Hameau de la Reine

Easily our favorite stop in the grounds of the Trianon was the Hameau de la Reine, or Queen’s Hamlet, constructed on the order of Queen Marie Antoinette. Despite centuries of slander, Marie Antoinette was not a clueless ditz who pretended to be a peasant girl in her Barbie hovel playset.

In reality, the Queen’s Hamlet was a working farm with real employees who grew produce that was served in palace dining rooms. It also was not the first of such rustic villages built; another one at Chantilly, a nearby chateau, was constructed earlier. The construction of idealized agrarian villages by the wealthy was part of a larger trend in the Enlightenment, particularly espoused by Jean Jacques Rousseau that focused on “real” nature as opposed to the carefully manicured landscapes of French and Italian gardens. The main building, which can be seen in the above and below photos, still had all the comforts that an aristocrat expected in the interior.

But I think it is obvious to the viewer the influence of the rustic, seemingly random but yet highly contrived nature of the design of the hamlet. The art of Nicholas Poussin and Claude Lorraine and the creation of French landscape paintings also play an important role; in fact, looking out over these views one could image reality has jumped off their canvases. Hubert Robert, whose works are in the Saint Louis Art Museum, helped design some of the hamlet.

The Marlborough Tower below surely served as a bellevue or belvedere for the grounds and for looking out over the lake.

As the weather was wont to do, a quick rain shower had swept in while we visited.

Other buildings served as residences for the farmers who actually worked on the property; there was also a guardhouse for a Swiss soldier and his family who watched the queen.

An emphasis on natural-looking gardens that spill out of their planters dominate the pathways.

There are certainly some contrivances; the mill is merely ornamental and does not have any internal machinery to produce any product.

There were originally two dairy barns, but one was severely damaged during the French Revolution and demolished later.

The remaining barn is still functional and is used to maintain the herds of sheep, pigs and donkeys that still graze in the original farm fields around the hamlet.

Photo by Regina Pirrie

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