Hameau de la reine in Versailles
The Hameau de la Reine (, The Queen's Hamlet) is a rustic retreat in the park of the Château de Versailles built for Marie Antoinette between 1785 and 1792 near the Petit Trianon in the Yvelines, France. Designed by the Queen's favoured architect, Richard Mique and with the help of the painter Robert Hubert, it contained a meadowland with lakes and streams, a classical Temple of Love on an island with fragrant shrubs and flowers, an octagonal belvedere, with a neighbouring grotto and cascade. There are also various buildings in a rustic or vernacular style, inspired by Norman or Flemish designed, situated around an irregular pond fed by a stream that turned the mill wheel. The building scheme included a farmhouse, (the farm was to produce milk and eggs for the queen), a dairy, a dovecote, a boudoir, a barn, a mill and a tower in the form of a lighthouse. Each building is decorated with a garden, an orchard or a flower garden. The largest of these houses is the "Queen's House" at the center of the village.
The hameau is the best-known of a series of rustic garden constructions built at the time, notably the Prince of Condé's Hameau de Chantilly (1774-1775) which was the inspiration for the Versailles hameau. Such model farms operating under principles espoused by the Physiocrats, were fashionable among the French aristocracy at the time. One primary purpose of the hameau was to add to the ambiance of the Petit Trianon, giving the illusion that it was deep in the countryside rather than within the confines of Versailles. The rooms at the hameau allowed for more intimacy than the grand salons at Versailles or at the Petit Trianon.
Abandoned after the French Revolution, it was renovated in the late 1990s and is open to the public.
The garden surroundings of the Petit Trianon, of which the hameau de la Reine is an extension, began their transformation from formal pattern gardens. Under Louis XV it had been an arboretum and the new arrangements eliminated this famous botanical garden, replacing it with a more informal "natural" garden of winding paths, curving canals and lakes under the direction of Antoine Richard, gardener to the Queen. Richard Mique modified the landscape plan to provide vistas of lawn to west and north of the Petit Trianon, encircled by belts of trees. Beyond the lake to the north, the hameau was sited like a garden stage set, initially inspired in its grouping and vernacular building by Dutch and Flemish genre paintings, philosophically influenced by Rousseau's cult of "nature", and reflecting exactly contemporary picturesque garden principles set forth by Claude-Henri Watelet and by ideas of the philosophes, their "radical notions co-opted into innocent forms of pleasure and ingenious decoration" as William Adams has pointed out. Artists played a more direct role in French picturesque than they probably had done in England. as can be seen by Hubert Robert's involvement.
The twelve cottages constructed in the hamlet can be divided into two groups: five were reserved for use by the Queen; the other seven had a functional purpose and were used effectively for agriculture. Marie Antoinette had her own house, connected to the pool. Nearby was her boudoir. The mill and the dairy received frequent visits from the Queen.
Maison de la Reine et billard
The Queen's house and billiard room is located in the centre of the hamlet. Consisting of two floors, the upper level comprises the petit salon, also known as the "room of the nobles", an anteroom in the form of a "Chinese cabinet" and the large living room with wood panelling hung with tapestries of Swiss style in embroidered wool. From the room's six windows, the Queen could easily control the work fields and activity of the hamlet. Access is via the staircase of the round tower. At the center of the room is a harpsichord which Marie Antoinette loved to play. On the ground floor, paved with single slabs of stone, the building includes a backgammon room and a dining room. The lyre-backed chairs in mahogany lined with green morocco, were created by Georges Jacob. To the left, another building housing the billiard room is connected to the Queen's house by a wooden gallery decorated with trellises and twelve hundred St. Clement faience pots, marked in the blue figures of the Queen. Upstairs, a small apartment which seems to have been inhabited by the architect Richard Mique, has five rooms including a library. Despite the rustic appearance of facades, the interior finish and furnishings are luxurious and have been created by the carpenter Georges Jacob and the ébéniste Jean-Henri Riesener.
The Boudoir, (4.6 x 5.2 metres) to which Marie Antoinette retired alone, was originally nicknamed "the Queen's little house".
Tour de Marlborough
The Marlborough Tower, built in the form of a lighthouse, was initially named "Fishery Tower". The basement is used for storage.
The Mill, built and fitted from 1783 to 1788, was never used for grinding grain, contrary to what is often argued. The wheel is driven by a stream derived from the Grand Lake and is only a decorative element. No mechanism or wheel were installed in the factory. The interior decoration was simple and neat.
The warming room is recessed at the rear of the Queen's house. It has a stone interior and included a large kitchen, a bakery, a fireplace and pantry, also linen and silverware. It was used to prepare the dishes for dinners given by the Queen in the house or mill.
Initially, there were two dairies: the "Preparation Dairy" which produced creams and cheeses, is located near the tower. It was where the milk was skimmed and the butter beaten. In the second dairy, the Queen tasted the dairy products from tables of veined white marble supported by fourteen carved consoles and arranged around the room.
The farm was set slightly away from the hamlet to make it a going concern. The farmer appointed by the Queen to run the farm and dairy was Valy Bussard who arrived 14 June, 1785 from Touraine. His family joined him in December.
The dovecote and pigeon coops were near the lake. Roosters and hens of various species were brought from the west of France and settled in the aviary in 1785.
Maison du Garde
The housekeeper's residence is located at the water's edge. Its first occupant, the Swiss Jean Bersy, lived there with his family.
The barn also served as a ballroom. It was badly damaged during the French Revolution and destroyed during the First Empire.
Life at the hameau in the time of Marie Antoinette
In spite of its idyllic appearance, the hamlet was a real farm, fully managed by a farmer appointed by the Queen, with its vineyards, fields, orchards and vegetable gardens producing fruit and vegetables consumed by the royal table. Animals from Switzerland, according to the instructions of the Queen, were raised on the farm. For this reason the place was often called "the Swiss hamlet".
The Queen sought refuge in peasant life, milking cows or sheep carefully maintained and cleaned by the servants. Dressed as a peasant in a muslin dress and straw hat, a light switch in her hand, with her ladies, she used the buckets of Sevres porcelain specially decorated his arms by the Manufacture Royale. The place was completely enclosed by fences and walls, and only intimates of the Queen were allowed to access it. During the Revolution, "a misogynistic, nationalistic and class-driven polemic swirled around the hameau, which had previously seemed a harmless agglomeration of playhouses in which to act out a Boucher pastorale." The queen was accused by many of being frivolous, and found herself a target of innuendos, jealousy and gossip throughout her reign. Although for Marie Antoinette, the hameau was an escape from the regulated life of the Court at Versailles, in the eyes of French people, the queen seemed to be merely amusing herself.
- Official Versailles site
- Photos of the Hamlet
- Ancient Places TV: HD Video of The Queen's Hamlet at the Petit Trianon