If you don’t have time to venture to Versailles to see how French royalty lived, take the shortcut to the Louvre’s Richelieu Wing, a place that a lot of tourists miss.
What you’re seeing was the official residence of the Ministre d’Etat – the chief minister in the government, not the imperial family. Built between 1854 and 1861 by the architect Hector Lefuel, the set of rooms was basically built for partying and entertaining.
Following the model of the Kings of France and of his uncle, Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon III moved his official residence to the Tuileries Palace, where he had a far bigger and opulent suite of rooms on the ground floor of the south wing between he Seine and the pavilion de Horloge, facing the garden. Unfortunately they no longer exist, though all the superb furniture, fittings, and moveable works of art do.
The Tuileries was just one of many palaces the Emporer and Empress hung out in during the calendar year. At the beginning of May, the court moved to the Chateau of Saint-Cloud, for outdoor activities in the park. In June and July, they moved with selected guests to the Palace of Fontainebleau, for walks in the forest, and boating on the lake. In July, it was thermal baths for a health cure at Plombieres and Vichy, then, after 1856, to the military camp and residence at Chalons-sur-Marne. Then there was September in Biarritz where they occupied a large villa overlooking the sea. Walks on the beach, visits to the mountains, dancing, singing, playing cards, amateur theatricals and charades entertained their guests. November brough another move to the Château de Compiègne for forest excursions, dancing and more games. Scientists and artists, such as Louis Pasteur, Gustave Flaubert, Eugene Delacroix and Verdi, were some of the VIP’s on the guest list.
Let the good times roll. Here’s a map to help you locate this gallery.