been used to host visiting heads of state such as John and Jackie Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Boris Yeltsin, King Hussein of Jordan, among others. The 1982 G7 Summit met at the Grand Trianon from June 4-6. In 1999, President Jacques Chirac authorized the opening of the French presidential apartments to the public.
That concludes our historical tour of the Grand Trianon! Before I conclude this post, though, I’m going to share some pictures I took of an exhibit that Neil and I saw during our tour of the residence. The exhibit was titled, “Peter the Great: A Tsar in France,” and was presented in collaboration with the State Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg, Russia. Neil and I went to Versailles in July 2017, which marked 300 years since Peter I of Russia had visited France. In 1717, Peter I traveled to Versailles on May 24-26, as well as June 3-12. It was during this second trip that Peter I stayed at the Grand Trianon. The exhibit featured more than 150 works including paintings, sculptures, tapestries, maps, medals, scientific instruments, books, and manuscripts. More than half of these items were on loan from the Hermitage Museum.
The exhibit materials described Pyotr Alexeyovich Romanov (1672-1725) as “an unpredictable force of nature, a stranger to etiquette, [who] flouted protocol on a number of occasions.” Peter I was a reformist Tsar, and he is considered the founder of modern Russia. He made two journeys to Europe during his reign. The first was from March 1697- September 1698 when he was 25-26 years old; this was also the first foreign trip made by any Russian sovereign! He had wanted to visit France during this trip, but Louis XIV refused to host the Russian Tsar at his court. After Louis XIV died in 1715, an invitation was finally extended to Peter I to visit France by Philippe II d’Orléans, who was acting as Regent of France during Louis XV’s minority. Shortly afterward, Peter I made his second tour of Europe from January 1716 – October 1717 at the age of 45. He spent many weeks in France, including 43 days in Paris. He wanted to “discover all that was remarkable about France and adopt it back in his country.” He was also looking to sign a trade agreement with France, and secure a military alliance with France and Prussia against Sweden.
Peter I’s visit is considered the foundation of diplomatic relations between France and Russia. He left a lasting impression, especially following his meeting with Louis XV at the Hôtel des Lesdiguières7 on May 10, 1717. In a spontaneous gesture that defied royal protocol and shocked everyone in attendance, Peter I scooped the seven-year-old King of France up in his arms in a warm, father-like gesture and kissed him on both cheeks.
Peter I explored the French markets and workshops as casually as if he was a regular person, requiring no special attention or ceremony. In addition to scores of books, Peter I bought lots of scientific and technical instruments. He had a real passion for learning about the advances being made in science and mathematics, and wanted to bring back as many tools as he could find. When he returned to Russia he had artisans make copies of these instruments. He then shared them with architects, topographers, scientists, doctors, explorers, and the military. All of the instruments displayed in the exhibit at the Grand Trianon were part of his personal collection.
Peter I found a lot to be inspired by during his time in Paris. While there, he visited: the Academy of Sciences, where he was made an honorary member (the first monarch to be granted such an accolade); the Academy of Painting and Sculpture; the Observatory; the Louvre; the Sorbonne; the Royal Printing Office; the Jardin des Plantes; La Monnaie de Paris (the Mint); and the Gobelins Manufactory, which created a set of tapestries for him that are still on display at the Hermitage Museum. He also toured several libraries and cabinets of curiosities.
Peter I brought many artistic, cultural, scientific, and technological influences back with him to Russia. He recruited more than 60 artists, craftsmen, architects, and engineers to help build Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg from 1714-1723. He also imported several French customs into his country. His second wife and successor, Catherine I (also titled “the Great”), would later insist on the use of the French language by the Russian court. This admiration and respect for the French would be helpful when the French Revolution broke out, and several French aristocrats and artists (such as Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun) sought refuge at the Russian court.
Peter I favoured simple clothing. During his first trip to Europe in 1697-1698 he had toured Amsterdam and admired the simple, no-frills style of dress worn there. He had since adopted it as his own. A wool-and-silk suit belonging to Peter I, shown below, was part of the exhibit. It would have contrasted sharply with the lacy ensembles worn by members of the French court.
The size of the garment indicates that Peter, aged 45, was slim and very tall; in fact, his height was nearly 2 meters (6’7″)!
Below is a manual that provided instructions on the proper protocol to follow when receiving the Tsar of Russia (not that the Tsar himself always followed it!). This manual was used by Etienne Rossius de Liboy, who was titled “Ordinary Gentleman of the King.” One of the entries is dated April 5, 1717. The manual belongs to the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Political Correspondence, Russia.
Peter I visited France to secure an alliance, which was made official with the “Treaty of Alliance and Mutual Guarantee between France, Russia, and Prussia” shown below. This autographed manuscript was negotiated while Peter I was in France, but signed later on August 15, 1717 when his journey had taken him to the Netherlands. It was the start of a “close union” between France, Russia, and Prussia. The text is written in French, which had been the language of diplomacy since the reign of Louis XIV. The treaty set up the conditions that would allow for the opening of permanent embassies in France and Russia. It is celebrated as a founding diplomatic act between the two countries, establishing an alliance that would withstand significant political changes brought on by each nation’s own revolutionary and imperial periods. The document belongs to the archives of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
The Signatories of the Treaty are, on the left, for France: that of Pierre-Antoine de Chasteauneuf [Châteauneuf], the Marquis de Castagnère, Ambassador of France to the United Provinces. On the right are those of the Russian Plenipotentiaries, including: Count Gavrila (Gavriil) Ivanovich Golovkin, Prince Boris Ivanovich Kurakin, and Vice-Chancellor Peter Pavlovich Shafirov (I’m not sure of the order).
A (rough) translation of Article 5 of the Treaty (shown below) reads: “to make peace and this alliance still more solid and more durable, the King […] the Czar of all Russia and the King of Prussia not only will, but […] in concert all the powers and states […] will want to enter this Treaty[…] the maintenance of general tranquility […] Europe and for the common utility of all interested parties.” A (rough) translation of Article 6 reads: “the ratifications in good standing being mutual […] exchanged within a month of counting […] from the day of the signing of this treaty.”
That concludes my summary of the history of the Grand Trianon! In my next post, I’ll conduct a tour of the rooms of the Grand Trianon. Thank you for reading!
1 The Porcelain Tower of Nanjing was constructed during the early 15th century. In the middle of the 17th century, European explorers and missionaries came upon it and their stories of its beauty soon spread throughout the west. The original tower was damaged when the Taiping Rebellion broke out in the 1850s, and it was torn down in 1856. In 2015 a modern replica was opened to the public. The Porcelain Trianon was the first building in Europe to adopt what would soon become the highly fashionable chinoiserie style, predating its earliest successors by well over 50 years.
² Delftware, or Delft pottery, is a style of blue and white tin-glazed earthenware pottery. It is named after the city of Delft in the Netherlands, which was a major centre of its production. Delftware features the use of a white glaze that is decorated by blue cobalt oxide. The style first came into production in 1600, and was popular from 1640-1740. It could be used to imitate Chinese porcelain, as western Europe did not learn how to manufacture its own until the 1700s; German alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger discovered the secret to making hard-paste porcelain in 1709, and the Meissen porcelain factory was opened near Dresden in 1710. The tiles for the so-called Porcelain Trianon were sourced from Delft as well as the French cities of Rouen, Lisieux, and Nevers. When the Porcelain Trianon was demolished in 1687, many fragments of these ceramic tiles were buried in the Trianon gardens. These decorative elements still sometimes reappear during excavations or levelling work.
3 This illustration of the Diane Apartment was done by Robert Danis, the “Architecte en Chef des Palais nationaux et des Monuments historiques” (the Chief Architect of National Palaces and Historic Monuments). Danis mined the national archives for evidence of the Porcelain Trianon’s design, especially its interior, and sketched it as he imagined it would have looked. This drawing comes from Danis’ book, La Première Maison Royale de Trianon 1670-1687, which was published in 1927.
