Château de Malmaison

Rueil-Malmaison, France

Formerly the residence of Empress Joséphine de Beauharnais (along with the Tuileries), Château de Malmaison was the headquarters of the French government from 1800 to 1802, and Napoleon's last residence in France at the end of the Hundred Days in 1815.

Joséphine de Beauharnais bought the manor house in April 1799 for herself and her husband, General Napoléon Bonaparte, the future Napoléon I of France, at that time away fighting the Egyptian Campaign. Upon his return, Bonaparte expressed fury at Joséphine for purchasing such an expensive house with the money she had expected him to bring back from the Egyptian campaign. The house, for which she had paid well over 300,000 francs, needed extensive renovations, and she spent a fortune doing so.

Joséphine endeavored to transform the large estate into a beautiful garden. She located rare and exotic plants and animals to enhance the gardens. In 1800, Joséphine built a heated orangery large enough for 300 pineapple plants. Five years later, she ordered the building of a greenhouse, heated by a dozen coal-burning stoves. From 1803 until her death in 1814, Josephine cultivated nearly 200 new plants in France for the first time.

The property achieved enduring fame for its rose garden. Empress Joséphine had the Belgian artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759–1840) record her roses (and lilies), and prints of these works sell quite well, even today. She created an extensive collection of roses, gathering plants from her native Martinique and from other places around the world. She grew some 250 varieties of roses.

After her divorce from Napoléon, Joséphine received Malmaison in her own right, along with a pension of 5 million francs a year, and remained there until her death in 1814. Napoléon returned and took residence in the house after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo (1815), before his exile to the island of Saint Helena.

In 1842 Malmaison was purchased by Maria Christina, widow of King Ferdinand VII of Spain; she lived there with her second husband Agustín Fernando Muñoz, 1st Duke of Riánsares. In 1861 Maria Christina sold the property to Napoleon III.

Malmaison was fully restored by the famous French architect Pierre Humbert in the early 20th century. It is now considered an important historical monument. Today the chateau houses as a Napoleonic Musée National.

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Founded: 18th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

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4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Betty Barton (11 months ago)
It was very interesting to learn more about Josephine and Napoleon, and to see the room where Napoleon sold the Louisiana Purchase to America.
Jennifer Smith (12 months ago)
A lovely place to stop by for the first free Sunday. Not overtly crowded and doesn’t take too long to walk through. The home has English translations for each room although a large placard upon hall entry describing the general history is not translated. There is an audioguide offer for €2 but decided to pass. Good preservation throughout. Make sure to see the black swans in the small pond at the back of the house.
Louis and Elaine (13 months ago)
We truly enjoyed the Chateau de Malmaison. Not as spectacular as some chateaux, it had a more lived in appeal for us. We could almost imagine Napoleon and Josephine living here. The rooms and furnishings give a very livable impression yet are quite impressive.
João A. B. Nogueira (14 months ago)
It's worth the visit. Very interesting and peaceful. You should really do the guided tour. We had a very nice lady telling us all the details. A must do tour if your into Napoleon and Josephine's history.
Nick Mahan (15 months ago)
Had a wonderful visit. Well preserved and off the beaten pass, this château was the Imperial Palace for Napoleon and Josephine. Di tmuss a walk through the gardens to see the black swans.
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