A Royal town in the Yvelines, Saint Germain en Laye

For some reason, must be nostalgic Christmas night and memories float in my mind I remember Saint Germain en Laye. It is a town link easily on the N186 to my beloved Versailles where I lived and taking advantage of the location wandered to all these wonderful towns of France in the Yvelines dept 78 region of the ïle de France.

Saint Germain en Laye is a Royal town not only because it hosted and or was visited by Kings but the one Sun King Louis XIV was born here! It is also only 19 km from Paris Notre Dame Cathedral with just an elevation of 193 meters. A forest that covers 3/4 of its city limits territory! Where the kings used to hunt too. Also, a cinematic city with already 15 films done here over the years.

A town that saw the birth of  (year following name) :Henri II, 1518; Marguerite de France, Queen Margot, 1553 ; Jeanne d’Albret, (mother of Henri IV and great figure of the Reformist era) ,1528;Charles IX , 1550 ; Louis de Buade count de Frontenac,( Governor of New France (Canada)),1622; King Louis XIV, 1638 ; Philippe de France, duke of Orléans,1640 ; Philippe de France, duke of Anjou, (oldest son of Louis XIV), 1660; Marie-Louise  of England , (daughter of king James II of England exile in the city and buried at the Church of St Germain across from castle), 1692;  Claude Debussy ,1862 ; Edouard Bourdet, 1887;  Jehan Alain, 1911 ;  Christian Fouchet, 1911,(ambassador and previous minister and follower of the first hour of Gen de Gaulle); José Artur, 1927; Michel Pericard (1929-1999), (previous mayor of Saint-Germain- en-Laye (1977-1999),deputy of the Yvelines  (1978-1999) , and Vice President of the National Assembly of France (1997-1999); Jean-Edern Hallier, 1936;  and Pierre Douglas, 1941…

A town that saw the passing of figures such as (year of death following name) : Louis XIII,1643 ; James II king of England, 1701; The knight  Ramsay  1743 ; François de Beauharnais, (father in law of Joséphine), 1800 ; prince de Polignac, 1847 ; Adolphe Thiers, President of the IIIe Républic, 1877; the Poet Catulle Mendès, 1909 ; Henri Cochet, Tennis champion 6 times winner of the Davis Cup, 1987; Suzanne Chantal, roman writer, 1994.

And who have passed by in the city, some of the famous are : Molière, alias Jean-Baptiste Poquelin; Mozart for a day in 1778 ; Benjamin Franklin also in 1778; Alexandre Dumas father and son. The father wrote  “Les Trois mousquetaires” and “Le Comte de Monte Cristo” in the city while commander of the national guard in town as well as directs the theater.  The son wrote  “La Dame aux camélias” in the city. The musician Claude Debussy, and the painter Maurice Denis , that has a museum in the city as well. And of course, many many others too numerous to mention.

The city has been cited as the house of the famous or maisons des illustres by the ministry of Culture of France, UNICEF city child friendly, two leave branches  Ville Nature for the natural protection, three flowers Ville Fleurie for the protection and decoration of its trees/flowers; Accueil Vélo for the best host on cyclists from the tourist organizations, and the Les Rubans de Patrimoine or ribbons of heritage for its preservation of the heritage sites in the city.

It’s history goes way back in the history of the French kingdom and is very rich starting with king Louis VI le fat in 1124 building a residency, and Saint Louis a Chapel ,and Charles V both are made rebuilt/renovated. Henri III has a New Castle (château-neuf)  built in 1556, and does many other improvements such as the gardens; many things done here such as the marriage of François I in 1514,birth of Henri III in 1519, jurist dual or coup of Jarnac in 1547, proclamation of the edict of 1563 by Charles X that fix January 1st the beginning of the year for all of France, signature in 1570 of the peace of  Saint-Germain to end the wars of religions, birth of Louis-Dieudonné, future king Louis XIV in 1638.  Baptism of the Grand dauphin, marriage of Mademoiselle de Blois and prince de Conti (whose palace is today the city hall of Versailles !),  Concerts of Lulli and Quinault, comedy showing by Molière. The  Château-Vieux  becomes the center of European politics with the exile of king James II of England, king of Scotland until his death in 1701. Louis XVI ordered the passing of the water of the town in 1777 ,and gives the Château-Neuf  to his brother , the Count of Artois future king Charles X.

After the Revolution, Consul, Empire, Restoration, and Monarch of July the town goes thru its ups and downs. The castle is converted into a prison (Rouget de Lisle was a prisoner here he who wrote the Marseillaise), a hospital, horse cavalry school, military headquarter, and later military prison. The opening of the first railroad line in 1837 linking the city with Paris gives a new breath of air to the city. The visit of Queen Victoria of England for a pilgrimage to the tomb of James II in 1895 allows in the mind of Napoléon III to create the museum of antiquities in 1867 (still there in the castle). The peace with Austria is signed in St Germain en Laye in 1919 dismantling the Austro-Hungarian empire. The Nazi high command and other army services take possession of the castle as HQ of Nazi forces from Holland to Biarritz during WWII. Finally, the city is liberated in August 1944.

After the end of WWII the OTAN makes the high command in Europe called SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) led by Eisenhower chose to be installed between the towns nearby of  Louveciennes and Marly-le-Roi. Living quarters for the military was built in Saint Germain en Laye on the location of the current village of Village d’Hennemont; where their children went to the school of SHAPE, today still going on as the Lycée international.

THe king Louis XIV has renovated the castle especially the apartments by the Architect Louis le Vau and the gardens by André le Nôtre. Before Versailles, even thus later the king moves there. King Louis XV wanting a Church bigger than the current one there ordered the constrution with the first stone laid in 1766 of the Church of Saint Germain with the finished in 1827. The house of the education of the children of the legion d’honneur is done in 1811. The castle is totally renovated with a new look by orders of Napoléon III in 1863 as we see it today.  The museum of Antiquities , gallo and celtic arts is open to the public in 1867.

The city tourist office in English is here: https://www.saintgermainenlaye-tourisme.fr/en

And the city of Saint Germain en Laye where the information above was translated is here in French: https://www.saintgermainenlaye.fr/140/decouvrir-la-ville.htm

You should not missed the Theater Alexandre Dumas as it was the inspiration of Dumas father who eventually saw the light of the theater, more here in French: http://www.tad-saintgermainenlaye.fr/

And to let your imagination run wild , here is the Château Vieux (old castle) site now is the Archeology museum info here in English: http://en.musee-archeologienationale.fr/

And info in English on the Church of Saint Germain is here:  https://www.saintgermainenlaye-tourisme.fr/en/places-must-see/eglise-saint-germain-633123

And of course the market here at the place du marché  Neuf is very good and with over 700 shops in city center you are in for a treat; I know used to come here very often, and always a pleasure. Here is info in English on the market: https://www.saintgermainenlaye-tourisme.fr/en/activites-et-loisirs-english/les-marches-de-saint-germain-1055791

Enjoy Saint Germain en Laye, plenty to read above,and if questions for details let me know gladly will help out. Enjoy the Holidays and Happy New Year to all! Cheers.

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