Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Keeping a chateau in the family

In the 14th century Jean de Bonneville was chamberlain to the king and then it all began. The current Chateau de Bonneville in Normandy near Broglie is mostly 17th century, on a limestone base, built in brick, with a slate Mansard roof (added under Louis XIV). The property has stayed in the family but mostly transferred via the distal side. It's rare in that it has never, ever been sold.

It's more famous for being the home of writer Jean de La Varende (1887-1959). He was indeed a relative who had been born in Normandy but rarely saw the chateau during his childhood. Still, he had a great nostalia for it and took up his abode in 1919.

This writer was also a passionate boat modeller, and artist and that's very evident when you make a little tour of parts of the property. It's still owned within the family and the current owners live there so it's a private residence where they've created a small museum to the writer (created in 2000).

The owners gave us a personal tour and commentary which was pleasant and informative. It must be quite something to live amongst the portraits of one's ancestors each day, sitting on their furniture and weeding their garden. There's a working farm containing cows and what's left of the box hedging decor.

There are a lot of  'collectables' in the rooms we viewed, including ceramics. A staircase had been removed to make the dining room larger. Fireplaces still work, thank goodness as the weather was very cold the day we came to view. Out of respect to the owners I kept my interior photos to only the museum and did not photograph their private living space.

The current owner is Princesse C.-E. de Broglie, born L. Mallard de La Varende. She is married to a Broglie. Their dog has total run of the place, including the furniture so don't be surprised if he jumps around on everything you're looking at.

It was a shame the weather was so inclement as I'd have liked to have wandered around the grounds. There's a little lake and an orangerie.

Right at the end we were given the opportunity to buy some of La Varende's writings. Each book priced at 5€. Not expensive but rather old and musty in reality as they seemed to be stored in an old cellar collecting dust. I imagine it's quite expensive to pay the upkeep of the property so no wonder the owners are doing tours and selling books. You can find this private chateau next to  (300m from) the church Notre-Dame du Chamblac. It's off the usual tourist routes so most visitors would be French.


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