HISTORY OF THE PALAIS BOURBON
© Assemblée nationale
BEFORE THE REVOLUTION
The Palais Bourbon was built at the beginning of the eighteenth century by Louise Françoise de Bourbon, the legitimized daughter of Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan. The work was entrusted to the Italian architect Giardini and approved by Hardouin Mansart; construction started in 1722. After Giardini's death in 1724 work was continued under Jacques Gabriel and finished in 1728. The palace was enlarged and transformed in 1765 by the prince de Condé, grandson of the duchesse de Bourbon. Soufflot, who directed the work, introduced a degree of austerity into the original plans of Mansart and Gabriel.
The marquis de Lassay, whose support the duchess had relied upon in constructing the Palais Bourbon, had a mansion built near the palace. The story of this Hôtel de Lassay is closely bound up with that of the Palais Bourbon.
AFTER THE REVOLUTION
At the Revolution the palace was declared national property. It was little used at first but in 1795 was assigned to the Council of the Five Hundred, which met there from 1798. The chamber built for the Council was the first in France to be used for a legislative assembly on a long-term basis. It was occupied by the Legislative Body during the Consulate and the Empire. Fontanes, President of the Legislative Body, had the present north front of the palace built in the style of the church of the Madeleine. Also under the Empire, the Palais Bourbon and the Hôtel de Lassay, originally separate buildings, were joined by a gallery. The Hôtel de Lassay has since served as the residence of the presidents of the assemblies; this arrangement became final after 1843, when the mansion was bought from the duc d'Aumale.
At the time of the Restoration, the Chamber of Deputies rented a large part of the palace from the prince de Condé upon his return to the country. The palace was bought from his son in 1827. The Chamber of Deputies was then able to undertake major work - reconstruction of the chamber, rearrangement of access corridors and adjoining rooms, installation of the library in a suitable setting. The decoration of the library and one of the salons was entrusted to Delacroix.
While this work was going on the Chamber of Deputies met provisionally in the Salle de Bois. This was where Louis Philippe swore to uphold the Constitutional Charter on 9 August 1830.
Since the new chamber was inaugurated in 1832 all of France's first parliamentary assemblies have sat there except under the Second Republic (when the members of the Constituent Assembly were so numerous that a temporary chamber had to be set up in the main courtyard), from 1871 to 1879 (when the Palace of Versailles was preferred), and during the Second World War.
Other major work was done in the nineteenth century - adding another floor to the Palais Bourbon and strengthening the gallery connecting it with the Hôtel de Lassay, for instance.
Work done recently on the palace has been for the purpose of adapting it to the needs of today's legislators, whose many faceted activities are not confined to the chamber itself.
A building constructed in 1974 on the opposite side of the rue de l'Université, linked to the palace by an underground passage, and another bought recently on the boulevard Saint-Germain have made it possible for each deputy to have an office of his own, thus facilitating the performance of his duties.