In a country with thousands of beautiful châteaux, it’s easy to imagine that any could simply be lost to history. War, weather, revolutions and natural disasters have all taken their toll on the built landscape. But lost royal châteaux? Today we can still visit many of the many palaces and châteaux which have harboured the French kings and queens over the past thousand years. Others have been razed to the ground, and only in our imagination can we glimpse the pomp and glamour of royal life.
In the grounds of the Petit Trianon, the beloved neoclassical villa of Marie Antoinette, sits one of her follies – le Temple de l’Amour, or Temple of Love. Each morning, as she rose from her luxurious bed and glanced out the window, the sight of its elegant Greek-style cupola filled her heart with joy. Marie Antoinette may have loved jewels and fabulous new dresses, and knew how to party, but she also craved the peace and solitude which was completely lacking in the ornate and formal world of the Palace of Versailles. This, she found in the gardens of her Petit Trianon, in her Temple dedicated to Love.
When Marie-Antoinette arrived in France she was initially adored for her youth, her beauty, her vitality, her generous nature. The old king Louis XV was especially enamoured with his grandson’s new bride. But the palace of Versailles, steeped in courtly rituals and traditions, was not for the faint-hearted. Would she be strong enough to survive life at the palace?