What do you do when you're a famous queen stifled by the restrictive pomp of your magnificent palace, the Sun-King's fantasy realm? Clearly the answer is to start up your own retreat estate. Louis XVI handed over Le Petit Trianon to Marie-Antoinette, who made it her own little home. It had originally been built 1762-1768 for Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour, but became Marie-Antoinette's getaway.
All the rooms are splendid in their own ways, but some have particular interest. In this one, the room of the sliding mirrors, Marie-Antoinette had mirrored walls created which could be pulled up from downstairs and cover up the windows, instead reflecting the room back in on itself. This really was somewhere for her to hide from the outside world. There are also dining rooms, a games room and a number of other chambers.
Marie--Antoinette's own bedroom is as flowery and intricate as you might imagine, long and thin rather than particularly expansive. Its informality is in stark contrast to the public bed with its gilt railings in the main palace. The bed is a reconstruction, but some original elements remain, such as the embroidered upholstery, the console and table, and table. These items were all delivered in 1788, just months before the revolution broke out.
Wherever you are in this house it is worth looking out of the window at any possibility. From small portholes to grand bays, the windows and views are as carefully constructed as any other part of this estate. From Marie-Antoinette's bedroom you can see the Temple of Venus in the wonderful gardens.
Downstairs is an interconnected set of service rooms. One arrangement has been turned into a virtual exhibition, with projectors streaming videos onto the walls and headsets arranged in rows for visitors to tune in to the story. This is the greatest attempt at an interactive experience in the palace complex.
Round the back of these projections is a small silver room, or Argenterie, where chapel service sets are displayed alongside fine china. Down here are also remnants of Louis XV's private staircase, which was removed to make way for the sliding mirrors used upstairs.
The kitchen itself has been mocked up for visitors to get a sense of its rustic interior. Much darker than the rest of the house, one can imagine how hot and bustling it was to cope with the demands made on it by the queen.
On the ground floor, off the hall, is the billiard room, now a tribute to Marie-Antoinette. A painting of her by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun hangs on one wall, and over the fireplace is a bust by Louis-Simon Boizot. Her imprint remains strong on this estate!