The Queen’s Hamlet, Marie Antoinette’s quaint little village and farm which is also known as the L’Hameau de la Reine, is one of the highlights of Versailles.
Why hadn’t I been here before? I’m not sure how, but in my previous visits, I had managed to miss one of the stars of Versailles. Thank heavens for our guide, Deborah Anthony from French Travel Boutique
The hamlet was created in the style of a minature Norman village. It contained the farm, twelve thatched cottages, a dovecote, mill and tower, all of which Marie Antoinette had built in 1783 by her favourite architect, Richard Mique and landscape gardener, Andre Le Notre.
She loved the simplicity of country life and wanted to indulge in it. She also wanted the farm to help create the illusion that the Petit Trianon was in the countryside.
As you walk through the gate, you do feel as though you are in the country. Goats, ducks and geese roam the grounds around the buildings whilst children gather to pet the pigs in the sty.
The buildings are beautiful in a rustic way. Left to disrepair after the revolution, they were thankfully restored in the late 1990’s. They all have a thatched roof complete with grasses growing from them and flowering window boxes. Marie Antoinette and her companions often collected the eggs and milked the cows here.
A farmer was appointed by Marie Antoinette to manage the farm, so that it’s vegetable gardens, fields, orchards and vineyards supplied produce to the palace kitchens. You pass these on your short walk to the lake and village houses.
The largest house is the “Queen’s House” at the center of the village, overlooking the lake. It is actually two buildings joined by a wooden gallery where, we are told, Marie Antoinette, dressed in white muslin, would watch over the workers.
Most of the houses in the village had their own vegetable garden surrounded by hedges.
The Marlborough Tower, next to the lake, was used as the starting point for boat rides as well as an observatory.
This truly is a fairytale village. I can’t wait to come back for another visit, maybe with a picnic lunch, and spend time surrounded by the intriguing history of Marie Antoinette’s playground.
Have you found this special corner of Versailles?
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