#CHATEAU-DE-MAINTENON … A MUST VISIT … BEAUTIFUL …

Fifty-five minutes from Paris there is a marvel – the Château de Maintenon. The French have several English translations for the word ‘château’. If the place is still lived in it is translated ‘palace’. Like the Château de Rambouillet – I wrote about it here – which France’s presidents use as a weekend home and […]

Chateau de Maintenon (copyright Marilyn Z Tomlins)

Chateau de Maintenon (copyright Marilyn Z Tomlins)

Fifty-five minutes from Paris there is a marvel – the Château de Maintenon.

The French have several English translations for the word ‘château’. If the place is still lived in it is translated ‘palace’. Like the Château de Rambouillet – I wrote about it here – which France’s presidents use as a weekend home and where France’s official visitors sometimes stay and where international conferences are held. If the château is small, for example the Château of Malmaison – I wrote about it here -then it is translated as ‘manor house’ or ‘mansion’. The Château de Maintenon is by no means small, but the official brochures translate it as ‘manor house’. I will call it either château or castle here now, because by its size and history, so it certainly is.

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

The Château de Maintenon was the residence of Madame de Maintenon. She was the second wife of King Louis XIV (Le Rois Soleil – The Sun King). That is the ‘morganatic’ wife: she was not officially acknowledged as Louis’ wife and was not given the title ‘Queen’ and should there have been children born from the marriage, (there were not) they would not have been Louis’ heirs. Must just say that there exist no documents to prove that the two had indeed been married, but as historians are saying the two were married by François de Harlay de Champvallon, Archbishop of Paris, in the presence of some other church dignitaries.

To go a little deeper into the love shenanigans of French monarchs, I will say that on June 9, 1660, Louis XIV had married Marie-Thérèse of Austria who had then become his official Queen. Both were 22 years of age.

The couple had six children but only one survived, a son, but, as he died before his father, it was his son who succeeded Louis XIV as Louis XV. The latter was apparently a handsome man.

Six children would surely have meant an active sex partnership between Louis and Marie-Thérèse but the King had a string of mistresses by whom he had fathered all of 14 children.

One mistress was Madame de Montespan and of those 14 children she had brought seven into the world.

On the birth of the first of the seven, a boy, Madame de Montespan had employed a widow, a Françoise Scarron, to look after the child. The King took an immediate dislike to the widow, but so good was she with the little royal love child that he would change his mind to such an extent that he would soon take her into his bed.

Françoise Scarron was to become Madame de Maintenon, the title bestowed on her by her lover, and on Queen Marie-Thérèse’s death in 1683 the King went into that secret marriage with her.

Françoise Scarron was born a d’Aubigné and historians say that she was born in a prison in the town of Niort because her father, the Huguenot Constant d’Aubigné was imprisoned there at the time, and her mother was the Catholic Jeanne de Cardilhac, the daughter of Constant’s jailer.

In 1651, just 16 years old, Françoise had become the wife of the poet and novelist Paul Scarron, 41. Ill with rheumatoid arthritis he died in the ninth year of the marriage (1660), she then, because of her marriage to him, part of the royal court at Versailles.

Chateau de Maintenon (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Chateau de Maintenon (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

In 1674, then 39, she bought the castle in the town of Maintenon and the King, so pleased with how she was caring for the offspring brought into the world by Madame de Montespan, and undoubtedly also so with her antics in his bed, bestowed the title of Marquise de Maintenon on her.

The chateau was constructed back in the 13th century by the Amaury family, Lords of Maintenon, but having run into financial hard times, the family had to sell the chateau which was first bought by another wealthy family and then by the widow Françoise Scarron with the King’s money.

Not having a direct heir, Madame de Maintenon left the château to her niece, Françoise Amable d’dAubigné who had married Adrien Maurice, Duc de Nouilles – Duke of Noailles – and in 1983 the Noailles’ descendants , the Raindre family, gifted the château to the Fondation du Château de Maintenon which in 2005 asked the Conseil général d’Eure-et-Loir – Eure-et-Loir General Council- to take over the running of the château, and the council accepted.

Do not be put off by how Madame de Maintenon had acquired the château because I can tell you that it is most beautiful – not only the château but also its small park – and a visit to it makes a wonderful outing.

Over the centuries the château had undergone numerous transformations and in World War Two the Allies had bombed it rather badly (had to get rid of the Germans who were occupying France) which meant that more transformations had to be carried out, each adding to the beauty of the place.

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

You will be able to walk through the apartment of Madame de Maintenon and through the King’s rooms,  and the park, more a garden than a park and therefore so much more charming, which was created by André le Nôtre.

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

 

The King had sent Le Nôtre to Maintenon to see what he could do with the park, and the garden he designed is a formal French one, today beautifully tended by gardeners.

Chateau de Maintenon (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Chateau de Maintenon (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

One of the garden’s major attractions – maybe the major attraction – is the aqueduct which you can see on the above photo.

The aqueduct was constructed because the King needed water for his fountains and lakes at the Château of Versailles which had no water source.

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

On the King’s instructions an aqueduct was then constructed to take water from the River Eure, close to the Château of Maintenon,to flow to the Château of Versailles , 65 kms (50 miles) away.

The aqueduct began in the town of Pontgouin to Versailles 97 kms (60 miles) away and traversed the garden of Maintenon .

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

How to get to Maintenon:

You take the TER train from the Paris station Montparnasse. The train will be the one to Chartres, Maintenon being the station just before Chartres.

The train ride will take 54 minutes, and depending on the departure time of the train a Second Class return ticket will cost you €13. Remember, that the 6.55 p.m. train from Maintenon toParis is the rush house commuter train and it is always packed.

The station of the town of Malmaison (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

The station of the town of Maintenon (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

At the Maintenon station cross the road where there will be a sign that says ‘Chateau’. Continue on that road and you will reach the centre of the town – it is more of a village than a town. The direction to the Château will again be clearly indicated.

Maintenon guest house (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Maintenon guest house (copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

It will cost you €8.50 to visit the Château, this includes the garden. In fact, there is no access to the garden directly.

After your visit to the Château you can enjoy a drink or a meal at the Relais du Château which is a Bar, Brasserie, Salon de Thé, Creperie and a Pizzeria all in one. You will be warmly welcomed by the owners.

I must just tell you that part of the Château de Maintenon’s garden is today a golf course as you will see on my pictures. I think it is probably the most romantic golf course you will find in France.

Maintenon Golf Course (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Maintenon Golf Course (copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Madame de Maintenon, having become quite plump, died on April 15, 1719, three years after the King.

After the King’s death she had withdrawn to live in a school for poor girls of noble families she had founded. The school, the Maison royale de Saint-Louis, was in the village of Saint-Cyr, 5 kms (3 miles) from Versailles.

 

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

 

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Chateau de Maintenon (Copyright Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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