Château de Compiègne is a french royal palace c. 75 km north of
Paris, in the département of Oise. Compiègne has been a royal residence since the 7th century, when
it was used by Merovingian kings.
Château de Compiègne Architecture
The present building was begun in 1751 for Louis XV, King of France, by
Anges-Jacques Gabriel. It was finished in 1786 for Louis XVI by Le Dreux de la Châtre.
The plan is trapezoidal, with the garden front placed at an oblique angle to the
cour d’honneur, a complexity necessitated by the awkwardness of the site.
The cour d’honneur is in Gabriel’s plain style, the emphasis being on continuous
horizontals with few curved elements. The elevation comprises two high storeys of equal height
beneath an attic.
A classical tetrastyle pavilion front with a pediment rises in the centre; a
flattened version of this motif, using pilasters, is used on the upper part of the end pavilions of
the side wings of the cour d’honneur, which enclose a double-colonnaded entrance screen.
The interior decoration, which survives in the Salon des Jeux of the former
queen’s apartments, was executed between 1782 and 1786.
There was no damage to the building during the French Revolution although the
contents were sold in 1795, and after a period as a military academy, the château de Compiegne was
restored in 1807 for Emperor Napoleon I by Louis-Martin Berthault.
Now restored to their state in 1811, the interiors represent a complete ensemble
of the Empire style at its best. Under the Bourbon kings, the décor was slightly modified, royal
emblems replacing imperial ones. During the Second Empire, the court often stayed at Compiègne
during the autumn.
The furnishings, now rather unfashionable, were for the most part changed, and a
new gallery was built that would have connected the château and the new theatre, but the threatre
was never completed. It was decorated with cartoons by Charles-Joseph Natoire for the Beauvais
tapestries depicting the story of Don Quixote.
After 1870 the château was gradually emptied of its contents until it was
restored in the 1950s. A museum devoted to the Second Empire was created in 1953 in the marshal’s
wing, and another, to the history of road transport, was set up in the kitchen wing.
Château de Compiègne Gardens
The gardens of Chateau de Compiegne were begun in 1755 to
designs by Gabriel but were still incomplete in 1789. He suggested a series of five levels.
The top terrace, being the rampart on which the garden front of the château
stands, was connected by steps and balustrades with the second level, which contained two parterres
de broderie flanked to the north and south by symmetrically planted clumps of trees.
The third terrace, narrower in the middle, stretched out to each side with
quincunxes of lime trees forming chambres de verdure, while the fourth, the plan of which was
modified in 1756, contained two long parterres de broderie, between which an allée led to the fifth
level, where a lake framed by broderies was to have been sited.
Beyond the ha-ha, an esplanade bordered by trees extended the garden towards the
Forêt de Compiègne.
The overall plan was thus established, although the parterres on the fourth
level and the lake were not executed.
Ploughed up after 1789, the gardens were restored for Napoleon by Berthault.
Although the basic layout was retained, including the clumps of trees and quincunxes of the lateral
sections, a notable change was the substitution of a long carriage ramp for Gabriel’s flights of
stairs from the château to the lower level.
In later modifications, two pavilions were constructed at the end of the
quincunxes, which were simplified, and a long arbour, called ‘le berceau de l’impératrice’ and
comprising trees trained over iron trellises, was planted over the length of the north path to the
Several radiating allées were laid out, the central one, about 5 km long, called
the Allée des Beaux-Monts, being the most important feature of the park today.
A further alteration in 1811 was the transformation of the central section of
the garden into a huge lawn bordered by clumps of varied and exotic trees, so that the garden now
represents a combination of the informal jardin anglais and formal jardin français styles.
Visit Château de Compiègne & Museum
The castle and the museum are open for visits every day (except on
Tuesdays) from 10,00 to 18,00 (last admission 17,15)
Between 12,30 and 13:30, the apartments of the Emperor and Empress are only
accessible by guided tour
The castle is closed on 1st of January, 1st of May and 25th of
Full price: € 8.50
Reduced price: € 6.50
group rate: € 7.50 per person (10 persons)
Château de Compiègne Map&Location
Château de Compiègne Address: 3 Impasse Laly, 60200 Compiègne, France. Use this map to get
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