Éminence Rouge

The topics of this blog are Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Duke of Richelieu, and the IDEAL CITY built on his command next to his magnificent CHÂTEAU on the borders of Touraine, Anjou and Poitou, in France.

Monday, 16 November 2015

French héros and héroines

N  by Antonio Canova
We remember the héroes and héroines of France during this shocking week-end in Paris.

More about Antonio Canova's work

… The chesnut trees in that country all are withered
And meteors fright the fixed stars of heaven;
The pale faced moon looks bloody on the earth
And lean looked prophets whisper fearful change;
Peaceful men look sad and ruffians dance and leap,
The one in fear to lose what they enjoy,
The other to enjoy by rage and war…

- William Shakespeare -
Richard II Act 2 Scene 4 - The Welsh Capitan
1564 - 1616


Friday, 6 November 2015

Two phoenix-es (phoeni…phoenae?) arise

On rue des Gaultiers, on the western edge of the ville idéale, up against the little river Mable where it forms at the eastern part of the moat, two almost new houses are being re-built.

The first replaces old utility buildings that have collapsed, but interestingly, Bâtiments de France have permitted timber-frame structures to replace the original ones constructed of tuffeau rubble masonry.  They have insisted, we understand, that the form of the prior buildings be replicated and that a still standing party wall be re-assimilated into the structure.

The ground slab and the softwood timber wall frames have been built so far, but the project includes a few internal oak structural members that will no doubt still be visible in the interior when all the surfaces are completed.

The house has an attractive back garden overlooking the Moat/Mable river. Hopefully the little river will not overflow its banks, as happened in 2013 (and 1956) and flood the new house.


Progress on the reconstruction of the old industrial works at the western foot of place Louis XIII (formerly the veal and stock market-place), continues apace.  The frontal wall and roof has been restored and re-windowed, while the rear elevation to the moat/Mable has been reconstructed.  The old iron and steel structures within are now rationalised to suit the new 'adaptive re-use', retaining some of the 19th century 'industrial archaeology'.  
It will be quite spectacular and will really lift the perception of the square, replacing the former gloomy dereliction.  Apparently the ground floor hall will be used as a gallery for art projects.

The small remnant of the 17th century that flanks the fausse porte to the immediate south, has been correctly restored to its original state; even the rendering has been hand done, in contrast the the mechanical finish on the adjacent re-born 19th century structure.

Hard to see, but the back garden is being fully restored - more Venice than Richelieu.  Perhaps a gondola…?

19th century reborn

17th century restoration 

place Louis XIII


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Autumn in the parc de Richelieu, October 2015 - green goes russet!

The orangery surmounted with the green god Vertumnus

the duc's cellars surmounted with Bacchus



Thursday, 15 October 2015

A Cape and Rapier festival Facebook page...

 & 'all for one and one for all...'

not so many swords-women in the 17th century
except, of course, Milady de Winter!
Described as being twenty-two, tall, fair-haired and uncommonly beautiful, with brilliant blue eyes and black lashes and brows, Milady also possesses a voice that can seduce and bewitch. A capable and intelligent French spy who can effortlessly pass as a native Englishwoman Milady's beautiful exterior hides a diabolically cunning, ruthless and cruel interior; she is remorseless and unrepentant for her countless "misdeeds" and often described as appearing demonic and frighteningly ugly in the instant when she is thwarted in her aims.


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Christmas cards of Richelieu in the snow….


To raise funds to help a restoration project in our beautiful local town, we would like to sell you a 'Richelieu Christmas Card'.

Tour Sainte Anne is an iconic 17th century vestige of cardinal-duc Armand-Jean du Plessis'  Richelieu - untouched, architecturally perfect but now dilapidated. As friends of Richelieu, we would like to ask you to help by buying this wonderful and evocative Christmas/Greetings Card.

Alan Halliday, an acclaimed professional artist who lives nearby, has kindly donated the use of his painting free of charge.  The interior of the card will be blank to enable its use for Christmas but also all year-round.

'Richelieu in the snow'

All the profits from the sale of the card will be donated to the restoration of Tour Sainte Anne.

