Printed working documents of the Conseil d'Etat
Vue de l'escalier d'honneur du Conseil d'Etat aux Tuileries par Fontaine, archives du Conseil d'Etat

The Conseil d'État was inaugurated in the Palais du Luxembourg on 4 Nivôse, An VIII (25 December 1799). It was to remain there for fifty-six days.

After 30 Pluviôse, An VIII (19 February, 1799) and until the fall of the Empire at the end of March 1814, it was housed in the north wing of the Tuileries.

In 1814, the first Restoration placed the Secrétariat of the Conseil within the precincts of the Ministère de la Justice, Place Vendôme, where it was to remain until 1824, with its various departments dispersed among the relevant ministries.

   In the Palais du Luxembourg

The Conseil d'Etat was inaugurated on 4 Nivôse, An VIII (25 December, 1799), temporarily, in the grand salon of the "Petit Luxembourg". This hall, built in the early 18th century by Germain Boffrand (1667-1754) for Princess Palatine, had been the scene of the meetings of the Directoire (Directory) from 1795 to 1799. Bonaparte and Josephine lived at the time in the other wing of the Petit Luxembourg.

A decree of 3 Nivôse, An VIII set aside the Luxembourg for the use of the Sénat conservateur. The building, in a poor state of repair and unsuitable for occupation, underwent four years of restoration work under the direction of Jean-François Chalgrin, during which time the Senate sat in the grand salon initially allocated to the Conseil d'État. This same decree allocated the Palais des Tuileries to the Consuls.

After 4 Nivôse, An VIII (24 December, 1799), another decree published in the Bulletin des lois provided for the Conseil d'État to move into the Tuileries and allocated funding of 200,000 francs "so that the offices can move from the ministries and be passed on to the Conseillers d'État in charge of the relevant administrations".


   The move to the Tuileries

On 30 Pluviôse, An VIII (19 February, 1800), the Consuls left the Palais du Luxembourg for the Tuileries: ministers and conseillers in private carriages and hackney carriages took part in the procession. The Conseil d'État, its sections and its offices, were to remain in this palace until the fall of the Empire in March 1814.

Roederer described the scene for the Journal de Paris of 30 Pluviôse, An VIII:

"Today the government installed itself in the Tuileries. At noon the consuls, ministers and conseillers d'Etat gathered in the Luxembourg in ceremonial dress. At one o'clock they left for the Tuileries. A detachment of hussars led the way, followed by twenty coaches of conseillers d'Etat, a platoon of guides and the general staff, six coaches of ministers, another platoon of guides, the carriage of the three consuls, surrounded by officers on horseback, the mounted guard of the consuls. A detachment of the 6th and 9th Regiments of dragoons and the 15th Regiment of chasseurs brought up the rear. The procession went down the Rue de Thionville and along Quai Voltaire. Two rows of grenadiers of the Garde des Consuls lined the courtyard of the Tuileries. The First Consul descended from his carriage and mounted a horse to review the troops assembled in the courtyard and on the Carrousel parade ground. He then stood before the entrance of the Tuileries, and, surrounded by his military commanders and their general staff, watched the troops march past... During the review the two consuls remained with the ministers and part of the Conseil on the palace balcony".


   The Conseil d'État at the Tuileries

The Conseil d'État was now in the Tuileries, in immediate proximity to the Emperor. This privileged situation is a clear indication that the Conseil d'État was at the heart of Napoleon's system of government. Some meetings could nevertheless be held in the Palais de Saint-Cloud when the Emperor was in residence there.

 Refitting of the Palace
The château was in a state of dilapidation following the ordeals of the Revolution. The initial restoration work was entrusted to Etienne-Chérubin Leconte. The south wing of the palace (on the Seine) was to be for the apartments of the Consuls. What had once been the palace theatre in the north wing (and which had been transformed by Gisors in 1792 for use when the Convention was sitting) was rapidly fitted out to house the Conseil d'État. The galleries of the Convention room were taken down to make way for the library.(1)

The sections undoubtedly occupied the upper floors of the Marsan pavilion until 1806. Leconte, out of favour following the assassination attempt on the rue Saint-Nicaise in early 1801, was replaced by Percier and Fontaine.
In January 1803, in place of a study adjoining the assembly room of the Conseil d'État a chapel was built. In 1805, much more substantial work was decided on (2): a new chapel was built on the site of the 1803 chapel and the rooms separating it from Convention room. This new chapel was divided into two storeys, the columns of the nave supporting galleries. The new theatre, which could be turned into a ballroom, was built in 1806 on the site of the former Convention room.


Palais des Tuileries, plan of the ground floor of the north wing (and Marsan Pavilion), following its remodelling by Percier and Fontaine.

Palais des Tuileries, Plan of the mezzanine floor of the north wing (not including the Marsan pavilion),
following its remodelling by Percier and Fontaine.

Palais des Tuileries, plan of the first floor of the north wing (not including the Marsan pavilion),
following its remodelling by Percier and Fontaine.


 The grande salle of the Conseil d'État
The grande salle or assembly room of the Conseil d'État, known also as the 'Salon des travées', was fitted out in 1805 between the new chapel and the future ballroom. It looked out over the chapel through openings that could be used as galleries. This rectangular room was decorated with pilasters and columns in yellow Sienna stucco, white veined panels, and gilded capitals and ornamentation (3). The ceiling, commissioned from Gérard in 1806 and completed in 1811, depicted the Battle of Austerlitz. In 1808, three full-size standing statues (4) were added to the room, representing Portalis, Tronchet and Cambacérès, fathers of the Civil Code. Cambacérès, still very much alive, thereafter presided over the sittings opposite his own statue.

