The Hameau de Marie Antoinette in Versailles!!!

This is hugely gratifying to update in my blog. Many memories of walking by it , after a round of jogging in the gardens of the Domaine of Versailles! Many family trips living not far from it! And this is my beloved Versailles, a city I lived for 9 years!!  I have to give you a full description  and even then condense of this wonderful facility which is a must to visit while in my belle France. Let me bring you in to the Hameau de Marie Antoinette in Versailles!!!

The Hameau de la Reine ( hamlet of the Queen)  was born from the imagination of Marie-Antoinette. Bored by the Versailles court, she wanted to build a farm by bringing animals and peasants not far from the Palace of Versailles, to teach nature to her children. But this secret garden will finally be destined for walks and sumptuous receptions, to which she invites her loved ones. Of the vine, a farmhouse and its farmyard, cottages, and a mill surround an artificial lake.  If the exterior looks rustic and simple, the interior is glitzy. To reproduce the atmosphere faithfully, some rooms have been refurnished and beautifully renovated. The royal prestige is found in the decoration of the Maison de Marie-Antoinette, with its golden lanterns with fine gold which are now electrified.  The hamlet of the Queen is a dependency of the Petit Trianon located in the park of the Palace/Museum  of Versailles;  this hamlet of pleasure was commissioned during the winter of 1782 – 1783 by Queen Marie Antoinette  with the nostalgia for a more rustic life, in a decor of nature inspired by the writings of Rousseau, a small paradise where the theater and the feast would make her forget her  condition as Queen. This rural place, which was also a farm, marked the influence of the ideas of the physiocrats and philosophers of the Enlightenment of the aristocracy of the time.

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The construction was entrusted to the architect Richard  Miqué on the inspiration of the hamlet of Chantilly and the drawings of the painter Hubert Robert. This fashion was a reflection of the Rousseau cult for simple rural life and the reminder of the ancestral virtues.  Launched during the summer of 1783 by the Queen, construction began with rustic houses. King Louis XVI had given, in order to establish the hamlet, a plot located to the northeast of the English garden, between the allée de  Saint-Antoine  (my entry point best to the domaine) and the  Allée de Rendez-vous and the Bois des Onze Arpents forest. To the northeast of this small wood was the hamlet of Saint-Antoine-du-Buisson, whose church depended on the parish of Chesnay (nearby town and my boys school!). The main work was completed in 1786.  Around an artificial pond for carp and pike fishing, it was erected twelve wood-framed cottages, of Norman or Flemish inspiration, in the northern part of the gardens, on the outskirts of the Petit Trianon and in the extension of the English garden.  A farm to produce milk and eggs for the Queen, a tower as a lighthouse, a dovecote, a boudoir, a barn, a mill, a house for the guard were thus built, each building being embellished with a vegetable garden, an orchard or a flower garden.

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The most important of these houses is the Maison de la Reine (House of the Queen) in the center of the hamlet, which divides a river crossed by a small stone bridge. The beds were planted with Milan sprouts, cauliflowers, artichokes, black beans, peas, strawberry, raspberries, gooseberry, plums, pears, cherry , peaches, apricot and walnut trees. More than a thousand vegetables were planted in the garden. The lake was also populated by 27 Pikes and   2K carps. The Queen had hoped that in the spring of 1787 all the houses would be filled with flowers. During the winter they were busily cultivated in greenhouses specially fitted for the occasion. And by the end of the summer, bunches of grapes were hanging from the pergolas. It was found that the flow of the basins, and in particular the clover, was insufficient to feed the lake and the streams. It was then necessary to work to bring the water from the plain of Les Chesnay, going up to the stream of Chèvreloup. The work, begun in 1784, was extended until 1789, with some 20 workers working daily to dig wells and aqueducts.  During one of his visits to the hamlet, King Louis XVI decided to create a triumphal arch at the entrance to the estate, at the edge of the Bois des Onze Arpents, at the north end of the Allée de Saint-Antoine; The construction of this new Porte Saint-Antoine (my entry gate to the domaine) ended in June 1787 and was ornated with a lion’s body, emblem of the King.The place is completely enclosed by grates and ditches; It enters from the Trianon either by a covered and sinuous road, which allows  to discover with surprise the smallest houses, either by the edge of the Bois des Onze Arpents  and a meadow with light slopes forming tiny waterfalls, which offers a plunging view on the main house and the village of Saint-Antoine.

