Did you know that the lawn you walk on during the Rock en Seine festival has welcomed kings, emperors and even Louis de Funès?
Located west of Paris in the French Hauts-de-Seine department, the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud is a 460-hectare park that’s classified as a historical monument.
It was established at the end of the 16th century when Catherine de Médicis offered the Florentine Gondi family a home in the rolling countryside tucked between Paris and Versailles. There they built a compound with a stunning view of the Seine. The first version of the château had a troubled, and sometimes bloody, history; it was indeed there that some years later King Henry III was assassinated. As monarchy detests a vacuum, it was also between its walls that his cousin, the future Henry IV, was named king.
In 1658, Louis XIV purchased the property for his brother. A way for the Sun King to indulge his sibling, but also a way to keep this inveterate reveller at a distance. To spruce up his new home, it was extended and the gardens were remodelled by Le Nôtre, who was also working on those of the Palace of Versailles. The Domaine de Saint-Cloud became the setting for lavish parties.
Just a few years before the revolution, Louis XVI gifted the château to his beloved Marie-Antoinette, who also decided to enlarge it. The King and Marie-Antoinette, eternal pleasure-seekers even when faced with God, made Saint-Cloud the venue for prodigious parties, characterised by music and light. Rock en Seine spectators might well find that this reminds them of something…
The long history of the Saint-Cloud château did not stop there, not yet anyway. In fact, after witnessing the presence of kings, the château had a somewhat imperial promotion and became the location where Napoleon I was proclaimed emperor. A devotee of remakes, his nephew Napoleon III was also proclaimed emperor there.
However, the château did not survive the siege of Paris bombing of 13 October 1870 and the building was left in ruins. It could have been rebuilt, but in 1892 it was definitively taken down. All that remains today are its surrounding (for example the waterfalls – cascades- that give their name to one of the Rock en Seine stages). Remnants of Saint-Cloud can still be found elsewhere: the pediment and the right wing are now located in Bulgaria, the left pendant is in Essone, the bas-reliefs are in Belgium and the entrance gates are in Ajaccio.
The Domaine de Saint-Cloud and its 460 hectares of garden have seen it all. It’s been the backdrop for the film Grand Restaurant with Louis de Funès, the location of a summit meeting between Gérard Depardieu and Joey Starr in the [un]forgettable film Mark of the Angels, it appears in Young Thug’s “Power” video, it was the venue for the first edition of the Fête de l’Humanité in 1921, it’s even seen Uma Thurman, Richard Gere, and was in Sinead O’Connor’s video for Nothing Compares 2 U.
It was in 2003 that the park welcomed a new festival: Rock en Seine. The first edition was just a one-day event, but already had big names: Massive Attack, PJ Harvey and Beck, and they were joined by 22,000 festival-goers. 18 years later the festival is still here, with multiple stages, guests and concerts, continuing the site’s festival tradition.
You can see all the events that take place at the Domaine National de Saint-Cloud on monuments-nationaux.fr.