History of the Château de la Muette, OECD headquarters, Paris


History / Rooms / Chronology 

Photo: OECD/Hervé Cortinat


The headquarters of the OEEC (the forerunner to the OECD) were established at the Château de la Muette, in Paris, in 1949.

In 1961, when the OEEC was succeeded by the OECD, the Château de la Muette became the headquarters of the OECD.

The history of the Château

Though the present Château la Muette is modern, and was built at some distance from where the original chateau stood, the district is steeped in the history of France and her kings. A royal hunting-lodge, the birthplace of princes of France, the residence of a succession of royal mistresses, the park where Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette walked "as man and wife" without guards among their people "so that the whole Bois de Boulogne resounded with applause" - such is the place where the representatives of the industrialised countries of the free world work together, in the framework of the OECD, to co-ordinate their economic and social policies.

Even the origin of the name "Muette" is lost in the past. It may have derived from "muete", a spelling which appears frequently up to the end of the eighteenth century and which signifies a pack of deer-hounds (meute); it may have come from the "mues" or horns which stags shed in the autumn; or again from the "mue" or moulting-period of hunting hawks. Whichever the correct explanation, it is evident that the name was in some way connected with the hunting-lodge which mediaeval French kings used when, riding forth from their walled city of Paris, they hunted the deer in the Bois de Boulogne.

This ancient hunting-lodge was transformed into a small château for Marguerite de Valois, the first wife of Henri IV, who was popularly known as "Reine Margot".

After the annulment of their marriage they remained on good terms, and Marguerite bequeathed her château to the little Dauphin, later Louis XIII.

Thus from 1606 to 1792, the property remained part of the royal estates. In 1716 the Château de la Muette became the home of the Duchesse de Berry, daughter of the Duc d'Orléans, Regent of France; here she received the Tsar Peter the Great of Russia. On her death, the Regent offered the château to the young King Louis XV; ten royal children were born here between 1724 and 1734.

Later, however, the King seems to have preferred to entertain his mistresses at the Muette rather than his own family; these included the three de Nesle sisters, Mme de Pompadour and Mme Dubarry.

During this period, the château was rebuilt by the architect Gabriel in the form in which it survived until the early 1920's.

The King's successor, Louis XVI, spent the happiest days of his life at the château with his young bride, Marie-Antoinette. It was a period of honeymoon, not only with his wife, but also with his people.

Louis abolished certain royal taxes; he opened the gates of the Bois de Boulogne to the populace; he received notables and the common people alike at the château. The cries of "Vive Ie Roi!", says a chronicler, scarcely ceased from six in the morning until sunset.

Here Louis entertained the Emperor Joseph II, Marie-Antoinette's brother, to dinner, and here he granted a small area of sandy ground to a certain Parmentier for the growing of potatoes hitherto unknown in France.

It was, too, in the park of the château that, in November, 1783, Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes made the first successful flight in a hot-air balloon built by the Montgolfier brothers, thus becoming the first humans to break loose from the earth's gravity. Among the crowd who observed this feat were the royal family and Benjamin Franklin.

At the Revolution, the estate became state property. It is recorded that a dinner originally intended for deputies, but at which so much food remained that five or six hundred poor people were afterwards fed, M. de La Fayette appeared on his white horse and was received with much enthusiasm.

The royal days of the Château de la Muette were over; the National Assembly decided to sell the estate to the highest bidder. The property was split up into several lots, but the château itself, with a greatly reduced park, became the property of a well-known manufacturer of pianos named Erard, who had formerly played as a débutant before Marie-Antoinette in this same place. Just over one hundred years ago it descended to the family of the Comtes de Franqueville, whose name is still remembered in the name of the road running alongside the present château.

In 1912 the then M. de Franqueville sold a large part of the remaining property, and despite efforts made to retain it for the city of Paris it was further subdivided and its building up into a residential area began.

At the same time, the construction of the present château was started. Interrupted by the first World War, it was completed in 1922 and became the Paris home of Baron Henri de Rothschild, whose arms appear above the main entrance and who is remembered in the name of the street outside, "André Pascal", his pen name.

Between the two wars, the Château de la Muette - the old building having completely disappeared to make room for some of the finest houses in Paris - was the scene of magnificent receptions where the famous Rothschild collections were displayed in a series of great rooms of which the oak-panelled OECD Council room and the white and gold Executive Committee room ("Room Roger Ockrent") are fine examples.

