a landscape lover's blog

garden tales from a Brit at home and abroad

A real jardin anglais in Paris

The hôtel de Charost in the 8th arrondissement of Paris was built in the 1720s and was subsequently the home for 11 years of Pauline Borghese, favourite sister of Napoleon Bonaparte, who lavishly decorated it in the Empire style.

In 1814 it was bought by the Duke of Wellington and remains today the home of the British Ambassador to France.

The house and its one acre garden were open last Saturday as part of the Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Open Days), and I acted as a guide to the gardens for much of the afternoon. While not historically significant like the house, the gardens are beautifully maintained and in a decidedly English style.

There are some lovely old trees, and a good mix of perennials, including lots of scented roses. French visitors commented time and time again on the lawn, which is strikingly green and plush. People laid on it, stroked it, took close-up photos of it. It was as if they doubted it was real. They hovered on the edge, not quite believing they were allowed to walk on it (in most Paris parks there are pelouse interdite signs – the French equivalent of “keep off the grass”). I was asked many questions about its maintenance; one visitor even requested the contact details for the gardener, to learn his secrets.

It felt to everyone like a little piece of England transported behind a fine Parisian house.

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3 comments on “A real jardin anglais in Paris

  1. Kathryn Kane
    September 7, 2014

    Your photos are lovely. However, there is a tiny typo in your second paragraph. The Duke of Wellington actually bought the house in August of 1814, making 2014 the bicentennial anniversary of the house becoming the British Ambassador’s Residence.

    Regards,

    Kat

    • landscapelover
      September 7, 2014

      Kat

      Many thanks for the correction. You are of course right – Pauline Borghese owned the house from 1803 and, when her brother was declared emperor in 1804, she became a sovereign princess and held court at the hôtel. It was only after Napoleon’s exile to Elba that Wellington acquired the house. I have corrected the date above.

      I see that the residence is open again this year on 20th September as part of the Journées du Patrimoine. I hope lots of people visit to admire the house and its very British lawns, and to celebrate the bicentenary of this historical place becoming a little piece of Britain in the heart of Paris.

      • Kathryn Kane
        September 8, 2014

        I so wish I was on that side of the pond so I could visit the house. But at least I have located a copy of Tim Knox’s book, The British Ambassador’s Residence in Paris. It provides a good history of the house, and many pages of wonderful photos. Almost as good as being there in person. Maybe one day I will get there.

        Regards,

        Kat

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