The infamous French queen, Marie-Antoinette, left her mark on the Palace of Versailles in many different ways. She is closely associated with the Petit Trianon, a Neoclassical chateau on the Versailles grounds, where she would escape from the formality and treachery of court. Another of her favourite spaces has been restored over the last two years; the Queen’s Grove is now open to the public again.
The Queen’s Grove stands where the Maze Grove once stood. It was created in 1776 to give Marie-Antoinette somewhere secluded to walk in peace away from visitors and courtiers. The design is very specific to that moment in time. It is incredibly precise in the French style but also including the winding walks of English-style gardens.
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The Queen’s Grove was unique amongst the gardens of Versailles. Although other gardens were known for their design, this particular garden was known for the species of plants and trees growing within it. It notably contained several non-native trees, only introduced to France in this garden.
The original landscape architect, Gabriel Thouin, was thoughtful in his planning. “The Queen’s Grove is a unique garden. I believe the only way to make it more pleasant and increase the space is to turn it into a Grove in the modern style, to introduce all the foreign trees that have a certain appeal. This space requires artistic variety in the shapes of the trees and their leaves, the colour of the flowers, the period when they will be in bloom and the different shades of foliage.”
While it was a prized garden during the eighteenth century, it did not remain so. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Queen’s Grove deteriorated significantly. However, after the great storm of 1999, the Palace of Versailles continued to plan for the garden.
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Restoration work started in 2019 and was completed in two stages. In the first stage, nearly 150 Virginia tulip trees were planted in the central square. In the second, 600 rose bushes were replanted gradually, in addition to over a thousand different perennials. Fittingly, the rose bushes were in thanks to a specific patron, Parfums Christian Dior. In addition, several different trees and shrubs, chosen from those that would have been used in the Grove during Marie-Antoinette’s life, were planted in the smaller arbours.
Visitors can now visit the restored Queen’s Grove at the Palace of Versailles, if they would like to walk in Queen Marie-Antoinette’s footsteps.