CHÂTEAUX
Jean-Louis de Nogaret de la Valette
1st duc d'Épernon
1554-1642

Jean-Louis, duc d'Epernon


I've gathered too many pictures of the various châteaux. To include them all here would make this page uncomfortable reading. So I've made a photo album of all the château photos I've collected. After the story of each château, there's a link to the album. After viewing, you can use your back button to return here and read on.

Châteaux Photo Album





CHÂTEAU DE CAUMONT



The current Château de Caumont was built between 1525 and 1535 by Pierre de Nogaret de la Valette, after he returned from the Italian Wars of King François 1st, on the site of the original "château fort" which belonged to Gaston Phébus. The well-known Toulouse architect, Nicolas Bachelier, drew up the plans.

Jean-Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, the first duc d'Épernon, one of the famous "Cadet de Gascogne", and a "mignon" of King Henri III, was born in 1554 in the château.

In the Northern wing is the chambre du Roi (king's room) where Henry III of Navarre, future King Henry IV, stayed.

Later, when the Jean-Louis, the duc d'Épernon, fell out of favor with the King, partly due to the machinations of the Cardinal Richelieu who hated and feared him, he lost many of his properties, including his favorite château, Cadillac (see below), but his loss did not include Caumont, which he had earlier given to one of his sons.

The château website indicates that he was locked in the dungeon at Loches, but every other reference I've found indicates, simply, that he died in Loches.

Visit my page on: Loches.

During the 19th century, Armand, the marquis de Castelbajac lived in the château. He was one of Napoleon's generals and followed him through Europe during all the battles of the "Grande Armée".

The Marquis was Napoleon III's ambassador to Russia. The Castelbajac family still lives in the castle which is a Listed Historical Monument.


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Particulars

The château is in the village of Cazaux-Savès. There is a park, and a museum. One can visit the Château de Caumont on a guided visit with a video introduction. Open hours are: May, June, September and October: Sundays - 3-6 pm; and July-August: daily - 3-6 pm. Cost for adults is 5 EUR. Visit the website: Château de Caumont.







CHÂTEAU DE CADILLAC



Jean I de Grailly (died c. 1301) was the seneschal of the Duchy of Gascony from 1266 to 1268, of the Kingdom of Jerusalem from about 1272 until about 1276, and of Gascony again from 1278 until 1286 or 1287. In 1280 he founded the town of Cadillac to serve as a river port for Benauges. Cadillac was a bastide, or fortified village.

The residence was built from 1280 to 1366.

Overlooking the Garonne river and the bastide de Cadillac, the château is a prime example of early 17th century architecture, was an impressive monument in its day, and it rivaled royal properties.

The de Grailly family was an ancestral family of the Foix-Candales.

The Foix-Candales

In 1453, the château came into the possession of the Foix-Candale family.

In 1587, Jean-Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, duc d'Épernon, married Marguerite de Foix-Candale, the grand-daughter of the Constable Anne de Montmorency.

Marguerite de Foix-Candale     
The Foix-Candales
Marguerite and her uncle, the Bishop François

Marguerite de Foix-Candale, the duchesse d'Épernon was the heir of her uncle, Bishop François de Foix-Candale, and, consequently, inherited this property, among others.

Upon the accession of King Henri IV in 1589, le duc d'Épernon, who had been a "favorite" of King Henri III, demolished "la bastide" in order to construct a new residence. This took 40 years.

Of the richly decorated castle built by the duke, all that remains is the main building with its two wings at right angles, the courtyard, and the garden.

Inside, there are monumental marble fireplaces with carved figures. One of them displays an oil portrait of Bernard, the 2nd duc d'Épernon. Painted ceilings from the 17th century and tapestries remain. This decoration gives a good idea of the splendor of the receptions given in honor of the visits of Kings Henri IV, Louis XIII and Louis XIV.

Hospitality at the château was extended to Louis XIII in 1617 then to Anne of Austria accompanied by Richelieu in 1632.

Jean-Lois, the first duke, died in 1642. He and the duchesse d'Épernon are buried across the plaza in the family mausoleum at the Church of St. Blaise, which the duc had constructed for them.

Visit my page on: Tomb of the Épernons.

