Did you know that here in Versailles we have three XVIII century grottoes? You don’t care about grottos? Neither do I, but still let me tell you about them. The first one I am showing used to belong to Princess Elizabeth, a.k.a. Madame Elizabeth, the youngest sibling of Louis XVI; the second was built for Madame Balbi, the mistress of Louis’ brother, compt de Provence; and finally, the better known, the grotto of Marie-Antoinette. I find that these grotesque structures represent well the personalities involved; for example, Madame Elizabeth’s grotto looks just like a wide-open cave: I guess the old maid had nothing to hide; or perhaps her grotto was altered after, after all, she was suspected of one relationship, a rather odd one with her doctor.
The grotto built by Provence is monumental; you enter it at the bottom of this hill, and you exit it on top: he must had been seriously frustrated with his wife and planned to move in there with all of his possessions. His is a sad story of an unhappy arranged marriage…… And now let us walk into the grotto at the Domain of the Queen…, hm…, looks like this one was not built for receptions. The grotto is just big enough for two people. We know that it used to have a tiny creek running through it; and I imagine the sound of water would mask the noise. Then we can still see the peeping hole, which lets those on the inside know in advance when someone is approaching. Then that grotto allows for a quick and discrete exit.