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Despite its idyllic aspect, the hamlet is a veritable farm perfectly managed by a farmer designated by the Queen, with its vines fields, orchards and vegetable gardens that produce fruits and vegetables consumed by the Royal table. According to the Queen’s instructions, farm-reared animals came from Switzerland whose animal breeds were reputed to be the most authentic, which often gives  the name of the Swiss Hamlet. The Queen invited her guess upon her request only and many were jealous to be left out; some of the regulars were the Count of Vaudreuil, the Baron of Besenval, the Countess of Polignac with her daughter Aglaë de Guiche and her sister-in-law Diane, and the Count of Esterhazy . The Prince of Ligne does not missed an opportunity to visit the hamlet or, at the very least, to keep abreast of the news of the palace.  The Queen appreciates the company of her sister-in-law, Madame Elisabeth, (see post) and the Princess of Chimay. Madame Campan, first maid, and Countess of Ossun, Lady of D-Atous, accompany the Queen on all occasions ; the children also benefit from this relative simplicity: even Madame Royale, judged by her mother (Marie Antoinette)  too imbued of her rank, is sent to pick up with the other children of the hamlet the eggs of the hen house, in a nice basket . It is rare that King Louis XVI goes to the hamlet, the freedom of tone is therefore only easier: the meals are lighter and simpler than at the palace, and you have fun during only a few steps away, in an empty castle of any courtyard animation, the nobility maintains hatred and jealousies.

The Queen’s house  (Maison de la Reine) is located in the center of the hamlet. Its picturesque appearance is reinforced by the originality of its structure: a double body of non-aligned buildings and simply connected by a walkway covered with a round tower, outside staircases supported by wooden poles and roofs of various inclinations. It is the only one, with the cleansing dairy, to be covered with tiles. Its decoration is simple but elegant, far from the flamboyant luxury of the palace. It is made of two floors, comprising at the top level an antechamber in the form of a Chinese cabinet, the small living room, also called  Hall of the Nobles, and the large living room with a stretched panel of Swiss-style tapestries embroidered with wool and basketry. Of the six crossings of the room, the Queen can easily control the work of the fields and the activity of the hamlet. In the center of the room is a harpsichord on which Marie-Antoinette loves to play. The access to the floor is either by a large staircase inside, or by the round tower, stopping at half-height and followed by a footbridge and then a volley of ten steps reaching the outer gallery. On the ground floor, the building features a backgammon decorated with a chessboard and a simple white stone-paved dining room with the cut corners making way for small black squares. The chairs, in the backrest lyre in solid mahogany and garnished with green Morocco leather.

Another building is connected to the Queen’s House by a gallery of olive-green wood embellished with trellis and hundreds of pots of flowers in earthenware of St. Clement, marked in blue by the Queen’s figure, in a medallion suspended from a ribbon surrounded by Roses, which reminds the Queen of her Habsburg-Lorraine ancestry. An   eighty-foot garden  along the gallery allows you to grow flowers and grow up to the roof of climbing plants. A spiral staircase accessing it by the left is originally wrapped around a poplar present before the building. Upstairs, above the large billiards room, flanked by two wardrobes, is a small apartment, which seems to have been inhabited by the architect of the hamlet Richard Miqué and which includes five rooms including a library. Despite the rustic appearance of the facades, the furnishings and interior design are luxurious.

The boudoir was originally dubbed the Little House of the Queen. Its dimensions are modest, 4.60 m by 5.20 m; It’s moreover the smallest construction of the hamlet, of very simple construction in apparent millstone. Marie-Antoinette withdrew alone or with one or two of her relatives, in the square living room which composed most of the place, at the fireside of a white marble fireplace decorated with twigs of ivy. The walls alternate embedded mirrors and drapes of tapestry cloth, which participate in the intimacy of the place. The woodwork was originally of mahogany-colored Holland oak, but they were replaced in the Second Empire (Napoleon III). The windows are in Bohemian glass. the roof is covered in reeds. This cottage upholstered with a virgin vine is preceded by a small geometric garden, rather made up of flowerbeds than of cultures and surrounded by thickets. The small stream that runs along the boudoir marks the separation of the cottages for the Queen’s use.

