Museum of French History

Musee de l'Histoire de France

The Musée de l'Histoire de France is a state museum of French history operated by the Archives Nationales. It occupies two buildings within the 3rd arrondissement in the Marais, Paris: the Hôtel de Soubise at 60 rue des Francs-Bourgeois, and the Hôtel de Rohan at 87 rue Vieille-du-Temple.

The Hôtel de Soubise was first built in 1371 as the Hôtel de Clisson and later acquired by the Ducs de Guise. In 1705 it was rebuilt by architect Pierre-Alexis Delamair (1676-1745) for François de Rohan-Soubise and Anne-de Rohan Chabot, with little remaining of the original structure but its turreted medieval gateway which is now the only surviving remnant of Parisian private architecture from the fourteenth century. The adjoining Hôtel de Rohan was built at the same time. In 1808 both buildings were acquired by the state, after which Napoleon designated the Hôtel de Soubise for the Imperial Archives and the Hôtel de Rohan as the National Printing House (which so remained until 1927). In 1867 Napoleon III created the Musée de l'Histoire de France in the Hôtel de Soubise.

Today the museum displays rotating selections from its permanent collection in the Hôtel de Soubise, with temporary exhibits that sometimes expand into the Hôtel de Rohan. The archives include documents that date from the Merovingian period before Charlemagne, documents and the only known sketch of Joan of Arc, Louis XVI's will and facsimiles of Marie Antoinette's farewell letter composed just before her execution, documents by Danton, Robespierre, and Napoleon, as well as jailers' keys from the Bastille.

The Hôtels de Soubise and de Rohan are also notable for their architecture and furnishings, with rooms that have changed very little since the 18th century, including the Chambre du prince, Salon ovale du prince, Chambre d'apparat de la princesse, an amusing Cabinet des singes (Monkey Cabinet), and the very fine Salon ovale de la princesse with featuring gilt and crystal decor and ceiling frescoes by François Boucher, Charles-Joseph Natoire, and Carle Van Loo.

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