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  • Writer's pictureWill von Behr, MA

A Brief History of the Jardin du Palais Royal in Paris

What is the Jardin du Palais Royal?

Jardin du Palais Royal, or Palais-Royal Garden in English, is a landscaped gardens tucked away between government and cultural buildings, and the site of the beginnings of the French Revolution.

Jardin du Palais Royal

Jardin du Palais Royal History

There is a strong link between the French café and intellectual and political thought and drama. Preeminent writers and artists of the Belle Époque frequented cafés in Montmartre, whilst it was in a Parisian bistro that Socialist leader Jean Jaurès was assassinated for his pacifist politics and his attempt to prevent war in 1914.

Some hundred years previously, another political upheaval was taking place in a Parisian café; one that had an immeasurable impact on French and world history.

On the corner of these elegant gardens, fronted by a grand Neoclassical palace, it was on 13th July 1789 that Camille Desmoulins, the revolutionary rabble-rouser, climbed up onto a café table to deliver an impassioned call to arms.

At that time the gardens had been opened to the public and the cafés in the surrounding galleries became a meeting place for artists, writers, intellectuals and political activists by day, and gamblers and prostitutes by night. With his inspired oratory, Desmoulins set in motion the insurrection that culminated with the famed storming of the Bastille, the beginning of the end for France’s crumbling Ancien Régime.

If you head to the centre of the lawns you’ll notice a rather strange monument, a tiny bronze cannon mounted on a concrete plinth. This was installed over 200 years ago by a master clockmaker and proprietor of a nearby shop.

Through the gardens passes the Paris meridian line (where the sun strikes at midday), and upon which the cannon was set. Each day at noon the rays of the sun travelled through a magnifying glass and set off the fuse of the cannon.

Local residents, who had recently embraced watches and clocks, would set the time of day by the thundering noise it made. Unfortunately, the cannon was stolen in 1998 and the one you see today is in fact a replica installed in the garden in 2002.

These lawns are often overlooked by visitors since the garden is quite literally a ‘hidden gem’, tucked away between an assortment of government and cultural buildings, yet just metres away from the often crowded Louvre Museum.

Enhance your visit to the City of Light with our self guided walking tours of Paris.


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