4 The Château de Marly was built in 1679 at the northern end of the royal park, west of Versailles. It served as yet another private retreat for Louis XIV from the royal court of Versailles. Courtiers competed with each other for an invitation to Marly, where they had the chance to interact with the King in a more intimate setting. Marly consisted of 12 pavilions built in matching pairs that flanked several central sheets of water. Marly was meant to be a simple hunting lodge but quickly became renowned for its water features. Most notable was the Marly Hydraulic Machine, which was considered a miracle of modern hydraulic engineering. It had a system of 14 paddlewheels that pumped water from the Seine into a vast underground network of reservoirs and aqueducts that then supplied the fountains of Versailles. Marly was used very little after Louis XIV’s passing in 1715, as his successors thought it was too damp and dreary. In 1800, Marly was converted into a factory for spinning cotton thread. When the factory went out of business in 1806, the pavilions were demolished and their building materials were sold. In 1807, Napoleon bought the land back, and so the empty gardens and surrounding woodland park now belong once more to the French State. Only the foundation of the main pavilion remains at the top of the slope of Marly park. Marly-le-Roi is a small town that grew up around the château to help service it when Louis XIV still resided there. It is now a bedroom community of Paris.
5 The Palais Bourbon was constructed from 1722-1726 on what was then the outskirts of the city. It was initially a country-style residence surrounded by gardens, but has since undergone a lot of changes over its (nearly) two hundred year history. Today, it serves as the seat of the French National Assembly.
6 Maria-Carolina, Marie Antoinette’s sister, was Marie-Amélie’s mother. Marie-Amélie was a sister to Empress Marie-Louise’s mother, Maria-Theresa of Naples and Sicily. So Marie-Amélie was a niece of Marie Antoinette, and Empress Marie-Louise was a niece to Marie-Amélie (and great-niece to Marie Antoinette).
7 The Hôtel des Lesdiguières was a private residence (built in 1580 and demolished in 1878) located near the Bastille in Paris that Tsar Peter I of Russia opted to stay in, rather than the Louvre.
The Hameau de la Reine, the Queen’s Hamlet, was built for Marie Antoinette from 1783-1786 on the grounds of the Petit Trianon, and is located about 2.6 kilometers (1.6 miles) northwest of the Château de Versailles. Architect Richard Mique designed the space as a rustic countryside retreat, which the Queen used to escape the scrutiny of the Versailles royal court. The Hameau was a private, exclusive place where Marie Antoinette was able to go on walks with and host intimate gatherings for her closest companions. The Hameau was also a functioning farm as it contained a dairy, several vegetable gardens, and a barnyard full of animals. These facilities also allowed the Hameau to serve an educational role for the royal children.
In the map below, the location of the Queen’s Hamlet is shown in relation to the Château de Versailles. The Queen’s Hamlet is indicated by a green flag towards the top right of the map. The Château is indicated by a red pin located towards the bottom right. It takes about 30 minutes to walk between them. You can also find green flags on the map below for the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon.
The Hameau consists of a row of buildings set on the bank of an artificial lake, arranged in a crescent formation. You can see most of them in the aerial photo below (N ↖ ↘ S). The first area, located on the left (northwest) side of the lake, contains structures that were used for agricultural purposes. The central (northeast) area of the Hameau consists of buildings that were reserved for the Queen’s exclusive use. The third area, located on the right (southeast) side of the lake, contains a decorative windmill. While looking over the aerial photo, note how each of the buildings in the Hameau has its own garden.
The items shown in the picture above are, clockwise from left to right: the Marlborough Tower and the Model/Refreshment Dairy; two empty lots that contain the foundations of the Preparation/ Working Dairy and the Barn (demolished by Napoleon in 1810); the Guard House; the Dovecote/Hen House; the Games House on the left, which is connected to the Queen’s House on the right via a covered walkway; the Stove House (located behind the covered walkway); the Boudoir; and the Mill. The aerial photo above does not show the Educational Farm, which is located further to the northwest, as shown in the map below.
I’ve been having a hard time trying to figure out how to structure this post as there is a lot of interesting information to cover on top of all the visuals I want to share. What I’m going to do first is show you a few quick pictures of the buildings in the Hameau as they appear today. Secondly, I’ll discuss the development and construction of the Hameau and how it was influenced by the rise of Romanticism in 18th century British garden design. I’ll then delve into the history of the Hameau following its construction. I’ll then conduct an extensive tour of the individual cottages.
I’ve already shared images at the top of this post of the Boudoir, the Marlborough Tower, the Model Dairy, and the Educational Farm. I’ll now show you pictures of the Dovecote/ Hen House, the Guard House, the Games House, the Queen’s House, and the Mill.
The Game’s House (located on the left in the picture below) is connected to the Queen’s House (on the right) via a covered walkway. This structure was in the midst of a giant three-year restoration project when Neil and I visited Versailles in the summer of 2017, and it was completely covered by scaffolding. As a result, I had to source all pictures of it used in this post from elsewhere on the Internet (mostly from the website of the Château de Versailles and Wikipedia). The restoration work was completed as of May 2018, and the inside of the building is now furnished and open to the public for the first time since 1848! Neil and I will have to go back and see it!
I’ve shown you a few pictures of the buildings in the Hameau de la Reine in order to acquaint you with its rustic appearance. I’m now going to explain why Marie Antoinette had a medieval-looking village built on the grounds of her beloved Petit Trianon, and why she designed it to have this “shabby-chic” feel. As mentioned in my post on the Petit Trianon, the Queen found court life at Versailles to be extremely stifling. When she was gifted with the Petit Trianon in 1774 by her husband, Louis XVI, it offered her an escape. The Petit Trianon was where Marie Antoinette felt the most free to be herself. Only her children and members of her innermost circle were welcome there—even the King wasn’t allowed there without her express permission (he often dined, but never slept there). Marie Antoinette cultivated a more informal atmosphere at the Petit Trianon. She had the rooms decorated more simply, and opted to wear more casual dress. Playful floral patterns were used in the château’s furnishings and decor to evoke a carefree country spirit. Marie Antoinette’s taste for informality was soon extended to the heavily manicured French gardens that surrounded the Petit Trianon. From 1774-1782 she had the gardens redesigned in the English style, which had become increasingly fashionable in France thanks to its more relaxed, natural, and wild appearance1. Once that project was completed, she embarked on a new one: the construction of the Hameau de la Reine from 1783-1786.
Above all else, the Hameau de la Reine was meant to add to the ambiance of the Petit Trianon by giving the small château the illusion that it was located deep in the countryside, rather than firmly situated within the confines of Versailles. The pastoral appearance and design of the Hameau, as well as Marie Antoinette’s desire to infuse a more rural quality to the Petit Trianon, came as a result of the rise of Romanticism in the last quarter of the 18th century. Romanticism was an artistic, cultural, and intellectual movement that swept through Europe from 1770-1850. Romanticism stressed the importance of emotion, individualism, nature, and history (for more on Romanticism, see my post on the Musée de la Vie Romantique here). The natural world was a central theme to the work of Romantic artists such as Genevan writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, English poet William Wordsworth, and German landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich. French painter Hubert Robert was renowned for his landscape paintings and semi-fictitious depictions of ruins in Italy and France. The work of these artists (among others) led to nature playing a prominent role in art, fashion, architecture, and garden design.
This artistic Romantic desire to “return to nature” soon spread to the members of the upper-class. These wealthier members of society developed a taste for an idealized version of pastoral simplicity, one in which they could recreate and enjoy the pleasant aspects of country life while overlooking the hardship and the poverty of the people who actually lived it. One of the most striking ways in which they did this can be seen in a popular trend of 18th century British garden design where ornamental model farms and picturesque villages were built on aristocratic properties2. The term ferme ornée (ornate farm) was coined by British garden designer and writer Stephen Switzer in 1715 to describe a decorative property whose primary purpose was leisure, but also included productive facilities such as a dairy or barn that allowed it to function as a working farm. Marie Antoinette’s Hameau de la Reine would become the most renowned example of this 18th century gardening trend. Although the Hameau was primarily built to entertain the Queen and her companions, it did contain several buildings dedicated to an agricultural purpose.
Below is a romanticized portrait of the Mill House in the Hameau, emphasizing its garden-like setting.
