Scenes from inside Versailles Palace

Spoiler Alert: Mentions several scenes in the plot.

The interior of the palace is fabulously ornate – a statement of power and prestige that could hardly be missed by visitors. The Hall of Mirrors is unforgettable today – how much more amazing it must have been in Louis XVI’s day, when mirrors were an expensive novelty. (Source: Jessica Kantak Bailey

Yet for all its grandeur, 18th century accounts often mention the smell, the hordes of gawkers and the inconveniences. The smell came from a pungent mix of animals, rubbish, the marshy ground, unwashed bodies (bathing was rare as water was said to spread disease), disease, carelessly emptied chamber pots, and people relieving themselves in the corridors if they couldn’t find a convenient pot. Charming! Many aspects of royal life, even dining and childbirth, were carried out with an audience of enthralled on-lookers. The dining experience wasn’t helped by the fact that the food would often be cold, due to the long walk from the kitchens.

It’s well worth doing a tour if you get the chance to visit. Behind the grand public halls are the more intimate and even more beautiful private rooms of the king and queen (although ‘private’ is a relative term, given the number of advisers, courtiers, guards and servants who had access to even the most of intimate rooms, such as the queen’s bedroom). Two of my favourite rooms are the clock room and king’s library, featured in the book.

Queen's Bedroom (source:

As a statement of the richness of the décor at Versailles, it’s hard to go past the Queen’s bedroom. The hidden door, through which Marie Antoinette escaped when Versailles was invaded, is near the corner of the room. (Source: the official website of Versailles,

The story features the gorgeous works of Jean-Henri Riesener, favoured cabinetmaker to the royal household. This photo of Marie Antoinette’s private ‘Gilded Room’ shows a magnificent commode and desk by Riesener.

The commode is described in the Collections list as: “By the quality of its amaranth and satin veneer, framing a precious marquetry with diamond patterns and sunflower flowers, by the finesse and delicacy of its bronzes where dominate the floral motifs so dear to Marie-Antoinette, this piece of furniture is a magnificent testimony to the perfection and refinement of French royal furniture at the end of the Ancien Régime.”

The desk is described as: “veneered with amaranth wood and stained sycamore, rests on four tapered legs with octagonal section whose corners are underlined by twisted rods in gilded bronze; a ring with grooves and oves ensures the connection with the body of the table. It is decorated on its four sides with bas-reliefs of gilded bronze representing musical love games among clouds; symmetrical compartments show on a background of sycamore tinted in green an alternation of grooves and florets.”  (Source of image and descriptions: the official website of Versailles,

If you get a chance to visit Versailles, allow loads of time to explore and check out the fascinating official website before you go.

I also had hours of fun looking through photo books about the palace. A couple of recommendations:

Kisluk-Grosheide, Danielle and Bertrand Rondot (editors) (2018) Visitors to Versailles from Louis XIV to the French Revolution. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Yale University Press.

Delalex, Hélène, Alexandre Maral, Nicholas Milovanovic (2016) Marie Antoinette. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Scenes from the Versailles gardens

Spoiler Alert: Mentions several scenes in the plot.

The third book in my French Legacy Trilogy (The Last Child at Versailles) includes several scenes set in and around the Palace of Versailles, just outside of Paris, during the final few months of the reign of Louis XVI.

If you haven’t visited, here’s a taster of the some of the places mentioned.

The gardens of the Petit Trianon and especially the Queen’s Hamlet were (in real life and in the story) a peaceful retreat from the gruelling routines of court life for Marie Antoinette and her children. Here’s the tower the children climb and also the pretty but useless mill. (Source: Jeremy Bezanger and Roman Babakin

A far cry from the formal gardens that surround the Palace of Versailles. (Source: Clark Van Der Beken

On the fifth of October, 1789, thousands of working women from Paris marched for hours in the rain to Versailles to protest the scarcity of food. Armed with everything from fish-knives to cannons, they must have been a terrifying sight, demanding bread and threatening violence. The imposing gates, guarding the front courtyard at the Palace of Versailles, could only hold the angry mob off for a few hours. (Source: Alexandre Brondino for the stormy image and Josh Arras for the gate

Inspirational books for writing “The Last Child At Versailles”

The third book in my French Legacy Trilogy (The Last Child at Versailles) is set during the lead-up to the 1789 French Revolution and the dramatic years that followed.

