For lovers of history
The origins of the Château de Compiègne date far back to the early Middle Ages, during the time of the Merovingian kings. It was during the reign of Charles V, around 1380, that a fortress was built on the site of today's castle.
This first fortification was later entirely rebuilt at the behest of King Louis XV. His architect, Ange-Jacques Gabriel, who also worked upon the Château de Versailles, oversaw the castle's reconstruction from 1751 to 1788. Having to adapt to the remains of the old medieval ramparts, the new castle adopted a nonsymmetrical, triangular layout that today lends the château such charm and originality.
Napoleon I carried out significant transformations, transforming the château into an imperial palace, for which he called upon the architect Louis-Martin Berthault, put in charge of decorating and furnishing the château.
During the Second French Empire, the castle underwent no notable modification, though it became a favourite residence of Emperor Napoleon III and his court.
This was the heyday of the so-called "Séries": four times a year, the emperor would invite some one hundred handpicked guests to his château for a week of dancing, concerts and theatre, in a more relaxed atmosphere, far from the strict etiquette of the imperial court.
The First World War did not spare the château, which was successively occupied by the English, the Germans, a military hospital from 1915 to 1917, and finally the French general staff.
Following the Second World War, the château was transformed into a museum. Today's visitors are invited to discover the historic apartments, the Second Empire museum and the automobile museum, each a fascinating journey through time, the arts, technology and fashion.
Did you know?
It was to remind the future Empress Marie Louise of the garden perspectives of Schönbrunn Palace that Napoleon I in 1810 had the famous "Beaux-Monts Corridor" created, opening up a vast perspective between the park and the Compiègne Forest.
It was during one of the "Séries" hosted at Compiègne by Emperor Napoleon III and his wife the Empress Eugénie that Prosper Mérimée composed his famous dictation in which the difficulties of the French language constitute veritable linguistic pitfalls. The story has it that the empress recorded the worst score, totalling 62 mistakes.
Discover the caricatures by Daumier in the Second Empire museum, and the magnificent painting by Wintheralter representing Empress Eugénie and her handmaidens in sumptuous attire.
At the automobile museum, embark on an amazing journey through the history of transportation through the centuries.