Hameau de la Reine (Versailles)

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Marie Antoinette in a straw hat and simple dress in 1783, the year construction started on the hamlet

The Hameau de la Reine (English: The Queen's Hamlet) is a group of houses and farm structures in the park of the Palace of Versailles in France. The hamlet was designed in 1783 by Richard Mique and Hubert Robert as a play space for Queen Marie Antoinette. It was here that she played the simple country girl in a straw hat and plain dress with her friends. About twelve structures form the hamlet. Some were working farm structures and some were structures for the Queen's amusement and use such as the mill. The hamlet fell into neglect after the French Revolution. Restoration was undertaken in the 1990s, and the hamlet is now open to the public.

Design and construction[change | change source]

Picturesque hamlets such as Le Hameau de la Reine were not unknown in 18th century France. The Prince de Condé had one at Chantilly and there was a village at Méréveille. The creation of these villages was influenced by the natural philosophy extolled by Rousseau and the country life genre paintings of painters Greuze, Le Nain, and Chardin. Le Hameau was designed for Queen Marie Antoinette by her favorite architect Richard Mique and the painter Hubert Robert. The painters Tolède and Dardignac painted thousands of little cracks and false half-timbering in the structures to suggest picturesque humbleness, poverty, and age. All the structures in the hamlet were more or less modelled upon similar structures in Normandy and Flanders. Construction on the hamlet started in 1783 and was completed in four or five years.

Structures at the hamlet[change | change source]

The purpose of the hamlet was to give the Queen a place to play at the simple life, far from the busy French court. The hamlet is set among meadows at the edge of a lake created by waters channeled from Marly. The structures are divided into two groups. One group was used by the Queen for her pleasure and amusement. The other group was used for farm work. The farm produced milk and eggs for the Queen. Cheeses were made in the dairy. The Queen tasted this produce in a marble room.

The structures are:

  • The Queen's House is joined by a wooden gallery to a billiard room and upstairs apartment. The Queen's house has a dining room and a games room on the first floor. The second floor has a large and a small living room, and a Chinese room.
  • The Queen's Boudoir is a living room and wardrobe for the Queen's use.
  • The Marlborough Tower (The Fishery Tower) is a lighthouse used for sending signals to the Palace of Versailles. Boating parties set off from this tower and fishing equipment was stored here.
  • The Mill was used to grind grain. It had a laundry.
  • The Kitchen and Bakery (the Warming Room) was at the rear of the Queen's House. It was used to make the Queen's meals.
  • The Dairies.
  • The Farmhouse. This was set apart from the hamlet because it was a functioning struucture, rather than a play house. 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. The dovecote and pigeon coops were near the lake. Roosters and hens of different species were brought from the west of France and settled in the aviary in 1785.
  • The Housekeeper's Cottage. This house is located at the water's edge. Its first occupant, the Swiss Jean Bersy, lived there with his family.
  • The Barn. Used as a ball room. Burned during the French Revolution, and totally destroyed in the First Empire.
  • The Temple of Love.
  • The Belvedere.

Life in the hamlet[change | change source]

The Queen loved the simple life. It was a break from the stiffness of the court. She played at being a peasant girl in the hamlet. She wore plain muslin dresses and a straw hat. She ate the produce from the farm. Only her dearest friends were allowed into the hamlet. There was a ball room (a room for holding dances) and a billiards room. She wanted her children to experience real animals and kept two cows at the hamlet, Blondie and Brownie. Both were washed and brushed before a visit from the Queen. Ducks, geese, and sheep were kept at the hamlet as well as a billygoat from Switzerland.

Decline and restoration[change | change source]

The French people believed the Queen was selfishly amusing herself at a time when France was nearing a national crisis. After the French Revolution, the hamlet was deserted and fell into neglect. Restoration was conducted in the 1990s. The Queen's Hamlet is now open to the public.

Gallery[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]

Coordinates: 48°49′07″N 2°06′46″E / 48.818747°N 2.112916°E / 48.818747; 2.112916