Napoleon & Empire

Castles, palaces and strongholds

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Under the Consulate, French castles, both military and civilian, have recovered with difficulty from the devastation that the Revolution had caused. When they had not been destroyed (the Bastille was not an isolated case) or burnt, these buildings, witnesses of the old regime, had been vandalized, looted, in the best case bought by opportunists who lacked the means to maintain them...

Gradually, what we would call today "the market for real estate" came back to life, facilitated by the institutional stability and the establishment of the Civil Code, enacted March 21, 1804, which defined and ensured the right to property.

Under the Empire, the emergence of a new wealthy class, the creation of the nobility of the Empire and the return of some emigrants have promoted this market, both in new buildings as the old. The princes, dukes, counts, barons that were senior officers, ministers, diplomats, prefects or financial (not forgetting the imperial family) had to hold their rank, and investment real estate was undoubtedly the most visible to the Imperial court.

Meanwhile, military-oriented castles have been maintained and upgraded to meet the war situation the Empire had to face throughout its existence.

What have these buildings become nowadays? According to our travels, we have captured the image of these buildings' current state. Some foreign palaces in connection with the Napoleonic era also appeared worthy of being represented. The list below is to grow as a result of our future trips, and mailings that will be made to us (thank you in advance!) by you, visitor of our web site. If you send us photographs you made, we will use them with great pleasure (simply reserving the right to crop suitable format, and surround them with a frame), mentioning of course the Copyright and adding, if desired, a link to your own web site.

This is, two centuries after the Imperial era, to capture the image of these buildings before oblivion, or worse estate developers, do take care to make them disappear forever.