The original ferme ornée was Woburn Farm, located in England near the town of Addlestone, Surrey. It was built after Philip Southcote acquired the property in 1734. William Shenstone’s garden at the Leasowes in Shropshire followed in 1743-1763. The Larchill Arcadian Garden in Ireland, created between 1740-1780, is today the most complete surviving ferme ornée in Europe. This British trend crossed the Channel when Claude-Henri Joulet developed the first ferme ornée in France from 1754-1772; the Moulin Joly (the Pretty Windmill) was situated near the town of Colombes, 10.6 kms (6.6 miles) northwest of Paris (now a Parisian suburb). The Moulin Joly included a mill, stables, an apiary, and a dairy3. The property was visited by many notable people such as Marie Antoinette and Hubert Robert, and they both likely found inspiration there for their later project. Similar constructions followed at Ermenonville4, Parc Monceau, and the Domaine de Raincy.
There is one property that influenced the development of Marie Antoinette’s hamlet more than any other. Louis Joseph, the Prince de Condé, had a rustic village built on his property in 1774 at the Château de Chantilly. The Hameau de Chantilly was created by architect Jean-François Leroy and consists of five cottages set in a garden. There was also a working dairy, a mill, a stable for the herd of cows, and a bread oven. The cottages in the Hameau de Chantilly were built to resemble Norman half-timber architecture with their exposed timber façades and thatched reed roofs. Half-timber buildings were constructed throughout Europe from the 13th-18th centuries, with regional variations in style and technique. They were particularly popular in France and Germany. By mimicking this style, visitors approaching these cottages in the Hameau de Chantilly would get the impression from their exteriors that they were provincial, quaint, and even medieval. But this appearance was intentionally deceptive.
When a guest entered one of the cottages, they would be astonished to discover that the interior was as richly decorated and furnished as any grand room in a wealthy château. The contrast between what was presented on the outside and what was then experienced on the inside was a source of delight. The barn, for example, contained a salon with silver-fluted Corinthian columns and pink taffeta hangings, and the ceiling was painted with cherubs dancing in the clouds. The five cottages at Chantilly each had a specific use similar to the function and layout of individual rooms that could be found in a grand estate house. There was le Salon (the Parlour), le Billard (the Billiard Room), la Salle à Manger (the Dining Room), la Cuisine (the Kitchen), and le Cabinet de Lecture (the Reading Room). There were also two other structures: le Moulin (the Mill) and l’Étable (the stables). Sadly, the lavish interiors of the cottages disappeared during the 19th century. The exteriors of the cottages were restored in 2007-2008.
The success and reputation of the Hameau de Chantilly inspired Marie Antoinette to build her own at Versailles. In addition to architect Richard Mique, Marie Antoinette consulted with several French artists to design the Hameau de la Reine including painters Hubert Robert, Claude-Louis Châtelet, Louis-Barthélémy Fréret, and sculptor Joseph Deschamps. Work on the Hameau began in 1783 and 1784 with digging out the lake and rivers upon which the village is set, as well as laying out the paths. In 1784 and 1785 the walls of the eleven cottages, made of rubble stone and timber frames, were put up. The cottages in Marie Antoinette’s Hameau feature a hybrid of Norman, Flemish, and French design. These cottages are similar to their Chantilly predecessors in that they also have the characteristic exposed timber façades and thatched reed roofs of Norman design. However, the cottages of the Hameau de la Reine also include Flemish details such as stepped gables, stained-glass windows, and the use of brick. The plaster-covered façades and dormer windows are French. The windows, doors, and external framework of the cottages were painted olive green, yellow, and white.
Like the cottages of the Hameau de Chantilly, the cottages at Versailles were purposefully designed to look much older and more ruinous on the exterior than they actually were. Their façades were painted to look like they had crumbling stone, old brick, cracked plaster, deteriorated joints, chipped coatings, and moss-covered walls. The influence of French landscape painter Hubert Robert can be seen here, as he was involved with the design and placement of the cottages. His artistic knack for combining nature, history and fantasy greatly contributed to the picturesque charm of the Hameau de la Reine. His love for a dilapidated cottage can be seen in the painting below.
However, like the cottages at Chantilly, the rustic exteriors of those in the Hameau de la Reine were purposefully misleading. Their interiors were also richly decorated and furnished, although slightly less so than a grand room of Versailles as Marie Antoinette preferred to keep things a little less refined at Trianon and the Hameau. Still, the difference would have been enough to be remarked on. Another similarity to the Hameau de Chantilly is that several of the cottages at Versailles were also designed to mimic the function and layout of individual estate rooms. These include the Queen’s House (which acted as a Salon), the Games House (a Billiards Room), and the Boudoir (a woman’s Sitting Room).
Sadly, I haven’t been able to find any sketches or paintings depicting the interiors of the cottages as they would have appeared during the time they were used by Marie Antoinette. The interiors were later updated while Napoleon and his second wife, Marie-Louise, were at Versailles (more on them soon). Restoration work on the cottages has focused on maintaining the look they acquired during this period. The photo below shows the inside of the Queen’s House following its reopening in 2018.
Work on the Hameau de la Reine was completed in 1787, but further changes continued being made until 1790. Eleven structures were built in total. Five of them were reserved for the exclusive use of the Queen and her companions: the Queen’s House; the Games House, the Boudoir, the Mill, and the Model/Refreshment Dairy. Four were intended for agricultural purposes: the Barn, the Dovecote/Hen House, the Preparation/Working Dairy, as well as the Educational Farm and its outbuildings. One cottage, the Stove House, was used by servants to prepare meals. The final building, the Guard House, was where Marie Antoinette’s Swiss guard, Jean Bersey, lived with his family. Each house had its own garden, and was surrounded by a hedge and a wooden fence. The gardens were planted with artichokes, green beans, cabbage, cauliflower, black beans, peas, raspberries, strawberries, and currants. The Hameau also contained trees bearing plums, pears, cherries, peaches, apricots, and walnuts. The staircases, the galleries, and balconies were decorated with flowerpots containing hyacinths, wallflowers, and geraniums. The walls of the houses and the bowers shading some of the pathways contained scented climbing plants such as Virginia Creeper. Grapes were hung from the pergolas.
Here are a couple of paintings made of the Hameau during the time of their use by Marie Antoinette. They were done by by French painter Claude-Louis Châtelet, who also provided input on the design of the Hameau. His artistic style was vey similar to that of Hubert Robert. Châtelet was commissioned by Marie Antoinette to paint the Trianon and its gardens. This work was used in souvenir albums that Marie Antoinette gifted to distinguished guests such as King Gustav III of Sweden and her brother Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor of Austria.
The Hameu de la Reine was barely finished when the French Revolution broke out. The Bastille was stormed on July 14, 1789. Marie Antoinette was walking through her gardens in the Petit Trianon on October 5, 1789 when she was advised of the imminent arrival of an armed, hostile crowd—these were the protestors taking part in the Women’s March on Versailles. The next day, October 6, the Queen was forced to leave Versailles for Paris with her husband and children. She would never see Versailles, the Petit Trianon, or her Hameau de la Reine again.
There are a couple of persistent myths that have been attached to Marie Antoinette5, and one in particular concerns her behaviour at the Hameau de la Reine. It has been claimed that Marie Antoinette and her companions liked to dress up and play at being shepherdesses, even tying pretty little ribbons to her sheep! However, more reputable sources such as the website of the Château de Versailles argue that this did not actually happen. The Hameau was a place where Marie Antoinette mostly enjoyed taking walks with and hosting small gatherings for her friends. She also used the agricultural parts of the Hameau to teach her children about the growing and care of livestock, crops, and vegetables. She did like to dress in more casual outfits while staying at the Petit Trianon, but this did not extend to wearing costumes and playing make-believe6. The Queen did try to recreate a version of the countryside through the design and layout of the Hameau, but she did this in a manner that was more respectful and admiring than frivolous. The image of a spoiled Queen dressing up as a would-be shepherdess in order to mock the peasantry is a fun and fanciful image, but that’s all it is—fantasy. I readily believed it when I was doing some surface-level reading about the Hameau, and even included it in some of my earlier descriptions. As I delved deeper into the research, though, I learned that it wasn’t true. I have since gone back and corrected those earlier statements.