 The restoration of the tower continues the work of Le Fonds de Dotation - Ville Cardinale which has already restored the gates at the Porte de Chinon

The card will be quality produced with a full colour front page and supplied with an envelope included. The minimum order is for 20 cards and envelopes at £20/€26 (plus p&p if required.)

To ensure that we can get the most competitive printing costs and ensure we raise as much money for the project as possible, if you are interested, please could you give an indication of the number of cards you would like to purchase in an e-mail to Alison Kimber-Bates.

Should this idea be widely embraced, Alan Halliday has a number of other wonderful images that could be used to create further greeting cards. We would like to encourage other local artists to also consider donating the reproduction rights of their images to be used to fundraise for this and other projects in the future.

If you know anyone who you think would like to purchase these cards, please feel free to forward this e-mail to them and help us to restore the Tour Sainte Anne. If you could indicate how many cards you would like, that would be very helpful so that we can get the order placed.
We look forward to hearing back from you to place your order.

Ali and David Kimber-Bates    alikimberbates@yahoo.co.uk


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Dove/Pigeon and the golden girls...

Where is this, then?

n.b. golden dove on mademoiselle 1,  pigeon on the tête de mademoiselle 4

Thursday, 20 August 2015

French water pumping sub-stations - 2 Champigny-sur-Veude


The Church of Our Lady, Richelieu - seen from the north

The church of Jacques Lemercier
lit from the north-east in the early morning

The Dôme - last vestige of the Château de Richelieu

The main façade of the Dôme that looks north toward the original entry avant-cour
The Dôme, as called, is the only remaining fragment of the palace built by the cardinal duc in the 1630s and subsequently occupied by the 6 succeeding ducs de Richelieu. With the Orangerie and the wine cellars. The whole palace remained complete and intact up to the Revolution of 1789, when the aristo 5th duc escaped the guillotine to Russia and the court of Catherine the Great.  The ducal estate was annexed to become national property. Having been considered and then rejected as a noble reward for one of the celebrated military marshals of Napoleon, the ducal estate and property in its entirety was flogged off for demolition by a marchand de biens called Boutron, over a period of forty years.

The estate was finally reconstructed by a Franco-American banker from New Orleans called Michel Heine who had made his mega-wad financing the Franco-Prussian war. He married his daughter Alice to the 7th duc de Richelieu to add a bit of noble lustre to his family's new-found wealth.  He reassembled the parc and what was left of the buildings, finding in the Dôme a simple hall that had originally been the entry portal to the manège (or horse training court) of the original castle.

Today it is hard to see how much of the building is in its original state. It was originally flanked on its east and west façades by a straight range of buildings forming the southern wall of the avant-cour.  Chimneys rose on the east and west walls that touched their contiguous neighbours.  The grandiose fireplace within that exists today now lacks a chimney!

We surmise that much of today's Dôme was rebuilt to make the symmetrical pavilion that we know today. It is hard to see any new/old joining in the tuffeau stonework and the conclusion is that the current state is far from its 17th century forbear.  The 7th duc had hired the then-famous landscape architects, the Bühler brothers*, to recreate the park and avenues that we know today, the arboretum planted on the castle site itself, and the 19C carp pond that sits in front of the Dôme of today.  Who knows now how much 'reconstruction' was needs to cover the scars left by the dastardly Maestro Boutron?

Note the cardinal's arms at high level

A concert in the Dôme 
In recent years, the dôme is a tourist feature of the town and park, which accommodates models of the château and town.  It is owned by the Universities of Paris in succession to the Sorbonne itself, but is administered jointly by the municipality of Richelieu. It is the main venue for the Fête de Musique that occurs early in August each year.

*  Not really certain. They certainly did do the gardens at Azay-le-Ferron, not far away.  While their expertise was mainly in the then-fashionable jardins à l'Anglaise, they were experts in the fancy tree plantings which are evident everywhere today in the parc; Wellingtonias, Cedars etc.

Curiosity killed the cat….

The 19C steel staircase to the upper levels

The first floor apartment

looking out over the park

the main N facade window at first floor level

a decorated door at first floor

the cupola's  timber construction

high level windows

looking out and down

the clock mechanism

the clock, cupola and cardinal's arms