Palais des Tuileries, Paris, 1871, historical photograph in the Charles Deering McCormick Library, Northwestern University
Some people are stubborn about their passions. Alain Boumier, president of the Académie du Second Empire, is one of them. With an unfailing obstinacy, he has fought for years to obtain the reconstruction of the Palais des Tuileries. His perseverance has borne fruit. On June 9 last year, the Journal officiel published a decree dated June 6 that created a commission of eight members, under the Minister of Culture, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, charged with studying the details of such a project. It is made up of, among other personalities, the usual suspects in this kind of project, Maurice Druon, Erik Orsenna, Jean Tulard, and Ambassador Jean Guéguinou.Boumier insists that no money will be needed from the government, whose budget for historical monuments is already strapped for cash. He will raise money from private donors and other means. What will the reconstructed building look like? Exactly like the original, says Boumier. There are extensive plans of the palace, along with almost all of the furniture and paintings that were in it, hidden in the Louvre for safekeeping before the Tuileries was destroyed. The best historical claim for rebuilding the Tuileries is that the Louvre would finally regain its intended look and function, that is, as a sealed-off fortress, not an open horseshoe as it is now. An impressive number of important people have come out in favor of the reconstruction, including President Jacques Chirac. So, it may not be a crazy dream after all. How would a 20,000-square meter palace in the center of Paris be used? Boumier is proposing to use it for additional exhibit space for the Louvre, perhaps a conference center, and in the location of the famous Baroque opera theater created by Louis XIV, a 600-seat auditorium. Oh, if only they would reconstruct that theater!
"On June 28, 1882," Alain Boumier explains, "Jules Ferry gave the order to have the ruins of the burned Tuileries taken away, the only real way, he said, to accomplish the reconstruction. Jules Ferry was overturned shortly after, but all that we are asking today is that the Ve République honors the promises made by the IIIe." This promise by the government has been reiterated many times: first in 1960 by General de Gaulle, who wanted "to make a jewel in the center of Paris," as his son, Admiral Philippe de Gaulle, has confirmed with Alain Boumier; then by Philippe Séguin, in 1994, when he was president of the Assemblée nationale, in front of 600 members of the Académie du Second Empire, which was celebrating its 25th birthday; finally, in 2002, by Jean-Jacques Aillagon, who agreed in principle, on the condition that the government was not responsible for it. In 2004, strengthened by this good will, a National Committee for the reconstruction of the Tuileries was created, with the participation of all of the people today named to this commission.