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Château de Malmaison – Joséphine Bonaparte’s Dearest Home

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04/16/20

Le Château de Malmaison is an easy half-day trip from Paris. Considered one of the most beautiful castles near Paris, it is located eight kilometers to the west from the French capital, in the town of Rueil-Malmaison. It is most commonly known as the former residence of Napoleon I, the emperor of France from 1804 to 1814, and his first wife Joséphine de Beauharnais.

READ MORE –  Sites related to Napoleon I in Paris

 

The Story of Château de Malmaison

Before going to Egypt in 1798, Napoleon I gave his wife Joséphine the task of finding a country house to her liking. Joséphine was immediately charmed by Le Château de Malmaison and bought it in 1799, three years after their marriage.

At first, it was an old house of the 17th century, but renovations by architects Percier and Fontaine (1800 to 1802) turned it into a luxurious villa with all the fashions of the 19th century.

The Château had many interesting features. On the ground floor, the architects gave the vestibule the appearance of the atrium of a Roman villa. During receptions, a mechanism installed enabled the mirrors to slide into the walls transforming the billiard rooms and dining room into reception halls.

In the pavilions at either end, small rooms were modified to create larger rooms. The dining room was extended by the addition of a semi-circular section and thereafter featured six windows instead of four.

Rear Facade - Château de Malmaison France

All these renovation works had seriously weakened the walls of the château façade however, and the architects were forced to use heavy buttresses to hold them up. These massive buttresses were decorated with statues taken from the gardens of Château de Marly (see the picture of the garden facade).

Outside the Château, Percier and Fontaine built a small theatre that could accommodate 200 to 300 spectators, set for numerous productions. The farm adjacent to the Château was transformed into a kitchen block since the previous kitchens, located in the cellar, were no longer sufficient for the emperor’s family and guests.

The interiors were decorated in a style combination of Antiquity and Renaissance which became the archetype of the Empire style. There is no shortage of archaeological and historical references: Doric pilasters and stucco columns in the vestibule, decorative motifs inspired by Roman and Pompeian paintings on the library ceiling and in the dining room.

Josephine Bonaparte's Bedroom - Château de Malmaison

The council chamber is another interesting part of the Château. It is made to look like a military tent, with its fabric walls supported by fasces, pikes, and standards between which were hung ensembles of arms recalling the most famous warlike people of all time.

Bonaparte’s library still keeps the original decoration, with furniture mainly brought from the Tuileries Palace. The painted ceiling alludes to the literary authors Bonaparte appreciated. A secret staircase led Napoleon directly to his rooms on the first floor.

 

The Gardens at Malmaison

Gardens at Château de Malmaison

The Gardens are a very important part of the Château and we recommend spending some time exploring them. Very fond of botanic, the Empress brought her personal touch at the gardens of Malmaison, adding a number of various plants, statues and more.

In Malmaison, Joséphine Bonaparte liked to cultivate rare plants in her greenhouse and thanks to her relations with botanists and experts from the French Museum of Natural History she imported flora from Europe and beyond.

Some 200 plants, such as purple magnolia, tree peony, hibiscus, camellias, and dahlias, were grown in France for the first time at Malmaison. She also collected more than 250 varieties of rose, which were planted as bushes in the park or in pots to be moved outside in June.

 

Joséphine Bonaparte

Napoleon sites in Paris

Joséphine (whose real name was Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie) was Napoleon’s first wife. She was born on the Island of Martinique, to a wealthy French family that owned a sugarcane plantation. When Rose met Napoleon, six years her junior, she was the widow of Alexandre-Francois-Marie, Vicomte de Beauharnais, and had two children, Eugène and Hortense. It was Napoleon who first started to call her Joséphine, perhaps from her middle name.

After their divorce in 1809, due to the “infertility” of Joséphine, Bonaparte allowed her to keep the title of Empress. She continued to live at the Château de Malmaison until her death. Still keeping close contact through letters and visits, Château de Malmaison was also Napoleon’s last place of residence in France, before he was sent to exile in Elba Isle.

Here is the last letter Joséphine sent to Napoleon after learning that he was to go to Elba Isle and that his second wife, Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma, didn’t want to accompany him:

Why can I not fly to you? I have been on the point of quitting France to follow you in your footsteps. …Say but the word and I depart. It is no longer but words that my sentiments for you are to be proved, and for actions your consent is necessary. Malmaison has been much respected, and I am surrounded by foreign sovereigns but would rather leave.”

 

Shortly after this letter, Joséphine caught a cold which turned out to be fatal. On  29th May 1814, the Empress passed away at the age of 50 in the arms of her son Eugène.

Today, the Château de Malmaison is open 6 days of the week to the public as a museum. Once a year, in September, there is a dinner where people from the Napoleonic community have special access to the castle and come dressed in Regency clothes!

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DID YOU KNOW? In Paris, there is a beautiful hotel dedicated to Joséphine Bonaparte.  The Hôtel Joséphine Bonaparte is located in the quintessential neighborhood of Le Marais and it is a very romantic place to stay in Paris!

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Our Visit to Château Malmaison

We went to the Château Malmaison a few years ago, and it was truly beautiful. You really feel transported to the era when you visit these kinds of monuments. It’s almost as if you were there with Napoleon and Joséphine. It was a rainy day when we went but the garden was still amazing. A wonderful place for a walk, even when you have to keep your eyes on the ground to watch out for puddles!

Hanna H.

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How to Get to Château de Malmaison from Paris

Le Château de Malmaison is located in the town of Rueil Malmaison. From la Défense (métro, RER, SNCF, bus) take bus #258 and stop at “Le Château” (25 minutes, every 10 minutes). Cross the RN13 road and go back to the roundabout. The castle is at 300m, on the right.

