The Palace of Versailles offers much more to explore than just one ornately decorated chateau. If you go, be sure to leave yourself enough time to visit the other sites on the property. One fine example is the Petit Trianon. It’s a modest little home, at least by Versailles standards.
The Petit Trianon was built between 1762 and 1768, under King Louis XV’s reign. Architect Anges-Jacques Gabriel designed the Petit Trianon in the Neoclassical style, which was popular at the time. Each of the four limestone facades are different, with Corinthian columns and other elements reflective of ancient Greek influence.
King Louis XV had the Petit Trianon built for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Unfortunately she passed away before the chateaus’ completion. Her successor, Madame du Barry inaugurated the chateau in 1769 and took up residence here. When Louis XV died, the crown transferred to his grandson, Louis XVI. In 1774, young King Louis offered the Petit Trianon to his 19-year-old wife, the one and only Marie-Antoinette.
The grand staircase is the highlight of the main entrance:
Several rooms in the chateau have beautiful green and white marble tiled floors. White and pale green colours dominate throughout the house:
Marie-Antoinette fell in love with the Petit Trianon and its extensive gardens. The little chateau allowed her to get away from the rigours of court life and live more simply. Below is a photo of the grand salon, or drawing room, where Marie Antoinette entertained her guests with games and music.
The Queen’s boudoir was an interesting room. Originally this was part of King Louis XV’s private chambers, where he would retreat to be alone with his mistress. A staircase once gave the king private access to the four floors of the house.
The landing doors had locks that could be double-locked, and the king was the only person with a copy of the key. Marie-Antoinette had the staircase demolished around 1776, as she wanted to enlarge her apartment with a boudoir next to the bedchamber.
Marie-Antoinette also had two movable mirrors added to this room. These mirrors were designed to be pulled up from the floor to cover the windows for maximum privacy. The original pulley system no longer exists. In fact, it was replaced with an electric pulley system at the end of the 20th Century. You can see those panels below, partially covering the two windows on either side of the room:
Marie-Antoinette decorated the bedchamber in 1787. It was one of the last rooms at the Petit Trianon that she decorated.
On our way toward the warming kitchen (really the food preparation room), we passed through this nifty tunnel-like passageway:
The fireplace in the warming kitchen:
The kitchen proper was originally beyond the chapel. Servants brought the food to this warming kitchen for the final touches before serving.
In 1789 the government placed the royal family under house arrest at the Tuileries Palace in Paris. After an attack on the Tuileries in 1792, the royal family moved to the Legislative Assembly. They were imprisoned in the Temple Prison later that year. Just a month later, the National Convention of France announced that it had abolished the French monarchy. The Revolutionary Tribunal convicted Marie-Antoinette of high treason, and on 16 October 1793, the Tribunal executed her by guillotine.
It was hard for me to imagine Marie-Antoinette roaming the halls of this rather modest chateau. Especially considering all the stories told about her outrageous spending habits and love of the finer things in life. Even by today’s standards, the Petit Trianon is quite stunning and elegant. Yet it seems restrained, even austere compared to the extravagance and opulence of Versailles. It’s worth seeing both homes, if only to compare the two architectural and decorative styles.
To continue your tour, read about the Queen’s Hamlet here.
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