Friday, November 23, 2012

Je Vous Donne

Je vous donne.  With the words, "I give you...," Louis XVI gifted the Petit Trianon to Marie Antoinette on August 15, 1774 by way of a key encrusted with 531 diamonds.  Some accounts state that he also said something along the lines of "You love flowers.  I have a bouquet for you...  the Petit Trianon."  Whatever the words, the sentiments behind them were of love and generosity and untainted by even a tinge of foreshadowing.  Neither husband nor wife had an inkling of the role that this (relatively) unostentatious building would play in her vilification and their eventual tragic end.  Courtiers' jealousy, provoked by the exclusivity of the invitation and the rumors of lavish decorations (Diamonds on the walls?  For Heaven's sake, people will believe anything.) and wild parties, were fuel to the fire that consumed them.

Originally, the Petit Trianon was built by Louis XV for Madame de Pompadour who died before it was complete.  His next official mistress, Madame Du Barry, became the first to enjoy it.  It was there that he became ill with the smallpox that would, after a hasty carriage ride back to Versailles, end his life.  (Louis XV had a dread of death and often said to courtiers experiencing cold symptoms, "That's a churchyard cough you have there."  There's something about that line that grabs me.)

Marie Antoinette used the Petit Trianon as a place to escape from stifling Court life with it's Levée to Coucher etiquette-dictated performance on the stage of Versailles.  Although he didn't stay overnight, her husband occasionally spent time there, as well.  If the Marquise de Bombelles is to be believed, Louis XVI was even able to loosen up a bit. The Marquise wrote, in a letter to her husband, that she'd had to fend off the flirting King at the Trianon. I'd like to think that's true and that he had some moments of confidence and lightheartedness. Socializing didn't come easily to him, but he did have a certain innocent charm about him.

Louis XIV had purchased the land from the nuns of Abbey of Saint-Genevieve, in 1662, and the villagers who lived on it were relocated.  Ironically, with the building of Le Hameau, peasants were re-introduced to the land by Marie Antoinette and it all came full circle - sort of.  Now, it's basically a museum, not a peasant to be found.


Elissa said...

That's ironic you posted about the Petit Trianon. I just did an entire article for the online publication Parisiene Farmgirl about both the Petit Trianon and the Grand Trianon! Of course the Petit is my favorite..naturally ;)

Madeleine Doak said...

I'll find the article. The Trianon stuff on your blog is amazing. In fact, that's what motivated me to email you in the first place.