Palais Royal

Palais Royal (26)

The Royal Palace, Palais Royal in French, is a palace with gardens to the north of the Louvre Museum. Despite its name, it was never the residence of the kings. The palace was commissioned by Cardinal Richelieu to the architect Jacques Lemercier and holds within its walls a turbulent history over the centuries.

The construction works were begun in 1624 on the site that had been the Hôtel de Rambouillet. The building was then known as the cardinal’s palace. Richelieu lived there until his death, when it was left to the French crown. There lived the queen mother, Anne of Hapsburg, Cardinal Mazarino and the boy who years later would be King Louis XIV. It was in this period when the building came to be known as the Royal Palace. Later it was used as the Parisian residence of the Dukes of Orleans. Under the control of the dukes, the palace was the setting for periods of true licentiousness and gambling.

Before Louis XV came of age, the regent Philippe of Orleans led the Court from this palace. His grandson Louis Philippe Joseph of Orleans, better known as Philippe-Equality, became popular in Paris for opening the palace gardens to the public. He entrusted the neoclassical architect Victor Louis with the reconstruction of the structures that were in the garden. He also had it closed off with colonnades. 

At the end of each gallery in the garden was a theatre. The majority of them were for the Comédie Française. This theatre replaced the first one that had been built in the Palais Royal. It was a commission from Richelieu to Lemercier in 1641. During the reign of Louis XIV, the theatre put on, among other performances, works by Molière in which the author himself appeared, premiered A Lover’s Quarrel and The Imaginary Cuckold and, in fact, died here performing. 

Between 1780 and 1837, the Palais Royal once again became the focus of the political and social intrigues of Paris. This was the site of one of the most popular cafés of the time. It was in this café where on the 12th of July 1789, the young Camille Desmoulins stood up on a table and announced to the masses that the Crown had come to its end. Two days later the Bastille was taken.

After the restoration of the Bourbons, a young Alexandre Dumas got a job in the offices of the powerful Duke of Orleans, who took over control of the Palace. During the revolution of 1848, the palace was attacked and pillaged. In the period of the Second French Empire the Royal Palace became the home for a branch of the Bonaparte family.

The Royal Palace is currently the headquarters of the Council of State, the Constitutional Council and the Ministry of Culture. 

It cannot be visited but you can go into the gardens, a space where you will enjoy the peace and quiet, although today they only occupy one third of the original space. 

They are also surrounded by arcades that have restaurants, art galleries and very interesting shops.

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