At the time of its construction by the Cardinal of Richelieu in 1628, the Palais-Royal included a theatre. Molière and his performers were on stage there from 1662 until 1673, and they alternated their performances with their Italian counterparts. The Lully opera was in residence there until it was ravaged by fire in 1781. Five years later, Louis-Phillipe d’Orléans, the owner of the Palais-Royal at the time, had an Italian theatre rebuilt on the same site by the architect Victor Louis. The Richelieu Hall became more commonly known as the ‘Comédie Française’ – this name is still used for the venue.
The story of the troop with the same name only began in 1681. It was made up of Molières companions, eight years after the death of the leader of the troop, and it wandered from hall to hall until 1799 when the Consulate allocated them the Richelieu Hall on a permanent basis.
Today, the Comédie Française is the only venue with a permanent group of performers in residence. The administrator of the house is chosen by the state. However, it is the performers themselves that run the venue, and their rules have changed very little since Napoléon put them in place with the ‘Moscow’ decree in 1812. The legend states that the Emperor put this decree together in the Russian countryside. However, in reality, it seems that it was in fact written upon his return. It would have been pre-dated in order to show that even when Napoléon was thousands of kilometres away from France, he did not forget the affairs of his home nation.
Image Source: www.comedie-francaise.fr