Of all of France’s famous characters, Queen Marie Antoinette ranks as one of the top. Ironically, Marie Antoinette was not even French. As an Austrian princess, she was married to King Louis XVI of France. She then served as the Queen of France from 1755 to 1793.
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Marie Antoinette’s Life
During her reign as queen, Marie Antoinette became increasingly unpopular. She was put in charge of organizing the royal court’s entertainment at Versailles and did a fabulous job – too good of a job, actually, which earned her criticism. She, unfortunately, earned a reputation as a woman who spent obscene amounts of money and didn’t care about the common man. Ultimately, she would be executed during the French Revolution.
But in stark contrast to her reputation, research has shown that Marie Antoinette actually enjoyed living a private and quiet life. The greatest example of that is found in the gardens of the beautiful Palace of Versailles: the Queen’s Hamlet. The Hamlet is a model village that Marie Antoinette had built around an artificial lake with several small cottages covering the grounds.
Today, various farm animals are kept there, including goats, pigs, rabbits and more. The Hamlet is strikingly charming, and the cottages look like they are straight out of a fairy tale. History tells us that Marie Antoinette used to spend time here when she needed to get away from stressful court life, and it’s not hard to see why. The Hamlet also served as the place of primary instruction for the king and queen’s children, and so became an even more important part of their family life.
Residences of Versailles
The Queen’s Hamlet is part of the larger grounds which include the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon palaces. Both palaces were used as private residences for various kings and queens throughout the years. During the time of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, King Louis actually gifted the Petit Trianon to the Queen, to help her relax when he saw she struggled with the pressures of the court. These two residences served as a sort of refuge for monarchs – far from the public eye, it was perhaps the only place they could behave as they truly wanted.
To get a real perspective on Marie Antoinette’s life, a visit to the Trianon Palaces, and especially the Queen’s Hamlet, are a must. To access these gems, you’ll have to venture out farther into the gardens of Versailles – probably about a 30-minute walk or so from the main palace.
Golf carts and bikes are available for rent in the gardens in case you think the walk is too far. Visiting these locations in addition to the main palace most likely mean spending a full day at Versailles, but we think it’s worth it!
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