Marie Antoinette Would Be Proud

Marie Antoinette Would Be Proud

But that interplay of nature, a natural rhythm we might call sustainability or ecological awareness, still needs constant maintenance. And the gardens, like the palace itself, are always in need of attention, according to Versailles’s president, Catherine Pégard.

Ms. Pégard — a former editor in chief of the weekly French newsmagazine Le Point, as evidenced by the books stacked on her office floor in what once had been servant’s quarters, down the street from the palace — said her mission is “to open Versailles to the world.”

During her seven years as its top executive, the palace has opened 65 rooms that had not been public or were used only occasionally for events, including such special places as the Queen’s House in the Hamlet, the rustic retreat where Marie Antoinette entertained friends. Renovating the grove, Ms. Pégard said, is no different from “restoring a room of the queen’s in the palace.”

As support from the government has declined in recent years, luxury giants like Dior and Rolex as well as French brands like the building materials manufacturer Saint-Gobain have helped finance continuing restoration at locations like the Royal Chapel and the king’s private chamber. But, for the grove, individuals are being asked to donate from €1,500 for a tulip tree to as much as €150,000 for the cherry tree arbor — and earlier this year Versailles administrators had hoped that Americans would step up.

After all, Americans — including John D. Rockefeller Jr. in the 1920s — have provided millions over the years for the palace’s restoration. And “Americans were the first and the biggest foreign contributors after the storm of 1999,” said Sophie Lemonnier, director of patrimony and the gardens at Versailles.

But, “we could not imagine that a few months later a global health crisis would close the doors of this castle,” Ms. Pégard said. “Today our two countries are affected by the same drama. But we want to look at the Queen’s Grove as the symbol of the reunion that we are sure to experience. As we have always experienced after the tragedies.”


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