There’s a charming little structure on the grounds of Versailles that has always captured my imagination. Tucked behind the Petit Trianon, where Marie Antoinette lived, is what appears to have been a little tea house. It’s not open to visitors; there’s nothing to see inside. I have to use my imagination. I imagine Marie Antoinette and a few of her closest friends enjoying tea, or perhaps the fashionable beverage of the day, hot chocolate. Perhaps she watched her children chasing butterflies from the shady interior. Perhaps she learned her lines for one of the plays she enjoyed. Perhaps she wrote letters to her mother, the Empress Maria Theresa. Perhaps she just sat and daydreamed. The Hall of Mirrors always gets all the attention, but this is my favorite spot in Versailles.
Virginia Woolf wrote an essay entitled “A Room of One’s Own” about the importance of a space for women to call their own. I think Marie Antoinette needed a little place apart from all the noise and intrigue of court, a chez-soi (shay-swa), a place of her own.