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.
The palace originally was the home of Cardinal Richelieu. He hired the architect Jacques Lemercier to design it. It was completed in 1624. During the lifetime of the cardinal, the palace was known as the Palais Cardinal. Upon his death in 1642, Richelieu bequeathed his lavish residence to the French Crown. After Louis XIII died, it became the home of the Queen-Mother, Anne of Austria, her advisor, Cardinal Mazarin, and her young sons, King Louis XIV and Philippe, duc d'Anjou. During the Fronde, the royal family fled there for safety.
From 1649, the palace was the home of the exiled Queen of England, Henrietta Maria of France, at the palace at the invitation of her nephew, King Louis XIV. She lived there with her youngest daughter, Princess Henrietta-Anne of England.
The two had escaped England in the midst of the English Civil War as the royal family were being pursued. The Queen's daughter was later married to the next inhabitant of the house. He was the king's younger brother, who was by then called Phillipe de France, duc d'Orléans.
The two were married in the chapel of the palais on 31 March 1661. After their marriage, the palace became the main residence of the Orléans while Philippe I was waiting for improvements to his country estate, the Château de Saint-Cloud, to be carried out.
Even though the couple were often estranged, they held lavish parties and fêtes at the Palais Royal which became known throughout the capital.
The duchesse d'Orléans' mother, Queen Henrietta Maria, was then obliged to move out of the palace and eventually settled in a Château on the outskirts of Paris in Colombes district. The palace was soon to be the social center of the capital when the reign the House of Orléans was to begin after the marriage of the new ducal couple.
The couple were well known to be very unsuited as a result of Henriette's youthful flirting with members of her brother-in-law's court (she was later said to have become one of his flings) and Philippes well-known and open homosexuality. Despite the mismatched couple, they did have 3 children which did outlive relative childhood; one of which were born at the palais. The couples eldest daughter Marie Louise d'Orléans was born there in 1662 and grew up in the capital surrounde by the parties of her parents.
The Court Gatherings at the palais royal were famed all around the capital as well as all of France. It was at these parties that the la crème de la crème of French society came to see and be seen. Guests included the main members of the Royal Family like Anne of Austria, the queen mother to Louis XIV and Philippe de France; the duchesse de Montpensier, the Princes de Condé and the Conti family as well as other notary guests. Philippes men were also frequent visitors.
The Palace was redecorated for the new ducal couple and apartments were created for the maids and staff of the duchesse d'Orléans. Many of the women who later came to be the Maîtresse-en-titre (official mistress) were from the household of Madame. The most famous were Louise de La Vallière, who lived there and who gave birth there to two sons of the king, in 1663 and 1665. Both died young; Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan who supplanted Louise and was his most famous mistress later her youngest daughter called Mademoiselle de Blois II later reigned there from 1692 - 1749 after her marriage to Philippes son Philippe Charles d'Orléans; Angélique de Fontanges who was in service to the second madame and was a little fling.
Madame died in 1670 after alleged poisoning (An autopsy was performed and was reported that Henrietta-Anne had died of peritonitis caused by a perforated ulcer) by her husband and his new favourite, the Chevalier de Lorraine. He was later installed in the palace. After her death, the duc's second wife, known as la Princesse Palatine, preferred to live in the Château de Saint-Cloud so it became the main residence of her eldest son and the hier to the House of Orléans, Philippe Charles d'Orléans called the duc de Chartres.
In 1692, the king deeded the palace to his brother's only son, Philippe Charles d'Orléans, as a wedding present after his marriage to one of his illegitimate daughters, Françoise-Marie de Bourbon, whose mother was the king's most famous mistress, Madame de Montespan. Like his father and his first wife, the couple were mismatched.
For the convenience of the bride, new apartments in the palace were built and furnished for her new residence. These were on the side that looked out on the Rue de Richilieu to the east. It was at this time that Philippe commissioned the famous gallery for his collection of artwork. The cost of this reconstruction was totaled to be 400,000 Livres.
It was in the last years of Philippe de France that the palace was again a social highlight of France after the dismissal of Madame de Montespan and the new reign by her successor Françoise d'Aubigné, marquise de Maintenon who betrayed her which forbad any entertainment at Versailles.
In 1701, Philippe de France, duc d'Orléans died, making his son the head of the house. It was here that he and his wife, the new duchesse d'Orléans, set up court with her group. Some of her children were later born there such as Charlotte Aglaé d'Orléans, later the Sovereign Duchess Consort of Modena and Reggio, and Louise Diane d'Orléans later the princesse de Conti.
When the king died in 1715, his five year old great-grandson, Louis XV, became the new monarch of France. Philippe II d'Orléans became the country's regent, ruling and installing the countrys government in the Palais Royal. He installed the young Louis XV in the Palais de Tuileries opposite. His wife still ruled there till her death in 1749.
After the regency, the social life of the palais became much more subdued. The king, Louis XV moved the court back to Versailles and Paris was again ignored. The same happened with the Palais Royal; the new duc d'Orléans, who succeed in 1723, Louis d'Orléans was devoutly religious and his son Louis Philippe I d'Orléans lived at the other family residence, the Château de Saint-Cloud which had been empty since the death of la Princesse Palatine at the Château in 1723 and the removal from Versailles in 1715.
The palais was soon the scene of the notorious debaucheries of Louise Henriette de Bourbon-Conti who was married to Louis Philippe in 1743. She died at the age of 36 in 1759. She was the mother of Louis Philippe II d'Orléans better known as Philippe Égalité.
During the years after the death of Louise Henriette de Bourbon-Conti, her husband secretly married his mistress, the witty marquise de Montesson and the couple lived at the Château de Sainte-Assise where he died in 1785. He finalised the sale of the Château de Saint-Cloud to his distant relative the Queen, Marie Antoinette.
In 1785, Louis Philippe II d'Orléans succeeded to the Duchy of Orléans. He was born at Château de Saint-Cloud and later moved to the Palais Royal and lived there with his wife, the vastly wealthy Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon-Penthièvre who he married in 1769. The couples eldest son, Louis-Philippe III d'Orléans was born there in 1773.
Due to his hatred of the queen and his jealousy of his cousin being king, he spent most of his time in England living in London, indulging in his love of anglomanie (he was the creator of the English style Parc Monceau) and becoming good friend with the Prince Regent.
During the revolutionary period, he became known as the infamous Philippe Égalité and ruled at the Palais 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;
("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 Fall of the Bastille occurred.
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.
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.
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. Louis had it connected to the Palais Royal. It was at the Palais Brion that Louis had his mistress Louise de La Vallière stay while his affair with Madame de Montespan was still an official secret.
Later on, the royal collection of antiquities was installed at the Palais Brion, under the care of the art critic and official court historian André Félibien, who had been appointed in 1673.