Like many other great houses the château was put to more prosaic a use during World War II. After having served as military headquarters, it was taken over by the United States Army after the liberation of France.

In 1949 it became the headquarters of the OEEC (Organisation for European Economic Co-operation), and the Organisation has since built several Annexes which flank the château.

The Château de la Muette Rooms

Photo: OECD/Andrew Wheeler


Room C, formerly the Château's Great Salon, was transformed into a meeting room for the Council of Permanent Representatives to the OECD, the governing body. High Level meetings and Ministerial lunches are also held in this room.

Room Roger Ockrent, named after a former Belgian Ambassador to the OECD, is where the OECD's Executive Committee meets.

Roger Ockrent was born in Brussels on 20 March 1914. After obtaining a law doctorate from the Université Libre in Brussels, he continued his studies at the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris. His university career continued with a chair at the Université Libre in Brussels, where he contributed to greater awareness of the problems of international co-operation.

At the age of 33 he was appointed Head of the Private Office of the Belgian Prime Minister, Paul-Henri Spaak. When the Marshall Plan was launched in 1948, Roger Ockrent became Secretary-General of the Belgian Economic Co-operation Service, where he put to full use his experience of European affairs and multilateral negotiations. He became Permanent Representative of Belgium to OEEC in 1953, and to OECD from 1961. He was Chairman of the Organisation's Executive Committee (1957) and the Energy Co-ordinating Group (1974), both posts which he held until his death in April 1974.

Room George Marshall
, named after the architect and advocate of the Marshall Plan , is used by the Organisation for official working lunches, dinners and receptions.

George Catlett Marshall was born in Pennsylvania on 31 December 1880. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute to launch a career as both a soldier and a statesman. After duty in the Philippines and the United States, he served in France during World War I and later in China and in other posts in the United States. Appointed Army Chief of Staff from 1939 to 1945, he became Secretary of State in 1947 until 1949 and was nominated Secretary of Defence in 1950. For his role as architect and advocate of the Marshall Plan, General Marshall was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

The Marshall Plan, proposed in General Marshall's address at Harvard University on 5 June 1947, became one of the most important foreign policy initiatives of the United States. It led to the creation of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) on 16 April 1948, whose mandate was to continue work on a joint recovery programme and in particular to supervise the distribution of aid. In 1961 the OEEC evolved to become the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Chronology of Château de la Muette

Rouvroy Forest (the present Bois de Boulogne) is mentioned for the first time in the Charter of Compiègne.

Rouvroy Forest is referred to as "Forest of Saint-Cloud" in the Chroniques de Saint-Denis ; the Abbess of Montmartre is made "liege lord" of the forest.

Troops of the Duke of Burgundy burn down part of Rouvroy Forest; the forest takes the name "Bois de Boulogne".

The royal barber/minister Olivier le Daim is named Captain of Pont de Saint-Cloud, "Guardian of the Forest of Rouvroy-Saint-Cloud".

Coictier, the royal surgeon, inherits the domain Rouvroy-Saint-Cloud-Bois de Boulogne.

Jerome della Robbia completes the Château de Madrid (or Château de Boulogne) in the Bois de Boulogne for Francis I. He also builds a wall around the Bois.

Francis I builds a small lodge at the edge of the Bois for royal hunting parties; it takes the name "La Meute".

Henry II rebuilds the wall around the Bois with twelve gates opening onto the paths crossing the forest.

Charles IX enlarges the La Meute lodge to a small château on the site with the same name. He cedes La Meute to his sister, Marguerite de Valois, on the occasion of her marriage to Henry of Navarre (Henry IV).

Marguerite, now divorced from Henry IV, offers La Muette to the Dauphin (son of Henry and Marie de Médicis), the future Louis XIII; La Muette becomes a "royal domain". Current spelling is adopted.

Louis XIII has a hunting lodge built at Versailles; royal domains to the west of Paris include the Châteaux of Saint-Cloud, Meudon and Versailles.

The first horse race is organised in the Bois de Boulogne.

A royal edict establishes a conservation policy for the forest which remains in effect until the Revolution; the Captain of the Forest is charged with enforcing the policy. (A captaincy is a purchased office giving hunting and occasionally forest exploitation rights to the incumbent.)

