After 3 years of renovation at the Chateau de Versailles, Marie Antoinette’s private chambers have been re-opened to the public for viewing.
The renovation, which began in 2016, was carried out in order to ensure the safety and longevity of all of the public collections that the Chateau houses. This included upgrading fire safety, and modernising the climate control which is designed to preserve the collections as well as possible – a technique employed by many museums around the world.
The large scale operation required full closure of the building, and so the Chateau used the opportunity to carry out a heritage restoration of the Queen’s apartments.
The Chateau was the Queen’s official residence alongside French King Louis XVI in the years prior the the French Revolution.
“Thus, the room of the Queen’s Guards has regained the magnificence of its decor, thanks to the patronage of the American Friends of Versailles and the Society of the Friends of Versailles,” the Chateau de Versailles said in a press release. “In the Queen’s room, the restorers were also able to reveal the original appearance of the spectacular rococo decoration, which thus finds all its legibility and virtuosity.”
Some of her furniture remains in their original positions, such as Marie Antoinette’s jewellery cabinet. The Queen was well known for her love of flamboyant jewellery in her younger years, and her collections have since fetched record amounts at auction.
Other pieces were replaced with similar items or remade to look like the original. The tapestries hanging on the bed and walls were re-woven in Lyon using the original patterns. Many of the original pieces had been auctioned off between October 1793 and January 1795 by the new revolutionary government after the abolition of the Monarchy.
The Queen was not known for her popularity amongst her peers or the people, and as a result spent much time away from the Chateau itself, and at her private retreat in the Hameau de la Reine. The French tabloids had long-before chosen Antoinette as their scapegoat in depicting the wrongs in French society, despite her later preference for a more humble existence away from the mischievousness of the Elite Society at the Chateau.
Her attitude was ambiguous at the outbreak of the Revolution, and she seemed uncertain whether to seek reconciliation from the people, or to run away. Antoinette demonstrated great courage before the Revolutionary Tribunal, and before her execution on 16 October 1793.
To find out more about Court life at the Chateau de Versailles prior to the revolution, please download and enjoy Empire Builders: Kings of Europe: France, The Austro-Hungarians and the Russian Tsars – or order the DVD here!
Main image: Versailles, Kimberley Vardeman, Flickr Creative Commons
By Sofi Pickering