The Inter-Parliamentary Union is an international organisation founded in 1889: the parliaments of 163 countries are now members. It was the first permanent vehicle for multinational talks. Paris has hosted several of its conferences, including the 59th in 1971, at the Bourbon Palace, which is where the French National Assembly (the lower chamber of the French parliament) meets. The Palace was originally built for a daughter of Louis XIV and one of his official mistresses (the daughter was legitimised). It was taken over by the State during the French Revolution, and under Napoleon the imposing portico was added. When the monarchy was restored, a royal prince assumed possession and rented it to the Chamber of Deputies: the State bought it from his heir in 1827. This stamp, SG 1934, showing the Bourbon Palace was issued in 1971 on the occasion of the 59th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The Cour de Cassation is the final French appeal court except for administrative and constitutional matters, which have separate appeal bodies. It was set up in 1790, during the early years of the French Revolution. It meets in a building on the Île de la Cité in the Seine, and the building is shown on this 1994 stamp, SG 3208. The inscription translates, "There is, for the whole Republic, a Cour de Cassation" - in other words, justice at the highest level is available to everyone in France.
The Château de Maisons-Laffitte in NW Paris is one of the foremost Baroque buildings of France, and appears on SG 2310 of 1979. It was constructed between about 1630 and the early 1650s by Louis XIII's chief minister of finance, who spent much of his wife's fortune on it. It was appropriated by the State during the French Revolution, and sold off. In 1905 it was at risk of being demolished, and the State purchased it to save it.
In 1973 France issued this stamp, SG 1997, showing the underground telephone exchange near the Tuileries in Paris, with a picture of the Tuileries in the background. The Tuileries was built in 1564 and was where most French kings and Emperors lived, from Henry IV to Napoleon III. In 1871 it was burned at the time of the Paris Commune, the revolutionary socialist government that assumed power in Paris after the collapse of Napoleon III's administration. The resulting ruins were demolished in 1883. In the last 15 years there has been talk of rebuilding the palace. The gardens of the Tuileries, designed by Le Nôtre, the foremost landscape gardener of the 17th century, will probably be known to any of you who have visited Paris.
1997 was the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. In the building are a huge public library, the biggest modern art gallery in Europe, and IRCAM, a French Institute for research into the science of music and avant-garde electronic music (in which it trains composers). This 1997 stamp, SG 3363, shows part of the modernist exterior.
After all that sight-seeing, we deserve an evening off, so let's go to the Comédie-Française, one of the few State-owned theatres in France, with its own permanent repertory company. It was founded in 1680 under the royal patronage of Louis XIV, and works of France's greatest dramatists have been performed there - including Molière, Corneille and Racine. It was closed in 1793, during the French Revolution, but reopened six years later. For the 300th anniversary of the Comédie-Française in 1980, France issued SG 2378.
Not far from Paris is the palace of Versailles, built for Louis XIV, who made it his main residence in the late 17th century. The courtier Saint-Simon describes in his memoirs how it was a mixture of luxury and what we would think of as squalor, with inadequate sanitation and aristocrats urinating down the stairs. The palace appears on SG 608 of 1938, issued for a national music festival at Versailles.
Another chateau close to Paris is Malmaison, bought by Josephine, Napoleon's wife, while he was in Egypt in 1798. Josephine was anticipating the riches Napoleon would bring back, and, when he found out what she had done, he was furious. Josephine spent lavishly on improvements, both to the building and to the grounds. From 1800 to 1802 the chateau was one of the bases for the French government. When Napoleon and Josephine divorced, she received Malmaison as part of the settlement, and lived there until her death in 1814. It appears on SG 2120 of 1976.
Last Edit: Apr 10, 2015 11:03:27 GMT -5 by Deleted
In 1956 Normandy was divided into two administrative regions, Lower Normandy (Basse Normandie), the Western part, and Upper Normandy (Haute Normandie), the Eastern part. This 1978 stamp, SG 2248, celebrating Lower Normandy shows a simplified sketch of a Norman ship. I am not sure if any of our cyclists have made a late arrival on it - or whether some of you have.
Here is Upper Normandy celebrated on SG 2247 of 1978. The chalk cliffs are characteristic of the coast of this region, and the port shown in the simplified sketch is probably Le Havre, France's second most important port.
Caen is the largest city in Lower Normandy. It had a strong association with William the Conqueror, who was buried there, and was the scene of a major battle when the Allies invaded Normandy in 1944. This 1963 stamp, SG 1618, was issued for a French Philatelic Societies' Federation congress, and shows St Peter's Church (dating back to the 13th century) and the keep of William the Conqueror's Castle - the castle served as a barracks during WW2.
Calais near the Belgian border was used by Julius Caesar as the launching-site for his invasions of Britain. Its position as the French end of the shortest crossing from England to France has made it popular with British day-trippers. It became definitively French only at the end of the 16th century. Edward III of England captured it in 1348 after an 11 month siege. Furious at the length of the town's resistance, Edward III wanted revenge, but was persuaded to spare it if 6 leading citizens came to him bare-foot, with ropes round their necks, to be executed. Edward's queen successfully pleaded for their lives to be spared. The event is commemorated in a major sculpture by the great French sculptor Rodin (1840-1917) which was installed in Calais in 1895, and is shown on this 1961 French stamp, SG 1548. Calais sent representatives to English Parliaments, and was important as the European gateway for one of England's major medieval industries, the wool and cloth trade. But in the 16th century the fortifications were not well maintained, and the town was lost to the French during the reign of Mary I of England ("Bloody Mary"): the local population largely spoke Dutch, but were forced to use French. In 1596 the town was captured by the Spanish, but was returned to France two years later. In 1805, when he hoped to invade England, Napoleon assembled an invasion fleet there. In 1940 Calais was badly damaged by German artillery. The Germans then fortified it, and it was from Calais that many V1 flying bombs were launched. In the run-up to the Allies' Normandy invasion, it was badly bombed, in a successful attempt to make the Germans think the Allies were likely to mount their invasion in the Calais area - leading to the diversion of key German forces away from the area where the Allies actually did land. Currently hundreds of illegal immigrants make their way to Calais in the hope of smuggling themselves into Britain.
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