Monday, April 14, 2008

Le Temple de l'Amour

The Temple of Love is one of the most unforgettable places in the gardens of the Petit Trianon, on a little island directly behind the house. Queen Marie-Antoinette commissioned the architect Mique to design and build the neo-classical structure in 1778. The Temple of Love was not built to celebrate the queen's mythical love for Count Fersen, as some authors have hinted; Fersen was was a mere acquaintance at the time. Lady Antonia Fraser in Marie-Antoinette: The Journey maintains that it was built to celebrate the love of the king and the queen for each other and the consummation of their marriage, delayed for many years.

The consummation took so long because Marie-Antoinette was a mere child when she was married; she was fourteen but looked as if she were much younger, and Louis was not a pervert. He was a gentleman, and waited for her to mature. He also approached his bride in a restrained manner because his aunties had inculcated in him the dangers for France when a king became enthralled by a woman, as had happened to his grandfather Louis XV. Louis could probably see himself becoming quite easily enthralled with Marie-Antoinette, and so he held himself back. Also, as author Simone Bertière speculates in L'Insoumise, there may have been a physical problem with Marie-Antoinette which made marital relations difficult at first. In their early twenties, however, the young couple found their bonheur essentiel, their "essential happiness," as Marie-Antoinette wrote to her mother. It became a marriage which all the forces of hell could not sunder.

(Photo by Eugene Atget, Le Temple de l'Amour, Versailles, c.1923-24) Share


Enbrethiliel said...


This should be more famous than the blood-stained Taj Mahal!

May said...

This is beautiful. There is so much discussion of 'scandalous' royal marriages that I think there ought to be a book written on the successful and devoted ones. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette ought to be in such a book.