Château de la Muette

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Rothschild's Chateau, at Chateau de la Muette, Paris in 2013 Paris chateau muette.jpg
Rothschild's Château, at Château de la Muette, Paris in 2013

The Château de la Muette (French pronunciation:  [ʃato də la mɥɛt] ) is a château located on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, France, near the Porte de la Muette.

Château type of manor house found mostly in French-speaking regions

A château is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions.

Bois de Boulogne large public park the western edge of Paris, France

The Bois de Boulogne is a large public park located along the western edge of the 16th arrondissement of Paris, near the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt and Neuilly-sur-Seine. The land was ceded to the city of Paris by the Emperor Napoleon III to be turned into a public park in 1852.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, and the arts.


Three châteaux have been located on the site since a hunting lodge was transformed into the first château for Princess Marguerite de Valois, favorite daughter of King Henry II, sister of Kings Francis II, Charles IX and Henry III and the first wife of King Henry IV, in the 16th century. The first château was extended and substantially reconstructed by Louis XV. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette lived at this second château, and the first manned flight, in a hot air balloon, set off from the château in 1783.

Henry II of France 16th-century King of France

Henry II was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559. The second son of Francis I, he became Dauphin of France upon the death of his elder brother Francis III, Duke of Brittany, in 1536. Henry was the tenth king from the House of Valois, the third from the Valois-Orléans branch, and the second from the Valois-Orléans-Angoulême branch.

Francis II of France King of France

Francis II was King of France from 1559 to 1560. He was also King consort of Scotland as a result of his marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots, from 1558 until his death in 1560. Francis was the eleventh king from the House of Valois, the fourth from the Valois-Orléans branch, and the third from the Valois-Orléans-Angoulême branch.

Charles IX of France King of France

Charles IX was King of France from 1560 until his death in 1574 from tuberculosis. He ascended the throne of France upon the death of his brother Francis II in 1560. Charles was the twelfth king from the House of Valois, the fifth from the Valois-Orléans branch, and the fourth from the Valois-Orléans-Angoulême branch.

The old château was demolished in the 1920s to make room for substantial houses, including a new château built by Henri James de Rothschild, which is now part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's headquarters.


The meaning of muette is not certain. In modern French, it denotes a mute woman. However, the name of the château may be derived from several words in the French language:

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Antler on top of (usually male) deer

Antlers are extensions of an animal's skull found in members of the deer family. They are true bone and are a single structure. They are generally found only on males, with the exception of the reindeer/caribou. Antlers are shed and regrown each year and function primarily as objects of sexual attraction and as weapons in fights between males for control of harems.

Hawk group of diurnal birds of prey

Hawks are a group of medium-sized diurnal birds of prey of the family Accipitridae. Hawks are widely distributed and vary greatly in size.

It is clear that the name was connected with the hunting-lodge in the Bois de Boulogne, which mediaeval French kings used when they hunted deer in the forest.


First château

At the end of the 16th century, Charles IX had a royal hunting lodge on the site transformed into a small château for Marguerite de Valois (popularly known as Reine Margot), the first wife of Henry IV. Although their marriage was always rocky and eventually annulled, they became friends late in life and she was able to return to Paris and set up house in the château. Marguerite bequeathed her château to the little Dauphin, later Louis XIII, in 1606.

From 1606 to 1792, the property remained part of the royal estates. In 1716, the château became the home of the Duchesse de Berry, Marie Louise Elisabeth d'Orléans, daughter of the Duc d'Orléans, Regent of France. Antoine Watteau decorated the rooms with chinoiserie. Tsar Peter the Great of Russia visited her here. When welcoming the Russian emperor, the Duchess appeared "stout as a tower" (“puisssante comme une tour”). [1] The royal princess had been nicknamed “Joufflotte” (“chubby”) because of her generous proportions. By the spring of 1717, her increasing corpulence had begun to cause her serious inconvenience so that she had given up hunting and sold her saddle-horses. But the prodigious quantities of food she devoured, washed away with wine and strong liquors was not the main cause for her distressing embonpoint. Early July, Madame de Berry, who by then kept fully secluded in her castle at La Muette, was being “inconvenienced”, “having grown so big” that it was feared for her life ! By the end of July, the Duchess had recovered but she had been in critical condition a few days earlier when giving birth [2] ... Which is why two months earlier, the princess, already quite heavy with child, had seemed "stout as a tower" in presence of Peter the Great. This clandestine pregnancy was really an open secret. Arouet (Voltaire) was arrested in May 1717 after telling to a police informer that the Regent's daughter had retired to La Muette to wait for the time of her delivery. [3] After the death of her husband in 1714 and of the Sun King in 1715, the young princess was said to have lost all semblance of restrain in her quest for lustful pleasures. In January 1716, she had secretly borne a girl at her Luxembourg palace. Satirical songs had then lampooned her licentious amours. [4] Berry's repeated clandestine pregnancies soon drove her to her grave. Unable to recover from a difficult delivery, the Duchess expired on 21 July 1719 in the château de la Muette [5]

Second château

La Muette in the time of Louis XV Chateau de La Muette.jpg
La Muette in the time of Louis XV

On the Duchesse de Berry's death in 1719, the château passed to the nine-year-old king, Louis XV. Later, however, Louis XV used the château to entertain his mistresses, including the three de Nesle sisters, Madame de Pompadour and Madame du Barry.