La Muette is inhabited by Thomas Catelan de la Sablonnière, Captain of the Bois de Boulogne.

Fleriau d'Armenonville replaces Catelan as Captain of the Forest and becomes owner of La Muette. He improves the gardens by adding a formal, elongated parterre at the back of the château.

The Regent, Philip d'Orléans, acquires La Muette for his daughter, Marie-Louise-Elizabeth, Duchess of Berry, in exchange for the Château of Madrid, also located in the Boulogne Forest. Philip d'Orléans has the small hunting château reconstructed into a larger château.

The Duchess of Berry, daughter of the Regent, lives at La Muette, and receives Peter the Great at the château. The numerous parties and soirées at La Muette bring it a reputation of gallantry, intrigue and amusement.

The Chevalier de Rion, the secret lover of the Duchess of Berry, is named Governor of the Household at La Muette. Madame de Berry dies at La Muette. The Regent Philip purchases the domain for the young king, Louis XV.

Louis XV hires the architects Gabriel, father and son, who completely rebuild La Muette (the second château at La Muette). A main building - the château itself - is flanked by two large independent pavilions, the size of small châteaux, and a series of outbuildings. Madame de Pompadour lives at La Muette for six years, organising the new décor of the château; figuring among the additions are hunting scenes commissioned from the painter Oudry.

The king holds sessions of the Council of State in the château.

The Curiosities Cabinet, both a scientific laboratory and a museum, is built in the gardens at La Muette; the learned Benedictine Père Noël is the chief scientist and demonstrator for the large aristocratic crowds that come to visit the establishment.

Louis XV, who now lives at La Muette on a regular basis, decides to have a long alley cut through the Bois de Boulogne to the Seine River near Saint-Cloud so that he can see Madame de Pompadour's château at Bellevue. The king plans to build a new château at La Muette to face Bellevue. The expenses of the Seven Years' War prevent this extravagant plan.

New modifications are made to La Muette, including a remodelling of the gardens. The Dauphin Louis XVI takes up residence at La Muette.

Marie Antoinette arrives at La Muette to await her marriage to Louis XVI at Versailles. She lives off and on at La Muette over the next three years.

Louis XVI inherits La Muette as a royal domain. On this occasion, the Edict of La Muette is issued from the château (the renunciation of the "Don de joyeux avènement").

21 November: Taking off from the gardens of La Muette, Pilâtre de Rozier, accompanied by the Marquis d'Arlandes, makes the first "Montgolfier" balloon ascent over Paris.

La Muette, no longer used by the king and in serious need of repair, is put up for public sale to raise money for the king's expenses at Versailles.

The Châteaux of La Muette and Madrid are put up for sale by the royal Edict of February, 1788. The buyers are expressly permitted to tear down either set of buildings to sell off the materials. There are no buyers for either, probably due to the high selling price.

At the height of the Revolution, the city of Paris offers a great civic banquet for 15 000 federal soldiers in the now-abandoned gardens of La Muette (the present-day site of the Ranelagh gardens). The Curiosities Cabinet is dismantled and all scientific instruments moved to the Observatory. The 18th century building which housed the laboratory is sold off with other outbuildings of the châteaux and incorporated into the urban fabric at what is now the corner of Rue de Passy and Rue de la Pompe.

The vast domain - gardens, châteaux and numerous outbuildings - is broken up and sold off piecemeal. The city of Paris decides to install a regular army patrol in the old château to protect the former royal domain of the Bois de Boulogne from poaching, tree-cutting and other serious damage caused by the Revolutionary troubles.

The main château and some of the outbuildings and gardens are sold off. Two separate buildings are carved out of the original 18th century château. All precious materials -- marbles, floors, mirrors, fireplaces and any permanently installed paintings - are removed and sold. The two wings of the old château are separated and transformed into outdoor restaurants. Later, continuous cotton spinning machines are installed in the servants' outbuildings by the English inventor-engineer Milne. The majority of the park remains property of the state. André Chénier, the poet, is arrested near La Muette and together with the amateur painter Mme Filleul, former Concierge of La Muette, is judged, found guilty, and guillotined several days before the end of the Terror.

