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The Palais Royal - The Place of Cardinal Richelieu

Sunday, 13 December 2009

palais royalThe Palais-Royal is a steady group of arches despite a long history of construction, built by Cardinal Richelieu and the guide-books tell us that the French consider the «arcade» as a road  that may be passed from one street to another and that is assigned for the pedestrians only. The stores in the arcades are splendid and luxury, though the goods they offer are found a little bit more expensive. People arrange meetings or dating in the arcades in the bad seasons. Usually arches are illuminated with gas lanterns.  There are over six thousand streets in Paris today. And approximately 280 out of the total number are called arcades, though only 30 of them correspond to the definition given by Richard in 1828 in the guide book to Paris.

The preimage to the entire future arcade in all countries of the world appeared to be the Gallery in the Palais Royal.

The history of this palace is attractive and spontaneous like France. Cardinal Richelieu, the Duke, was one of the most influential political figures in France of XVII century. Purchasing and selling castles and houses, Richelieu failed to find the place to feel comfortable himself. The villas in the suburbs were luxury and comfortable but too hard to travel to the palace and live the active court life, while the life in a huge palace by the King was not even considered, since the Cardinal thought it was not worth a Duke to be that subordinate to the King. In 1624 he bought a spacious magnificent estate Angenne just opposite Louver. The entire estate comprised of a few buildings, defensive structures and a small garden, though it was never convenient for ambitious Richelieu. He needed something like a royal structure to meet his requirements. Thus, he made the decision to reconstruct the estate and his friend and protégé, the architect Jacques Lemercier, was assigned to lead construction works.

Several years after Palais Cardinale appeared in this place that is Cardinals Palace. That was really luxury and splendid structure, comprising of the true Guards' Hall, the Library, and the Theater. The Gallery was very impressive and Richelieu was admitted as one of the first collectors of that time. 262 canvases by the reputed and famous European painters were found in the Gallery, including Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello, Tiziano, Rubens, and Durer. The Cardinal was keen for sculptures and china ware also. And the most majestic thing in the Palace was the garden, the object for jealousy by the royal family to Richelieu. Louis could not boast with such a cozy and at the same time luxury estate and, proving to be the farseeing strategist, Richelieu inherited his castle to the royal family after his death, taking off all the claims and ensuring the worthy sanity, though Louis XIII could not use the gift since he lived only a year after Richelieu died.

Thus, the year 1642 is the year of death of Richelieu. And Mazarini, the «grey cardinal» came to replace him. The widow Anna Avstriyskaya left the Louver moving to Palais Cardinale with her children. So, the palace turns into the Palais Royal and the title retains till now. And this is the very place where the childhood of the future King-Sun, Louis XIV. And here the principles of the absolute monarchy are set and the Divine Right of kings («State is me»). The Monarch that survived the period of riots afterwards called Fronde, up brought by the mother and Mazarini, ruled further within 72 years (which is longer than the reign of all other monarchs in the European history), though he never returned to Palais Royal any longer. The wrong memory from the childhood was perhaps the cause. However, he caused to accommodate his favorite Duchess de Lavalier in one of the wings of the castle. He had two kinds with her, born unofficially. And the unquestionable merit by Lavalier is the influence she had on Louis. Expecting this meeting, the King initiated the construction works of Versailles, one of the magnificent residencies of European monarchs. And in 1750 Anna had to escape from Palais Royal to avoid Fronde.

Louis of France granted the Palace to his brother, Philippe d'Orleans. The Orlean Family possessed the Palais Royal till the time of the Great French Revolution. The reconstructions were initiated in 80s of XVIII century and lasted till the end of the century. The Duke d'Orlean, known as Philippe Egalite, changed the interior and exterior design of the palace. After he introduced the innovations, the castle that Richelieu had at his time, endured sea changes. The point is that Philippe got accustomed to beautiful and luxury life, though he was short of money. When he inherited Palais Royal, he ordered to the architect Victor Louis to erect the vacant land with houses with arcades to have in future cafes and commercial places. That time also the Theater of France appeared there, that afterwards turned into Comédie-Française. The tent show was established there in the center of the park. And for the decades the whole quarter became one of the popular and huge entertainment centers in Paris. The cousin to Louis XVI attached to the place the entire quarter when he caused the palace garden to circle in three streets named after his sons, Beaujolais, Valois and Montpensier. Using the rights of the Duke Philippe put the ban for the policemen to appear in the territory of Palais Royal and turned the palace into the huge and multifunctional brothel. And one could get a girl for any taste and purse there.

Cafes, shops and light-minded girls and total impunity attracted people from various places. Bonaparte is believed to be the regular customer of this place. And this is the very place where the Great French Revolution was initiated when Camille Beoist Desmoulis was speaking to the jumping onto the table. And the crowd came from here to conquer Bastille...

That was the following stage in the Royal life. The rebellion initiated there moved throughout the whole Paris and France and the rest of Europe. In 1793 Philippe Egalite was put to death here by revolutionary and the Palace was nationalized, thus turning into the common heritage of France.

For a while the Palace was used as the exchange house and the court. And sea change occurred in 1814. Louis XVIII gave the Palais Royal to former owners; the brothel and cafes are removed from there and the interior of the time when Richelieu reigned was restored again. And again the Palais Royal shines, and again we enjoy seeing the high society of Paris literature evenings are held there involving young but popular List. The prosperity ended to 1848 when the Palace went bad after the revolution and the commune set it to fire in 1871 turning everything upside down.

The Palace as you see it today has its appearance relatively in the recent years. It was restored and since 1873 the governmental authorities have been located there, like the State Council, Constitutional Council and the Ministry of Culture.

A remainder of the Cardinal's palace is occupied by the Ministry for Culture and Communication in the Galerie de Valois. The Galerie de Montpensier opposite houses the Constitutional Council and the French theatre company. The building which looks over Place du Palais-Royal has been handed over to the State Council. Its façade is decorated with a sculpted ornamental group of weapons and allegorical figures sculpted by Pajou. In the Cour d'Honneur (ceremonial courtyard), bordered by the double colonnade of the Galerie d'Orléans (1825), stand 260 columns by Daniel Buren, the French artist-conceptualist, and the steel spheres on the fountains by Pol Bury. The architectural project «Two Squares», aka «Buren columns» was initiated in 1980 by Daniel Buren by the order made by the Minister of Culture and Communication Jacques Lang. the issue to install the columns was discussed and negotiated within two years among the art historians and architects, as well as among Paris natives who agree to the colonnade and even loved them afterwards. Presently the Committee on Monument Custody in Paris announced that Buren columns are in need in restoration. The water soaks into the premises located under the square belonging to Comédie-Française in the right wing of the building. The restoration process, as reported by Charles Perrault, the architect responsible for Palais Royal, comprises dismantling of columns and laying the court with the hermetic film from elastomer. All this will take €2,6 million, at least. And the preliminary cost of columns was twice as less as the amount required for the restoration purposes.

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