Two recent posts on the Queen’s Hamlet at Versailles
One, at Tea at Trianon, describes Le Petit Hameau, part of Marie-Antoinette’s private realm at Trianon. The other, at Ellen and Jim Have A Blog, Too puts it in the general context of landscape architecture, in particular the bucolic retreats fashionable at the time, and 18th century women’s issues. It also references the extraordinary Madame Roland, whose Memoirs were one of my sources while writing Mistress of the Revolution. I found both posts most interesting.
If you have not been to Versailles lately, the whole complex, particularly Trianon, has undergone an extensive restoration and deserves a new visit. There the Queen, dressed in simple white linen gowns and surrounded by a tiny circle of family and intimate friends, liked to forget the staid and often hostile atmosphere of the Court.
The Hamlet thus reinforced the image of the Queen as deliberately isolated, cut off from her subjects and the realities of life. On the day of the opening of the Estates General, at the very beginning of the Revolution, the Bishop of Nancy, who was a Representative of the
Clergy, gave a sermon in Versailles to his assembled fellow Representatives. In it he chastised the rich for seeking their enjoyment, while the
poor starved, in the “childish imitation of nature.” That was a thinly veiled allusion to the Queen’s
Hamlet and its farm.
Memories of the Revolution still permeate Trianon and the Hamlet. You can sit in the little grotto that was one of Marie-Antoinette’s favorite spots. She was sitting there when she was alerted to the arrival of a menacing crowd from Paris on the 6th of October 1789. She left in haste for the main chateau. The next day, with the King and her family, she stepped into a carriage headed for the Palace of the Tuileries in Paris, never to see Versailles or Trianon again.
As I write in Mistress, “overnight the Palace of Versailles was deserted
by the living and abandoned to the ghosts of kings long dead.”
And speaking of Marie-Antoinette, I do intend to visit the Grand Palais exhibition later this week. I have read many reviews and look forward to forming my own opinion of it. Stay tuned…