So where did this myth of the Queen as a playacting shepherdess come from? It’s important to consider how Marie Antoinette’s historical reputation has been darkened by revolutionary propaganda. A lot of malicious gossip was spread concerning what the Queen was “really up to” at the Petit Trianon. Tales of the Queen’s sordid affairs and immoral sexual escapades were popular. That negative climate would have made it easy to believe that the Queen was so dismissive of the poor that she had a make-believe village built just so that she could make fun of them. A person who does something like that would certainly be deserving of punishment—perhaps by guillotine. But closer scrutiny reveals that Marie Antoinette was more than the cruel, flippant caricature she was portrayed as being7. Not innocent—she was certainly guilty of being a lavish spender. She was also out of touch with how impoverished the majority of the French populace was. If Marie Antoinette had been more politically and socially savvy, she would have seen how the construction of the Hameau was a little tone-deaf—especially in relation to the “shocking” difference between the rustic peasant-like exteriors and the rich aristocratic interiors of the cottages. However, I believe that this behaviour was committed more out of ignorance than an attempt to be malicious. Many aristocrats in France, Britain, Germany, and other parts of Europe were having similar ornamental farms and picturesque villages added to their properties. They were moved to do this as the result of an artistic movement that had made the pastoral increasingly fashionable. However, that there was enough concentration of wealth that a minority of the population was able to spend ridiculous amounts of money in constructing elaborate garden follies while the majority of people struggled to feed their families is a gross injustice. There was a lot of warranted anger with the power structures that had enabled this disparity. Privilege, corruption, and disenfranchisement are the cornerstones of a feudal system, and France was increasingly due for an earthquake.
During the French Revolution the Château de Versailles, its grounds, and its associated residences (including the Hameau de la Reine) were declared national property. When the monarchy was overthrown in July 1792, it was decided that all of the furniture, mirrors, bronzes, art works, and other valuables at Versailles would be sold off with the exception of those items deemed to have historic or artistic value. This included the cottages of the Hameau, whose interiors were stripped bare. These furnishings, as well as those of the Petit Trianon, were auctioned off between August 25, 1793 and August 11, 1794. The Petit Trianon and its grounds were then leased to an innkeeper and lemonade seller by the name of Charles Langlois, who turned it into a hotel and restaurant. The farm was rented out to a farmer named Michel Souhaité. Squatters moved into the cottages in the Queen’s Hamlet. These activities were all hard on the properties and, by 1801, the Petit Trianon and the Hameau de la Reine were both in rough shape. One building, possibly the barn, in the Educational Farm burned down at this time. The cottages in the Hameau were similar to the design of a stage-set: they were insubstantial short-term constructions, and were never expected to last longer than a decade or two. Surrounded by trees and bordered by a lake, the buildings quickly deteriorated. A British artist, John Claude Nattes, visited the Hameau in 1802. He produced several works that show how poor its condition had become. A couple of his paintings are shown below, and some of his sketches will be shown later in this post when I discuss the individual buildings in more depth.
The painting below was based off an earlier sketch that Nattes had done of the Queen’s House. Note how overgrown the building has become.
Another painting below shows the deteriorated state of the Hameau by French artist Pierre-Joseph Wallaert. (It was still very romantic, though, maybe even more so than its original design—Hubert Robert would have been pleased!).
Napoleon became Emperor of France on December 2, 1804. He had Versailles designated as an imperial palace, although he never lived there. He chose to have apartments set up for him in the Grand Trianon, which he occasionally used as a summer residence. He did have the grounds and the châteaux of both the Grand and Petit Trianon restored to their former glory. He did not have much interest in the Hameau de la Reine at first, although he did throw out the people who were living there illegally. On June 10, 1810 he brought his second wife, the Empress Marie-Louise, to Versailles for the first time. Interestingly, Marie-Louise was a great-niece of Marie Antoinette, as Marie-Louise’s grandmother was one of Marie Antoinette’s many sisters, Maria Carolina. Napoleon and Marie-Louise returned to Versailles at the beginning of August when Marie-Louise took possession of the Petit Trianon. It was at this point that Napoleon decided to have the Petit Trianon and the Hameau de la Reine completely restored for her. Work was carried out by the Emperor’s architect, Guillaume Trepsat, from 1809-1812. Several buildings were beyond hope of saving: the Barn and the Preparation/Working Dairy in the main part of the Hameau, as well as much of the Educational Farm. These structures were torn down, and their materials were used to help restore the other buildings in the Hameau. The Queen’s House was renamed the Lord’s House, and the Game’s House became known as the Bailiwick’s House. The interiors of the cottages were redecorated to reflect the tastes of the time, and differed significantly from their original appearance under Marie Antoinette. The rooms were refurnished with chairs, tables, sideboards, clocks, gilt bronze firedogs, and sconces.
Napoleon and Marie-Louise visited Versailles for the last time in March 1813, shortly after Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign. Napoleon was forced to abdicate just over a year later in April 1814, and the Bourbon monarchy was restored to power from 1814-1830 (give or take a hundred days in 1815). The younger brothers of Louis XVI, Louis XVIII and Charles X, chose not to live at Versailles, which had been their former home. It would be March 1832 before another monarch, their cousin (and successor) Louis-Philippe I, took an interest in Versailles. Like Napoleon, he took up residence in the Grand Trianon. Louis-Philippe I’s son and daughter-in-law, Ferdinand-Philippe and Hélène of Mecklenberg-Schwerin8, the Duke and Duchess of Orléans, settled into the attic of the Petit Trianon a few weeks after their marriage in May 1837. In 1838, the Hameau was updated for the Duchess. Although she kept many of the wall hangings, curtains, and furniture that had been used by Empress Marie-Louise, she had other furnishings and objects brought in to complete the decor (such as side tables and a mahogany bookshelf).
The Duchess of Orléans was the last occupant of the Hameau de la Reine. Her father-in-law, Louis-Philippe I, was later forced to abdicate during the French Revolution of 1848. This led to the rise of Napoleon III (nephew of Napoleon I), who ruled France as President from 1848-1851 and then Emperor from 1852-1870. In August 1855, Queen Victoria paid a visit to Napoleon III. She was invited to tour the Hameau before attending a gala dinner at Versailles in her honour. The Hameau was classified as a historical monument in 1862. In 1867, Napoleon III’s wife, Empress Eugénie, converted the Petit Trianon into a museum dedicated to the memory of Marie Antoinette. Eugénie had the Petit Trianon refurnished as closely as possible to how it would have looked when Marie Antoinette lived there. She also restored the gardens surrounding the Petit Trianon and the small pavilions located within them.
The Hameau has undergone several major restoration projects throughout the course of the 20th-21st centuries. A donation from John D. Rockefeller in the 1930s allowed for a return to the original 18th century layout for the majority of the Hameau’s cottages and gardens. The buildings were also strengthened structurally, the roofs replaced, and the gardens replanted. Various projects to restore the Mill House (1995), the Educational Farm (1996-2002), the Stove House (2000, 2015-2018), the Marlborough Tower (2002), the Queen’s House (2015-2018), the Games House (2015-2018), and the gardens (2015-2018) have also been carried out.
It’s time to begin our tour of the individual buildings! First up, we’ll check out the Educational Farm of Versailles. The Farm is a bit of an outlier, as it’s located a little further away from the bank of the artificial lake than the rest of the cottages. It’s about a five minute walk from the Marlborough Tower. The picture below shows a view of the Farm from the Tower. Note the archway in the middle, it’ll help you orient yourself when looking at the other pictures.
The Educational Farm originally consisted of a farm house, a barn (built in 1786), a stable, several goat sheds, a sheepfold, and pigsties. It was built from 1784-1789. A real farmer, Valy Bussard, was brought in from Touraine (part of the Loire Valley) on June 14, 1785 to work there. He looked after the animals, the crops, and made dairy products for the Queen. A milkman and a cowherd assisted him.
A close-up on a couple of the fluffy bunnies they had on-site when Neil and I visited.
The Farm suffered from severe neglect following the outbreak of the French Revolution. It was rented out to a farmer, and one of the buildings burned down during this time. When Napoleon set about having the rest of the Hameau restored in 1810, many of the structures in the Farm were beyond hope of saving. He had them torn down. The Farm remained virtually ignored for most of the 19th and 20th centuries. From 1992-2006, it finally underwent a major restoration that sought to return it to its 1789 condition.
Below is a close-up on the wall that encloses the dugout inside the sheepfold, with a few of the local inhabitants.
Below is an old photo of the front of the Educational Farm from the beginning of the 20th century.
