The city of Maison Laffitte, with its magnificent chateau, is very close to Paris. The area used to be called Maisons-sur-Seine – the Houses on the Seine – until the chateau (built in the 1600′s) was bought after the French Revolution by the banker Jacques Laffitte. Maison Laffitte is the city of horses and contains the largest hippodrome in the Paris region . It’s not unusual to see riders in the city streets or in the nearby paths of the forest of Saint Germain-en-Laye. I got most of my information from these websites: here, here, here, and here and dug up a little information about the architect here.
Shall we start our tour?
The architect of Maison Laffitte was François Mansart. He made popular the style of roof that you see in Paris – the one that is sort of boxy-looking with little windows that stick out. It allows for the most habitable space possible without creating a building that is too tall. Although this style was first seen on part of the Louvre, built in the 1550 by Pierre Lescot, a house that is built in this style takes after Mansard’s name instead and is known as “mansardée.”
When you get inside, you’re in a marble and plaster vestibule that was enclosed only by iron gates (which are now located in the Louvre). There are four eagles, which are the symbol of the noble Longueil, who was granted the territory of “Maisons” by the king.
And to the right is a staircase that is typical of Mansard, where part of it is “floating” and seems to be suspended in midair without the pillars.
When you go up the stairs and turn left you’re in the Italian Apartment, or the King’s Apartment. Because of course Longueil built the house so it would be fit to invite Louis XIV to stay there during his hunting trips to the forest of Saint Germain-en-Laye.
We were definitely saved by the little audio pieces that told the history to children who could have easily become bored.
From the window here, we can see across the bridge (over the Seine) towards La Défense in the distance. You can see why this is such a prime spot now, as it was then.
The portrait here is of the king, of course, since these quarters are devoted to him.
Pucker up baby.
And here is the king’s bedroom.
and its magnificent wooden floors
along with his bathroom. Gives a whole new meaning to “on the throne” doesn’t it?
Continuing on the second floor, we now come to the room on the right – the queen’s bedroom, which Maréchal (Sergeant) Lannes, the Duke of Montebello, who served under Bonaparte took for his own. He became Maisons’ owner in 1804 in between campaigns and settled his wife and five children there, but was mortally wounded in 1809.
The intricate floor in the circular “Mirror Room” which was used for scholarly discussions and intimate musical performances.
The room itself . . .
Hm. Where shall I put the clock? Here? Or here?
There is fine attention to detail everywhere you look.
The walls made of crushed marble
the cloth wallpaper
whose borders are all sewn by hand!!!
As you can see, we’ve moved on to other quarters (and I have less pictures here because the little radio thingies had lost their charm for the kids).
Downstairs on the first floor (or ground floor for you Europeans) left, we have the Room of Captives – that of René de Longueil, its original owner. It’s called that in tribute to King Louis VIII’s victory over the Spanish.
And on the right hand side we have the Count d’Artois’ room. Although most of Maisons Laffitte was built in the Baroque style, this room was redone in the Neo-Classic style by Bélanger for d’Artois. He was very discreet, however, and did not deviate too much from the building’s origins.
Yes, I realise you can’t see anything at all in this picture.
Okay, moving right along because the kids are bored and hungry! Let’s peek downstairs at the servant’s quarters, where all the fun happens if Downton Abbey is to be believed.
A large, stone bath, filled with hot water by servants carrying copper kettles.
with its immense fireplace.
And secret passageways that lead to an outlying building that is now a private school, called L’Ermitage.
No, this is not the passage. That one’s secret!
The banker, Jacques Laffitte was instrumental in the Revolution and even injected 400,000 francs of his own money to save the government from financial crisis. He eventually gave up his government position and retired to his very own Maisons Laffitte, where he parcelled out the land – tearing down the renowned stables to build modest dwellings for the middle class. Like this.
The Chateau de Maisons Laffitte was bought by the State in 1905 to avoid demolition, and in 1914 it was declared an historical monument. No one lives there now.
However . . . I must tell you that real people actually do live in those other houses!
Maisons Laffitte. Not just for horses!