The Château opens every day except Tuesdays. Tickets cost 6,50€ (adults). Free every first Sunday of the month. 

The Paris Museum Pass includes free entrance to Château de Malmaison. Read more about this interesting tourist pass here.

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  • Reshma Narasing
    03/28/2017 at 7:54 pm

    I loved the rich history of this place! I’m a history buff and I love those places that take me back in time. A great place to visit!

    • WorldInParis
      03/28/2017 at 8:36 pm

      Oh then you would definitely enjoy to wander around the different rooms of this palace. If you like history stay tuned, I am also a history buff so more history posts to come 😉

  • Vicki Louise
    03/28/2017 at 2:57 am

    Oh my word – what a beautiful chateau. The French do them so well! The history is fascinating and it’s so well preserved, walking through is like walking through history – it’s just so grand!

    • WorldInParis
      03/28/2017 at 8:36 pm

      Yes it is. And the surrounding gardens are also beautiful to explore when the weather is nice 🙂

  • Stacey Veikalas
    03/27/2017 at 10:07 am

    I just love places like this! The history in always fascinating to me and my kids even love it. Love when the are still decorated your pictures take me back in time and history. Looks like a great place to see!

    • WorldInParis
      03/27/2017 at 9:17 pm

      Yes, it is a beautiful place to see and all their personal belongings make the visit even more special. Good that your kids enjoy culture and history 🙂

  • Hugo Cura
    03/26/2017 at 4:26 pm

    I visit Paris many times since I have family there and always on the look for new places to explore. Thankfully, I’ll have Malmaison to visit next!

    • WorldInParis
      04/13/2017 at 7:16 pm

      Lol! Hugo come back to World In Paris from time to time, maybe you will have other things to add to your wish list 😉

  • ankita
    03/25/2017 at 11:32 am

    Amazing! I love places that have a history. Loved your blog, bookmarked for my next escape to paris! 🙂

    • WorldInParis
      11/10/2017 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks ankita for stopping by! Have a nice trip to Paris 🙂

  • carla abanes
    03/25/2017 at 11:20 am

    I miss Paris! The one thing I love about places like this is there is too much history. Thanks for sharing this.

    • WorldInParis
      04/13/2017 at 7:24 pm

      You are welcome. Maybe there will be a second time for you in Paris 😉

  • Lee @ BaldThoughts
    01/25/2017 at 9:11 pm

    I wanted to share your post, but the share buttons are not working. I love the old buildings.

  • Mattie
    10/20/2016 at 3:45 am

    This site is really interesting. I have bookmarked it.

    Do you allow guest post on your website ?
    I can write hi quality articles for you. Let me know.

  • Helena
    09/28/2016 at 12:45 am

    Wow! I love the history on this place. I think that would be amazing to spend some time here knowing that Napolean lived there! Would love to visit.

  • Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren
    09/26/2016 at 11:29 pm

    Do you think I can move in 😉 What a beautiful place to visit! I’ll be living in Paris for a couple months next year and I’ll make a point to visit. Thanks for sharing!

    • WorldInParis
      10/05/2016 at 3:41 pm

      2 months in Paris sounds very exciting! Hope you will enjoy the city of lights

  • Jem
    09/26/2016 at 6:24 pm

    Lovely post. Thanks Hanna for sharing this. I’ll sure put it in my shortlist next time I go to Paris. I’d love to wear those regency clothes too.

  • Kerri
    09/26/2016 at 7:56 am

    I love these buildings. It’s one of the things I treasure about Europe the most. Really enjoyed learning all about the history of Malmaison.

    • WorldInParis
      10/05/2016 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks Kerri 🙂

  • Carmen's Luxury Travel
    09/26/2016 at 7:29 am

    This is going on my list! I love old homes – so historic and charming! Great post, thanks for sharing 🙂

    • WorldInParis
      10/05/2016 at 3:38 pm

      Yes, we have many charming buildings with history in Paris 😉 Thanks for your comment Carmen

  • Mike
    09/26/2016 at 6:31 am

    Good to know its free once a month. I’m all about budget travel and look for those kinds of deals. It must have been amazing to be teleported back into the Napoleonic era.

    • WorldInParis
      10/05/2016 at 3:39 pm

      You will find lots of budget travel options here for Paris Mike 🙂

  • Castaway with Crystal
    09/25/2016 at 2:40 pm

    Wow what a cool place! I’d love to go visit some time! Glad you had fun 🙂

  • Els Mahieu
    09/25/2016 at 11:30 am

    So much history! At the moment I’m still into backpacking but I always tell myself that when I’m older I’ll definitely check out the French chateaux, preferably on a river cruise on the Loire!

    • WorldInParis
      10/05/2016 at 3:47 pm

      You can mix backpacking & chateaux, don’t need to wait till you will be older, lol 😉

  • Punita Malhotra
    09/25/2016 at 6:37 am

    I remember reading about this house in a historical fiction book called ‘The Second Empress’ by Michelle Moran. Reading your post reminds me that this is in my wish-list. Sweet little country home with a lot of history attached to it.

    • WorldInParis
      10/05/2016 at 3:42 pm

      I did not know about this book, thanks for the info!

  • Jordan
    09/24/2016 at 10:39 pm

    Looks so stunning and ornate… If only I could live there. Hope to visit sometime soon, Ill add to the ever growing list!

  • Francois Geneve
    04/19/2016 at 9:25 pm

    Thank you Hanna for your post. I always enjoy my visits to Malmaison every time I manage to find an opportunity. I would live to partake in one of the September dinner there as it must be an amazing experience to be transported back in time. I recall a very nice luncheon I had with a Napoleonic group at the petite Malmaison ( Josephine’s former green house ) in 2004 during the bi-centennial festivities. I always love to return to Malmaison and like you enjoy the walk in the garden.