Louis XV had the château entirely rebuilt by the architects Jacques V Gabriel and Ange-Jacques Gabriel between 1741 and 1745. The new, much larger, building was flanked by two large wings with many smaller outlying buildings. The Dauphin, later King Louis XVI, took possession of La Muette in 1764, and his future wife, Marie-Antoinette, lodged there on her arrival in France.

Francois Boucher, Arion on the Dolphin, 1748, Princeton University Art Museum, intended as an overdoor in the chateau Boucher, Francois, Arion on the Dolphin, 1748.jpg
François Boucher, Arion on the Dolphin, 1748, Princeton University Art Museum, intended as an overdoor in the chateau

Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

Archduke Maximilian Francis of Austria visits Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI on 7 February 1775 at the Chateau de la Muette (painting by the Austrian portraitist Josef Hauzinger) Josef Hauzinger 002.jpg
Archduke Maximilian Francis of Austria visits Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI on 7 February 1775 at the Château de la Muette (painting by the Austrian portraitist Josef Hauzinger)

Louis XVI is said to have spent the happiest days of his life at the château with his young bride, although they had no knowledge of sexual matters and thus did not have children for seven years. During this period Louis abolished certain royal taxes, and he opened the gates of the Bois de Boulogne to the populace. The Emperor Joseph II, Marie-Antoinette's brother (travelling incognito under the name of "Count Falkenstein") visited the couple here in April 1777.

Louis granted a small area of sandy ground of the château's estate at les Sablons (near les Sablons metro station) to Antoine-Augustin Parmentier (1737–1813) to demonstrate the growing of potatoes, which had not previously been considered in Europe, other than in Ireland, as safe for human consumption. Indeed, they were considered to be a source of leprosy among other things. Parmentier carried out a series of publicity stunts, which led to the acceptance of potatoes in France and then throughout Europe.

The château, together with the Château de Madrid and other properties, were put on sale in February 1788, with a view to demolition. The castle fell into disrepair, and the main building was demolished in 1793.

Montgolfier brothers

A model of the Montgolfier brothers balloon at the London Science Museum. Montgolfier Balloon.JPG
A model of the Montgolfier brothers balloon at the London Science Museum.

The first manned flight commenced from the château on 21 November 1783, with a hot air balloon manufactured by the Montgolfier brothers lifting off from the garden of La Muette carrying Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes. Among the crowd who observed this feat were the royal family and Benjamin Franklin. They flew for 25 minutes, travelling almost 300 metres above Paris and covering a distance of about nine kilometres, before landing between the windmills on the Butte-aux-Cailles. Enough fuel remained on board at the end of the flight to have allowed the balloon to fly four to five times as far. However, burning embers from the fire were scorching the balloon fabric and had to be extinguished with sponges, and so the pilots decided to land as soon as they were over open countryside.

Post revolutionary history

During the French Revolution, the Château de la Muette became state property. The property was split up into several lots and sold at auction. The château returned to the royal family in 1816. One wing was given to the Minister for Finance, Louis Emmanuel Corvetto. The other wing, and most of the grounds, were purchased in 1820 by Sébastien Érard, who manufactured pianos used by Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt. In 1821, Sébastien Érard invented the double escapement action, which permitted a note to be repeated even if the key had not yet risen to its maximum vertical position, a great benefit for rapid playing.

In 1912, the château's then owner, the Franqueville family, sold much of the remaining property, and the former estate developed into a fashionable residential area.

Third château

Rothschild's chateau in 2012 Chateau de la Muette, Paris 2012.jpg
Rothschild's château in 2012

Two large lots were sold to Baron Henri James de Rothschild, who built a new château in 1921 and 1922 as his Paris residence to a 19th-century design by Lucien Hesse. By the beginning of World War II, the old château had been completely demolished and replaced by mansions.

The new château was appropriated by Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine during the Second World War. During the Liberation of Paris in August 1944 the château was captured after a brief gunfight by the British '30 Assault Unit' keen on gathering vital intelligence. In late 1945 United States Army took over the buildings to organise operations in the aftermath of the war. In 1949, it became the headquarters of the Organization for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) set up under the Marshall Plan to help administer funds provided by the United States to promote post-war recovery and to encourage European economic cooperation. The OEEC developed into the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1961, with the new Château de la Muette as its headquarters.

The "Rue André Pascal" street on which the cour d'honneur of the château opens is named after one of the pseudonyms under which Henri de Rothschild published his literary works.

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  1. E. de Barthelemy (ed.), Gazette de la Regence. Janvier 1715-1719, Paris, 1887, p.180
  2. E. de Barthelemy (ed.), Gazette de la Regence. Janvier 1715-1719, Paris, 1887, pp.175-176, 192, 196
  3. Jean-Michel Raynaud, Voltaire soi-disant, Presses Universitaires de Lille, 1983, vol.1, p.289.
  4. Emile Raunie (ed.), Chansonnier historique du XVIIIème siècle: recueil Clairambault-Maurepas, Paris, 1880, pp.36-38
  5. Berry had almost died while being delivered of a still-born daughter on 2 April at the Luxembourg palace. She didn't recover from her excruciating delivery but quickly fell pregnant again, as shown by her autopsy. Berry's premature end is vividly described in The Memoirs of the Duke of Saint-Simon on the reign of Louis XIV and the Regency, chapter XXIII, pp. 206-220.
  6. "Arion on the Dolphin (y1980-2)". Princeton University Art Museum. Princeton University.

Coordinates: 48°51′41″N2°16′10″E / 48.86139°N 2.26944°E / 48.86139; 2.26944