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1871-1879 The parliamentarians at Versailles



1871 - 1879

The construction of the parliamentary Republic is intertwined with the Palace of Versailles. In the early Third Republic all the parliamentary assemblies' debates took place in this symbol of the Ancien Régime monarchy.

The Second Empire's last National Assembly was elected in February 1871. The first time it met was in Bordeaux. The lawmakers wanted to return to Paris, but in the meantime the Commune uprising broke out there so a back-up solution had to be found until things quieted down. After some wavering, the deputies voted to move to Versailles, deciding to hold their sessions in the palace's Royal Opera Opéra royal. The first one took place on 20 March 1871.

The National Assembly, then called "the Chamber", met in the Royal Opera from 1871 to 1875, the year several laws modified the legislative branch: a second chamber, the Senate, which was to meet in the Royal Opera, was added. The members of the Chamber were assigned the palace's South Wing, where Edmond de Joly and Julien Guadet designed a new room for them, completed in December 1875. Both chambers held their first sessions in their respective settings on 8 March 1876.

But the issue of the parliamentarians' return to Paris quickly came up, as several bills from 1877 onwards attest. In 1879 the Senate was assigned the Luxembourg Palace and the Chamber of Deputies the Bourbon Palace. The chambers returned to Paris that year.

In 1879 the parliament left the Palace of Versailles for Paris, its customary seat of power since the Revolution, but the move did not put an end to the chateau's parliamentary history: it is still where the deputies and senators meet when they come together as the Parliamentary Congress.

Since then, the Congress has passed constitutional amendments and, until 1958, elected the president of the Republic in the palace's South Wing room, today called the "Congress Room". Since 2008 it has been the only place where the president can speak before the parliamentarians.

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