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History of the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud

Situated to the west of Paris on the banks of the Seine, the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud covers 460 hectares and enjoys an exceptional setting on the outskirts of the capital. But how much do you know about the history of this holiday resort for princely, royal and imperial families?

A landmark in French history

Murder in the Italian garden

It all began in 1577, when Catherine de Médicis acquired the Hôtel d'Aulnay on the heights of Saint-Cloud.

She donated it to one of her loyal squires, Jérôme de Gondi, an Italian banker who, like her, came from a prominent Florence family.

He built a pleasure house surrounded by terraced gardens.
This bucolic refuge was the setting for a bloody historical event during the Wars of Religion.

In 1589, King Henri III moved into Maison de Gondi to prepare for the siege of Paris, then occupied by the Catholic League. On August 1st, he was stabbed to death by the Ligueur monk Jacques Clément. Before he died, he had time to name his successor: Henri de Navarre, the future King Henri IV.

L’assassinat d’Henri III par Jacques Clément

From Archbishop to King

When Jean-François de Gondi, the first archbishop of Paris, acquired the property in 1625, he focused all his efforts on developing the gardens, whose two main attractions were the grotto of Parnasse and the basin of the Grand Jet.

On the death of the archbishop in 1654, his heirs sold the estate to Barthélémy Hervart, a German-born banker and financial steward to King Louis XIV.

He enlarged the house and improved the estate's water supply. Thus embellished, the property attracted a great deal of interest.

Particularly the king, who acquired it on October 25, 1658.

Bassin du grand jet

David Demangeot

A princely palace

Louis XIV offered the estate to his only brother, Philippe d'Orléans, then Duke of Anjou and future Duke of Orléans, better known as Monsieur.

It was with Monsieur that the estate underwent its greatest metamorphosis, with the expansion of the park from around 10 hectares to over 400, the construction of the Grande Cascade and the château to the designs of Antoine Le Pautre, and the landscaping of the gardens by André Le Nôtre.

Philippe d’Orléans et le Château de Saint-Cloud

Base Regards Jean-Luc Paillé

Revolutions and coups d'état: Saint-Cloud, palace of power

The estate passed from father to son within the family, until Louis-Philippe d'Orléans, Monsieur's great-grandson, ceded it to Queen Marie-Antoinette on February 20, 1785. For a time, the queen considered rebuilding the entire château, but changed her mind and embarked on a major renovation and enlargement campaign, carried out by her favorite architect, Richard Mique.

In the summer of 1789, the Revolution broke out in Paris! The Saint-Cloud estate survived the horrors of the Revolution by joining the King's civil list as the official summer residence of the new constitutional monarchy. The sleepy estate was revived when Napoleon Bonaparte staged his coup d'état of 18 Brumaire in the château's orangery.

It was also at Saint-Cloud, in the Galerie d'Apollon, that he was made Emperor on May 18, 1804; and in the same gallery that he celebrated his civil marriage to his second wife, Marie-Louise of Austria, on April 1, 1810.

After the end of the Empire, the château saw a succession of sovereigns staying in one of their favorite summer residences. It was at Saint-Cloud that Charles X signed the decrees that brought about his downfall and the rise to power of Louis-Philippe I.
The estate emerged unscathed from the Revolution of 1848. The château remained unoccupied for only a short time, with recurring visits from Prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoléon I. First elected President of the Republic by universal male suffrage, he was proclaimed Emperor of the French on November 7, 1852 in the Galerie d'Apollon, just like his uncle forty years earlier.

Séance du Conseil des Cinq Cents tenue à St Cloud le 19 Brumaire An Huit

Wars and destruction

Unfortunately, it was also at Saint-Cloud that he signed the declaration of war on Prussia in July 1870. Unwittingly, Napoleon III sounded the death knell for this much-loved residence... The château, which had survived several conflicts and popular uprisings up to that point, was bombarded during clashes between French soldiers based at Mont-Valérien and Prussian soldiers occupying the Saint-Cloud estate. All that remained of the château were smoking ruins after a devastating 48-hour fire.

But the vicissitudes didn't stop there. During the Second World War, under the Occupation, Saint-Cloud became a strategic location for the Wehrmacht. The Germans built watchtowers on the Rond de la Balustrade, anti-aircraft batteries on the Plateau de la Brosse and several bunkers and fortifications around the Trocadero garden.

L’assassinat d’Henri III par Jacques Clément

Time for recognition

The classification of the estate as a historic monument on November 9, 1994, and the awarding of the " jardin remarquable" label in 2005, have ensured that the exceptional historical and architectural quality of one of Europe's most beautiful gardens will continue to be showcased.

Cultural events, exhibitions and festivals are all opportunities to rediscover this exceptional garden, dedicated by a decree of the Convention to be preserved and maintained " at the expense of the Republic to serve the enjoyment of the people ".

La terrasse de l’Orangerie

Éric Sander

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