Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Friday, 5 June 2009

The King and I

Besides the French kings, to whom we owe the architectural splendours that have become the Loire Valley’s trademark, there's also a foreign king buried in La Touraine. It’s the King of Siam, who rests in the cemetery of the Abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Bois.

Well, he wasn’t really a king, but he played the part beautifully and convincingly well in the 1956 movie: “The King and I”, by the side of the lovely Deborah Kerr. It's Yul Brynner, of course.

This is also the answer to the recent quiz question in the sidebar. Congratulations to those of you who got it right!

In 2005, when we visited Yul Brynner’s tomb, the nearby Abbey of Saint-Michel-de-Bois was in very poor repair. Inside the chapel ruins you could see that some renovation work was being done. But it was clear that it would take a lot of time, effort and money to restore it to its former glory.

Outside the ruins was a tiny sign showing the way to the cemetery. There was no one in sight, and the place looked completely deserted. After a short walk through very high grass, we reached a small group of trees. Between them stood a few tombstones. I don’t remember exactly how many there were, but there couldn't have been more than five or six. There were at least two small ones. In one of the bigger ones was carved the name of Yul Brynner. A small bunch of flowers lay at the foot of it. It was all very peaceful and completely deprived of Hollywood glamour and glitter.

Did you know that the Russian born actor held French citizenship? Moreover, his third wife, to whom he was married from 1971 till 1981, was French. And the first house that he ever owned was the Manoir de Criqueboeuf in the French Calvados (Normandy). Maybe all this explains why he wanted to be buried in France, in a region that had always been favoured by Kings. Because in his own way, he was a King himself!

If you want to visit Yul Brynner’s tomb, you’ll find it near the tiny village of Luzé, close to the town of Richelieu, some 30 km southeast of Chinon, in the Indre-et-Loire department.

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