For a short time, the Marquis de Talleyrand rents one wing of the old château (the so-called Petite Muette) to live there. Mmes Tallien and Recamier come often to La Muette for long stays.

The street "Chaussée de La Muette" is paved and opened as a public thoroughfare. It no longer serves as entry to the château.

Under the Restoration, La Muette returns to the Crown. Due to the cost of repairs to the remaining buildings (the outbuildings and two large pavilions), a decision is made to abandon La Muette once again and remove it from the Civil List.

The State Minister Corvetto lives off and on at La Petite Muette.

Sebastian Érard, the famous piano-maker who had given lessons to Marie-Antoinette in the salons of La Muette before the Revolution, purchases one of the two separate wings of La Muette, as well as much of the remaining garden, and begins to restore them. He adds a long gallery and two storeys. A large painting collection is housed at La Muette in a gallery built in the garden.

Pierre Érard, Sebastian's nephew, inherits La Muette. He sells off the painting collection and rents La Muette to Dr. Guérin, who turns the pavilion into an orthopaedic hospital.

Pierre Érard marries and moves back into La Muette.

Fortifications are built around the city of Paris, separating the property of La Muette from the Bois de Boulogne.

Pierre Érard buys back part of the gardens and the old château wing called La Petite Muette.

The Auteuil-Passy railroad cuts through the property, separating much of the garden from the remaining buildings.

The poet Lamartine is forced to sell his country house at Milly near Fontainebleau, and takes up residence in a villa built on the part of the property of the old Château de la Muette, on the Boulevard Henri Martin today.

Mme Pierre Érard begins remodelling the property of La Muette and La Petite Muette. The separate gardens are gradually consolidated into a single property.

Many of the most important musicians of the day come to La Muette for private concerts and parties, including Gounoud, Rossini, Meyerbeer, Berlioz, David, Reyer, Massenet, Léo Delibes, Guiraud, Ambroise Thomas, and the composer Richard Wagner, who dedicates the score of Tannhauser to Mme Érard. Among the famous pianists who perform at La Muette are Liszt, Thalberg and Rubinstein; among the great singers who give recitals are Roger, Faure, Mmes Krauss, Miolan-Caralho and Fidès-Devriès.

During the Siege of Paris, La Muette is used by the Vice-Admiral Fleuriot de Lange as a general headquarters.

During the Commune, La Muette is used as military headquarters for Generals Clinchant, Douay and Ladmiraut; Communards are massacred in the gardens of the château after the events of May. Érard's nephew inherits the château; on his death, his wife wills the property to her niece, Mme de Franqueville, wife of the Count de Franqueville.

Mme de Franqueville restores the property according to the plans of the architect Gabriel. The two parts of the old château (La Muette and La Petite Muette) become one building, joined by a new central section. The two storeys added to La Muette are eliminated; the building is reconstructed to look like an 18th century château.

The property passes to Mme de Franqueville's husband, the Count de Franqueville, and his six children.

The Episcopal Conference of France meets in La Muette to discuss the anticlerical laws being enacted by the Republic.

Large portions of the remaining garden are sold to developers to build middle-class apartment buildings as a means of securing rent for the Franqueville family.

The Rothschild family acquires two lots of land for the construction of a modern château.

The Count de Franqueville dies; the 18th-19th century reconstructed pastiche château of La Muette, situated between the Rue du Conseiller Collignon (at number 17) and Boulevard Émile Augier, is torn down. Last remnants disappear in 1926.

Henri de Rothschild orders construction of a new Château de La Muette (the third château).

Rothschild finishes the present château. A series of brilliant literary and artistic dinners and receptions lend renown to La Muette once again between the two World Wars. Rothschild writes numerous plays and novels under the pen-name of André-Pascal.

Rothschild moves to his home near Lausanne, Switzerland where he lives throughout the war.

La Muette becomes the military headquarters of the German Naval Command.

Paris is liberated, and La Muette becomes one of the military headquarters of the Allied Powers (United States Naval Command).

The Rothschild heirs sell the property on the north and south sides of the Rue André Pascal to the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation.

Mme Deutsch de la Meurthe, who owns a mansion and two lots opposite it on the Rue de Franqueville, dies; the property is sold to a construction firm. The last open space of the old Muette outside the OECD property is sold off for development.