This is the largest non-public garden in Paris. Most of the time it’s empty of people… except for the gardeners, who keep it in a perfect shape Since January, it’s open to public the first Saturday afternoon each month. I was there at the premiere.
We are in the garden of Hôtel Matignon, the official residence of the Prime Minister. The garden and the mansion date from the beginning of the 18th century. The place has been owned by families like Luxembourg, Matignon, Grimaldi (Monaco) until the Revolution, then by a dancer, by Talleyrand… and after the Restoration of the Royalty, by a Duchess of Bourbon, who made it to some kind of nunnery, by a wealthy American… For a while it was in competition with the Elysée Palace to become the home of the head of the State. It was then owned by the Family Galliera, who, when France again had become a Republic, here invited 3000 persons to celebrate the wedding of a French princess with the heir of the Portuguese throne. This was ”too much” for the republicans and led to the exiling of the French throne pretenders. Matignon then housed the Embassy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, becoming “enemy property” during WWI. For a while thought to be a museum, it became finally as from 1935 the headquarters of the President of the Council, as from 1958 of the Prime Minister.
Obviously, few people were informed, as it was still possible to take photos giving the impression that the garden was empty. The garden is a mixture of the typical French garden and some more “romantic” parts. There is a special charm even a grey winter day, but I may return in April or May…
There are very few statues.
At the extreme end of the garden is the building. It was Saturday afternoon, but one could see a few lights is some of the rooms, including the one of the Prime Minister. It’s obvious that at present no rest is allowed to our political leaders.
A few trees have been there for centuries, but since 1976 each Prime Minister has planted a new tree or bush – obviously with the exception of Jacque Chirac. Maybe he planted something in the Elysée Palace gardens later.
This gives us the opportunity to check who the occupants have been since then.
I was not quite alone and some journalists were of course present. I was even interviewed by a TV channel, but I doubt that it was broadcast.
The official entrance to Matignon is on rue de Varenne, but unless you have a personal invitation by the Prime Minister, I guess you will have to use the back entrance from Rue de Babylone and go through a severe security control.