  • AMBOISE (Castle of) - 37400 Amboise, France - This former estate of the Duke of Choiseul and the Duke of Penthièvre, which had been confiscated by the nation in 1792, was offered by Napoleon to former Consul Roger Ducos. The latter, not having the means to restore all, destroyed much of the building from 1806 to 1810. Later, King Louis-Philippe I will inherit the castle through his mother. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • BALAGUIER (Fortress of) - 83500 La Seyne-sur-Mer, France - This military construction, which had been built under King Louis XIII to complete the protection of the harbor of Toulon, was in British hands since July 1793, the city of Toulon having delivered to them. On December 17 and 18, after a siege of three months, the fort (and the neighboring, the Eguillette stronghold) was the scene of bitter fighting. Afterwards, the soldiers of the French Republic, led by Captain Napoleon Bonaparte, commander of the artillery, took over the city. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • BOURBON Palace - 75007 Paris, France - This palace, owned by the Bourbon-Condé family until the French Revolution, became home of the Legislative Assembly under the Consulate and the Empire. Between 1806 and 1810 its north side was modified by architect Bernard Poyet according to Napoleon's orders. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • BRIENNE (Castle of) - 10500 Brienne-le-Château, France - From 1779 to 1784, the young Bonaparte could see the castle while he was a student at the military school. On April 3, 1805, the Emperor slept there on the way to Italy. On January 29, 1814 he defeated the Allies there during the Campaign of France. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • BUCKINGHAM Palace - London, England - This palace built in 1703 became the property of King George III in 1761, and his summer residence. The monarch and his wife Queen Charlotte particularly appreciated the place, since fourteen of their fifteen children were born there. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • CHAMBORD (Castle of) - 45630 Chambord, France - The largest of the Loire castles, built under King Francis I, having became national property during the French Revolution, was offered by the Emperor to Marshal Berthier in 1809, after the victory of Wagram. The latter, however, barely lived there. At the Restoration, the State bought Chambord to his widow after a national subscription, then offered it in October 1820 to Henri d'Artois, the grand-son of future King Charles X, only two months old. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • CHAMPLATREUX (Castle of) - 95270 Epinay-Champlatreux, France - Family property (since 1567) of Count Mathieu-Louis Molé, French Minister of Justice under Napoleon. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • COMBAULT (Castle of) - 77340 Pontault-Combault, France - Property of Marshal François-Joseph Lefebvre, Duke of Danzig, who served as Mayor of Combault from 1813 to his death in 1820. This function of Mayor remains related to the memory of the Duke, as Lefebvre's castle is today town hall of Pontault-Combault. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • COMPIEGNE (Imperial Palace of) - 60200 Compiègne, France - From June to September 1808, Napoleon made stay there King Charles IV of Spain, who had just abdicated. On March 27, 1810, he received Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria for their first meeting. The imperial couple and the court returned there after the marriage, then the following year.  PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • COPPET (Castle of) - 1296 Coppet, Canton of Vaud, Switzerland - Property of Jacques Necker who acquired it in 1784. His daughter, famous writer Madame de Staël, exiled from France under the Empire, received at Coppet many intellectuals from all over Europe, been known today under the term "group of Coppet". PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • COUDREAUX (Castle of LES-) - 28200 Marboué, France - In 1808, this mansion was acquired by Michel Ney, Marshal of the Empire, future Prince of the Moskowa. The "Brave among braves" stayed there for nearly seven years, when having leisure between military campaigns. In 1825, the Coudreaux will become the property of General Honoré Charles Reille. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • COURCELLES-LE-ROI (Castle of) - 45630 Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France - Marshal Etienne Jacques Macdonald, Duke of Taranto, died on September 25, 1840 in this castle of Renaissance style, that he had bought during his disgrace in 1804. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • COURSON (Castle of) - 91680 Courson-Monteloup, France - In 1812, General Jean-Thomas Arrighi de Casanova, Duke of Padua, became the owner of this castle through his marriage to Anne Rose Zoe, daughter of Henry de Montesquiou. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • ELYSEE Palace - 75008 Paris, France - Marshal Joachim Murat acquired this palace in August 1805 for 570,000 francs. He got it renovated by architects Barthélémy Vignon and Jean Thomas Thibault, then settled there with his wife Caroline Bonaparte. Appointed King of Naples PHOTO in July 1808, he sold the palace to the State. Napoleon resided in it from time to time with Josephine then Marie-Louise until 1814. The Emperor stayed there one last time from June 21 to June 25, 1815. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • FONTAINEBLEAU (Castle of) - 77300 Fontainebleau, France - Napoleon regularly came to this castle that he enjoyed the highest degree. He received there Pope Pius VII in November 1804 before his coronation (and later kept him at Fontainebleau as a prisoner from June 1812 to January 1814!), or King Charles IV of Spain in May 1808. He signed his abdication on April 6, 1814 in this castle, and bid farewell to his Guard on April 20. