When considering the reign of Louis XVI, it becomes difficult not to mention Marie Antoinette, one of the most renowned women of her day. Brought to France from Austria to be crowned Queen of France at the age of 14, she was immediately thrust into the pomp and ceremony of the French court. With courtiers watching her every move from sunrise to sundown, there was little chance to escape.
Louis XVI, taking pity on his new bride offered her the Petit Trianon as a gift and gave her full ownership over the property. Marie Antoinette soon found herself frequently at her new little getaway and spared no cost in making it her own.
Le Petit Trianon
In response to the rigid and symmetrical design of the gardens of Versailles, she immediately began work on the gardens and had them redesigned in the “English” fashion. Architect, Richard Mique, carried out a complete overhaul with meandering paths, hills, streams, and a small neo-classical Temple of Love. Marie Antoinette even commissioned him to build a complete mock farming village called the Petit Hameau (little hamlet).
A contrast to the opulence of the Chateau de Versailles, this “rustic” area was to be her personal retreat. Invitations were exclusive; not even Louis XVI frequented her new paradise. Privacy was paramount in this little haven since eating, sleeping, and all other seemingly trivial things were a public affair. However, on occasion she would invite all of her close friends over. In order to further her idea of the “simpler life”, she would even put on performances as a milkmaid in the small theatre of the Trianon, but invitations were selective.
Theatre in Le Petit Trianon
Those outside of the Queen’s circle who were spiteful would give the Petit Trianon nicknames like “Little Vienna”. A place of escape from the formalities of court life and a place to shake off the burden of her royal responsibilities, the Petit Trianon was a place of intimacy (and pleasure). Even the windows had mirrored blinds! Is it any wonder that her reign was full of rumors and accusations of scandal?