The Two Trianons

By Augustus J. C. Hare


The Trianons may be reached in half an hour from the railway station, but the distance is considerable, and a carriage very desirable, considering all the walking inside of the palaces to be accomplished. Carriages take the straight avenue from Bassin de Neptune. The pleasantest way for foot- passengers is to follow the gardens of Versailles as far as the Bassin d'Apollon, and then turn to the right. At the end of the right branch of the grand canal, staircases lead to the park of the Grand Trianon; but these staircases are railed in, and it is necessary to make a detour to the Grille de la Grande Entree, whence an avenue leads directly to the Grand Trianon, while the Petit Trianon lies immediately to the right, behind the buildings of the Concierge and Corps de Garde.

The original palace of the Grand Trianon was a little chateau built by Louis XIV., in 1670, as a refuge from the fatigues of the Court, on land bought from the monks of St. Genevieve, and belonging to the parish of Trianon. But in 1687 the humble chateau was pulled down, and the present palace erected by Mansart in its place.

Louis XIV. constantly visited the Grand Trianon, with which for many years he was much delighted. But, after 1700, he never slept at Trianon, and, weary of his plaything here, turned all his attention to Marly. Under Louis XV., however, the palace was again frequently inhabited.

Being entirely on one floor, the Grand Trianon continued to be a most uncomfortable residence, till subterranean passages for service were added under Louis Philippe, who made great use of the palace. The buildings are without character or distinction. Visitors have to wait in the vestibule till a large party is formed, and are then hurried full speed round the rooms, without being allowed to linger for an instant.

The Petit Trianon was built by Gabriel for Louis XV. in the botanical garden which Louis XIV. had formed at the instigation of the Duc d'Ayen. It was intended as a miniature of the Grand Trianon, as that palace had been a miniature of Versailles. The palace was often used by Louis XV., who was here first attacked by the smallpox, of which he died. Louis XVI. gave it to Marie Antoinette, who made its gardens, and whose happiest days were spent here.

The Petit Trianon is a very small and very unassuming country house. Mme. de Maintenon describes it in June as "a palace enchanted and perfumed." Its pretty simple rooms are only interesting from their associations. The furniture is mostly of the times of Louis XVI. The stone stair has a handsome iron balustrade; the salons are paneled in white.

Here Marie Antoinette st to Mme. Lebrun for the picture in which she is represented with her children. In the dining-room is a secretaire given to Louis XVI. by the States of Burgundy, and portraits of the King and Marie Antoinette. The Cabinet de Travail of the queen was a cabinet given to her on her marriage by the town of Paris; in the Salle de Reception are four pictures by Watteau; the Boudoir has a Sevres bust of the queen; in the Chambre-a-coucher is the queen's bed, and a portrait of the Dauphin by Lebrun. These simple rooms are a standing defense of the queen from the false accusations brought against her at the Revolution as to her extravagance in the furnishing of the Petit Trianon. Speaking of her happy domestic life, Mme. Lebrun says: "I do not believe Queen Marie Antoinette ever allowed an occasion to pass by without saying an agreeable thing to those who had the honor of being near her."

[22] From "Days Near Paris."