I’ll now move onto the buildings that surround the lake. I’ll cover them (mostly) clockwise from left to right: the Marlborough Tower, the Model/Refreshment Dairy, the former Preparation/Working Dairy, the lost Barn, the Guard House, the Dovecote/Hen House, the Games House, the Queen’s House, the Stove House, the Boudoir, and the Mill House. I’ve reposted the aerial photo below to remind you of their layout.
First up is the Marlborough Tower. The tower gets its name from a famous song, “Marlborough Goes to War”, about the death of English General John Churchill, the 1st Duke of Marlborough9. The Dauphin’s nanny, Genevieve Poitrine, often sang the song to her young charge, Louis-Joseph. As it was located on the water, the Marlborough Tower used to have a pier that was used for boats and fishing. The base of the tower, built of stone, was used to store the boats and various fishing supplies. The upper portion of the tower is made of wood, but was painted so that it resembled stone. A fishery was originally constructed in 1784 to accompany the Marlborough Tower, but it was torn down in 1785 to make room for the Model/Refreshment Dairy.
In the photo below, you can see that there is now an apiary on the garden side of the tower. A staircase leads to a lookout at the top of the tower, which was also used as an observatory. It was also possible to communicate with the main Château from here using light signals!
Below is one of John Claude Nattes’ sketches, made in 1802 during his visit to the Hameau.
Below is a historic photo of the tower. You’ll notice that the staircase is missing. It had disappeared by the end of the 19th century, but was rebuilt to match its original appearance during restoration work in 2002.
The Model/Refreshment Dairy is the next building we’ll explore. The Hameau originally contained two dairies: one in which the dairy products were actually made (variously referred to as the Preparation/Working/Cleanliness Dairy), and one in which the Queen and her guests tasted them (known as the Model/Refreshment Dairy). The latter building is the only one that survives, and is shown in the photo below to the right of the Marlborough Tower. In the 18th century, many dairies started appearing in aristocratic parks10. At the time, the consumption of milk was highly regarded and praised for its health benefits. The Queen and her companions enjoyed sampling various creams, cheeses, and butter.
Below is a sketch by Nattes showing a view of the Marlborough Tower and the Model/Refreshment Dairy that is similar to the one in the picture above (although the Model/Refreshment Dairy in the sketch is mostly obscured by trees).
Below is a close-up of the Model/Refreshment Dairy itself. It is one of only three buildings in the Hameau to feature a tiled roof; the Queen’s House and the Warming Room are the other two. All the other roofs in the Hameau were thatched. The Model/Refreshment Dairy also contains dormer windows (one of them shown below), if you recall my earlier discussion about French architectural design.
If you walk just a little bit to the right of the building as seen in the picture above, you’ll find the archway below facing the lake.
For fun, here are a few historic pictures of the Marlborough Tower and the Model/Refreshment Dairy dating from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th.
The interior of the Model/Refreshment Dairy was not open when Neil and I were there, so I’ve sourced the following photos from Wikipedia. The floor is made of blue and white marble. An arched ceiling is decorated with trompe-l’œil caissons. The walls are painted to imitate marble. There are four basins and side tables located along the walls.
A large white marble table in the centre of the room was where the Queen and her companions tasted the dairy products that were brought in from the nearby Preparation/Working Dairy. The table below is a replica of the original, made in 1811 by sculptor Pierre-Claude Boichard for Empress Marie-Louise. The decorative “L”s refer to her.
The dairy products were served to the Queen and her companions in porcelain dishes, such as the ones shown below. This porcelain service was ordered by her architect, Richard Mique, and delivered to the Hameau on November 28, 1786. The service contained 78 pieces in total, including: 48 milk terrines of three different sizes (12 of the 1st size, 24 of the 2nd, and 12 of the 3rd); 6 cheesemongers and trays; 6 cups and saucers; 2 round butter dishes; 8 jugs; 6 plates; and 2 butter bats. The service was made by a porcelain factory located on the Rue Thiroux in Paris, in the district of Chaussée-d’Antin. The manufacture was under Marie Antoinette’s patronage, even though it was in competition with the royal porcelain factory of Sèvres. The porcelain dishes were auctioned off during the French Revolution. 44 pieces were sold to a man listed as “Citizen Berton the Elder” on November 17, 1793 (27 Brumaire Year II in the revolutionary calendar). Six milk terrines are known to survive today.
Three milk terrines (all of the second size) have returned to the collections at Versailles. Two of those three milk terrines were gifted to Versailles in 1999 by the Society of Friends of Versailles. Since those terrines are identical, there is only one picture of them available on the Versailles Collections’ website (shown below). You can see that the dishes feature a simple yet playful floral pattern typical of the country spirit that the Queen cultivated at the Petit Trianon and the Hameau de la Reine. The terrines each contain a milk-spout.
A third terrine, shown below, was reacquired by Versailles in 2010 during a public sale.
A fourth milk terrine, shown below, sold for €96,750 at a Sotheby’s auction in 2012. This terrine was one of the 12 made in the first size.
The terrines are marked by a letter A, crowned in red, in reference to Marie Antoinette.
The next two buildings in the Hameau would have been the Preparation/Working Dairy and the Barn. As previously mentioned, their condition was considered too poor to be saved when Napoleon took on the project of restoring the Hameau. They were both demolished in 1810, with only their foundations remaining. Those of the Preparation/Working Dairy are shown below.
The Preparation/Working Dairy was originally built in 1783 for a different purpose. It contained two rooms with a fireplace in each, and was known as the Bake House. The dairy products were probably made at the Educational Farm. In 1785, the Bake House was transformed into the Preparation/Working Dairy. The building was outfitted with the equipment necessary for processing dairy products. One of the fireplaces was removed and replaced by an alcove that contained a stone trough, which was supplied with running water from a tap in the wall—a real novelty at the time! The water was stored in a tank in the attic, and filled by a lead conduit that brought water from 140 metres (460 feet) away. In 1785, records indicate that a tinsmith delivered several utensils to the Preparation/Working Dairy: two small pitchers for the milk, a measuring cup, three spoons for skimming, a butter syringe with three different nozzle patterns, and a tub with three compartments that held ice brought over from the icehouses of Trianon. The ice was used to keep the dairy products fresh. The centre of the main room held a stone table flanked by two side tables. Other tables were set around the walls.
A series of small rubble walls, shown in the picture below, indicate the former location of the demolished Barn. The Barn stood between the Preparation/Working Dairy and the Dovecoat/Hen House. The barn was originally used to store hay and grain; it also contained living quarters for the Hameau’s head gardener, Monsieur Bréval, who was responsible for all of the vegetable gardens. However, the Barn’s distance from the Educational Farm meant that it was not entirely useful. In 1786, a new barn was built within the complex of the Farm itself. Although the gardener retained his residence, the rest of the Barn was transformed in 1787 into a rustic ballroom. It may have occasionally been used for dances, although there are sadly no details to be found about any of them.
The only image I could dig up of the Barn is the sketch done by Nattes in 1802, shown below. I have not yet been able to find any of the Preparation/Working Dairy.
The next building, happily still standing, is the Dovecote/Hen House (known in French as “the Colombier”). It was home to several pairs of pigeons, laying hens, roosters, and chickens chosen especially by the Queen. The ground floor served as a hen house and aviary, while the top floor was the dovecote. Like each building in the hamlet, the Dovecote/Hen House had its own vegetable garden.
A sketch by Nattes, below, shows a similar view as the one in the picture above.
The Guard House was where Marie Antoinette’s head of security, Swiss guardsman Jean Bersey, lived with his family. The Guard House was fit with an underground passageway, which allowed him to patrol discreetly. There was an increased need for security towards the end of the Queen’s reign, when Marie Antoinette’s popularity was at its lowest.
Below are a couple of sketches by Nattes of the Guard House.
The Queen’s House is located in the centre of the Hameau. This structure actually consists of two separate cottages, the Games House on the left (north) and the Queen’s House on the right (south), connected by a covered walkway. These combined buildings are often considered to be one structure, referred to collectively as the Queen’s House, which can be a little confusing. I’m trying my best to number them and refer to them separately, which is a little contrary to common practice.
