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The Palais-Royal: from a prince of the church to revolution

While we often associate the French royals with the Palace of Versailles and the Louvre Palace, they owned far more than that over the centuries. The Palais-Royal in Paris began as a cardinal’s palace but made its way into royal hands. 

The Palais-Royal is in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, on Rue Saint-Honoré. Architect Jacques Lemercier was commissioned in the late 1620s to create a palace for Cardinal Richelieu, one of the most powerful men in France. 

Construction on the Palais-Cardinal began in 1633 and finished in 1639. The Cardinal made the luxurious palace his home but after his death in 1642, the palace reverted to the King and thus it became known as the Palais-Royal. 

King Louis XIII did not live in the palace and died in 1643, only a year after the cardinal. King Louis XIV’s mother, Queen Anne of Austria, decided to live in the Palais-Royal along with the young new king and his brother, Philippe, Duc d’Anjou. 

In 1649, English Queen Henrietta Maria fled to France following her husband’s execution. She also lived at the Palais-Royal, along with her daughter, Henrietta Anne.

The English princess married the French prince, and their court quickly became a social hub. The king granted his younger brother the Palais-Royal as a home and it continued to remain a busy place. 

After Philippe’s death, the Palais-Royal was then used for government purposes rather than as a royal home. 

The palace was renamed the Palais de l’Égalité during the French Revolution and the gardens were opened up to the public. 

The Palais-Royal is now home to the Ministry of Culture, along with other government offices. 

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