Their son, Bernard, became the 2nd duc, and he used this château also. In 1646, the playwright Molière and his troop sojourned at the château. Also entertained there were Cardinal Mazarin in 1659 and King Louis XIV and Marie-Thérèse of Spain in 1660.

The château is known for producing sweet dessert wines under the Cadillac AOC designation.


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Particulars

The château was restored in 1952 and is available to be toured. Location: Cadillac-sur-Garonne, 35km SW of Bordeaux in southwestern France. Open: June-September (10 am to 1:15 pm; and 2-6 pm). October-May (10 am to 12:30 pm; and 2-5:30 pm) except Mondays. Price: Full fare €4.10. Visit the château website: Château de Cadillac.








CHÂTEAU DE BEYCHEVELLE
"Le Versailles du Médoc"



Château Beychevelle is one of the Médoc's finest properties. Built in the style of Louis XV, the estate lies at the south-eastern tip of the St Julien commune, close to the town of Beychevelle, with near neighbours including Château St Pierre and Château Gloria.

Beychevelle is known as “The Versailles of the Médoc” as a tribute to the château's elegant classical architecture and French gardens, which look fine from the road or from the Gironde river less than a mile away.

The origins of the estate are ancient and lie in the seigneurie of Lamarque, this being one of the locations of the numerous fortified houses that lined the Gironde in former times.

In the early 15th century the estate was in the hands of the de Grailly family, and passed from them in 1446 to the Foix-Candale family, who also owned Château d'Issan. Under the tenure of the Foix-Candales the property was known as the Château de Médoc.

The property passed to the bishop’s niece and heir, spouse of Jean-Louis de Nogaret de la Valette, First duc d'Épernon. Jean-Louis was a favourite of King Henri III, Grand Admiral of France, and later successively governor of Provence and Guyenne.

The original château had been built by Bishop François de Foix-Candale (uncle to the Admiral's wife) in 1565.

Beychevelle was improved on by the Admiral and his son built the château's central part in 1644 and consolidated the vineyard. The wine of Beychevelle was shipped to England, Flanders and the Germanic countries from the port at the bottom of the gardens.

It is said that Jean-Louis was responsible for renaming of the estate to "Beychevelle".

The all-powerful duc d'Épernon ruled the locals with an iron rod as Governor of Guyenne. As the duc was also Admiral of the French Navy, when French galleons sailed past the château on the Gironde River (there must have been many as Bordeaux was a significant port), they lowered their sails in homage to him. This act (baisse voile in French, bacha velo in the Gascon tongue) led to the name "Beychevelle".

It's a fanciful story, one that bestows some honour on Nogaret, and unsurprisingly there are doubts about its authenticity. After all, it seems likely that ships would lower sails as they approached the port of Bordeaux anyway, regardless of the presence of a nearby château-dwelling admiral. As well, they may have lowered their sails to pass by undetected and thus avoid the toll chargedby the duke.

Château Beychevelle's emblem is a ship with a prow in the shape of a griffin, with sails lowered, and appears on the wine label.

The figurehead is especially appropriate as, according to Greek mythology, a griffon guarded the door of the cellar belonging to the god of wine: Dionysus. The ship is also symbolic as it is a Viking longship (a Drekar) and there is evidence that the Vikings had a naval base and colony in Gascony. The chiefs who conquered Gascony were called Ragnar, Asgeir, Hastein and Björn. These were the Saekonungar, the Sea Kings, who led the invasions in Western Europe.

With the death of Jean-Louis, the estate, and the title, were passed to his son, Bernard de Nogaret de la Valette, who became the 2nd duc d'Épernon and the owner of "Beychevelle".

When the 2nd duc, Bernard, died in 1661, he left behind a handsome collection of unpaid debts. In order to satisfy the demands of his creditors, the estate was divided and sold off.

What was to become Château Beychevelle was purchased by the duc de Rendan (himself a Foix-Candale), before passing to the Abbadie family who seemed to continue the theme of neglect, although it was probably under their direction that the vineyard was established. Nevertheless, they also sold the estate, and now the new owner was the marquis François-Etienne de Brassier.

