The Queen’s Hamlet | Versailles, France
In all probability there are three attractions in or near Paris that visitors have on their list of must-see places: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Versailles. The latter is a major undertaking for the day visitor as a week would hardly do this property justice. For that reason, we are going to look at a small section of a smaller section of this elaborate historical estate: The Queen’s Hamlet.
Situated in the area of parklands known as the the Domaine de Trianon (Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon with gardens), the Queen’s Hameau (Village) is associated with Marie-Antoinette. Consisting of ten buildings (factories), it was designed by architect Richard Mique in the 1780’s in the Jardin Anglais surrounding the Petit Trianon and modelled after the real hameau of Chantilly. This village became the Queen’s escape from the formality of the Versailles court, and consequently suffered damage during the Revolution due to its association with the unpopular Queen and the aristocracy of France. Two of the original ten buildings were destroyed and never re-built. Napoleon I restored the village for his wife, the Empress Marie-Louise, in 1810 and there have been periodic restorations ever since, the latest in 2018 (Queens House sponsored by Dior) and in 2020 (the Boudoir).
The Dovecote (Image: bbsferrari on Bigstock).
Malborough Tower and Mill (Image: Bigstock)
The Hameau and Its Factories
Besides being historically significant, this is as beautiful of an area of Versailles today as it would have appeared to the Queen centuries ago – and quite a contrast to the stateliness and grandeur of the Versailles Chateau. The village is situated around three sides of a lake with the outer appearances of the buildings typical of a rural village of the time. In some instances, the building interiors are in contrast to their exteriors being opulently decorated as befitted a Queen and her private audiences.
The main building is the Queen’s House and Billiard Room consisting of salons and parlors where the Queens would entertain select guests. It has been restored to reflect the furnishings of Empress Marie-Louise as the original furnishings were destroyed and disbursed during the Revolution. Behind the house is the Rechauffoir comprising of a kitchen, bakery, pantry, and storehouse for the dishes and linens, all needed to dine in the Queen’s House. The Boudoir, another separate building nearby, was the Queen’s private retreat in her village retreat.
The hameau was not only decorative but also a working farm with gardens and livestock. The farmer on site lived in the Farm with his family. There was a Dovecote (Le Pigeonnier) for hens, and a Dairy consisting of two buildings, the working one of which was destroyed in the revolution. The Mill (Le Moulin) looked like a real mill on the outside with working wheel propelled by water from the Grand Lake but inside, it was used as a laundry and never saw a stalk of grain.
Two other picturesque buildings stand beside the lake: the Guardhouse (La Maison du Garde) wherein lived the Queen’s bodyguard, and the Tour de Marlborough modelled after a lighthouse, circular in shape and often referred to as the Fishery Tower. The last of the ten buildings, and of the two no longer existing, was the Grange, a large barn that contained the Queen’s ballroom.
Farm and Gardens (Image: Brian K. on Bigstock)
Queen’s House (Image: Packshot on Bigstock)
As previously mentioned, the Queen’s Hamlet is only a small part of Versailles. You can purchase tickets online to tour it as part of a Grand Trianon/Petit Trianon visit, or at the ticket office for this area on site. Though somewhat pricier, it is suggested to purchase tickets with a guided tour as that is the only way to view the interior of the Queen’s House. A free option for a self-guided is to download the free app available in French, English or Spanish. It does not require internet access once downloaded. If you have the time to explore the entire Versailles estate, it is suggested one purchase the Passport ticket with guided tour as it not only will give you access to areas of Versailles not seen by having the general ticket but offers a time slot for entrance avoiding possible long lines. This attraction is particularly busy on week-ends.
Note: At time of this publication, the estate of Versailles is closed due to the pandemic except for some areas of the gardens for walking. Hopefully, it will re-open soon.
Main image, a panorama of the Queen’s Hamlet, is courtesy of Michael Mulkens on Bigstock. Article first appeared on Real Travel Experts.