When Louis XVI took the throne in 1775, he gave Petit Trianon as a gift to Marie Antoinette. Despite the fact that no cost was spared to make the building over to suit the Queen's taste and allow her to make it her own, it never really lost the taint of being associated with the most dominant royal mistress in French history.
Marie Antoinette commissioned a complete overhaul for the Trianon gardens. In order to bring them fully up-to-date, she had them redesigned in the "English" style that had been championed by the writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
In contrast to the formal, symmetrical "French" gardens that Versailles had represented for a hundred years, architect Richard Mique's design for the Trianon gardens featured meandering paths, hills and streams, and a small neo-Classical Temple of Love. A mock farming village called The Petit Hameau (The Little Hamlet) completed this "rustic" area of the Versailles grounds.
Marie Antoinette enjoyed her status as mistress of the Petit Trianon. Members of the court, including the King, bowed to her sovereignty there. In this small corner of the vast estate, it was the Queen who invited the King to dine or attend the amateur theatricals that she staged with her friends in Trianon's theater. But perhaps the most important sign of her power here was the relative privacy she was able to command.
However, this very privacy and the power it implied could easily been seen as inappropriate and misplaced. Some critics started calling the Petit Trianon "Little Vienna" or "Little Schönbrunn," a reference to Maria Theresa's palace where Marie Antoinette grew up. Not only did this unwelcome nickname suggest a foreign enclave at the very heart of French power, but it was also a reminder that in her mother, the Queen had as a role model not a powerless and subservient royal consort, but the most powerful woman in Europe and one of France's greatest rivals.