Explore the grounds of the Château de Versailles and you’ll find it isn’t all manicured lawns and pristine flower displays. In fact, one particular patch, the Queen’s Grove, has been pretty much neglected for more than two centuries. Built as a private sanctuary for Marie Antoinette – and summarily forgotten about, after her execution for treason in 1793 – this once-immaculate garden is finally getting a makeover as part of a multi-year restoration project.
The Queen’s Grove – or le Bosquet de la Reine – was originally a labyrinth installed by Louis XIV in the mid-seventeenth century. However, when France’s new queen Marie Antoinette rocked up a century later, she hired architect Michel-Barthélemy Hazon to turn it into her own secluded garden in the ‘natural’ English style then en vogue across the Channel, ordering in rare trees and flowers all the way from the US.
Now, following years of archaeological research that helped confirm its original 1776 layout, the Queen’s Grove is to be restored. The €1.8 million project began this spring and is set to continue for the next two years. The gardens will be repopulated with all the original plant species, along with exact reproductions of Marie Antoinette’s sculptures and furnishings. A huddle of Virginia tulip trees, said to be her favourite, will take pride of place.
If only we all had a regally proportioned flower garden we could retreat to right now, huh?
Also blooming marvellous: