Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Very French Birthday: Day 4

(I started to post this ages ago... please forgive my slowness!) The next morning we left Paris and headed to Versailles. I took this picture from the parking lot to try to give some perspective to the vastness of the palace.

Iain was none too impressed with the immensity and grandeur of Versailles, but he did admire the drainage system.

The Apollo Fountain.

I've enjoyed reading about Marie Antoinette recently, so I was very excited to see Versailles. Marie was an Austrian and she married the Dauphin at 14. Court life at Versailles was extremely formal and public, with courtiers competing for precedence. Marie had to adjust to life in front of an audience; getting dressed, undressed, waking up, eating--- even giving birth in front of the entire court.

For seven years the Dauphin refused to consummate their marriage and she was mocked as a foreigner and outsider in her own court. Marie took refuge in fashion and soon began outdoing her courtiers at their own game. She bore the brunt of French political frustration, whilst at the same time being reviled as "the Austrian". She was not flawless, but she did not deserve the treatment she received at the hands of the revolutionary mob. So it was with a sad curiosity that I wandered through the gardens and her private apartments.

After the birth of her first child, Louis XVI gave Marie her own private house in a distant corner of the gardens of Versailles. The Petit Trianon was Marie's retreat where she surrounded herself with friends and tried to escape the rigid formality of court life. There she created a small village and allowed her children to milk cows and collect eggs. She excluded courtiers and acted in plays, and tried to create what she imagined a normal life would be like.

Here is the private garden of Marie Antoinette. She held parties and suppers in the building you see in the pictures.

After exploring the gardens we headed back towards the palace-- a fair hike. Iain entertained himself with Papa's hat.
Here is the exterior of the chapel and some of the bedrooms. In it's heyday 10,000 people lived at Versailles.

Chapel interior.

Coming from the dark dining apartments into the Hall of Mirrors.

Marie Antoinette's private apartments, and the door through which she narrowly escaped the murderous mob that broke into the palace.

A portrait of Marie with her three children. Her daughter was the only member of the family to survive the Revolution.


heidi jo said...

i'm so poor at history or paying attention to it even though i find it SO interesting now - each year that i get older i guess i want to know what went before me. i have BEEN to this place and yet never heard what you have shared about it. i was too in awe of the place and forget about the story. i might have even purchased a keepsake book from the giftshop - if i did, and i will look, you have inspired me to not just look at the beautiful pictures :) but to actually read the story of the place... and perhaps i'll read about her! is there a novel-type book about her that reads in story form?

Jordan said...

I enjoyed the film Marie Antoinette starring Kirsten Dunst that was based on Antonia Fraser's biography, which I'd really like to read. I also recommend Caroline Weber's Queen of Fashion. Neither of those books are fiction, but they are very well written and not dry.

April said...

Oh, I loved hearing the story behind it too! I will have to keep that in mind if I make it to Europe. Not just to look for the architecture, but to also know the story behind it...Thank you for sharing!!!!