Trip to l’Hôtel de la Marine: Part I

I’ve already written about our visit to one of the two matching properties on Place de la Concorde, the Hôtel de Crillon, now I’m going to tell you about our visit to the other.

How it all began

Once the plans had been drawn up and development work at Place de la Concorde had got under way, it was time to find a role for the two palaces on the north side of the square.

L'Hôtel de la Marine - Frammenti di Parigi

In 1765, the decision was made to house the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, the institution in charge of the king’s furniture, in the eastern palace (between today’s Rue Royale and Rue Saint-Florentin), the future Hôtel de la Marine. At first, the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne was supposed to occupy only part of the building, but it ended up filling the entire edifice in 1767.

Pierre-Elisabeth de Fontanieu, the first Intendant to head the Garde-Meuble, made the most of this to develop the building so that it fully met the needs of his administration by including storage areas, workshops, lodges, exhibition galleries and more.

For around 25 years, the Garde-Meuble and its Intendant, Pierre-Elisabeth de Fontanieu then Marc-Antoine Thierry de Ville d’Avray, lived in the palace – not a bad billet!

A forebear of today’s public body Mobilier national, this institution was in charge of supplying and maintaining the furniture of royal residences: Versailles, as well as Compiègne, Fontainebleau, Marly, Choisy, Trianon, Rambouillet, Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Montreuil.

The institution was responsible for choosing, purchasing and maintaining the king’s furniture, from beds to everyday chairs. It was also in charge of conserving the royal collections of weapons, armour, fabrics, wall hangings, hardstone vases, bronze works and Crown diamonds.

Because it symbolised the country’s government and royal ostentation, the days of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne were numbered.

Two events marked the palace’s history. On 13 July 1789, the revolutionaries seized the weapons on display in the arms room. The next day, they went looking for ammunition at Bastille prison. And that heralded the start of the revolution.

It is thought that the first shots against Bastille prison were fired by canons fitted on gun carriages with silver inlays that the King of Siam gave as gifts to Louis XIV in 1684. They had been seized the previous day in the royal collections of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne.

On 16 September 1792, the Crown Jewels were stolen at the Hôtel de la Marine. At night, around forty people got inside the reception room where the jewels were displayed and stole goods worth around 30 million French francs.

When the revolution got under way, King Louis XVI left Versailles for Paris.
All state institutions in Versailles had to therefore move to the capital.
But a considerable challenge emerged where in Paris could they be housed? The navy ministry, with Count de la Luzerne and Jean-Baptiste Berthier at its helm, got permission from the Intendant of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, Marc-Antoine Thierry de Ville d’Avray, to settle in the palace housing the Garde-Meuble in 1789.

To begin with, the navy ministry occupied the rooms on the second floor and in the western part of the first floor. Less than ten years later, it occupied the entire building. This marked the start of two centuries of France’s navy ministry being based in this palace, which henceforth bore the name Hôtel de la Marine. It was not until 2015 that the navy ministry left the building.


Because Garde-Meuble de la Couronne symbolised the Ancien Régime, the institution was simply abolished in the revolution. Some of the furniture and artworks were then auctioned or burned, often to salvage precious metals. In 1800, it was refounded with the name Garde-Meuble des Consuls. Later, it became the Mobilier impérial before ending up as the Mobilier national in 1870. The Mobilier national is still in charge of the furniture belonging to the country’s different national institutions, such as the Elysée Palace.

From the office of the chief of staff to the gallery of great French navy prefectures, the navy reshaped the building to meet its needs. Rooms were divided up to make offices larger and areas were redeveloped in relation to new technology in 19th and 20th centuries (including electricity, telephone and lifts) and decor like portraits of illustrious sailors of the royal navy.

La restauration de l'Hôtel de la Marine

When the navy left the building, the Centre des monuments nationaux was put in charge of managing the edifice. A large-scale restoration was undertaken to open the monument to the public and bring back 18th century splendour of the apartments of the Intendants of the Garde-Meuble de la Couronne.

Façade de l'Hôtel de la marine en chantier

Part II, the grand reveal follows tomorrow.

9 Comments on “Trip to l’Hôtel de la Marine: Part I

  1. Pingback: ReBlogging ‘Trip to l’Hôtel de la Marine: Part I’ – Link Below | Relationship Insights by Yernasia Quorelios

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