Essential Architecture-  Paris

Jardins du Palais Royal


Jacques Lemercier


Paris 1st - métro: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre- 6 rue de Montpensie 75001 PARIS
Surrounded by beautiful covered galleries, this park was the site of many historical events.




French Baroque




Outdoor space/ Park Palace
  Palais-Royal and its gardens, in a Paris map, 1739. The palace itself fronts on its small square. The Place du Louvre is at upper right. Napoleon opened the Rue de Rivoli along the Louvre's wing, then Haussmann swept away intervening structures.
  Philippe I, Duc d'Orléans
  Gardens of the Palais-Royal: The illustration, from an 1863 guide to Paris, enlarges the apparent scale. The modern planting keeps the central lawn, fountains and clipped trees.
  Colossal order of pilasters in the interior courtyard
  The Palais Royal houses offices of the French national government: Conseil d'État, Constitutional Council and the Ministry of Culture. Constant d'Ivry's neoclassical screen fronts the Lemercier's baroque courtyard.
After the removal of the Charles V city wall, Cardinal de Richelieu asked Jacques Lemercier, his official architect, to build a monumental palace with large gardens near the Louvre (1634). For a long time this building was called the Palais Cardinal, before taking the name it still bears: the Palais Royal. Work to make it more open began between the wars. The Orléans gallery, which formed a screen between the palace and the gardens, was demolished and replaced by a colonnade, reflected in recent times in the Buren columns.
The Palais Royal is a palace and garden located near the Ier arrondissement of Paris. Opposite the north wing of the Louvre, its famous forecourt (cour d'honneur) screened with columns (since 1986 containing Daniel Buren's site-specific artpiece) faces the Place du Palais-Royal, which was much enlarged by Baron Haussmann after the Rue de Rivoli was built for Napoleon.

Palais Cardinal
Never for long a royal palace, despite the misleading name, it was the home of Richelieu, begun in 1624 (its architect, Jacques Lemercier) and known as Palais Cardinal. Richelieu bequeathed it to the French Crown at his death. After Louis XIII died, it housed the Queen-Mother Anne of Austria,Cardinal Mazarin and the young Louis XIV. During the Fronde, the family had to flee there for safety.

The Palais Royal of the House of Stuart

For a time, the exiled Queen of England, Henrietta Maria of France stayed at the Palace under the invitation of King Louis XIV. She lived her with her daughter, Henrietta Anne Stuart who was the first wife of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans.

After their marriage, it became the main residence of the family while Philippe I was waiting for the improvements to the Château de Saint Cloud to be carried out. The true reign of the House of Orléans at the Palias really began with this couple.

Even though the couple were not the most happy, it was the scene of lavish parties and fêtes which became known around the capital.

Henrietta Maria was later housed at a Château on the then outskirts of Paris in Colombes.

The Orléans at Palais-Royal
It was Philippes first wife, Henrietta Anne Stuart who created the famous ornamental gardens at the Palais, which were said to be one of the most beautiful in Paris. His second wife, Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine, preferred their country residence outside Paris which was the stunning Château de Saint-Cloud.

During the minority of Louis XV, the regent of France was Philip II, Duke of Orléans, ruling from the Palais-Royal (See Régence.) His wife, Françoise-Marie de Bourbon (the second surviving daughter of Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan ) reigned there (along with Saint Cloud) until her death in 1749.

The Orléans did not occupy the northeast wing, where Anne of Austria had her apartments, but the Palais Brion, where the future Regent when duc de Chartres commissioned from Gilles-Marie Oppenord the decor of the Grand Appartement, the classic site of the light and lively Style Régence that presaged the future rococo. These, and the Regent's more intimate Petits Appartements, and his gallery painted with Virgilian subjects by Coypel, were all demolished in 1784, for the installation of the Théâtre-Français, now the Comédie- Française.[1]

The Palais Brion, a separate pavilion standing along rue Richelieu, to the west of the Palais-Royal, had been purchased by Louis XIV from the heirs of Cardinal Richelieu; in it the king had installed Louise de La Vallière, who gave birth there to two sons of the king, in 1663 and 1665: both died young. The royal collection of antiquities was installed at the Palais Biron, under the care of the art critic and official court historian André Félibien, appointed in 1673.

The public Palais-Royal

The Regent's great-grandson, Louis Philip II, Duke of Orléans, who would become known as "Philippe-Egalité" during the more radical phase of the Revolution, made himself popular in Paris when he opened the gardens of the Palais-Royal to all Parisians and employed the neoclassical architect Victor Louis to rebuild the structures around the palace gardens, which had been the irregular backs of houses that faced the surrounding streets, and to enclose the gardens with regular colonnades (above, right) that were lined with smart shops (in one of which Charlotte Corday bought the knife she used to stab Jean Marat). Along the galeries ladies of the night lingered, and smart gambling casinos were lodged in second-floor quarters. There was a theatre at each end of the galleries; the larger one has been the seat of the Comédie-Française, the state theatre company, since Napoleon's reign. The very first theatre in the Palais-Royal was originally built by Lemercier for Cardinal Richelieu in 1641 (?). Under Louis XIV, the theater hosted plays by Molière, from 1660 to Molière's death in 1673, followed by the Opera under the direction of Jean-Baptiste Lully.

From the 1780s to 1837 the Palais Royal was once again the centre of Parisian political and social intrigue and the site of the most popular cafés. The historic restaurant "Le Grand Vefour" is still there. In 1786 a noon cannon was set up by a philosophical amateur, set on the prime meridian of Paris, in which the sun's noon rays, passing through a lens, lit the cannon's fuse. The noon cannon is still fired at the Palais-Royal, though most of the ladies for sale have disappeared, those who inspired the Abbé Delille's lines;

"Dans ce jardin on ne rencontre
Ni champs, ni prés, ni bois, ni fleurs.
Et si l'on y dérègle ses mœurs,
Au moins on y règle sa montre."
("In this garden one encounters neither fields nor woods nor flowers. And, if one upsets one's morality, at least one may re-set one's watch.")

On July 12, 1789 a young firebrand, Camille Desmoulins, leapt on a café table and announced to the crowd that Necker had been dismissed. "This dismissal," he cried, "is the tocsin of the St. Bartholomew of the patriots !" Drawing two pistols from under his coat, he declared that he would not be taken alive. "Aux armes!" He descended amid the embraces of the crowd, and his cry "To arms!" resounded on all sides. Two days later, the Bastille was taken.

After the Restoration of the Bourbons, at the Palais-Royal the young Alexandre Dumas obtained employment in the office of the powerful duc d'Orléans, who regained control of the Palace during the Restoration.. In the Revolution of 1848, the Paris mob trashed and looted the Palais-Royal. Under the Second Empire the Palais-Royal was home to the cadet branch of the Bonaparte family, represented by Prince Napoleon, Napoleon III's cousin.

The Palais Royal of Today

Today it houses the Conseil d'État, the Constitutional Council, and the Ministry of Culture. At the rear of the garden are the older buildings of the Bibliothèque Nationale, the national library of deposit, with a collection of more than 6,000,000 books, documents, maps, and prints; most of the collections have been moved to more modern settings elsewhere.

^ Le Palais-Royal des Orléans (1692-1793): Les travaux entrepris par le Régent.


Palais-Royal in Paris : History and Description
Satellite image from Google Maps
Palais Royal – Louvre district - current photographs and of the years 1900
Virtual Paris - Photos of Palais-Royal and VR views