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • GRANGE-LA PRÉVÔTÉ (Castle of LA-) - 77176 Savigny-le-Temple, France - Property of Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte and his wife Desiree Clary, who changed the castle and beautified the park. When the Prince of Ponte Corvo became crown prince of Sweden and intended, early 1813, to participate in the sixth coalition that would fall into place against the Empire, he sold the whole property to his brother-in-law Count Nicolas Clary. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • GRIGNON (Castle of) - 78850 Thiverval-Grignon, France - In 1803, General Jean-Baptiste Bessieres bought from General Michel Ney's stepfather this castle of the seventeenth century, brick with quoins white limestone. After the death of Marshal Bessieres in 1809, Napoleon purchased the estate to help his young widow, and came here several times to hunt the wolf. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • GROSBOIS (Castle of) - 94470 Boissy-Saint Léger, France - This elegant castle, completed in 1640, with its two advanced wings in the style of Louis XIII flanking the main courtyard and surrounded by dry moat, became property of Paul Barras from 1797 to his departure for Brussels after 18 Brumaire. General Jean Victor Marie Moreau purchased it, but was also exiled in 1804. Then the castle has belonged to Minister Joseph Fouché, then to Napoleon himself, who finally gave it to Marshal Louis-Alexandre Berthier in 1805. The latter held magnificent parties and has been resident there until the beginning of the Hundred Days and his departure with King Louis XVIII. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • HOUSSAYE (Castle of LA-) - 77610 La Houssaye-en-Brie, France - This castle, with two lofts and a dungeon slashed stone, completely surrounded by ditches, was acquired in April 1801 by General Charles-Pierre-François Augereau. The latter, became Marshal of the Empire and Duke of Castiglione, kept the castle to his death, which occured within its walls in 1816, and bequeathed it to his widow. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • JOUX (Fortress of)  25300 La Cluse-et-Mijoux, France - This stronghold, overlooking the gorge of Pontarlier and commanding the shift to Switzerland, already was a state prison under the old regime. In August 1802 it became the place of internment of François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, who died there on April 7, 1803PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • LA BARBEN (Castle of) - 13330 La Barben, France - Within the walls of this castle in Provence, Princess Pauline Borghese (Napoleon's sister) lived from 1805 to 1807 tumultuous love affairs with his chamberlain Louis Nicolas Philippe Auguste de Forbin, owner of the place. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • LAMASSAS (Castle of) - 47340 Hautefage-la-Tour, France - Jean-Girard Lacuée, later Count of Cessac and Administration Minister of war, was born in 1752 in this family castle, built in the early eighteenth century. There, he spent his childhood and took refuge during the French Revolution. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • LOUVRE Palace - 75001 Paris, France - The largest palace in Europe, royal residence under the Old Regime but abandoned in favor of Versailles, had been declared national museum during the French Revolution. The First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte made of it the most prestigious museum in the world by the magnitude and quality of the collections, made by the former royal collections, the seized property to the Church and the emigrants, and the spoils of wars carried out in Italy, Belgium, Prussia and Austria. He named Dominique Vivant Denon as Director General. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • LUXEMBOURG Palace - 75006 Paris, France - This palace, built from 1615 at the request of Marie de Medicis, was assigned in 1795 to the Directory (Executive government of the First French Republic) then, in late 1799, to the Conservative Senate. This assembly ensured the constitutionality of laws during the Consulate and the Empire. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • MAISONS (Castle of) - 78600 Maisons-Laffitte, France - Attributed to the architect François Mansart, completed in 1651, the castle was acquired in 1804 by Marshal Jean Lannes, future Duke of Montebello. Until his death in 1809, he liked to come to rest between two military campaigns with his wife Louise and their five children. His widow sold the estate in 1818 to the banker Jacques Laffitte. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • MALMAISON (Castle of) - 92500 Rueil-Malmaison, France - Josephine de Beauharnais purchased this castle in April 1799. The building was redeveloped by famous architects Charles Percier and Pierre-François-Leonard Fontaine. During the Consulate, Napoleon Bonaparte often stayed there, deciding the Louisiana Purchase and the institution of the Legion of Honor. Josephine retired at Malmaison after her divorce in 1809, and died there on May 29, 1814. PHOTO © 2009 Cyril Maillet
