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In pictures: Visitors get regal welcome at French defence ministry

Joseph Bamat, FRANCE 24 | A soldier guards the door at France's defence ministry during the annual 'heritage days', Sept. 2014.

France’s defence ministry is getting ready to unveil a huge new futuristic complex that has been dubbed the “French Pentagon,” but visitors got a rare glimpse inside its old HQ this weekend as part of the annual “European Heritage Days”.

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The Hôtel de Brienne, an 18th century neo-classical building tucked away in the 7th district of Paris, has been home to France’s defence ministry since 1817.

Its previous owners have included the granddaughter of Louis XIV of France and the brother and mother of Napoleon Bonaparte. Steeped in history, the building was the nerve centre for France’s army during World War I and it is where General Charles de Gaulle set up his office after the liberation of Paris in 1944.

As part of a vast project to regroup the three branches ofFrance’s military under one roof, the minister’s office will move in 2015 into the expansive defence complex being raised on the southern edge of the French capital.

However, the Hôtel de Brienne will remain the official residence of France’s defence minister and a place to entertain guests of honour.

As part of the annual “European heritage days,” in which thousands of historic monuments are opened to the public for free on the third weekend of September, ordinary citizens are enjoying the grand tour of France's regal military HQ.

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