There is a vast body of reference works on the revolution from both a broad historical view and from the perspective of key players. Fortunately, my interest was much narrower. I became fascinated with an insignificant young girl, whose real-life story is little known, but absolutely extraordinary. She was born into a family who served at Versailles, but circumstances gave her a grandstand seat on a world that was spiralling out of control.

Here, I’m sharing some of the books I used for my research, all highly recommended to give an intimate and captivating view of life at the court of Versailles and the brutal events of the French Revolution.

My primary source was the wonderful biography by Susan Nagel of Marie-Thérèse, the eldest child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. While her mother is one of the most famous (or infamous) women in history, Marie-Thérèse deserves to be much better known. Still a young girl when the revolution overturned her pampered life as a Child of France, she faced the invasion of her home at Versailles, a long and harrowing imprisonment, the deaths of her entire family, exile from her homeland, sensational rumours and blackmail, before becoming a leader and queen-in-waiting, with a final exile when she was on the cusp of becoming the queen of France (technically she was queen for twenty minutes).
Susan Nagel’s biography is highly readable and utterly fascinating. Find out more about her other books here
Antonia Fraser’s detailed biography of Marie Antoinette is another fascinating read. Daughter of the Empress of Austria, she was married to the heir to the French throne at the tender age of fourteen and became Queen of France four years later. She is infamous in popular culture for her lavish spending and disregard for the dire condition of the ordinary folk, but her real story is much more nuanced. Yes, she loved balls, fabulous clothes and expensive jewellery (she was the queen, after all), but she was also charitable and a devoted mother. Contrary to myth, she didn’t say “Let them eat cake” when told the people had no bread. And if you think modern social media can viciously slander celebrities, well, it wasn’t so much different back then, albeit via paper and word-of-mouth rather than world-wide digital exposure.
Another extraordinary woman of the era was Lucie de la Tour du Pin, who had an astounding aptitude for being present at major historical events, all recorded in her diaries. Caroline Moorehead brings us her remarkable story in Dancing to the Precipice, a reference to the grand balls which continued to amuse the court, even as Paris rioted. Honestly, if it was a fictional tale, you wouldn’t believe half of it!
Madame Tussaud, of waxworks fame, was another woman uncomfortably close to the revolution, observing it from both sides with her artist’s eye. Michelle Moran’s fictionalised story of her life is full of delicious details about clothes, people and lifestyles, as well as the terrifying events of the revolution. In this pre-camera era, the famed waxworks provided people from all walks of life with an intimate peek at famous folk. She often had to work at a feverish pace to capture the likenesses of the key players of the time, adding new tableaux as the royal and revolutionary figures cycled in and out of favour.
And finally, a gorgeous book of true tales and images from Versailles, with sumptuous pics of the palace, its furniture and treasures, the people and clothes, gardens and glories, produced by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. An absolute dream for a writer looking for authentic details!

Full references:

Nagel, Susan (2008) Marie-Thérèse: the fate of Marie Antoinette’s daughter. Bloomsbury, London.

Fraser, Antonia (2001) Marie Antoinette: the Journey.  Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London.

Moorehead, Caroline (2009) Dancing to the Precipice: Lucie de la Tour du Pin and the French Revolution. Chatto & Windus, London

Moran, Michelle (2011) Madame Tussaud: a novel of the French Revolution. Quercus, London.

Kisluk-Grosheide, Danielle and Bertrand Rondot (editors) (2018) Visitors to Versailles from Louis XIV to the French Revolution. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Yale University Press.

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