The tower of Marlborough, built with the appearance of a vaguely medieval lighthouse, is originally called Tour de la Pêcherie. Of the three floors of the tower, only the hexagonal base is of verge stone, to ensure its strength.  The tower is used to store boat fishing tools  in its basement. A narrow hallway allows you to go from the dairy to this circular room. From the foot of the tower, you climb up and down a wooden oak boat painted in grey, for walks on the Great Lake or fishing for carp or pike. The upper part is painted wood of a decoration imitating the stone and serves to communicate by signals with the castle.  The name Marlborough is a reference to the lullaby Marlborough going to war, written in 1722 but brought to the use of the day in 1782 thanks to Beaumarchais and its resumption to the court by the nanny of the Dauphin, Geneviève Poitrine.  After the French revolution, the tower was one of the most damaged building.

The wind mill (Moulin) is one of the most picturesque cottages, with a pictorial charm reminiscent of the role of the painter Hubert Robert in the creation of the hamlet. The four facades of the building each have a different appearance and décor, although in harmony. The wheel driven by the brook derived from the Great Lake is only a decoration element and no mechanism or millstone was installed in this factory.  The ground floor room seems to have served a time of exhibition gallery for the first models of the hamlet. At this lounge is attached a small closet, serving as wardrobe. A small hallway provides access to a side entrance door. The square room on the first floor, four meters apart, is a small dining room or room, which is not known if it ever served. It is accessed by an outside complex of  staircase of two flights of stairs. On the front, a half-timbered cabinet is constructed as an outgrowth over the brook and is connected to the first-floor room by a walkway allowing access below.  The interior of the building received a sober but neat decoration. A tile is laid in all the rooms and the two main rooms each have a chimney in marbre. A molded cornice and painted faux mahogany wood panels complete the décor. The mill has a fenced garden in the south of hedges  and a pergola. A wash house is also attached to it, at the edge of the brook.

The réchauffoir (warming room)  is indented, about a dozen meters from the back of the Queen’s house, masked by bushy shrubs. It includes the premises necessary for the service: a large kitchen, a bakery, a lumberjack and a pantry, but also linen and silverware. The interior is made up of  stones and is illuminated by three windows. The food can be warmed up from the great common. Originally intended to be only a warming room, it actually cooks dishes intended for dinners given by the Queen in her house or at the mill. A large   furnace of twenty-two fires, painted in faux-brick decor, is surrounded by a bread oven and a roasting-pan. A closet is intended to keep the royal dishes, porcelain and silver. A two-meter-high oven keeps the dishes warm. A beech table is placed in the center of the room. Running water is provided in the yard by a tank above the preparation dairy. A small adjacent house is designed to accommodate the workers.

The tradition of planting a dairy (Laitérie) in a Royal property is old . Marie-Antoinette ends up following the trend of her time, but preferring elegance and simplicity, far from any extravagance.  Originally, there are two dairies in the Queen’s Hamlet: the Dairy of preparation, in which creams and cheeses are produced, is located north of the tower. The milk is creamed from the cow and the butter is beaten. A stone table is surrounded by consoles on which are stored tin utensils. Pasteurization is carried out in a small adjoining room. The water, which also feeds the close houses, is stored in a tank cleverly concealed in the attic This building is  from 1783, but with another destination: composed of two rooms and a cabinet, it is originally a bakery,which the furnace is leaning against the facade. The Queen comes to taste dairy products in the second dairy, named Dairy of Cleanliness, on tables of veined white marble arranged around  the room and supported by fourteen sculpted consoles. They are served in milk terrines, jugs, cups or butter in porcelain; made in the Queen’s protected manufacture, rue Thiroux in Paris. The floors are also covered with blue and white marble. In order to maintain the freshness of the room, a trickle of water flows into a central channel and four niches have been arranged with vases adorned with carved dolphins. The walls are adorned with a trompe-l’oeil decor. The dairy of cleanliness is, with the House of the Queen, the only thatched cottage to be covered with tiles, because of the fragility of the vault with painted caissons one builds even a small hangar simply equipped with two benches of stone, at the end of a wall pierced by two arches.

