Together with some fellow ”greeters”, voluntarily accompanying visitors to Paris (read more about it here or click on the sidebar “Parisien d’un Jour”), I had the pleasure to visit the interior of the Palais de Luxembourg, the site of the French Senate. I already posted about the Luxembourg Gardens, e.g. here and here, but not until now about the Palace itself.
A lot is to be said and showed about this Palace, so I will split in two posts and of course (you know me) start by trying to give some historic information.
The Palace was originally built for Marie de Medici, wife, widow of Henri IV, mother of Louis XIII and grandmother of Louis XIV. As from 1610 and the death of Henri IV, until 1617, she acted as regent for the young Louis XIII. Without going into any details, there was a lot of fighting and intriguing between her, her son, her second son, the Cardinal Richelieu and others as well during her regency as later.
Marie was not happy living in the austere Louvre Palace and desired to make a building and garden similar to what she had known from her birthplace, Florence. In 1612 she bought land and the already existing smaller castle, still there and now referred to as the “Petit Luxembourg”, having belonged to a Duke of Piney-Luxembourg.
Thirteen years later, in 1625, she could move in, but the Palace was really completed only in 1631, when she had just been forced to leave the Royal court, first exiled to Compiègne. She then escaped to Brussels, Amsterdam, London … conspiring against Louis XIII and Richelieu… and died in Cologne in 1642. She then still owned the Palace and bequeathed it to her favourite son, Gaston d’Orléans, always in fight with the elder brother, Louis XIII.
With only some short interruptions (as museum), the Palace was then occupied by the Orléans family and later by the brother of Louis XVI, the future Louis XVIII … until the Revolution when it became a prison, the home of the Senate (“Sénat Conservateur”) and the first residence of Napoleon Bonaparte as First Consul.
1799-1805 the Palace was transformed into a legislative building, the grand central staircase was demolished and replaced by a senate chamber (blue circle). Beginning 1835 additional surface (in light blue) was constructed, keeping the original façade alike and a new senate chamber (the still existing one) was created as well as a library.
We can here compare what the Palace and its gardens looked like during the 18th century and today.
Marie de Medici had her apartments in the west wing. Almost all the original interior decoration is gone, but a few elements have been saved and assembled in a room on the ground floor (“Salle du Livre d’Or”)…
… together with some decorations of the sleeping quarters of Louis XIII’s wife, Anne d’Autriche, from the Louvre.
Marie de Medici had ordered 24 canvases from Peter Paul Rubens – to her glory. They were exposed in the “Rubens gallery” (see plan above). When the Palace was rebuilt during the 19th century, a new central staircase was built here. The Rubens paintings can now be seen at the Louvre.
Again referring to history, a very special event took place in this antechamber, referred to as “la Journée des Dupes” (the Day of the Dupes), when Marie de Medici, Louis XIII and Richelieu met in November 1630 and when Marie thought that she had got rid of Richelieu, but a day later Richelieu was the winner and soon Marie had to leave. Richelieu then lived in the neighbour “Petit Luxembourg”, now the residence of the President of the Senate.
Here are some pictures of the “Petit Luxembourg” and its still private garden.
… and here some from the central court of the real Palace.
In a next post, I will illustrate the magnificent rooms which were added, redecorated during the 19th century.