Hameau de la Reine: A Queens Playground

It’s pretty clear that Marie Antoinette was rather indulged, bless her soul. Her dresses were crafted by the mother of Haute Couture, Rose Bertin. Her hair was personally dressed by prolific hairdresser of the day, Leonard Autie. She even owned a pair of Converse trainers hundreds of years ahead of time (not historical fact – see 2006 film directed by Sophia Coppola, starring Kirsten Dunst)! Antoinette’s husband, King Louis XVI, even built her a life size village and working farm in the grounds of her private chateau, Le Petit Trianon at Versailles.

marie 1The many faces of Marie Antoinette.

Sources: en.wikipedia.org, gogmsite.net, commons.wikimedia.org

Marie Antoinette was the original ‘It Girl’. She loved to attend the opera and threw extravagant parties. Most of all, she enjoyed gambling. Like all girls, once the hangover well and truly kicked in, she needed a place to recover her senses. For Antoinette, Hameau de la Reine was her double bed with duck feather pillows. It provided her with an escape from the confines of the Palace at Versailles, and whilst the cost was most definitely extravagant, it gave her the opportunity to live a simpler life.

marie 4A small family home for Marie, her husband Louis XVI of France and their four children (oh and the entire french court!). With Marie’s every waking moment under scrutiny its no surprise she dreamed of a simpler life…

Source: zachfeador.blogspot.com

The Hameau was designed by the Queens favourite architect, Richard Mique, and was completed in 1787. It consisted of twelve cottages; five of them were for personal use of Marie Antoinette and her guests, and the other seven (including a farm, mill, dovecote and two dairies) were used for genuine agricultural functions. She employed a Swiss family to run the farm and produce cheese, milk and fresh vegetables to service the kitchens of Le Petit Trianon and the Palace of Versailles itself. Marie Antoinette spent her time at the Hameau dressed in simple muslin dresses; milking cows and sheep, collecting freshly laid eggs, boating on the lake and picking flowers; generally living the quintessential, rustic life.

marie 2Refurbished in the 1990’s, Hameau de la Reine today.

Source: www.flickriver.com

Whilst the outsides of the buildings were indeed quite rustic, the interiors were more befitting of a Queen; with furniture crafted by Georges Jacob and Jean-Henri Riesener, both famous carpenters of the day. Rumours circulated that the interiors of the Hameau buildings were encrusted with diamonds; however in 1789, a revolutionary committee visited the village and found that, contrary to popular belief, the interiors were far more modest than expected. The French population thought that the Hameau represented all that was wrong with the monarchy. In a time where the masses were starving, Hameau de la Reine represented decadence and unnecessary extravagance along with a perceived mockery of peasant life.

marie 3A simpler life for Marie and her family at Versailles.

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Sadly, after the French Revolution, the Hameau was abandoned. It has since been refurbished; Le Hameau de la Reine opened to the public in the late 1990’s, as part of the Marie Antoinette Estate, Le Chateau de Versailles. Most of the original arrangement of walls, gates, trees and plants has been reinstated to portray the privacy of the Hameau that Marie Antoinette would have known; an escape from the restrictions of Versailles, a place where she could live more freely.

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