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

Penny Taylor (3 months ago)
Lovely little chateau. Gives a good view of the history and relationship between Napoleon and Josephine. Great collection of paintings.
Sabiha Gokcen (4 months ago)
This was a wonderful window into the life of Josephine. The Chateau is furnished to give you a feel for that period. The garden was the highlight for me. Josephine loved nature and the layout of the gardens emphasize a natural environment. However my favorite thing was the black swans!
Alan Jones (6 months ago)
Visited the chateau in the morning, and Versailles in the afternoon. Spectacular though it was at Versailles, enjoyed the chateau better. Very peaceful surroundings and a really interesting house, with such history and some surprising rooms! The gardens are lovely for a walk too, although not on the Versailles scale! Well worth a visit if you are in the area.
Fabian Joya (6 months ago)
Mildly interesting castle with a small garden, where Napoleon & Josephine used to stay. The castle exhibits are entirely focused on them. Worth a visit if you are interested in Napoleon and his life. Otherwise, it's safe to skip this.
Lizzy French (6 months ago)
Very interesting. Our guide Carmen was great, she helped us learn all about Josephine and her March through history.
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