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

Friday, 21 August 2009

La Dame de Monsoreau

2005 - In the 80-ties and 90-ties we often spent a holiday or a long weekend in the Champagne region, in the North-East of France. It was during one of these stays that we visited the house in Villers-Cotterêts (Aisne Department) where the famous French novelist Alexandre Dumas was born in 1802. I’ve mentioned him in an earlier post about the Cardinal de Richelieu as the author of the novel ‘The Three Musketeers’, which he wrote in 1844.

Two years later, in 1846, he wrote ‘La Dame de Monsoreau’. We came across this notorious beauty in 2005, when we visited the Château de Montsoreau (no, this isn’t a typing error: the Château is written ‘Montsoreau’ – with a ‘t’, while the lovely lady’s name is ‘Monsoreau’ – without a ‘t’).

You’ll find the Château on the Quai Alexandre Dumas on the road that runs from Candes Saint-Martin to Saumur. It almost literally ‘sits’ in the water. Long before the road and quays were built the Loire River directly supplied the necessary water to fill the castle’s moat. Nowadays the road between the castle’s rampart and the River bank is hardly large enough to accommodate two cars passing at the same time.

Montsoreau castle seen from across the Loire River.

One of the most remarkable architectural features of the castle is the way in which it creates a link between the Middle Ages and ‘modern’ times. The austere North side was clearly built and meant to be a feudal fortress, while the southern façade with his delicate renaissance characteristics is far more attractive and inviting.

Don’t expect to find four-poster beds in which the French kings or their wives and mistresses slept, nor trunks, chairs, old chamber pots or other so-called authentic objects. Sitting on the River banks the castle has always been closely associated with life in and on the water The permanent exhibition is therefore completely dedicated to the Loire River
. From the basement to the terraces overlooking the majestic stream, clever and artistic sound and light displays show you all there is to know about the Loire, its fauna and flora, the typical flat bottomed boats used by the local fishermen and the tradesmen who navigated upstream to carry the precious ‘sel de Guérande’ – coarse sea salt – and other merchandise from the coast of Brittany to the royal kitchens of the Loire Valley’s Châteaux.

From the top of the main tower you have a splendid view over the Loire and its confluent with the Vienne
a bit further upstream.

And then of course there is ‘La Dame de Monsoreau’ herself. Her fictional story, based on real characters living in 16-17the century, is told and brought to life by her creator, Alexandre Dumas, in one of the rooms on the ground floor. It’s all about the love life and related intrigues of Françoise de Maridor, or Diane de Méridor as the main character is called in the book, her husband Charles de Chambes and her lover Louis Bussy d’Amboise.

Diane or Françoise – whichever you prefer - was renowned for her exceptional beauty, while her husband Charles was not exactly what you would call a knockout. As a direct descendant of Jean de Chambes, the man who built Montsoreau castle in the 15the century and who was one of King Charles VII’s advisors, he was, however, held in very high esteem by his contemporaries … You want to know the whole story?

In that case you can either read the novel, visit the Château de Montsoreau or watch the brand new television film that will be broadcasted by France2 on August 26 and 27 at 8.35 p.m. (That’s if you live in France or Belgium
or have satellite TV). The film was largely shot on location, so the images should be fabulous.

I'll certainly be watching it. Will you?



Carolyn said...

I wish I could watch it. But instead I'll put the book on my to-read list.

I'm enjoying your blog and photos so much. Thank you!

ladybird said...

Carolyn: Thank you for your nice comment. I think tommorrow's post might interest you :))! Martine