The Enchanting Gardens of Chateau de Malmaison
A Vision of Beauty: Joséphine’s Garden Transformation
Joséphine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoléon Bonaparte and the first Empress of France, had a remarkable vision for Chateau de Malmaison. Acquiring the estate in April 1797, she embarked on an ambitious endeavor to create a garden that would be revered as the most beautiful in Europe. Joséphinepoured her passion into cultivating an exquisite landscape, transforming the property into a horticultural paradise.
A Blossoming Oasis: The Rose Garden
The rose garden at Chateau Malmaison stands as a testament to Joséphine’s love for these exquisite flowers. Commissioning the talented Belgian artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759–1840), she sought to immortalize her cherished roses and lilies through his detailed botanical illustrations. Today, prints of Redouté’s work remain popular, a lasting tribute to Joséphine’s devotion to her floral collection.
With an extensive assortment of approximately 250 rose varieties, Joséphine’s rose garden became legendary. Her collection extended beyond roses, as she gathered plants from her native Martinique and various regions around the world. The aromatic scents and vibrant colors of these blooms brought joy and beauty to Chateau Malmaison.
Nurturing Nature: Joséphine’s Gardening Achievements
Joséphine’s commitment to horticulture extended beyond roses. She actively sought rare and exotic plants, showcasing her passion for flora and fauna. She endeavored to cultivate a diverse range of plant species at Chateau Malmaison, introducing nearly 200 new plants to France during her reign. Her dedication and expertise earned her a reputation as a pioneer in botanical exploration and cultivation.
Continuing Legacy: Malmaison’s Evolution
Following her divorce from Napoléon, Joséphine retained ownership of Chateau Malmaison and resided there until her death in 1814. The estate experienced subsequent changes in ownership, with Maria Christina, widow of King Ferdinand VII of Spain, purchasing it in 1842. Later, in 1861, Napoleon III acquired the property, ensuring its preservation and the continued appreciation of its magnificent gardens.
A Timeless Wonder: Chateau de Malmaison Today
While the splendors of Joséphine’s garden have evolved over time, the beauty and allure of Chateau Malmaison remain. Visitors can wander through the enchanting grounds, exploring the remnants of Joséphine’s horticultural legacy. The meticulously maintained gardens, though transformed by time, offer a glimpse into the passion and dedication of one of history’s most influential garden enthusiasts.
As you visit Chateau Malmaison, let your imagination carry you to an era when Empress Joséphine’s love for nature and beauty shaped the very essence of this magnificent estate. Experience the charm and tranquility that have enchanted visitors for centuries, as the gardens of Chateau Malmaison continue to inspire and captivate all who wander through their gates.
Chateau de Malmaison is near the western bank of the Seine. It is about 15k or 9m west of the center of Paris in Rueil-Malmaison.
Joséphine de Beauharnais ( 23 June 1763 – 29 May 1814) was the first wife of Napoléon Bonaparte and the first Empress of France. Her first husband Alexandre de Beauharnais was guillotined during the Reign of Terror, and she was imprisoned in the Carmes prison until her release five days after Alexandre’s execution. She is the grandmother of Napoleon III and she is the great-grandmother of later Swedish and Danish kings and queens, as well as the last Queen of Greece. The current reigning houses of Belgium, Norway, and Luxembourg also descend from her.
Joséphine transformed the large manor house and the property into “the most beautiful garden in Europe, a model of good cultivation”. She actively pursued flora and fauna along with rare and exotic animals from around the world. Joséphine wrote: “I wish that Malmaison may soon become the source of riches for all [of France]”…
The orangery at Chateau Malmaison
In 1800, Joséphine built a heated orangery with 300 pineapple plants. A few years later, she ordered the building of a greenhouse, heated by a dozen coal-burning stoves. From 1803 until her death in 1814, Josephine cultivated nearly 200 new plants in France for the first time. The Chateau Malmaison later was purchased by another owner but it is a beautiful site to visit even today.
Today not many of the splendors are there in her garden. But these beautiful dahlias were in bloom during my visit.
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