Places Mentioned in “Marie Antoinette’s Confidante” (Part 2)

As mentioned in my previous post, the relationship between Marie Antoinette and the Princesse de Lamballe was a fascinating one. To understand the environment that these women lived in I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the places that were an important part of their lives and places that I talked about in “Marie Antoinette’s Confidante.” Part two looks at places within Paris and includes the Palace of Tuileries, the Duke of Orléans’s Palais-Royal, the Hôtel de Toulouse, and the remnants of the infamous Bastille and La Force prison.

Sights in Paris: Sites I Visited in Paris

Sites I visited in Paris. Author’s collection.

To give you an idea of how close these sites are to one another, I have included a map. Please note that the Palace of Tuileries is about 2.3 kilometers or 1.5 miles from the Bastille. 

In October of 1789 hungry women marched on Versailles. Their march resulted in the royal family being forced to go to Paris, where they were housed at the Palace of Tuileries, located next to the Louvre. Attached to the Tuileries Palace were magnificent gardens that were only open to the public in the afternoon. As the revolution marched forward, eventually, on 10 August 1792, the Palace of Tuileries was overran by a mob. The royal family sought shelter from the Legislative Assembly and later ended up imprisoned at the Temple. The King was also removed from power and executed.

Afterwards, the gardens became the National Garden (Jardin National) of the new French Republic. Napoleon Bonaparte moved into Palace of Tuileries in 1800, then Louis-Philippe lived there, and finally Louis Napoleon. After Louis Napoleon was defeated in the 1870s, the palace was burned, but the ruins were not torn down until 1883. The empty site where the palace stood is now part of the gardens.

Today, one of the outstanding features of the gardens is the triumphal arch known as the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. It was built to celebrate the victories of Napoleon, with bas-relief sculptures of his battles by Jean Joseph Espercieux. The gardens lost some of their magnificence over time and were remade in the 1990s with several modern sculptures introduced. Unfortunately, the gardens have never regained their former glory, although now, in the 21st century, French landscape architects Pascal Cribier and Louis Benech have been working to restore some of the garden’s early features.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Author's Collectiopn

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, built between 1806 and 1808 (notice the entrance to the Louvre in the background). Author’s collection.

The Palais-Cardinal belonged to Cardinal Richelieu. Eventually, it become the property of the House of Orléans and renamed the Palais-Royal. In 1785, Louis Philippe II, better known as the Duke of Orléans, succeeded his father as the head of the House of Orléans. The Duke of Orléans also married the Duke of Penthièvre’s daughter, the wealthy Louise Marie Adélaïde de Bourbon, and after their marriage the couple lived at the Palais-Royal, and their eldest son, Louis-Philippe, who later became King of the French, was born there in 1773.

When the Duke of Orléans inherited the property from his father, the Palais-Royal was run down and in need of major repairs. The Duke was a spendthrift and hard pressed for money. To maintain the property and earn money, he decided he had to convert it into a commercial enterprise. It was already popular for its gardens, and he made it more popular by rimming the gardens with lines of shops, cafes, casinos, restaurants, and theatres.

During the revolution, the Duke took the name of Philippe Égalité. Because many revolutionary meetings were held at the Palais-Royal to discuss liberty, freedom, and a new republic, it became known as the Palace of Égalité. Today, shops and cafes still surround the open square, and at the rear of the gardens are older buildings associated with France’s national library, the famous Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Palais-Royal Showing Shops in One Section Around the Gardens, Author's Collection

Picture of a Portion of Palais-Royal.  Author’s collection.

The Hôtel de Toulouse was part of the Duke of Penthièvre’s inheritance. It functioned as his main resident when he was in Paris, so when his only son, the Prince de Lamballe, married the Princesse, the Duke held a special wedding fête for the newlyweds at this hôtel. He invited hundreds of people and the guests could not have had any bluer blood.

