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Maisons-Laffitte (Municipality, Yvelines, France)

Last modified: 2014-01-11 by ivan sache
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[Flag of Maisons-Laffitte]

Flag of Maisons-Laffitte - Image by Arnaud Leroy, 8 March 2002

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Presentation of Maisons-Laffitte

The municipality of Maisons-Laffitte (22,569 inhabitants - Mansonniens, Maisonnais - in 2008; 675 ha) is located 25 km west of Paris, on the right bank of the Seine, facing Sartrouville.

The castle of Maisons was built under the reign of Louis XIII (1610-1643) for René de Longueil by the architect François Mansart.
René de Longueil (1596-1677) belonged to a powerful family of Nobles of the Robe. Appointed President of the Parliament of Paris in 1642, Longueil was appointed in 1645 Governor of the Royal castles of Saint-Germain and Versailles, and Superintendant General of the Finances in 1651. In 1658, he was granted the title of Marquis by King Louis XIV.
François Mansart (1598-1666) was the founder of the architectural French Classical style, from which he suppressed the most visible influence of Italian and Antique styles. Among his main works are St. Mary's Temple and Hôtel Guénégaud-des-Brosses in Paris and parts of the castle of Blois. The mansard roof, a characteristic element of his style, is named for him. François Mansart should not be mistaken for his grand-nephew Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646-1708), Louis XIV's first architect and builder of the Hall of Mirrors, of the the Royal Chapel and of the Grand Trianon in Versailles.
The building of the castle of Maison took more than ten years (1634-1646); the perfectionist Mansart was subsequently sacked by the King because the building of the chapel of Val-de-Grâce in Paris was much too slow. In 1651, Regent Ann of Austria (1643-1661) and child Louis XIV, then 13-year old, were invited to the inauguration of the castle. Maisons remained the property of the Longueil family and its descendants until 1777.
In 1777, the castle of Maisons was bought by the Count of Artois (1757-1836), Louis XVI's brother, later King of France as Charles X (1824-1830), who introduced horse riding in Maisons.

After the Revolution and the exile of the Count of Artois, the castle of Maisons was bought in 1804 by Marshal Lannes (1769-1809), His widow sold the castle in 1818 to the banker Jacques Laffitte (1764-1844).
Laffitte was appointed Governor of the Banque de France in 1809. Member of the Chamber in 1816-1827, Laffitte served as Minister and President of the Council [of Ministers] in 1830-1831 under the reign of Louis-Philippe (1830-1848). In 1833, Laffitte got bankrupted and had to sell the park of the castle by lots to soak up his debt. He created a "landscaped colony" based on English models. Through advertising campaigns, Laffitte attracted in Maisons several affluent members of the Parisian jet-set. Terms and conditions for the colony were set up in 1834 while the Association Syndicale du Parc was founded to prevent any further modification of the park. Still active today, the association keeps implementing Laffite's terms and conditions. With an area of 420 ha, the park represents 60% of the municipal territory of Maisons-Laffiite and is populated by 40% of the inhabitants of the municipality.
Sold in 1844 by Laffitte, the castle was eventually bought in 1905 by the French State and preserved from demolition. Soon after the set up of Laffite's colony, Maisons was nicknamed Maisons-Laffitte, a name that was officially adopted by the Municipal Council in 1882.

In 1777, Count of Artois introduced in Maisons English pure-bred horses. The first horse race in Maisons was organized in 1833 by the Prince of Moskva, Marshal Ney's son and Laffitte's son-in law, and Charles Laffitte, Jacques' nephew. The two men founded the Société pour l'amélioration de la race chevaline, based on the model of Newmarket, an English town in Suffolk, now twinned with Maisons-Laffitte.
In 1850, Joseph Ollier bought meadows neighbouring the Seine to build at racetrack. Ollier was the founder of Pari Mutuel (now PMU, Pari Mutuel Urbain), a regulated national network of horse-racing betting counters. The racetrack, inaugurated on 6 June 1878, was visited on 9 September by President of the Republic Mac-Mahon (1873-1879).
The Jacques-Laffitte training center was created in 1910. The first race with women jockeys took place in 1932.
Maisons-Laffitte racetrack can now accomodate 3,500 spectators, while the training center permanently houses 1,600 horses. The flat track is the longest in Europe (2,200 m).

Source: Unofficial website

Ivan Sache, 8 March 2002

Flag of Maisons-Laffitte

The flag of Maisons-Laffitte is horizontally divided blue-yellow with the municipal coat of arms in the middle.

The municipal arms of Maisons-Laffitte, "Azure, three roses argent 2 + 1, a chief or three roses gules per fess", use the coat of arms of Longueil. In the greater arms of Longueil, the shield is supported by two eagles with a "long eye" (in French, long œil), making the arms canting.

Fabien Chébaut, Arnaud Leroy & Ivan Sache, 8 March 2002