The farm (Ferme) of Marie-Antoinette is created, slightly away from the hamlet, to be a real exploitation. The various buildings that comprise it are built from 1784 to 1789, with numerous modifications during the construction: barns, a sheep barn, a pigs, hutches and a hen house.  The farmer designated by the Queen to drive the farm but also the dairy. He arrived from Touraine (Loire) with his family. Their residence, built in 1787 and composed of three bedrooms, a kitchen and a dining room, is, like all the houses of the hamlet, decorated in the rustic taste. A dairy boy and a cattleman come to assist them in the farm. In 1787, the construction of a new barn in the farm enclosure allowed the first to be transformed into a ballroom. A bridge over the ditch allows access from the rendezvous aisle, thanks to a large awning door. The farm courtyard has a water trough and a well. In the direction of the hamlet rises another portal in masonry and stones , topped by two big balls.

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Also close to the lake, the House of the dovecote (maison de colombier)  houses a dovecote, in its attic, and poultry house, on the back. The House of the Guard (Maison de la Garde),  is located on the edge of the estate. The house is in the center of a cultivated enclosure, made up of small plots. During the creation of the hamlet, a barn is built between the preparation dairy and the dovecote, and shows the Queen’s desire to be close to the peasant life.  On the other side of the barn is the two-window bedroom, which is accessed by a staircase of about fifteen steps overlooking a bin garnished with pots of flowers. Above it is a small attic used to preserve the seeds. The whole is covered with a very complex roof, straw, reed or even tiles, alternating the right and nested pans, which gives its charm to the building. The garden of the barn has the peculiarity of being completely enclosed of hedges and gates. It is accessed   by three main entrances. A wide right path to the West is covered with a cradle of climbing plants and allows to go to the farm.

Reservoirs at the back of the belvedere flow from thin, cascaded streams in the middle of a low-slope meadow: the Cascatelles, designed by Richard Miqué, to fill the great lake. This one,dug in 1785, forms, in its outlines, small bays and peninsulas. Its largest dimension does not exceed 130 meters. A first river escapes to get lost in the outer ditches. It is equipped with a small stone bridge connecting the Queen’s house to the dovecote, decorated with a cornice in modillions. Another arm flows in front of the mill, in a narrow half-meter deep groove, after feeding the wash-house .

But it is the afternoon of October 5, 1789 , summoned by a messenger of the king while she is in her cellars, she casts a last glance towards her hamlet that she will not see again.   Abandoned after the French revolution, the hamlet of the Queen was the subject of three major restoration campaigns: One led by Napoleon I from 1810 to 1812 represents the bulk of the present base. The second was achieved through the sponsorship of John Rockefeller Jr. , in the  1930’s. Finally, the hamlet was renovated from the years 1990, under the impetus of Pierre-André Lablaude, chief architect of the historical monuments, and it was opened to the public in 2006 within a space named Domaine de Marie-Antoinette. The House of the Queen as above  as well as the Billiards were reopened to the public in May 2018 after five years of restoration!!!

Some webpages to help you plan your trip to this wonderful spot in the Domaine de Versailles are:

The official Château de Versailles on the Queen’s Hamlethttps://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/estate/estate-trianon/queen-hamlet

The city of Versailles tourist office on the Domaine of Marie Antoinette: https://en.versailles-tourisme.com/visit-and-explore-versailles-the-royal-town/palace-of-versailles-visits/come-and-visit-marie-antoinette-s-estate

There you go folks, a hugely beautiful place to visit anytime and is a must while in France This is the Hameau of Marie Antoinette in Versailles ,glorious. Beautiful , wonderful, magical, and just gorgeous after all the nice restorations. Again a must.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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