The photo below shows a closer view of the Games House on the left (north), and the Queen’s House on the right (south). A covered walkway, filled with potted flowers, connects them.
The Games House, also known as the Billiards House, consists of two floors. The bottom floor contained the billiards room and the top floor contained a small apartment, which may have been occupied by architect Richard Mique. The apartment consisted of five rooms, including a library.
The Queen’s House also has two floors. The ground floor contained a dining room and a small salon for playing backgammon. The top floor contained a large living room, a small living room, and an antechamber known as “the Chinese cabinet.”
As previously mentioned, the interior decoration of the cottage was updated by Napoleon and Empress Marie-Louise to reflect current tastes when the Hameau was restored from 1810-1812. Restoration work on the Queen’s House has focused on maintaining the look it acquired during this period. Below are a few before-and-after photos of the restoration.
The dining room of the Queen’s House, taken prior to the start of the restoration work in 2015. Its deteriorating state meant that the Queen’s House had been closed to the public since 1848!
A picture of the backgammon room taken after restoration work was completed is shown below. The yellow silk hangings on display are copies made in 1957-1958 of the 1811 originals. The replacements have been on display since the middle of the 20th century, while the originals have been carefully stored away.
For fun, here are some historic images of the Queen’s House, arranged in chronological order. The first is one of Nattes’ sketches.
The Stove House, also known as the Warming or Reheating House (Réchauffoir in French), was used by servants to prepare meals for the Queen and her companions while they were in the Hameau. It was originally intended to be a place where food was reheated after being brought over from the main kitchens of Versailles (hence the name). However, it soon included the facilities necessary to actually prepare the meals themselves including a large stove, a bread oven, a pantry, and an adequate service of dishes, porcelain, and silverware.
The next cottage we have to explore is the Boudoir. It was originally nicknamed “the little Queen’s House.” It is the smallest cottage in the Hameau, and is where Marie Antoinette would spend time with only one or two companions at a time, including rumoured Swedish lover, Count Axel von Fersen the Younger, who tried to help Marie Antoinette and her family escape to Varennes in June 1791. The Boudoir was not open when Neil and I visited, nor was it part of the major restoration work from 2015-2018. I haven’t been able to find any pictures of the interior. The intimate space is said to have had a white marble fireplace, wooden floors, and the walls alternated between being decorated with mirrors or tapestries. The windows are made of Bohemian glass.
Below is a sketch made of the Boudoir by Nattes, looking a little overgrown.
Below is a historic photo of the Boudoir.
The last cottage we have to explore is the Mill House. It is the most picturesque building in the Hameau, and all of its four sides have a slightly different appearance. Below is a distant view of its front (north) and side (east) façades taken while standing at the Queen’s House. A small creek runs along the front of the Mill House and the flow of the water was once slowly used to turn the water wheel, but never with enough force to grind grain. The wheel currently in place is the seventh installed since its original construction; it is now turned by an electric motor.
The ground floor of the Mill House contained a salon, and the top floor was used as a small dining room. Both of them had a marble fireplace and were panelled in fake mahogany wood. In the picture below, you can see that to the right (west) of the main house there was a small detached structure build on stilts overtop of the creek. This served as a small cabinet room. It is accessed from the top floor of the Mill House using a footbridge. To the left (east) of the building is a beautiful pergola and spiral staircase, both decorated with potted flowers.
A washhouse was also built on the west side of the main cottage, located at the edge of the small stream that fed the decorative water wheel.
Below is a picture of the west-side façade of the Mill House, taken further towards the back of the Mill House.
A few gardens are located behind and around the Mill House.
A closer view of the cottage and one of its gardens.
A few pictures of the other gardens follow.
Below are a couple of sketches of the Mill House by Nattes.
Below are a couple of historic photographs of the Mill House.
Thank you for reading my post on the Hameau de la Reine! Although there were many wonderful things to see at Versailles (as my other posts can readily attest), this was really the highlight for me. I hope that one day you’ll get the chance to visit it as well. I have two more posts forthcoming on my Versailles series, in which I’ll be discussing the Grand Trianon (one covers its history, one tours the residence).
1 The lawn at the Petit Trianon is only cut twice a year. This allows it to have a more natural look and feel.
² It is certainly ironic in some cases that these model farms and picturesque villages were being built on these aristocratic properties as, in previous years, the expansion of these grounds meant that actual farms and medieval villages were relocated and/or destroyed in order to enhance their aesthetic value. Get rid of the real thing and then, a generation or two later, build a fake, but cuter, version of it! The Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon are actually named after a medieval village that Louis XIV had relocated in 1668, when he embarked on his ambitious rebuilding project at Versailles. He had the Grand Trianon built on the location of the former village for which it was named. And then, 115 years later, the Hameau de la Reine was built within its grounds by Marie Antoinette.
3 In her memoirs, French painter Elisabeth-Louise Vigée-Lebrun (an official court painter of Marie Antoinette) commented of the Moulin Joly: “Ah! I would have loved, dear friend, to walk with you in the woods of Moulin Joly! This is one of those places we do not forget: so beautiful! so varied! picturesque, Elyos, wild, delightful at last. Imagine a large island, covered with woods, gardens, orchards, which the Seine cut through the middle. We passed from one side to the other on a deck of boats, garnished on both sides by crates full of flowers, which were renewed every season, and benches, placed at a distance from each other, allowed you to enjoy for a long time with a perfumed air, and admirable points of view; from a distance, this bridge, which was repeated in the water, produced an effect. High trees, very vigorous, bordered the river on the right; to the left, the bank was covered with enormous poplars and great weeping willows, whose soft-green branches were falling into cradles; one of these willows, among others, formed an enormous vault, beneath which we rested, we dreamed with delight. I can not tell you how happy I felt in this beautiful place, to which I did not see anything comparable.”
4 The garden and ferme ornée at Ermenonville was planned in 1762 by a close friend and patron of Romantic writer and philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Marquis René Louis de Girardin. The design drew inspiration from Rousseau’s philosophy on the nobility of nature. Rousseau was invited to stay at a cottage in the garden in May 1778, and spent some time writing there before he died of kidney failure in July 1778. Rousseau’s tomb was designed by Hubert Robert, and it is located in Ermenonville. It is situated on a small island in a lake, within a grove of poplar trees. Girardin described the purpose of his garden in his book, De la composition des paysages (“On the Composition of Landscapes”), published in 1777: “If you wish to have true joy, you must always search for the simplest ways and find amusements which conform to nature, because those pleasures are the only ones that are true and lasting.”
5 The most popular myth being that, when Marie Antoinette was told the French people were suffering due to widespread bread shortages, she replied: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!”/“Let them eat cake!” (Brioche was a luxury bread enriched with butter and eggs). This phrase first surfaced in book 6 of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s autobiography, Confessions, which he wrote in 1765. Marie Antoinette would have only been nine years old at the time of his writing, and not yet Dauphine of France. The passage reads: “I remembered the last resort of a great princess who, when told that the peasants had no bread, replied: ‘Then let them eat brioches.’” Rousseau does not name the princess, and it’s possible the anecdote was made up as his autobiography is not strictly factual. So which came first, a “great princess” saying this phrase and Rousseau later coming to know of and repeating it? Or Rousseau coming up with this phrase and it later being attributed to one? Other candidates have been put forward as possible sources for this expression including Marie Antoinette’s mother, Maria-Theresa; two of Louis XV’s daughters, Madame Sophie and Madame Victoire; and even Louis XIV’s wife Maria-Theresa of Spain. Contemporary accounts from French revolutionaries did not attribute this quote to Marie Antoinette, and they would have certainly been happy to do so if she had said it as there was a lot of negative propaganda being spread about the Queen. In my fourth post on the history of the Château de Versailles, I mentioned that one of Louis XVI’s ministers, Joseph-François Foullon de Doué, was merely rumoured to have said something like “let them eat hay” and an angry mob cut off his head and stuffed it with hay. You can bet that if Marie Antoinette had said something similar, the French revolutionaries would have had a reaction; Marie Antoinette was the most hated person in France at the time. The quote’s first attribution to Marie Antoinette did not come until March 1843 by French writer Alphonse Karr in March 1843, 54 years after the alleged incident in 1789 (and Karr was born in 1808, almost 20 years later).