The marquis was responsible for today's fine château, completing in 1757 a reconstruction and development of what previous owners had erected during the previous century. He reunited much of the estate, purchasing parcels of land which had been sold off after the duc d'Épernon's death. He also had an interest in horticulture (see the fine gardens) and viticulture, constructing a vat house during his tenure.

The start of the 19th century saw the property in decline, but then Bordeaux wine merchant Pierre-François Guestier, brought Château Beychevelle back to its splendour by winning a gold medal in 1866.

His successor, Armand Heine, cousin of German poet Heinrich Heine, had the north wing of the castle built. He also replanted the vineyard after the phylloxera disaster. His wife, Marie-Amélie Kohn then re-established this vineyard.

Today the Château is owned by the Grands Millésimes de France (GMF), the French Civil Servants' Pension Fund and the Japanese group Suntory, who also own nearby Château Lagrange. With new ownership came new investment, and in recent vintages this has been evident as improved quality in the wine.

The Fourth Growth Château Beychevelle is one of the most beautiful properties of Bordeaux and is in St Julien, immediately opposite Château Branaire Ducru. The 175 acres of vines are located in the far south of Saint Julien just outside the hamlet of Saint Julien Beychevelle and the Château is less than a mile away from the River Gironde.


Bronze by Roberto Gnozzi,
Professor, Rome Academy of Fine Arts (1989)


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Châteaux


Particulars

The château is in the village of Saint-Julien Beychevelle, Médoc, France. Visit the château website: Château Beychevelle Try the wines - Interest in Wine.








Former Beychevelle Properties

The Fourth Growth Château Branaire Ducru was once part of Château Beychevelle but became separate in the 1600s when the estate was partitioned.

The other château that was formed from this division was Château Ducru Beaucaillou. Branaire Ducru (sometimes known as Château Branaire Duluc Ducru) takes its name from Jean Baptiste Braneyre who purchased it in 1680 and from the Duluc family. The crowns on Branaire Ducru's label are in memory of the last of the Duluc family members to own it - a marquis, a viscount, a count and countess.








CHÂTEAU DE CANDALE



Château de Candale is one of the oldest estates in Médoc, owned until the French revolution by the Foix de Candale family.

This lovely château, Grand Cru of Saint-Emilion, overlooks the village of Saint Laurent des Combes at the bottom of the Saint-Emilion plateau.

History of the Château

Le château de Candale tient probablement son origine de lady Marguerite de Suffolk Kandall, descendante d'Édouard III, roi d'Angleterre et duc d'Aquitaine. Son mariage avec le comte Jean de Foix permet à celui-ci d'ajouter à ses titres celui de comte de Candale.

Partisan de l'Aquitaine anglaise, Jean de Foix est emprisonné pendant sept ans après la victoire française à la bataille de Castillon, qui met fin à la tguerre de cent ans. Il devient en 1461 seigneur du pays de Buch, au sud du Bassin d'Arcachon. Il reconnaît en 1468 le droit de gemme et de bois aux habitants de La Teste de Buch et crée la forêt usagère. Ce droit d'usage est toujours en vigueur aujourd'hui.

Le comte et la comtesse de Foix-Candale apprécient à leur table lels vins de leur fief de Saint-Émilion, déjà réputés à cette époque grâce aux exigeantes règles de qualité édictées par la Jurade de Saint Émilion.

About Candale's wine

Current owners, Steve and Denise Adams, fell under its charm, and purchased the château in 2002. "Revealing this powerful and noble terroir: such is our new challenge for Candale. The cellars have been completely renovated up to the level of a Grand Cru Classé."

PRODUCTION AREA: Haut Médoc, on the left bank of Bordeaux region.
GRAPES: 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot.
DESCRIPTION: Color: Dark purple.
BOUQUET: Aromas of black currant with a hint of spice.
PALATE: Full-bodied and well-concentrated, with an elegant finish.
VINIFICATION: Select grapes are pressed and the must is fermented on the lees for 8-15 days in stainless steel tanks. The wine is then aged for 18 months in oak barrels, 1/3 of which are new barrels.
ALCOHOL: 12.5%.
SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Perfect accompaniment to game, red meat and hearty stews.

