The « Archives Nationales » (translation hardly needed) were created during the revolutionary years. Since 1808 they are located in what is named the « Hôtel de Soubises » (with further buildings added during the 19th century), since 1927 also in the nearby « Hôtel de Rohan », later also at Fontainbleau and since the beginning of 2013 also in a new complex at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine. Obviously a lot of space is needed.
In the original « Hôtel de Soubises » building are today basically conserved documents preceding the 1789 revolution. Part of this building is a museum. As an amateur visitor you cannot accede the long corridors with its documents, but some documents are exposed, the oldest from the 7th century.
The website of the « Archives Nationales » allows a virtual visit of some of the « hidden » rooms and corridors and also to have a closer look on a number of documents. Here is an example: The letter ("testament") that Marie-Antoinette wrote to Madame Elisabeth (sister of her already guillotined husband, Louis XVI) a few hours before she was brought on her last trip to “Place de la Révolution” (today Place de la Concorde).
But the visit of the “Hôtel de Soubises” is already interesting for the building itself, a combination of architectures from the 14th to the 19th centuries.
What used to be the main entrance when Olivier de Clisson, Constable, First Officer of the Crown, moved in during the 14th century, is now a side entrance. Behind this entrance there are still some old buildings. Behind the stained glasses is where the “Ligue Catholique” frequently met during the second half of the 16th century, when the Guise family had taken over the place. The religious wars between the Huguenots and the Catholics had as Catholic leader, Henry, duc de Guise, who was killed on orders by (and in presence of) King Henry III in 1588.
In 1700 the place was bought by François de Rohan, prince de Soubise, probably and basically thanks to his wife, Anne, and favours she for some reason had obtained by Louis XIV. The present main pavilion, the new main entrance…
… and the rococo interiors were made by the Soubise family during the 18th century. There are paintings by some of the most prominent rococo painters like François Boucher and Carle van Loo.
The main stairs from the ground to the next floor were reshaped during the 19th century, when the building had been taken over by the State.
In some more private rooms you can find documents, some curiosities and the portrait of Anne, who obviously so much attracted Louis XIV.
When I visited just before Christmas, there was an exhibition of tapestries which had belonged to one of the Rohan-Soubise family members, Cardinal de Rohan. (I took a close-up photo of the arrow in Achilles’ heel.) (There were several Rohan cardinals; another one became famous especially for being involved in the affair of the Diamond Necklace.)
Here we can get an idea of what the premises looked like around 1600, during the 18th century and today.