6 Marie Antoinette did have her private Queen’s Theatre at the Petit Trianon, upon whose stage she did perform as characters that were shepherdesses, village maidens, and chambermaids. But this was done more as a serious artistic pursuit rather than as a cruel activity through which to mock the lower-classes.
7 As a woman and a foreigner of Austrian birth, Marie Antoinette’s image was also darkened by contemporary sexist and xenophobic attitudes. For generations, the French had viewed Austria as their enemy. The new alliance with Austria, which was cemented by the marriage between Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, had resulted in France’s humiliating defeat by the English in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). Consequently, the French public had soured on this French-Austrian alliance and Marie Antoinette would bear the brunt of that animosity. Many anti-monarchists also blamed Marie Antoinette (incorrectly) for single-handedly driving France’s economy into ruin, calling her “Madame Déficit”, conveniently forgetting that their country had engaged in generations of costly wars—including the financing of the American War of Independence.
8 The Grand Duchy of Mecklenberg-Schwerin was a territory in northern Germany. Hélène of Mecklenberg-Schwerin, the Duchess of Orléans, daughter-in-law of Louis-Philippe I, introduced the German custom of decorating a Christmas tree to France in 1840.
9 General John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, lived from 1650-1722. He and his wife, Sarah Jennings Churchill, are ancestors of Sir Winston Churchill. He is remembered as one of Europe’s great Generals. He was in command of the Allied forces of Britain, the Holy Roman Empire, Prussia, Austria, and Denmark at the Battle of Malplaquet on September 11, 1709, facing off against the French army of Louis XIV. This battle was part of the War of Spanish Succession: Louis XIV’s grandson had been crowned King of Spain after the childless Charles II (a Hapsburg) died in November 1700, and the other European powers did not agree with France controlling that much power and territory (especially other Hapsburg rulers of the Holy Roman Empire). Although the Battle of Malplaquet was determined to be an Allied victory as the French withdrew, leaving Marlborough’s army in possession of the battlefield, the Allied forces numbered twice as many casualties and losses as the French (24,263 versus 12,500). A rumour that Marlborough had died inspired the writing of the folk song, “Marlborough Goes to War” (also known as “The Death and Burial of the Invincible Marlborough”). The lyrics portray Marlborough’s wife waiting for her husband to return from battle and being given the news of his death, while a nightingale sings over his grave. Sarah Churchill had a close relationship with Queen Anne of Britain (their relationship was fictionalized in the recent Hollywood movie, The Favourite, starring Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman). Of course, Marlborough was not actually killed in 1709, and later died in June 1722 following a stroke. In the 1780s, “Marlborough Goes to War” became immensely popular thanks to French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais, who referenced it in his play “The Marriage of Figaro.”
10 Catherine de Medici had a model dairy installed at Fontainebleau as early as 1560, and the trend continued to gain in popularity from there. Louis XVI also had one built for Marie Antoinette at the Château de Rambouillet. Even Josephine Baker had her own dairy in France as late as the early 1950s.
The Petit Trianon is a small château located on the grounds of the Château de Versailles, about 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) northwest of the main residence. It was built during the reign of Louis XV so that he could spend time with his mistress, Jean-Antoinette Poisson, the Marquise de Pompadour, away from the scrutiny of the royal court. It was designed by architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel to be a private, intimate royal residence. Construction took place from 1762-1768.
The image from Google Maps below shows the location of the Petit Trianon in relation to the Château de Versailles.
Below is an aerial view looking northeast over the Petit Trianon, its surrounding gardens, and two small pavilions. The building in the foreground is the French Pavilion, set within the French Gardens. The Petit Trianon is the square building that lies behind it. In the distance beyond the Petit Trianon is the Temple of Love. I’ll cover the French Pavilion and the Temple of Love later in this post.
The Petit Trianon was built within the grounds of the Grand Trianon on the site of a former botanical garden. The Petit Trianon is a celebrated example of the transition that occurred in the mid-18th century between the architectural design styles of Rococo and Neoclassicism. The first half of the 18th century had seen buildings dominated by the theatricality and heavy ornamentation characteristic of the Rococo/late Baroque style. However, the exciting archaeological discoveries of Herculaneum in 1738 and Pompeii in 1748, along with their corresponding treasure troves of Roman antiquities, led to a popular shift in the 1760s to a more sober and refined classical Greek building design.
The Great Hall in the Nymphenburg Palace in Munich provides a great example of Rococo/late Baroque ornamentation. As beautiful as it is, people were beginning to tire of this style around the middle of the 18th century.
Below is an aerial view of the Petit Trianon, which was one of the first Neoclassical buildings erected in France. Symmetry and simplicity are core principles of Neoclassical design. The Petit Trianon demonstrates this with its cubic form, flat roof, pure lines, and minimal decoration. What was (thousands of years) old (and forgotten) became new (and fresh) again.
Below is an illustration showing the excavation of the Temple of Isis at Pompeii in 1764.
The Petit Trianon has three floors. The ground floor contains service rooms where guards, kitchen staff, and servants carried out their duties. The next level up was the main floor, and is the one where the noble occupants of the Petit Trianon spent most of their time. It consists of the dining room, reception rooms, and several private rooms including a bedroom, dressing room, bathroom, and boudoir used by Marie Antoinette. A mezzanine on this level also contains several rooms including the Queen’s Library, a bathroom, and a private room used by the Princess de Lamballe, Marie-Antoinette’s First-Lady-in-Waiting. The top floor, known as the Attic, contained several bedrooms and small salons that were used by other members of the royal entourage. We’ll go on a tour of some of these rooms later in this post.
The Petit Trianon has four façades, with each one differing slightly based on the side of the estate that it faces. There is also a difference in height between the four façades, as the Petit Trianon is built on a slope. The south and east facing façades have all three of their levels located above-ground, as they are located at the lower end of the slope. The north and west facing façades only have two of their levels above-ground as they are located at the top of the slope; the lowest level is built into the slope. Each above-ground level contains five windows per floor.
Below is a cross-section showing the three floors of the Petit Trianon. Section C-D at the top of the page represents the south and east-facing façades, Section A-B below is the north and west.
The west façade of the Petit Trianon is the one with the most detail. It overlooks the formal French gardens, the French Pavilion, and the area once occupied by Louis XV’s greenhouses. This is the side of the Petit Trianon that also faces the direction of the Grand Trianon. This façade features four Corinthian columns that project outward from the wall, supporting a small rooftop terrace that also extends from the building. It also has only two levels located completely above-ground.
The east façade, in contrast to its western counterpart, is the one that is the most restrained. It once overlooked the botanical gardens. The Temple of Love can be seen from within its windows. The façade is bare of external decoration, and no part of it projects outward from the main building. All three of its levels are located above-ground.
The north façade has a central section, adorned simply with four pilasters, that projects slightly outward from the building. It overlooks the flower garden and, in the distance, the small lake that the Bélvèdere Pavilion is situated beside. As it is built into the slope, this façade only has two levels above-ground.
The south façade is similar to its northern counterpart, with four pilasters and a central section that projects slightly with three central bay windows. It overlooks the courtyard, and all three of its levels are above-ground. This side of the Trianon faces the direction in which the main residence of the Château de Versailles is situated.
The south façade from outside the courtyard gate.
Sadly, Madame de Pompadour passed away in 1764, four years before construction on the Petit Trianon was completed. Her successor, Jeanne Bécu, the Comtesse du Barry, would occupy the château in her stead. Louis XV granted her the use of several apartments on the main floor, while he resided in the attic. It was while spending time with Madame du Barry at the Petit Trianon in April 1774 that Louis XV became ill with smallpox. He was moved back to the main residence of Versailles where he died a few days later on May 10.
Below is a portrait of Madame de Pompadour that can be found in the Petit Trianon. She is wearing a cream muslin dress adorned with blue satin knots. Madame de Pompadour had a passion for flowers which, as you’ll see, is echoed throughout the interior decoration of the small château that was built with her taste in mind. Her flower basket is full of carnations, roses, and lily-of-the-valley. She holds a sprig of jasmine, which was a symbol of amiability.
Louis XV was succeeded by his grandson, Louis XVI, in May 1774. Two weeks after Louis XVI’s ascension to the throne, he gifted the Petit Trianon to its most famous occupant: his wife, Marie Antoinette. He reportedly told her, “Madame, since you like flowers, I wish to offer you a bouquet in the shape of Trianon.” It was the first time in history that a French Queen owned a property of her own.