Access to the salle du Conseil was by a grand rectangular staircase which passed from the central pavilion of the château to the guardroom on the mezzanine floor. This staircase, designed by Fontaine, carried on from the guardroom, between two pedestals with statues, and rose between two masonry pillars supporting columns, to the antechamber of the Conseil d'État. This set of steps leading to the grande salle reinforced the impression of solemnity caused by the entrance of the Emperor when the Conseil was in session (5).

At the back of the grande salle was Napoleon's table, standing on a raised platform with two steps. Two side tables at the same level were for Cambacérès and Lebrun. According to certain witnesses, these tables were lower than the platform under the Empire. Rows of light tables for the conseillers d’État were lined up on either side of the room, standing away from the walls. The ministers occupied the seats closest to the platform. After 1806, the maîtres des requêtes (counsels) were seated at small tables facing the platform, at right angles to those of the conseillers. Auditeurs (junior officials) admitted to the session were seated on chairs or stools behind the conseillers, in the windows and doorways. Between 1803 and 1806, and still few in number, they had small tables (6).


Reconstruction of the layout of the grande salle of the Conseil d'État in the Tuileries after 1806. (7)

Stendhal, an auditeur at the Conseil d'Etat, Sketch of the assembly room of the Conseil d'État in the Tuileries in the margin of his manuscript for la Vie d'Henry Brulart and explanatory diagram


 Other rooms allocated to the Conseil d'État
The section offices were on the ground floor and on the mezzanine of the north wing of the Tuileries, and looked out over the Courtyard of the Caroussel through arched windows. These offices were reached via the "vestibule of the Conseil d'État" opening onto the Courtyard of the Caroussel with a landing of two steps.
The remodelling of the ballroom led to the disappearance of the library put in by Leconte: the books of the Conseil d'État were then transferred to the gallery of the Louvre. Part of the collection was moved to Fontainebleau in 1807, while the law books remained in the gallery of the Louvre.  (8).

 Tribulations of the Conseil after March 1814
In February 1814, the Emperor, sensing his end was near, planned to remove the Senate and the Conseil d'Etat to the banks of the Loire. Only the section presidents and a few conseillers left Paris on 29 March, 1814, to follow the Regente (Marie-Louise) to Blois and then Orléans. On 9 April 1814, they were removed from office by a special act of the provisional government.

The majority of the Conseil d'État had already allied itself with Louis XVIII. Its abolition was nevertheless considered, in spite of the creation of a "provisional Conseil d'État" on 16 April, 1814.

An ordinance of 29 June, 1814 however established a new Conseil d'État, similar in its attributions to the Imperial Conseil d'État, but very different in its position in the State apparatus and in its structure.

Once again, the location of the seat of the Conseil d'État was indicative of its institutional position: during the first Restoration, the Conseil was no longer an autonomous body owing its existence to the Constitution but a consultative organ of the king created by ordinance. It could be called to a general assembly at a location chosen by the king. Each of the five committees (formerly sections) met at the premises of the ministry to which it was attached. The offices of the Conseil, the general secretariat and the assembly hall were moved to the chancellery in the Place Vendôme, home of the ministry in charge of the Conseil. The library and archives remained in the gallery of the Louvre where they had been since 1805. This new location for the Conseil d'État, dispersed over several sites, was established by ordinance on 29 June, 1814.  (9).

The Conseil d'État was not to meet again with all the sections that composed it, until its relocation to the Palais Royal in 1875.


F. Boyer, " L’installation du Premier Consul aux Tuileries et la disgrâce de l’architecte Leconte (1800-1801) " in Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire de l’art français, 1941-1944, p. 142-144. Back
For a more precise description of this work see J.-M. Leniaud, "Les lieux et bâtiments", in Le Conseil d'État de l'an VIII à nos jours, Paris, 1999, p. 42-45. The plans illustrating this site were first published in this article: CHAN, F21 3571, documents 27, 28 and 29. Picture credits CHAN. Back
L. Hautecoeur, Histoire de l’Architecture classique en France, Tome V, Révolution et Empire (1792-1815), Paris, Picard, 1953, p.164-169. Back
The painting by Gérard and the full-length statues are now in the Château de Versailles. Back
Fontaine, Monuments de Paris : Percier et Fontaine, Escalier du Conseil d’État. Back
C. Durand, Le fonctionnement du Conseil d’État Napoléonien, Gap, 1954, p. 85-86. Back
Very schematic reconstruction by N. Clot based on a description given by C. Durand, op. cit Back
P. Julien, " Les bibliothèques du Conseil d’État depuis l’an VIII ", dans Le Conseil d’État. Livre jubilaire…, Paris, 1952, p. 96. Back

In the Almanach royal of 1818 it was dispersed as follows:Back
- Comité de Législation: Chancellery, Place Vendôme,
- Contentieux (Judicial): Chancellery,
- Comité de l'Intérieur et du commerce (Domestic affairs and Trade), Hôtel Labriffe, Quai Voltaire;
- Comité des Finances (Finance): Hôtel du trésor royal;
- Comité de la Guerre (War): 61, rue de l'université;
- Marine et colonies: Ministère de la Marine (Naval Ministry).
- Secretariat and offices: Chancellery
- Library and archives, Gallery of the Louvre.