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Rueil Malmaison

 


 

Rueil­ Malmaison is above all known for the Malmaison Castle, mecca of the Napoleonic memory, but the richness of its history is not limited to the consular and imperial epochs. The name Rueil comes from a deformation of Ruel, name given because of the number of streets (rues) that criss­cross the territory. The name Malmaison appeared following the Norman invasions that ravaged the surroundings. Its foundation during a distant epoch is attested to by neolithic vestiges. The establishment of a Gallo­Roman villa in the 1st Century A.D. bears witness to the first development of the site. The villa was replaced in the 6th Century by a Merovingian Dynasty estate. Actually, Childebert I, son of Clovis, and then Dagobert stayed at Rueil which would soon become their preferred residence. It was at this epoch that a fishing ground was created under the aegis of Charles Martel. In 875, the châtellenie of Ruel was offered by Charles the Bald to the abbey of Saint­Denis which kept it until 1633, the date on which the religieux sold it to the cardinal of Richelieu.

It was during the 17th Century that Rueil started to acquire a little prosperity while growing in notoriety. By taking back in 1633 the castle of the Ruel valley, the cardinal of Richelieu transformed the modest village into a prized place of residence that attracted the celebrities of the epoch : Louis XIII, his brother Gaston of Orleans, Anne of Austria. The work engaged by Richelieu succeeded in realizing a magnificent estate composed of a castle, gardens, waterfalls, caves, ponds and an arch of triumph. This sumptuous collection surrounded the town center where the Saint Pierre­Saint Paul Church was also an object of work : the facade was reconstructed in 1635 after the plans of Lemercier, the architect of the Sorbonne.
 
It was at the Rueil Castle that the Treaty of Rueil was signed in 1635, placing the town of Colmar under the protection of France and the "Lettres patentes" authorizing the creation of the French Academy. In 1648, the royal court of the young Louis XIV and of his mother Anne of Austria settled at the castle to escape the Fronde. It was there that the "Paix de Ruel" was signed in 1649, putting an end this period of instability and of rebellion.
 
A few years later, Louis XIV proposed to buy the castle from the duchess of Aiguillon, niece of the cardinal of Richelieu. The asking price was so high that the king renounced his projects and decided to construct Versailles.
In 1800, Marshal Masséna became the owner and his descendents kept it until 1832. Then started the division of the estate which ended in the destruction of the castle. Today the only building still existing of this prestigious estate is the "Home of Father Joseph," éminence grise of the cardinal who played a decisive role in foreign politics, notably in the struggle led against the Hapsburgs.
 
In the 18th Century, Louis XV chose Rueil, along with Courbevoie and Saint­Denis, as the site of the barrack buildings for the Swiss Guards. Of the three buildings, only the barracks of Rueil, constructed by Guillemot, exist today. Under the Consulat and the Empire, the consular and imperial guards occupied the structure. Under the Second Empire, the grenadiers of the guard regiments were housed there.
 
In the 19th Century, the first railroad line linking Paris to Saint­Germain­en­Laye passed through Rueil. It was here that the Parisian strollers went in order to go to the Grenouillère on the isle of Croissy and the Fournaise Home, two places immortalized by the impressionists.


 

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