Palace of Fontainebleau France

Opulence is an obsession in which many members of France’s Royal families have indulged for hundreds of years. One fine example of the lengths that France’s Royals went to in order live a sumptuous lifestyle is the Palace of Fontainebleau, that is located just 55 kilometres from the centre of Paris.

A grand Royal residence has occupied the land at Fontainebleau since at least 1137 when King Louis VII ascended to the throne. Although the building was very plush for the standards of the day, it consisted mainly of just a central tower and a chapel that was consecrated by none other than St Thomas Beckett, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time.

Since then, members of the ruling houses of Capetien, Valois, Bourbon, Bonaparte and Orléans, have lived at the Chateau. The buildings and grounds were often renovated and enlarged by the finest architects and artisans of the times. During the French Revolution it fell into disrepair, until Napoleon Bonaparte took a shine to it and reinvigorated the buildings and gardens into the magnificent structure that we see today.

As France is a Republic, the Chateau has been taken into public ownership, and it has many uses today.

There are four museums based within the buildings, being The Empresses’ Chinese Museum, which has works that were collected by the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, many of which were stolen from the Summer Palace in Beijing in 1860.

The Napoleon I Museum consists of a collection of furniture, objets d’art, paintings, sculptures, gold and silverware, arms, costumes, ceramics, documents and other historical artefacts.

The palace is full of wonderful works of art which span the centuries, and the Paintings Gallery is made up of the overflow equally wonderful artworks for which there is literally no other room, so they are displayed separately near the Diana Gallery.

Some of the masterpieces on display include Napoleon’s Throne, Marie Antoinette’s Bed, and a painting of Josephine in her coronation dress.

The outside of the buildings are just as stunning as the interiors, featuring many parks, gardens, courtyards, fountains and ponds. One of these, the Grand Parterre, is the largest formal garden in Europe and was commissioned by Louis XIV.

The Chateau is open every day except Tuesdays, opening at 9am with closing times varying depending on the season. If travelling by public transport there is a regular shuttle bus which departs 214 rue de Rivoli, or if you prefer the train, depart from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon station, then take the ‘Ligne A’ bus.

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