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.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Another Grande Rue mansion is restored - progress at September 2007

The restoration work continues at 14 Grande Rue.  The entire structure has been stripped back and the new restoration is well under way.  One can see from these site pictures that the financing of such a large project can require some degree of creativity as they stand beyond the scale of the resources of individuals but below the subsidy provisions of major independant historic buildings.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

TVT - Trains à Vapeur de Touraine - Steam Trains of Touraine

This group of enthusiasts are trying to keep open the pretty 10-mile long branch railway line from Richelieu Terminus, through the land of Rabelais' Gargantua, across the Vienne river to mediaeval Chinon. The line, which was opened in 1880 and worked well until the second World War, carried everybody to and fro to connect with the SNCF at Chinon station. And then on to Tours, Paris, Berlin, London, Venice, Istanbul ...... the World. The population did not have cars or planes then, and public transport changed the life of country people; furthermore Richelieu was quite a centre of the livestock trade, supplying Paris with their veal escalopes. But after 1945 the traffic dropped and smaller diesel rail-cars replaced the older steam locomotives with their expensive labour and overhead costs - 12 hours to steam up!
TVT has amassed quite a collection of listed historic locomotives and railway wagons - several unique examples of their class. But 10-year pressure testing for the steam boilers means that much financial support is required on a continuing basis. Furthermore insects have now attacked the railway line sleepers themselves and they now require substantial renovation or replacement. There are also engineering problems of alignment for the tracks after new roadworks have carelessly encroached on railway off-sets.

A case has been made to the Departmental authorities of Indre-et-Loire (37) including a business plan that includes use of the line for film work as well as simple tourist traffic. Many film directors have found that the line and station is ideal for their projects, and it often appears in films representing the 'Old France' of the earlier 20th century period. The director Bernard Tavernier is just one example.

Nonetheless the charm and potential of a full restoration is clear. and the enthusiasts keep this possibility alive with active events. There have been no moving trains since 26 December 2004, when the last steamer made the half-trip to neighbouring Champigny-sur-Veude.

Come on! all you toy train fans! - keep this Big-Boy Toy operating! It is hard to imagine a more suitably compact, beautiful, unspoiled line to restore.

The web log of the TVT with many videos.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

A floral Coat of Arms of the du Plessis family.

The arms of the du Plessis family are three crimson chevrons, points up, on a silver ground. 
Nice try gardeners; next year 2008, start with the plants from the other wheelbarrow!

Night photos around the newly laid-out Square.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Domaine de la Garrelière, Razines

The vineyard of the 2nd Duke of Richelieu, grand-son of the Cardinal-Duke's niece.
A Touraine appellation 'biodynamic' vineyard created by Pascale and François Plouzeau

Alone on a hilltop in the southern reaches of the Touraine appellation, outside of the town of Richelieu, resides the small, carefully-managed Domaine de la Garrelière. During Cardinal Richelieu's heyday in the 1630s, vineyards on this hilltop supplied his court with wine. In the late 19th century, these vineyards were several times larger than they are today, but were abandoned when phylloxera hit. It wasn't until the early 1970s when Pascale and François Plouzeau founded Domaine de la Garrelière that this historic viticulture was resurrected. Today this 20-hectare (50 acres) domaine is farmed entirely biodynamically, a pro-active form of organic farming. François is a modest yet passionate man and his wines reflect this. He often waits until October to harvest for optimal ripeness and he picks at rigorously low yields (40-45 hectoliters per hectare in an appellation where the norm is over 60), ensuring that both ripeness and minerality are captured in the bottle. Moreover, he works well with lees, with the result that his wines have very fine length and spice in the finish.
François makes a classique line of Sauvignon, Gamay, and Cabernet Franc—delicious wines all, marked by striking freshness and purity. His luxury cuvées are Cendrillon (Cinderella), comprised of Sauvignon Blanc from tank and a dollop of Chardonnay from barrel; Carabas, a barrel-aged blend of 80% Chenin and 20% Chardonnay; and Cinabre, 100% Cabernet Franc aged 14 months in two to three-year-old barriques and bottled without filtration.
Cendrillon was singled out as the best white wine of the Touraine appellation for vintage 2001 (now there's an accolade!) by La Revue de Vin de France, France's leading wine magazine. And critic Jacqueline Friedrich put Garrelière among her top ten emerging Loire stars profiled in the March, 2001 issue of the English magazine Decanter. Quite simply, Garrelière makes some of the best price/quality wines in the Loire Valley and they are only getting better.
The web-site of the Plouzeau family.
The Domaine de la Garrelière site.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

The cardinal's signature

Armand Cardinal de Richelieu

Monday, 10 September 2007

An aerial photo with the new place du Marché

The new tree-less place du Marché may be spotted at the far end of town in this recent south-looking view of the walled town. Thanks to whose site may be reached from the link to the left 'Beautiful aerial photos.......'.