A Recent Review of the 2005 Vintage

Candale is a Grand Cru St. Emilion from the famed 2005 vintage. I am pairing it with a rib roast and my initial tasting of it with on opening shows it will be a nice wine and the perfect pairing. I am allowing it to come to room temp (my cellar is set at 56 degrees and it definitely needs to breathe. I am allowing it 4 hours.

Now that it has opened, there are many more layers. It is this phenomenon of "layers" or complexity that separates the more pricey wines from the lesser ones. This is an 80% blend of Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.

Bouquet--is sweet fruit laden aromas of black cherry, cedar, licorice, cigar box and black ripe plums, with slight menthol.

Palate--bready, chewy, structured for age, loads of plummy fruit and black cherry bites on a frame of tannins which have toned down with breathing. It was marvelous with our rare rib roast and Yorkshire pudding. A treat all the way around and a fitting feast honoring the King of kings.




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CHÂTEAU DE PLASSAC



A château fort existed here in 1340. About 1555, Jean-Louis Nogaret de la Valette, duc d'Épernon bought the property.

In 1633, the duc had an altercation with the archbishop of Bordeaux and it followed that he was excommuniated from the church. He was the exiled to his castle at Plassac for some years, and then finally, he was ordered to proceed to the Château de Loches, where he was formerly governor, and where he died.

In 1940, during the German occupation, Rommel used the property for some of his officers.

Château de Plassac is privately owned and I understand the public is allowed to visit the gardens only.


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CHÂTEAU DE SUAU



Château Suau is not far from the Château de Cadillac, detailed above.

According to tradition and local history, Château Suau was the hunting lodge of the duc d'Épernon. It was restored in the 16th century and in 1687, during the reign of Louis XVI, the château was owned by the Suau family of Capian and has retained the family name, even though there have been many owners throughout the following centuries.

At the end of the 19th century the vineyard was already producing red and sweet white wines.

During the 20th century Château Suau had several proprietors and was acquired in 1986 by the Bonnet family. Today, it's domain spreads over 82 hectares.

Fifty-nine hectares are planted with vines on gravely-clayey soils making a mosaic of plots, with selected grape varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Sauvignon, Sémillon, and Muscadelle.


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Particulars

Directions: SE of Bordeaux, take the Motorway "Bordeaux Toulouse", exit "Cadillac" (direction Bordeaux, D 10). In Paillet, turn right at the traffic lights, in the direction of Villenave de Rions, D237. Once you have passed through the village, Château Suau is located on the left. Visit the château website: Château Suau.








CHÂTEAU DE VILLEBOIS-LAVALETTE



Villebois-Lavalette is a commune in the Charente department in southwestern France. It is the seat of the Canton of Villebois-Lavalette, and is built on a fortified hill, south of Angoulême on the steps of Perigord. There is a château dating back to Roman times.

The 180 metre high hill upon which the town and château are now located had been the site of a Gallic oppidum and a Roman castrum until in the 8th century, a château was started to be built by the Fulcher family. It was continued by the Helie family and finally completed in the 12th century by the Ithier family.

Ithier was a powerful lord who participated in the Crusades and erected a Romanesque chapel in the château close to the outside wall that was used by pilgrims of Santiago de Compostela as refuge and accommodation.

In the 13th century, the Lusignan family (the Count of Angoulême), added 2 parts to the primitive chapel, enlarged the château's enclosure and walls, and built 7 towers to turn it into a formidable fortress.

Because of its commanding position, it became a much sought after location. In the Hundred Years' War, the English occupied it until it was reclaimed by the Duke of Berry in 1376.

During the Wars of Religion (1562-1598), the town and château was taken by the Protestants until they were overthrown by the Catholics. Villebois during this time was largely destroyed.

In 1589, the Knight of Aubeterre (Protestant leader of the League of Angoumois), transformed the château into a garrison for troops. The Duke of Épernon, Catholic, besieged it and forced out the troops by using large canons.

Eight years later, in 1597, Jean Louis de La Valette Nogaret, le duc d'Épernon, Gascon cadet, then Governor of Angoumois from 1554-1642, bought the castle and the land around the town.

The young Louis XIII stayed there with his new wife, Anne of Austria, invited by the duc d’Épernon. He arrived on 28 December 1615 by the Crest Trail (chemin des crêtes).

