The Monte-Cristo Château …Here Alexandre Dumas Père wrote …

I’ve always believed – or at least from the time I’ve started writing books – that environment is important for the words to flow. Having just visited the château where Alexandre Dumas (the elder of two Dumas writers) lived and wrote the books for which he is today known as one of France’s greatest writers, […]

The Monte-Cristo Chateau (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

I’ve always believed – or at least from the time I’ve started writing books – that environment is important for the words to flow.

Having just visited the château where Alexandre Dumas (the elder of two Dumas writers) lived and wrote the books for which he is today known as one of France’s greatest writers, has confirmed this to me.

(By the way, linguists no longer translate the word ‘château’, but leaves it as château. Therefore, when speaking or writing in English and to call a château a castle or a palace is incorrect.)

Dumas’s château is on a hill outside the small town of Le Port Marly which is close to the larger town of Marly-le-Roi which is 28 kms (17 miles) north-west from Paris.

Marly-le-Roi (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

It was in 1844, then already successful with books like ‘The Three Musketeers’ (Trois Mousquetaires) and ‘The Count of Monte-Cristo’ (Comte de Monte-Cristo) to his name, that he had bought the terrain.

Wanting something exotic to live in, he hired the architect Hippolyte Durand, considered the best at that time, to design a residence for him. Nothing less than a small castle was what he wanted.

Having told the architect what he had in mind, two years later (1846) he could move into a renaissance style château which stood within an English-style park with statues, grottos, rockeries and fountains.

Facing the château was another renaissance style building, but smaller – the Château d’If – and this would be where the great man would do his writing. The Château d’If faces the château.

The Chateau d’If (cc MarilynZ.Tomlins)

Dumas entertained lavishly. He also played the field as far as sex was concerned, and often had several mistresses at the same time. He would, though, tie the knot just once, and his four children were all illegitimate, but he did recognise the first, a son, as his. This son would become Alexandre Dumas fils. (Alexandre Dumas Son.)

Living far beyond his income, in 1849, owning much money to many people, he had to sell the property. He sold it for 31,000 francs when it had cost him hundreds of thousands of francs, but the new owner allowed him to remain living there. This he continued to do until 1851 when increasing debt caused him to abandon the property. He left France for exile in Belgium. (Ironically today the French go and live in Belgium not because they have no money, but because they are wealthy and Belgium’s revenue taxes are friendlier towards the rich than these are here in France).

Alexandre Dumas died on December 5, 1870 in Dieppe, Northern France, his eldest child – the legitimised Alexander Dumas fils – having repatriated him to France. He was 68 years old and in a most pitiful physical state. And he was penniless.

He was buried in Dieppe without pomp or ceremony, but today, he has the honour of lying with France’s other Greats in the Panthéon in Paris, his body having been reinterned in its necropolis.  An inscription above the Panthéon’s entrance informs that it is there where France’s Great lie resting.   AUX GRANDS HOMMES LA PATRIE RECONNAISSANTE it reads. (“To great men, the grateful homeland”). He shares the necropolis with others like Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Zola, Marie and Pierre Curie etc.

You can read about Alexandre Dumas her

Today little remains in the château of Dumas’s furniture and furnishings, but it is the idea that this was where he had lived – and written – that makes a visit to the Monte-Cristo Château worthwhile – and a delight.

Inside the Monte-Cristo Chateau (cc marilyn Z. Tomlins

The reason why little remains is because from 1851 when Dumas had finally moved out, never to return again, ownership of the property had changed many times, not one of the new owners having been able to afford it’s running cost. Or maybe not loving the place as Dumas had done, and thus not having bothered about its upkeep. Thus the château had become dilapidated, water seeping through the roof and the walls, the fountains in the park had become blocked, and the statues had crumbled.

Two World Wars also added to the property’s dilapidation.

Alexandre Dumas’ desk (ccMarilyn Z. Tomlins)

In 1969, the then proprietor, a real estate company, having a plan to demolish the château and to construct some 400 houses on the site, the Alexandre Dumas Foundation – Société des amis d’Alexandre Dumas – had stepped in to prevent this. The Foundation had persuaded the municipal authorities of the two towns of Le Port-Marly and Marly-le-Roi to buy the property and to restore it to its former splendour. The two were joined by the municipal authority of another town close to the property – Le Pecq. Together the three with the ’Société des amis d’Alexandre Dumas’ had then formed the ‘Syndicat intercommunal de Monte-Cristo’, and restoration work was begun.

The uniform of a musketeer as can be seen in the Monte-Cristo Chateau (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

Restored, the Monte-Cristo Château was declared an Historical Monument (Monument Historique).

The best way to get to the château from Paris is to take the RER-A train from Chatelet-les-Halles station to the town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. At Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Bus No10 which goes in the direction of Marly-le-Roi will get you to the château.  You descend at the stop ‘Les Lampes’ which is just two stops from where you get on to the bus. 

This is how you find the stop for bus No 10. Walk along the front of the Saint-Germain-en-Laye château, pass it, continue along that road and at the first crossroad you turn left. You will see buses going that way so you will know you are going in the correct direction.

At the Les Lampes stop street signs will direct you to the château.

The sign which will tell you that you have reached the chateau (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Cheapest way to get there is with a Mobilis 4 Zone RATP transport ticket. The ticket is valid until midnight.

A bust of the great man as can be seen in the chateau (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

 

And another bust of the great man in the chateau (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Another room in the Monte-Cristo Chateau (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

 

 

 

 

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

One Response to “The Monte-Cristo Château …Here Alexandre Dumas Père wrote …”

  1. 1
    Guy Shaw Says:

    Dear Friend, this sounds like an ideal side trip in January, weather permitting. Cheers!

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