History of Princesse de Lamballe’s Passy Home

In the mid-1770s, Passy was about three miles outside Paris. It drew wealthy people because of its bucolic setting. Located on the hillside of the Seine’s right bank, Passy also had a renowned mineral spring owned by Louis-Guillaume Le Veillard. The spring purportedly had healing waters described as “copious blue.” Moreover, its location made Passy the perfect distance between Versailles and Paris. That was part of the reason that the United States’ first Ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin, called it home for the nine years — 1776-1785, and why the Princesse de Lamballe purchased a home in Passy in February of 1783.

The Princesse de Lamballe in 1782 by Louise-Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Century Illustrated Month Magazine mentioned Passy in xx stating:

“The quarter of Passy where Franklin took up his abode ranked in those days among the most attractive in the environs of Paris … [and] it was the residence of the marquis de Potainvilliers, the Prevost of Paris and Lord of Passy; of the illustrious and unfortunate Princesse de Lamballe, whose chateau was still standing under the Second Empire: and of the Marshal d’Estaing, whose name is so honorably associated with our [American] Revolution. … Passy was also endowed by nature with a mineral spring renowned in those days for its medicinal properties, and … the spring was the property of a M. le Veillard, first mayor of Passy, with whom Dr. Franklin contracted a great intimacy and life-long friendship.”[1]

Benjamin Franklin, Author's Collection

Benjamin Franklin. Author’s collection.

Passy drew numerous other well-known people who also resided there in the 1700s. Among them was Alexandre Le Riche de La Poupelinière, a wealthy fermier général. He lived there in the mid-1700s and threw lavish suppers that included the best operatic and dancing entertainment. The Irish revolutionary who served France in the 1700s, Charles Edward Jennings de Kilmaine, also moved to Passy with his wife before they were imprisoned during the Reign of Terror. Lastly, the well-known Italian composer Niccolò Piccinni became a resident and died at his Passy home in May of 1800.

Princesse de Lamballe's Passy Home

Author at a back gate of Passy residence, Author’s collection.

The Princesse’s house, which she bought on 1 February 1783 for one hundred and then thousand livres, was an imposing two-story structure with a terrace and an extraordinary view that overlooked the Seine River:

“[It had] a classical stone facade and a dormered mansard roof. It was called Folie Lauzun after its owner, the duc de Lauzun, … [who] had tired of the Passy house almost as quickly as he had tired of his new bride, for whom he had the house built.”[2]

After she purchased the home, she wanted an English garden installed, which the Scottish gardener and botanist Thomas Blaikie recalled in his journal:

“The Duke d’Orleans desired me to go to Passy to see the Princess de Lamball [sic] who had a garden to Make and desired me to undertake; went the day the Duke ordered but being a few minutes too late he was gone; however I met the Princess who told me she wished I would make her a plan of her garden as her intention was to Charge and to employ as many of the poor of Passy as I could; I approuved very much of her goodness and promised soon to make her a Plan.”[3]

After the princesse’s death, the bulk of her estate went to her nephew, which included her Passy home, and, after the Reign of Terror, he sold the home to a French banker named Joseph Baguenault. It remained in the Baguenault family who rather than use it themselves, let and sublet it until they sold it in 1922. Interestingly, during the time the Baguenault’s owned it, the home became known as the La Maison du Docteur Blanche. That was because psychiatrist Dr. Émile Blanche began to operate a progressive residential clinic for the insane. Among some of Baguenault’s more famous clients were the poet Gérard de Nerval, the French writer Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant, and the composer Charles Gounod.

(Left to right and top to bottom) Dr. Émile Blanche, Gérard de Nerval, Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant, and Charles Gounod, Public Domain

(Left to right and top to bottom) Dr. Émile Blanche, Gérard de Nerval, Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant, and Charles Gounod. Public domain.

The Baguenault family sold the building to Comte de Limur and his American wife and Gestapo then requisitioned it in 1940. Surprisingly, the next owner was the Turkish government, who purchased it in 1951. This purchase occurred primarily because of a young woman named Nevin Menemencioğlu. Her uncle was the foreign minister, and, in 1945, he was looking to reopen the Turkish embassy in France. She helped in his search and stumbled upon the Hôtel de Lamballe. The Turkish government leased the building and moved into it in 1945 and then with the aid of General de Gaulle, they purchased the building in 1951.

What was once Princesse de Lamballe’s Passy home is today surrounded by a high wall, iron fences, and guards. Acknowledgements of the Princess de Lamballe are still evident in the area. Her home exists on the road known as the Avenue de Lamballe. To get a good look at the building, head down avenue de Lamballe, turn right onto du Général-Mangin, and look at it from the rue d’Ankara. In addition, a sign is affixed on the rear iron gate. It states, “dans cet hotel habita Marie-Therese Louise de Savoie-Carignan princesse de Lamballe amie devouee de la reine Marie-Antoinette 1749-1792,” which translated means, “In this hotel lived Louis Marie Therese de Savoie-Carignan, princesse de Lamballe, (1749-1792) devoted friend of Queen Marie Antoinette.”

Avenue de Lamballe. Author’s collection.

References:

  • [1] Century Illustrated Month Magazine, Vol. 13, 1888, p. 745-746.
  • [2] Walton, Geri, Marie Antoinette’s Confidante, 2016, p. 113.
  • [3] Blaikie, Thomas, Diary of a Scotch Gardener at the French Court at the End of the Eighteenth Century, 2012, p. 215.

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