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Versailles - Journey Through Time - Part V


On our continued journey through time at Versailles, we have learned about Louis XIII and his start to Versailles development. We danced through the first part of Louis XIV's reign, as well as the main construction of Versailles, still under Louis XIV. We have also seen some renovations and additions under Louis XV.

On today's P'Niche Time Machine Travel adventure, let's see what happened at (and to) Versailles under the reign of Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie Antoinette...


Our guy, Louis XVI, was a shy kinda fella. Much more interested in academics, global politics (more on that later), and engineering, he let his glamorous wife, Marie Antoinette, take the stately lead at the aristocratic court.

And lead she did! With dazzling balls, artist exhibitions, a never ending parade of talented musicians, operas, galas, festivals, and gambling parties, Marie Antoinette was the consummate hostess / entertainer and royal head.


Unlike the royals before them, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette made Versailles their home and showcase, seldom leaving the grounds.

With massive days of shopping, splurging, updating, renovating, etc., these royals were starting to get noticed by others - for all the wrong reasons.

What does a bashful king do when his party-time wife needs a break? He gives her Le Petit Trianon and surrounding grounds as an "escape" - naturally!

The start of Marie Antoinette's estate...


So enamored was Marie Antoinette of the area, that she took it upon herself to oversee the development of lush gardens leading up to her petit retreat.

Alleys, paths, and lines of colorfully flourishing gardens were added and maintained by the royal gardener, much to the queen's delight.


Next up, the queen had the "Temple of Love" commissioned and designed by royal architect of the time, Richard Mique.

While you were able to view the temple dome from the queen's bedroom at the Petit Trianon, once under the marble cupola, you could best view Edme Bouchardon's statue of "Cupid Fashioning his Bow from Hercules Club."

A great place for, ahem, lovers to meet?!

More on that love (?) story another day, and we hope you will subscribe to join us back here in the Parisian Niche to learn more...


When the queen really needed to relax, she'd put on her costume of milk maid cotton and head over to her Hamlet and nearby grounds, also constructed by Richard Mique.

With it's Norman inspired woodwork, working windmill, and functioning dairy, Marie Antoinette was able to unwind in the rural fashion she admired with her children, very selected guests / courtiers.


Also constructed during this time was the Queen's Theatre, and incredibly intimate venue.

Given the queen's love of the dramatic arts, it is not surprising that she commissioned this theatre to host smaller, more selective affairs, often times to launch newer artists into the royal court.

Seems a life of decadence, oui?...What could possibly go wrong?!


We should pause here to note one of the exceptional guests, who was enjoying the lavish offerings of Versailles - Monsieur Benjamin Franklin...and his treaty signed by King Louis XVI, thus sending guns, ships, troops, merchandise, and money to the US colonies for our Revolution.

While the royals spent on their own luxuries, our military expenditures (merci encore, la France!) etc., the French economy was... failing. Big Time.

When you pair overall poor economic decisions with the American Revolutionary costs, alongside the scandalous "Affair of the Necklace," (more on that later, but spoiler alert, the queen was innocent), a powder keg was set to explode.

And explode it did - we've arrived at the French Revolution and the downfall of the French monarchy.

The remaining contents of Versailles were confiscated and sold off by the French Revolutionaries for their cause. King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were *ahem* escorted away from Versailles to Paris. They suffered (rigged) trials, horrific guillotine executions, and Paris / France fell into what has come to be known as The Terror. Quel Bummer!

But, what happens to Versailles after the French Revolution / The Terror? Surely this cannot be the end of its legacy?


Of course there is another layer of golden gild to uncover in this story. Further, it goes without saying that we have only covered the very top layer of all that Versailles was (before the march of the French Revolution) and continues to be - let's call this our royal apéro as we enjoy our sumptuous studies.

We'll be back soon with more Versailles history and incredible tales.


Before our next post, you might consider picking up "Abundance" by Sena Jeter Naslund.

We covered this jewel in our book club, the Parisian Page Turners, and we were all quite impressed. The novel brings Marie Antoinette and her court to lavish life and humanity in great detail. It remains one of our highest rated reads to date.

If you want to join us, please check out the Parisian Page Turners for more details.

All are welcome!

What do you think, P'Nicher? Ready for post Revolutionary Versailles? We hope you join us in our next post and stop in the P'Niche Time Machine, "As the Palace Turns..."et à bientôt!



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