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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Details

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

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Sherifa Al-Hashash (8 months ago)
A small chateau with beautiful gradens. It is Napoleon's palace with his wife Josephine. Audio guides are available there. Don't miss the extra rooms behind visitor's desk.
Julie O'Connor (9 months ago)
Lovely place to visit -- the country home of Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte just outside Paris.
Keith Sheldon (12 months ago)
Wonderful tour of the Chateau. History and a beautiful setting.
Amy Muscat (13 months ago)
Great experience, beautiful scenery. Lovely place. Free on the first Sunday of each month.
Martin Magdalenski (13 months ago)
I went for the rose gardens. The history is better at the Hôtel Invalides. Sad to see the grass in a very brown state. Seems they rely on rainfall for the lawns. 2018 was a dry summer. The flowers and trees were watered but needed more watering. Beware of the shut down for lunch 1230-1330, there is not very much dining choice in short walking distance.
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The Château de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. The purpose was to protect his lands from attacks from his feudal rivals, Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou. On his behalf the Norman Gelduin received it, improved it and held it as his own. His great-niece Denise de Fougère, having married Sulpice d'Amboise, passed the château into the Amboise family for five centuries.

Pierre d'Amboise unsuccessfully rebelled against King Louis XI and his property was confiscated, and the castle was dismantled on royal order in 1465. It was later rebuilt by Charles I d'Amboise from 1465–1475 and then finished by his son, Charles II d'Amboise de Chaumont from 1498–1510, with help from his uncle, Cardinal Georges d'Amboise; some Renaissance features were to be seen in buildings that retained their overall medieval appearance. The château was acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550. There she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus. When her husband, Henry II, died in 1559 she forced his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, to exchange Château de Chaumont for Château de Chenonceau which Henry had given to de Poitiers. Diane de Poitiers only lived at Chaumont for a short while.

Later Chaumont has changed hands several times. Paul de Beauvilliers bought the château in 1699, modernized some of its interiors and decorated it with sufficient grandeur to house the duc d'Anjou on his way to become king of Spain in 1700. Monsieur Bertin demolished the north wing to open the house towards the river view in the modern fashion.

In 1750, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray purchased the castle as a country home where he established a glassmaking and pottery factory. He was considered the French "Father of the American Revolution" because he loved America. However, in 1789, the new French Revolutionary Government seized Le Ray's assets, including his beloved Château de Chaumont.

The castle has been classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture. The Château de Chaumont is currently a museum and every year hosts a Garden Festival from April to October where contemporary garden designers display their work in an English-style garden.