The Petit Trianon’s current resident, Madame du Barry, was no longer welcome at Versailles. Marie Antoinette had never been a fan of Louis XVI’s mistress, and so she had Madame du Barry exiled to a convent. After two years had passed, Madame du Barry was allowed to move into her beloved Château de Louveciennes. She resided there for nearly twenty years, living a relatively peaceful life, until the French Revolution came for her head in 1793.
Marie Antoinette used the Petit Trianon as a very exclusive, private domain; even the King wasn’t allowed there without her permission (he often dined, but never slept there). Only her children and members of her inner circle were welcome, including Princess Marie-Louise Thérèse of Savoy-Carignan, known as the Princess de Lamballe, and Gabrielle de Polastron, the Duchess de Polignac. The Petit Trianon was where Marie Antoinette could escape the formality of court life at Versailles where she was subject to considerable pressure and intense scrutiny. Marie Antoinette made extensive changes to the interior of the small château and its grounds. She replaced Louis XV’s botanical gardens with Anglo-Oriental gardens, which were more fashionable at the time. She also added a theatre, commissioned several garden follies, and had a farming hamlet built from 1783-1786 (I’ll write a more extensive blog post on the Hameau de la Reine, as it was actually my favourite part of Versailles).
At the Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette could shake off the burden of her royal responsibilities. She painted, starred in her own plays, and dressed in outfits that were so casual they were considered scandalous. However, the time Marie Antoinette spent privately at the Petit Trianon did not sit well with the nobility. They were accustomed to the previous levels of access to the sovereign that had been established by Louis XIV and Louis XV. By excluding them from her constant presence, Marie Antoinette alienated them. Their resentment began to fester, and malicious gossip about what the Queen was “really up to at Trianon” began to circulate. Tales of the Queen’s sordid affairs and immoral sexual escapades were spread, damaging her reputation. They would later contribute greatly to her downfall.
Below is a portrait1 of Marie Antoinette that can be seen at the Petit Trianon.
It was while she was in the gardens of the Petit Trianon on October 5, 1789 that Marie Antoinette was informed of the imminent arrival of an armed, hostile crowd—these were the protestors taking part in the Women’s March on Versailles. The next day, October 6, she was forced to leave Versailles for Paris with her husband and children. They would never see Versailles, or the Petit Trianon, again.
During the French Revolution the Château de Versailles, its grounds, and its associated residences (including the Petit Trianon) were declared national property. When the monarchy was overthrown in July 1792, it was decided that all of the furniture, mirrors, bronzes, art works, and other valuables at Versailles would be sold off with the exception of those items deemed to have historic or artistic value. The Petit Trianon’s furnishings were auctioned off between August 25, 1793 and August 11, 1794. All of its royal images were burned. In 1796, the Petit Trianon and its grounds were leased to an innkeeper and lemonade seller by the name of Charles Langlois, who turned it into a hotel and restaurant. Refreshments were served in the French gardens, and there was dancing every Décadi (the day of rest that marked the end of the 10-day week in the revolutionary calendar) in the French Pavilion. Squatters moved into the cottages in the Hameau de la Reine. These activities were all hard on the property and, by 1801, the Petit Trianon was in rough shape. Thankfully, a saviour would soon be at hand.
Napoleon’s coronation as Emperor of France took place on December 2, 1804. He had Versailles designated as an imperial palace, although he never lived there. Instead, he mostly resided in the Tuileries Palace in central Paris, and moved between several official residences located throughout France (such as the Château de Fontainebleau). Napoleon first went to Versailles in March 1805. Instead of having apartments set up for him in the main residence, he chose to settle in the Grand Trianon instead. He immediately set about having the grounds and the châteaux of both the Grand and Petit Trianon restored to their former glory. He would come to use the Grand Trianon as a summer residence, and invited his sister Pauline Borghèse to do the same with the Petit Trianon. At first, he did not bother himself with the Hameau de la Reine, but did throw out the people who were living there illegally.
On June 10, 1810, Napoleon brought his second wife, the Empress Marie-Louise, to Versailles. They returned at the beginning of August and stayed there for a few days, with Marie-Louise spending her time in the Petit Trianon. Interestingly, Marie-Louise was a great-niece of Marie Antoinette, as Marie-Louise’s grandmother was one of Marie Antoinette’s many sisters, Maria Carolina. Napoleon arranged to have the ruins of the Hameau de la Reine fixed up for Marie-Louise, even though its condition was so pitiful that he considered having it demolished. Thankfully, only a few of the buildings were destroyed because they were beyond hope of repair; the majority of the Hameau was saved.
Napoleon and Marie-Louise hosted three separate entertainments during their summers at Versailles. On August 9, 1810, a Molière play was staged at the newly-restored Queen’s Theatre, and a big party was held the next day in the gardens. A circus, built especially for the occasion, hosted a performance of the Franconi brothers, Laurent and Henri. In July 1811, a gondola once more cruised the Grand Canal, this time with Napoleon and Marie-Louise on board. On August 25, 1811 the imperial couple hosted a grand party, “the Feast of the Empress”, which was attended by hundreds of people. The châteaux were lit up by lanterns in different colours, the lakes were illuminated and filled with boats, and guests were entertained by musicians and a choir. The Trianon Theatre hosted both a play and a ballet performance. A lavish feast was served in the Grand Trianon. It was a magnificent celebration, an echo of the great entertainments that had once been staged at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV. Attendees of this party must have felt that the night had been like a fairytale.
Below is a portrait of Marie-Louise with her son, Napoleon-François-Joseph-Charles Bonaparte. He was born on March 20, 1811. The party held on August 25, 1811 at Versailles was a continuation of the celebrations for the birth of this new “King of Rome.”
Napoleon and Marie-Louise visited Versailles for the last time in March 1813, shortly after Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign. Napoleon was forced to abdicate just over a year later in April 1814, and the Bourbon monarchy was restored to power. The younger brothers of Louis XVI, Louis XVIII and Charles X, chose not to live at Versailles, which had been their former home. It would be March 1832 before another monarch, their cousin Louis-Philippe I, took an interest in Versailles. Like Napoleon, Louis-Philippe I took up residence in the Grand Trianon. His son and daughter-in-law, Ferdinand-Philippe and Hélène Louise Élisabeth, the Duke and Duchess of Orléans, settled into the attic of the Petit Trianon a few weeks after their marriage in May 1837. Louis-Philippe I then dedicated himself to the task of turning Versailles into a museum, which was inaugurated on June 10, 1837. Louis-Philippe I was later forced to abdicate during the French Revolution of 1848. This led to the rise of Napoleon III (nephew of Napoleon I), who ruled France as President from 1848-1851 and then Emperor from 1852-1870.
In 1867, Napoleon III’s wife, Empress Eugénie, converted the Petit Trianon into a museum dedicated to the memory of Marie Antoinette. Eugénie had the Petit Trianon refurnished as closely as possible to how it would have looked when Marie Antoinette lived there. To do this, she set up a commission to track down the furniture, art work, and other belongings of Marie Antoinette that had been sold off during the French Revolution. She also restored the gardens surrounding the Petit Trianon and the small pavilions located within them.
Below are a few early photographs of the Petit Trianon from the mid- to late-19th century.
With the history covered, let’s now go for a tour of the Petit Trianon! By the time Neil and I reached it, we were starting to feel a little burned out. I will admit that I only took pictures in a few of the rooms and so this tour will not be as comprehensive as it could be. In any case, only the rooms on the second floor have been restored and I believe the third floor was closed entirely.
The first thing you’ll notice upon entering the Petit Trianon is the Grand Staircase. It is the largest room in the residence. The floor is made of white and green marble.
A beautiful iron and gold banister decorates the stairwell.
A closer-look at the banister shows a cursive letter M, for Marie Antoinette. This stairwell originally contained the initials of Louis XV, but these were later replaced.
The ground floor, as previously mentioned, contains service rooms where guards, kitchen staff, and servants carried out their duties. I have photographs from three of the rooms on this level: the Chapel Gallery, the Warming Kitchen/Reheating Room, and the Billiards Room.