By Letters Patent dated March 1622, Villebois was established as a duchy under the name of Lavalette. So from then onwards, the town took the name Villebois-Lavalette.

The Duke of Navaille purchased the château in 1660 and rebuilt a princely castle. Only one wall was kept of the original fortress.

During the French Revolution, the château was besieged and damaged. It became an army food storage supply centre and prison. After the revolution it became the main prison for several surrounding departments.

In 1822, a fire destroyed half of the château. Only the north wing and a few sections of the outside wall survived. It was then used as a school until 1912.

From 1914 to 1998, it was owned by the Fleurry family who then sold it in 1998 to a Mr Torres.

It has been partially restored and is now open for visits from May to September.

In the centre of the old town, there is an old wooden covered market that dates back to the 16th century. It was restored in the 19th century and is now an historic monument.

There is a small, but lively market every Saturday morning. A 17th century sundial can be seen on a house that overlooks the market hall.

The town is a reasonably small one with two boulangeries, a tourism office, a large supermarket, cafe, hotel and restaurant, among other businesses.


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Particulars

Villebois-Lavalette lies 24 km from Angoulême, which is accessed by D.81 or D.23 and then D.939. Open for visits from May to September.








SPECIAL SECTION

CHÂTEAU DE LOCHES

The Château de Loches is of significant interest to me. Our ancestor, Jean-Louis de Nogaret de la Valette, the 1st duc d'Epernon, did not own the Château de Loches, but it was here that he died in 1688. He was at one time the Governor of Loches.




Loches is one of the most historic places in France, with strong connections to Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc), Agnès Sorel, and Anne of Brittany. The Château of Loches also has a dungeon of horrible renown.

I planned my first trip to the Château of Loches in 1995 due to an interest in all three of the above women. I took my daughters, Emily and Lisa, to this castle, as well as to the Château of Langeais, which also has association with Anne of Brittany.

I visited Loches again in 1998, when I took a small tour group to France. We also visited other castles associated with Kings Charles VII and VIII and Anne (e.g., Amboise, Blois, Chinon).

And again in 1998 when I took my third daughter, Laura, to France.

My Discovery

About two months ago, I learned that our Epperson genealogy leads back - through duc d'Épernon - to the Château of Loches.

As can be read in my family page on the duc d'Épernon, his career was studded with many troubles through a succession of French kings of different religious persuasions. This was during the War of Religions and religious sentiments (and emotions) ran high. Ultimately, in 1634, due to a deteriorating relationship with Henri de Sourdis (brother and successor of Cardinal François de Sourdis), there was a public altercation in which the duc d'Épernon struck de Sourdis. Épernon was disgraced and exiled.

Under a quasi house arrest at his Château de Plassac, he was ultimately ordered to leave there and go (or retire) to the Château de Loches. And there, in January 1642, at the age of 88, he died.

I was struck by this knowledge. I began to remember my visits to Loches. Why would I return there three times? I've visited no other châteaux even twice.

The place was never crowded. I've had the time and quiet within its walls to sit in the stone window alcoves and reflect on the past inhabitants of the place, to feel the rooms, to imagine them as they might have been with rugs, tapestries, furniture, ... and people. And I recall specifically a melancholy that was on me when I've lingered in the rooms. They are sparsely furnished and not as appealing as rooms in other châteaux. Was it the history of Jeanne d’Arc, Agnès Sorel, and Anne de Bretagne that drew me to return? Was it the mystery of Agnès Sorel's tomb in the middle of the room that fascinated? Was it the dungeon and the horrible stories of tortured lives? Could have been all of that.

Then I was reminded of a belief I entertain, that our bodies have in them DNA "memory" more than just hair color, body shape, and personality traits. I really believe that to some degree that is what has drawn me there again and again.



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Château de Loches (my page)


Particulars

Cité royale de Loches, F-37600 Loches. 45 minutes south from Tours via the D943. Open all year; Full rate: €7. Cité Royale de Loches.









OTHER WEB RESOURCES

Château Beychevelle and the Admiral: Nick's Bordeaux wine blog

Château de Cadillac

Château des ducs d’Épernon à Cadillac

Jean I de Grailly (Wikipedia)

Château de Plassac (Wikipedia - in French)

Château Suau

Villebois-Lavalette (Wikipedia)









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