Marie Antoinette at the Conciergerie

“I was a queen, and you took away my crown; a wife, and you killed my husband; a mother, and you deprived me of my children. My blood alone remains: take it, but do not make me suffer long.”

Marie Antoinette

On 16 October 1793, Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France, was taken from the Conciergerie in an open cart and driven through the Rue Saint-Honore to the Place de la Revolution (now the Place de la Concorde), where she was guillotined at 12:15pm. She was 37 years old, just short of her 38th birthday in November. Marie Antoinette was survived by her eldest daughter, Marie-Therese, who moved to Austria in a prisoner exchange.

Earlier in August, Marie Antoinette was separated from her daughter and her sister-in-law, Elisabeth, (and son, Louis-Charles) in the Temple and taken to the Conciergerie. There she spent her final 10 weeks in a prison cell below the courtyard level.

During the Restoration in the 19th Century, her prison cell was converted into a chapel in her memory (and her husband’s and sister-in-law’s). Today, visitors can visit the small chapel and see artefacts related to the last queen in the Girondins’ Chapel. As you can see below, the walls have been painted in black with silver tears. The faux marble altar in the first photo is supposedly where Marie Antoinette’s cot was.

The entrance to the chapel in memory of Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI, and Princess Elisabeth
Marie Antoinette’s cell/chapel

There used to be a recreated prison cell of Marie Antoinette’s which apparently closed sometime in May 2017.  The histopad lets you see an augmented reality of her prison cell.

A chapel within a chapel: behind the altar is the chapel in memory of Marie Antoinette
Girondins’ Chapel and the mini museum of artefacts which belonged to or were associated with MA
Marie Antoinette’s cotton and linen chemise

Aside from that, you can pay your respects to Marie Antoinette at the Basilica of St-Denis, her final resting place.

The Conciergerie 

View of the Conciergerie from the Seine

Located on the Île de la Cité (the same island that the Notre Dame is on, on the other end), the Conciergerie began as a royal residence for Clovis, King of the Franks, during the 6th Century. It later became part of the Palais de la Cité, the royal residence of the kings of France from the 10th-14th centuries. The royal chapel Sainte-Chapelle was constructed in the 13th Century and is connected to the Conciergerie.

(In HBO’s Knightfall, the Conciergerie is one of the settings as the residence of the royal family. There are also many episodes that feature Sainte-Chapelle as a setting.)

After the French royal family moved to the Louvre in the middle of the 14th Century, the Conciergerie housed the Parlement of Paris, administrative staff, guards, and prisons. The name comes from the title given to the [house]keeper of the palace: le concierge.

Only the Salle des Gens d’Armes (Hall of the soldiers) and Salle des Gardes (Guards Room) survive from the Medieval times. Many fireplaces have since been walled up.

Salle des Gens d’Armes
Salle des Gardes
Sainte-Chapelle on the left and the 18th Century Palais de Justice

If you’re interested in visiting the Conciergerie, it’s a self-guided tour around the former palace/prison/courthouse. When I visited in September 2017, I was not aware of the Histopad for rent (for €5) which allows visitors to see a 3D reality augmentation of the halls as it would have appeared during the Middle Ages, as well as the prison cells during the French Revolution. 

Starting on 16 October, there is a temporary exhibition on Marie Antoinette called “Marie-Antoinette: Metamorphoses of an Image“. It is on until 26 Jan 2020 and is included in the admission. Aside from historical artefacts, the exhibition features interviews, film extracts, and various images of the royal icon (from oil-painting portraits to manga illustrations).

Address: 2, boulevard du Palais (1st arrondissement), Paris, France

Hours of operation: Mon-Sun 9:30-18:00 all year except New Year’s, 1 May, 25 December

Tickets: €9 or €15 with Sainte-Chapelle

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