We say the Monceau Park, the Montsouris Park and the Buttes-Chaumont Park but the Luxembourg Gardens, which are treasured by many Parisians, deserve their particular appellation.
Indeed, they are the gardens of the Bourbon Palace, which is also called the Luxembourg Palace (after the original owner) or the d’Orléans Palace (after the Orléans royal branch, who subsequently owned it).
The gardens form a serene haven behind the Palace, which was once the residence of the Queen regent Marie de Medicis, widow of Henri IV and mother of Louis XIII, before becoming our Senate.
Marie de Medicis simply decided to tear down the original buildings in order to begin the construction of her residence, which was inspired by Italy and more specifically by the Pitti Palace: bolstered ashlar replaced the then in vogue mix of cut stone and red brick.
The building was still under construction when she had to exile herself under her son’s command after the Day of the Dupes, during which Louis XIII, stuck in a power struggle between his minister Richelieu and his mother, sided with the former, to everyone’s surprise.
The Queen exiled herself to the Netherlands, then to Belgium.
In 1642, after Marie’s death, her palace is bequeathed to her favourite son, Gaston d’Orléans, who later gave it to his eldest daughter the “Grande Mademoiselle”.
A colourful, endearing, perhaps ever so slightly obstinate character, who most likely received a poor education (by court’s standards) from the Queen mother Marie de Medicis, during their joint exile in Brussels, she was also the woman who would order for the canons of the Bastille to fire on the future Louis XIV’s – her cousin – army in 1652.
She too, exiled herself for a while, to Burgundy this time.
The Luxembourg Palace, or the Palace of exile, it seems.
It was a prison during the French Revolution and became Napoleon’s residence in 1799, when he was First Consul. The conservative Senate established its headquarters there the same year, and has been convening there to exercise its parliamentary duties ever since.
Now, more about the gardens themselves. They are composed of a “jardins à la française” (French style arrangement), in the axis of the palace, and of a “jardins à l’anglaise” (English style arrangement), in the Western axis. The two are separated by staggered rows of trees.
The gardens are home to 106 statues, greenhouses, beehives and two fountains, including the beautiful and famous Medicis Fountain.
The gardens’ expansion towards the west instead of the south axis of the Palace is due to the fact that the Chartreux had their convent in that Southern area.
Despite her prerogatives as Queen Mother and her perpetual scheming, Marie de Medicis did not succeed in evicting the bothersome Chartreux and only managed to grapple an extra hundred metres. Therefore, the gardens had to move West. Marie de Medicis would probably burst with envy if she could see the beautiful south perspective that now gives on the Observatory, the Convent having left the area a long time ago.
The chairs – the famous almond green metal chairs – abound and enable all the visitors to fully enjoy the “Jardins du Luco”, as we call it in Paris. They used to cost 20 to 30 franc cents, depending on the era but the chair ladies who were tasked with charging everyone the money disappeared in 1974, when the chairs became free.
The only price you have to pay nowadays is that of attention, and once you’ve spotted a free chair, claim it as yours. Which I do, with great pleasure.
The water basin allows you to enjoy the sight of dancing seagulls, that have chosen to live here.
To the East, you will find the rue Soufflot and the Panthéon. Speaking of, have you ever defended your thesis in a lecture theatre rue Soufflot on the 21st June, otherwise known as “Music Day” in France. So, let me rephrase: have you ever tried to defend your thesis, tiny little thing, in front of an elevated jury, as your voice is drowned by the music emanating from the orchestra in the street? I did 😉
Vintage coat – Alberta Ferretti dress – Ted Baker clutch – Agnelle gloves – Gucci heels – Chanel sunglasses