  • MARMOUSETS (Castle of) - 94510 La Queue-en-Brie, France - This elegant building features a horizontal order with a slight indentation on both wings and repeated ribbed pilasters. Two Ionic columns support an overhanging balcony, which is topped by an attic with arched pediment and carved two figures of angels. It was acquired in the early nineteenth century by Jean-Baptiste de Nompère de Champagny, Duke of Cadore, then became the property of General Pierre-Augustin Hulin. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • MENARS (Castle of) - 41500 Menars, France - This elegant building of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, overlooking the Loire, was acquired in 1804 by Claude-Victor Perrin, Marshal of the Empire, future Duke of Belluno. Became War Minister of King Louis XVIII, Marshal Victor will give lavish festivities at Menars. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • MESNIL-VERCLIVES (Castle of) - 27440 Mesnil-Verclives, France - This castle, built in the eighteenth century, became after the French Revolution the property of Baron Louis Bignon, diplomat and future author of a History of France under Napoleon. He adapted the hamlet's church and school, and built the town hall in the gardens of the old rectory. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • MIRAMBEAU - (Castle of) - 17150 Mirambeau, France - This beautiful castle in Saintonge, from the Renaissance period, was acquired in late July 1813 by Count Charles Duchatel, Director General of Administration of the Registration and Domains. The following years, his wife Adele Marie Antoinette, born Papin, former mistress of Napoleon, actively participated in the monitoring of its restoration and beautification. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • MONCEY (Castle of) - 25870 Moncey, France - Property of Bon-Adrien Jannot of Moncey in his native village. Then a lieutenant, he had bought this rural castle in 1789 from the Marquis of Cheyland. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • MONTALIVET (Castle of) - 26120 Montmeyran, France - The young Napoleon Bonaparte, then assigned to the regiment of La Fere, in Valence, was often received during the year 1791 in this family estate of his friend Jean-Pierre Bachasson de Montalivet, future mayor of Valence, prefect, Count of the Empire and Minister of the Interior. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • MONTALIVET-LAGRANGE (Castle of) - 18300 Saint-Bouize, France - This castle of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, combining stone and red brick, was acquired in 1807 by Count Jean-Pierre Bachasson de Montalivet, Interior Minister. He restored it after the fall of Napoleon, then lived and died here in 1831. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • MONTGOBERT (Castle of) - 02600 Montgobert, France - This former residence of Marshal de Joyeuse, on the edge of the Retz forest, in Valois, was acquired in 1798 by Pauline Bonaparte and her husband General Charles Victor Emmanuel Leclerc. It was later bought by Marshal Davoust, then by alliances and successions became the property of the Suchet d'Albufera family. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • MONTHORIN (Castle of) - 35420 Louvigné-du-Désert, France - It's in 1807 that General Jean-Ambroise Baston de Lariboisière acquired this castle, near his home town of Fougères in Brittany, and – as it should – the area around it. His family was buried in a private chapel on the edge of a pond; the chapel also houses the heart of the brave General. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • MORTEFONTAINE (Castle of) - 60128 Mortefontaine, France - Property of Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's elder brother, since 1798. Here was signed in 1800 the treaty of friendship between France and the United States of America, said Treaty of Mortefontaine, and were negotiated the preliminaries of the Peace of Amiens on March 25, 1802. At Mortefontaine were also celebrated the weddings of Joachim Murat and Caroline Bonaparte on January 20, 1800 and of Camillo Borghese and Pauline Bonaparte on November 5, 1803. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • NOYERS (Castle of) - 27720 Noyers, France - Property of  François de Barbé-Marbois, Minister of the Treasury and first Chaiman of the "Cour des Comptes" (Court of Audit of France); the latter was buried in a small cemetery near the castle. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • OSLO (Royal Palace of) - Oslo, Norway - This palace was ordered from its inception by the new King of Norway Charles III (also known as Charles XIV John of Sweden), former Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, who chose the site in 1821 and laid the foundation stone in 1825. The main courtyard features an equestrian statue of the monarch. PHOTO © 2010 Didier Grau
  • PÉRIGNON (Castle of) - 82700 Finhan, France - This castle was remodeled and enlarged in 1750 by the family of the future Marshal Catherine-Dominique de Pérignon, a native of Montech, a few leagues away. Two towers have been added especially during this extension. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • PIPLE (Castle of) - 94470 Boissy Saint-Léger, France - Ownership of a treasurer of the Highways during the Old Regime, this castle was acquired in 1803 by Joseph Antoine Boulay de la Meurthe. From 1812 to 1814 Charles Louis Schulmeister, the famous "spy of Napoleon" lived here. He sold it in 1819 to Baron Jean-Conrad Hottinger, a banker. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • PISCINE (Castle of LA-) - 34000 Montpellier, France - This "madness" (as well call themselves the pleasure houses built under the old regime by the nobility and the wealthy bourgeoisie of Montpellier), completed in 1771, hosted in 1814 the Princess Elisa Baciocchi, born Bonaparte, Grand Duchess of Tuscany, which rented the castle for three weeks after having fled Italy. