The history of the French Parliamentary Republic is closely tied to the history of the Palace of Versailles, since all the debates of the parliamentary assemblies at the beginning of the Third Republic were held here, on this famous site dating from the Ancien Régime.
a transfer to versailles
The last National Assembly of the Second Empire was hurriedly elected in February 1871 to sign the peace treaty with Germany. Having met for the first time in Bordeaux, the assembly wanted to return to the capital, but by then the insurrection known as the Paris Commune had broken out in the city, and the assembly was forced to find a back-up solution until peace would be restored. After some hesitation the deputies voted to move to Versailles and to hold their sessions in the Palace’s Royal Opera House. The first session was held on 20 March 1871.
The National Assembly, at the time called “the Chamber”, continued to meet in the Royal Opera House from 1871 to 1875. In 1875 several laws modified this arrangement with, notably, the creation of a second chamber, the Senate. The parliamentarians were now too large in number to meet in the Royal Opera House, and they had a new hall built in the centre of the South Wing for the assembly.
The work was entrusted to Edmond de Joly and Julien Guadet in the spring of 1876. In December of the following year, the Congress Chamber was completed.
Nevertheless, it was not long before the question of the parliamentarians’ return to Paris was raised once again, as can be seen in the draft laws filed from 1877. In 1879 the Palais de Luxembourg was assigned to the Senate and the Palais Bourbon to the Chamber of Deputies. The Chambers returned to Paris the same year.
From 1879 ordinary parliamentary debates were no longer held in the Palace of Versailles, but in Paris, which had been the customary seat of power since the Revolution. Nevertheless, the move was not the end of the Palace’s parliamentary history, since it continued to host the Parliament when it met in Congress, i.e. the assembly of deputies and senators.
Since then, constitutional revisions and, until 1958, the election of the president of the Republic, have been voted on by Congress in the Palace of Versailles in the chamber in the South Wing, which is now known as the “Congress Chamber”. Since 2008 this room has been the only place where the president of the Republic is permitted to address the parliamentarians.
The last Congress was held in July 2017. The President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, had gathered the senators and deputies to discuss the priorities of his five-year term. The next Congress will be held on July 9, 2018.