Since its creation in 1974 the European Council has turned into the key institution in the institutional architecture of the EU polity. The Maastricht Treaty on the European Union was a history-making product of this body of heads of state or government. For the institutional evolution of the European Council itself the Maastricht Treaty confirmed and reinforced trends starting with the Hague summit in 1969. This article covers the pre-history of the European Council as well as the road from the birth of the European Council in Paris, 1974, to the Maastricht Treaty and the next steps via two treaty revisions and the constitutional convention to the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. This article will not only try to satisfy some historical curiosity, but point out fundamental factors, explaining why Union executive leaders have invested time and energy in the labour-intensive and partly frustrating exercise of the making and working of their club: this key institution helped them to emerge as powerful multi-level players in a multi-institutional architecture.