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- Jul 2020
Life at the Queen’s Hamlet Courtiers at the Palace of Versailles constantly surrounded Marie Antoinette, leaving her in need of a refuge. She escaped the responsibilities and structure of court life to her private estate. The Hamlet was part of Marie Antoinette's estate, and she enjoyed dressing as a young shepherdess or milkmaid and acting like a peasant, while surrounded by the comforts of a royal lifestyle. This unintentional mockery of the economically depressed French peasants helped build the resentment towards the monarchy among the French people that eventually led to the French Revolution. While still in power, Marie Antoinette enjoyed acting as a tableau vivant, as if she were part of a painting. She brought her idyllic, picturesque village to life by stocking the barn with animals, and bringing in "simple" people, such as milkmaids and herdsmen, to act like residents of the Hamlet. Marie Antoinette would stroll around her perfect world in simple peasants' garb with her children, part of an idealized Nature. Her closest friends joined her in her ornamental village, where they also enjoyed pretending to live a simple life. Their isolation at the Hameau caused suspicion among the French people. Already resentful of Marie Antoinette for her profligate spending in times of economic depression, the secrecy surrounding her life of amusement led to suspected hedonism and scandal. It was rumored that Marie Antoinette had lovers, and they met at the Hameau, a surreal place that was completely her own. The extravagance and subtle mockery of peasant life did not help Marie Antoinette's already suffering image. In spite of its idyllic appearance, the hamlet was a real farm, fully managed by a farmer appointed by the Queen, with its vineyards, fields, orchards and vegetable gardens producing fruit and vegetables consumed at the royal table. Animals from Switzerland, according to the instructions of the Queen, were raised on the farm. For this reason the place was often called "the Swiss hamlet".