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • REGAGNAC (Castle of) - 24440 Montferrand du Périgord, France - This castle in the heart of Périgord was acquired in 1816 by Marshal Louis-Nicolas DavoutPHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • REVERSEAUX (Castle of) - 28150 Rouvray-Saint-Florentin, France - Property of Marshal Laurent de Gouvion-Saint-Cyr since 1807, this castle built around 1720 became his retreat from autumn 1819 until his death in 1830. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • ROYAL Palace - 75001 Paris, France - This palace, built from 1622 at the request of Cardinal Richelieu, owned by the Bourbon-Orleans from 1661 to 1793, has been hosting the Tribunat under the Consulate and the Empire, until the abolition of this chamber in September 1807. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • SAINT-DREZERY (Castle of) - 34160 Saint Drezery, France - In 1791 Jean-Jacques Regis de Cambaceres acquired for 50 000 pounds this area, sold as national property by the municipality of Montpellier (himself being vice president of the council, he had to use a "straw man"). The Duke of Parma, became Duke of Cambaceres, bequeathed at his death the castle to the Cathedral of Montpellier. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • SAINT-JOSEPH (Castle of) - 13014 Marseille, France - Purchased in April 1800 by Ignace d'Anthoine, husband of Rose Clary (the sister of Desirée and Julie Clary). In the castle the King Charles IV of Spain, forced into exile by the Emperor, stayed three days in 1808 and Marshal Louis-Gabriel Suchet, stepson of the owner, died in 1826. PHOTO © 2009 Lionel A. Bouchon
  • SAINT-JUST (Castle of) - 27950 Saint-Just, France - In 1805, Victor Fanneau of Horie, owner since 1798, sold this castle to Sir Suchet, who resold it to his brother, the future Marshal and Duke of Albufera. The latter planted its alley with poplars in 1810, then from 1816, undertook major operations: distribution and decor of the ground floor of the castle by architect Lacornée, refurnishing with Empire period furnitures, new design of the park. PHOTO © 2012 Didier Grau
  • SAINT-JUST-SAUVAGE (Castle of) - 51260 Saint-Just-Sauvage, France - It belonged to Marshal Guillaume Brune from June 1797 to his assassination on August 2, 1815, then to his widow who organized the repatriation of the Marshal's body and kept it in the castle until her own death in 1829. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • SAVIGNY (Castle of) - 91600 Savigny-sur-Orge, France - Location of a secret love affair between Pauline de Beaumont and François-René de Chateaubriand at the turn of the century, the castle became in August 1802 the property of General Louis-Nicolas Davout. He made the following years many improvements and extensions (the park will have more than 450 hectares). The Prince of Eckmühl, became Mayor of the town, added a built aviary where he liked to give a mouthful to partridges ... The Marshal's widow stayed at Savigny's Castle until his death in 1868. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • SCHÖNBRUNN (Imperial Palace of) - Vienna, Austria - Summer residence of the Habsburg, ruling family of the Holy Roman Empire and of Austria, the palace was built to "compete" that of Versailles, and was also surrounded by magnificent French gardens. It saw to stay within its walls Napoleon I in November 1805 and May 1809, following his successful campaigns, and to grow the future Empress Marie-Louise. On July 22, 1832, their son the Duke of Reichstadt succumbed at Schönbrunn in the arms of his mother. PHOTO © 2009 Floriane Grau
  • SOULT-BERG (Castle of) - 81240 Saint-Amans-Soult, France - Built upon order of Marshal Jean-de-Dieu Soult, Duke of Dalmatia, in his native town. The name of the castle combines the name of the marshal and that of his wife, born Berg, but also alludes to the fact that it was built atop a hill. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • STOCKHOLM (Royal Palace of) - Stockholm, Sweden - From 1810, former French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte was "at home" in this palace as Crown Prince of Sweden, then in 1818 as King Charles XIV John. The palace, one of the largest in the world still "in service", counts no less than 1430 rooms. PHOTO © 2010 Didier Grau
  • TERRASSE (Castle of LA-) - 93390 Clichy-sous-Bois, France - Owned by Marshal François Etienne Christophe Kellermann during French First Empire, the castle was since that era dismantled and reworked many times. Still stands up, among others, the hunting lodge visible in the photograph. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • VALENÇAY (Castle of) - 36600 Valençay, France - Property of Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, who bought it in 1803 to Count Luçay for 1.6 million francs. For that price, the future Prince of Benevento also benefited from some 12,000 hectares spread over twenty-three municipalities ... A redevelopment of the gardens, a refurnishing of the castle, and the presence in the kitchen of Antonin Carême, called "the King of cooks": now Valençay was ready to welcome guests of choice. King Ferdinand VII of Spain (under house arrest, it is true) was the castle's most assiduous host, from 1808 to 1813. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • VILLETTE (Castle of) - 95450 Condécourt, France - Property of the family of Marshal Emmanuel de Grouchy, who was born there, like his sister Sophie, the future Marquise de Condorcet. The family will dispose the castle in 1818. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau
  • VINCENNES (Castle of) - 94300 Vincennes, France - The Duke of Enghien was executed on March 21, 1804 in the moat surrounding this fort and buried there for eternity in the Holy-Chapel. PHOTO © 2011 Didier Grau


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