After the Duke’s son died and his daughter married the Duke of Orléans, the lonely Duke of Penthriève asked the Princesse to occupy an apartment at the Hôtel to keep him company. She agreed and the Duke built her a special apartment on the second floor. Her salon was richly decorated: The woodwork was painted white and gold and the room decorated in blues. The princesse’s bedroom was also ornamented: Besides a canopied bed situated between two carved and gilded columns, it was “embellished with two oval paintings by François Boucher, and two marble medallions of the King and Queen over the doors leading to the salon.”[1]

During the French Revolution the Hôtel was confiscated as “bien national” (national property) and became the official printing works for the Republic, known as Imprimerie de la République, in 1795. Later, on 6 March 1808, Napoleon signed a national decree authorizing the sale of the Hôtel de Toulouse to the Bank of France, known as the Banque de France, which then made it the official seat in 1811.

Gate at the Banque de France (top) and Detail of Plaque on Wall (bottom), Author's Collection

Gate at the Banque de France (top) and detail of plaque on wall (bottom). Author’s collection.

After the bank bought the building, the princesse’s highly decorative salon and bedroom became the waiting room for the governor of the Banque de France. One recent event at the bank occurred during the making of Sofia Coppola’s 2006 movie Marie Antoinette. At that time a scene was shot in the building using its famous 40-metre Galerie dorée, where ten paintings by Italian masters adorn its walls and overhead is a fresco by Frenchman François Perrier. Unfortunately, during my visit I was only able to see the outside.

Discovery of the Liberté Tower in 1899 (top) and after it was relocated to the Boulevard Henri IV (bottom), Public Domain

Discovery of the Liberté Tower in 1899 (top) and after it was relocated to the Boulevard Henri IV (bottom). Public domain.

The Bastille began as a fortress in the 1300s and over the years it developed into a prison. Louis XIV used it to imprison upper-class people within French society and from about 1659 onward it functioned as state penitentiary. Both Louis XVI and his grandson, Louis XVI, imprisoned a variety of people. They also used the Bastille to enforce government censorship. This resulted in numerous autobiographies claiming mistreatment by those imprisoned and culminated in some reforms. However, because the King could imprison someone at will, the Bastille came to be a symbol of the King’s tyranny and despotism.

The Bastille was always on Parisian’s minds. Thus, it was the first spot revolutionaries thought of attacking. Within hours of its capture, the Bastille added legitimacy to their revolutionary movement and served as a powerful symbol of liberty, despite revolutionaries discovering just seven prisoners locked inside.

Soon after the capture of the Bastille, the decision was made to demolish it. Today, nothing but a few remains can be found. During the construction of the Métro in 1899, the foundation of one of the eight towers, the Liberté Tower, was discovered and relocated to the Boulevard Henri IV. There are also some Bastille stones in the Pont de la Concorde (a bridge across the River Seine that connects the Quai des Tuileries and the Quai d’Orsay). A few relics also exist at the Carnavalet Museum and Musée Européen d’Art Campanaire. In addition, a key from the Bastille was presented to George Washington in 1790 by Lafayette and is on display at Mount Vernon.

The last place that housed the Princesse de Lamballe was La Force prison, which started out as the Hôtel de la Force. It was located in the Rue du Roi de Sicile and is now in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. By the time of the French Revolution, La Force was a prison and consisted of Petit la Force, which housed women, and Grande la Force, which housed men.

Remaining Portion of La Force (top) and Closeup Detail of It, Author's Collection

Remaining portion of La Force (top) and closeup detail of it. Author’s collection.

Besides imprisoning the Princesse there were a number of other well known prisoners. For instance, French astronomer, mathematician, and freemason, Jean Sylvain Bailly, who also served as mayor of Paris from 1789 to 1791, was imprisoned there before he was guillotined during the Reign of Terror. The French journalist, Simon-Nicholas Henri Linguet, also spent time there, as did three fictional characters: Charles Dickens incarcerated Charles Darney from A Tale of Two Cities; Honoré de Balzac imprisoned Lucien de Rubempré in Illusions perdue; and Victor Hugo thought Thénardier an appropriate prisoner in Les Misérables.

La Force was torn down in 1845. Today, all that remains is a small section of wall and a plaque that briefly describes its history and notes the imprisonment and demise of the Princesse de Lamballe.

If you missed part 1, click here.


  • [1] Walton, Geri, Marie Antoinette’s Confidante, 2016, p. 116.

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