By comparison with the Louvre, Versailles or even Fontainbleu few visitors trouble the guides of the Chateau de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, one of the historic royal palaces near Paris. Around 1122 Louis VI had a fortified castle built on the forested plateau of Laye. The foundations of the keep or donjon known as "le Grand Chatelet" are encased in the fabric of the present castle.
Louis IX (Saint Louis) extended the original castle and had the chapel built between 1230 and 1238.
In 1337 England claimed the throne of Philip VI and as a result war broke out. The Black Prince son of the King of England sacked and burned Saint-Germain-en-Laye, sparing only the chapel and leaving the castle in ruins until the reign of Charles V who rebuilt it between 1364-1367. In 1539 Francis undertook a major reconstruction of the castle that was continued by his son Henry II after 1547.
In 1559 the chateau had more than fifty apartments for family and favourites, a ballroom, kitchens and seven chapels.
The part of the castle known as the "Chateau Vieux" became the residence of the royal children and their households.
On 20th April 1682, Louis XIV who had been born at Saint Germain, moved the court, permanently, to Versailles.
Louis gave the Chateau de Saint-Germain over to James VII and II after the king of Scotland and England had been deposed by his daughter and son-in-law in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. King James lived in exile at the chateau for thirteen years until his death in 1701.
His wife Marie Beatrice lived on at Saint-Germain until her death in 1718. Their son James left in 1716 finally settling in Rome.
At Saint-Germain King James held court surrounded by the faithful who had accompanied him into exile. The Jacobite courtiers were given apartments in the chateau and when these fell empty the caretaker the Duc de Noailles often passed them on to the widow or children thus maintaining the Jacobite predominance that continued at Saint-Germain until 1766 and the death of the Duc de Noailles.
The last member of the Stuart Court to live at Saint-Germain was Theresa O'Connel who died in 1778. The last Jacobites were evicted in 1793 during the Revolution.
In the 19th century Napoleon I installed a cavalry school in the chateau.