Petit Trianon and Grand Trianon: two palaces at the heart of Versailles
If you visit Versailles, you will be amazed by the interminable white facades with their large windows, by the majestic paved Cour d’Honneur courtyard, and the grand staircase. But you will also certainly fall in love with the Petit Trianon and the Grand Trianon, two buildings situated in the gardens of Versailles.
The Petit Trianon, a refuge for Marie Antoinette
The Petit Trianon palace was originally built upon the request of Madame de Pompadour, the favorite of King Louis XIV, who wanted a charming setting that could “amuse the king.” It was inaugurated in 1769. But the building reached the height of its use during the second half of the 18th century, when Louis XVI presented it to his wife, Marie Antoinette.
The young queen renovated the space, notably having an English-style garden planted to replace the old greenhouses. She often took refuge at the Petit Trianon to escape the pomp and etiquette of the Court of Versailles, which sometimes weighed on her. She surrounded herself with close friends and organized intimate soirées, without always taking the prerogatives of her time and rank into account.
A visit to the Petit Trianon is a moving immersion in the everyday life of Marie Antoinette, a deeply human queen. Often accused of frivolity, she would come to a tragic end during the French Revolution.
When you visit Versailles, you will appreciate the elegant, refined, and eclectic style of the Petit Trianon. Fully restored in 2008, the palace has been completely reconciled with its history in the era of Marie Antoinette.
The Grand Trianon and the quest for perfection
In 1687, Louis XIV wanted to commission the building of a “small palace of pink marble and porphyrite with delicious gardens”, according to architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart.
This pink-marble building is a tour de force, bringing together a clearly majestic style while still offering an intimate setting. The Grand Trianon is surrounded by gardens whose innumerable flowers and groves help create an atmosphere of relaxation. When you visit the Grand Trianon, you will succumb to the charm of the French-style gardens, with their perfect geometric forms. The quest for perfection became a kind of initiation rite, and the Sun King personally supervised the construction.
The Grand Trianon served as a refuge for Louis XIV, who could escape from the constant bustle of the court while surrounding himself with more select company. Being invited there was a privilege, an honor few courtiers received. Over the centuries, famous figures stayed there, including Napoleon.
Two different ideas of Versailles
If you visit the Palace of Versailles, the Petit Trianon and the Grand Trianon are must-sees. These two palaces are incarnations of two different visions and two different dreams of French sovereigns: the perfection staged by Louis XIV, the absolute monarch, is his response to the refined and intimate charm of the Petit Trianon. If you do not have enough time to visit the interior, take the time to linger in the gardens; they are worthy settings for these two jewels.