The Duchesse d'Aiguillon, the Cardinal's favourite niece.

Marie-Madeleine de Vignerod, du Pont de Courlay, Madame de Combalet, duchesse d’Aiguillon (1604-1675) was the neice of Cardinal Richelieu. Daughter of René de Vignerod, Seigneur of Pont de Courlay, the second husband of Françoise du Plessis(1578-1616), elder sister of the Cardinal, Marie-Madelaine was woman of culture and letters, speaking four languages; she was the first to defend the play ‘Le Cid’, written by Corneille. Gustavus the III of Sweden considered her the ‘living newspaper’ of the new Academie Française. Marie de Medici (Louis XIII’s mother) and Anne of Austria (Louis XIII’s Queen) counted her amoungst their friends.

Madame d’Aiguillon lived in Paris with her uncle in the Petit Luxembourg, at 17 rue Vaugirard. All the supplicants who hoped to meet Cardinal Richelieu in person came and crowded into her salon. The niece of the 'Great Man' showed a degree of simplicity which held her to be highly esteemed.

Amoung those invited to her salon were Jean-Jacques Olier, financier of the colonisation of ‘Nouvelle-France’ (in today’s Nova Scotia), Saint Vincent de Paul, of whom she was a treasured companion, Paul Scarron, Madame de Souvré. the Marquise de Sablé, Marie-Marthe d’Alléon, Lady Dupré de Saint Maure, wife of the Intendant de Bordeaux, Adelaide Labille, painter, Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, comtesse de La Fayette, Anne Doni, demoiselle d'Attichy, comtesse de Maure; Pierre Corneille, Anne de Neufbourg, baroness de Vigean; Blaise Pascal, Marie de Gonzague.

Don’t forget her protegés; men of letters Jean Ogier de Gamaud, Vincent Voiture, Guillaume Colletet, Georges de Scudéry (the brother of Madeleine) and Julie-Lucine d'Angenne Montausier as well as Mademoiselle de Gournay, spiritual daughter of Montaigne.

From her French ‘salon’, the Duchess d’Aiguillon was a caretaker of the new American colony, and provided subsidies for it which supplied the establishment of the Hôtel-Dieu and the Convent of the Ursulines in Québec, as well as the Hôtel-Dieu and the Convent of the Congrégation de Nôtre-Dame in Montréal. In addition the benefactress paid the travelling costs to Québec of the three first nurses of the Order of nursing Augustines Hospitaliéres of the Miseriecorde of Jesus who took responsibiliy for the hospital in 1639.

In 1620 she married a nephew of the Constable de Luynes, Antoine de Beauvoir du Roure, Sieur de Combalet, who died in 1622 after only two years. In 1625, through her uncle's influence, she was made a lady-in-waiting (dame d'atour) to the Queen Mother Marie de Medici, and in 1638 was created the duchess of Aiguillon. Childless, she did not marry a second time, although Richelieu wished to marry her to a Prince - either to the Comte de Soissons or to the King's brother, Gaston d'Orleans. After the death of the Cardinal in 1642 she retained her honours and titles, but withdrew from the court, and devoted herself entirely to works of charity. She entered into relations with Saint Vincent de Paul and helped him to establish the Hospital for Foundlings. She also took part in organizing the General Hospital and several others in the provinces. She died on the 17th of April 1675 at the age of 71. She was the patroness of Corneille, who in 1636 dedicated to her his famous tragedy of 'Le Cid'.

She was appointed the executor of Richelieu’s estate on his death in 1642. He left his newly-completed Château and Town in her stewardship.

*****************************************************************************************************************In the CITÉ IDÉALE of today the nameDuchess d’Aiguillon’ is that of a Patissier/Chocolatier and organic baker who makes very fine breads and pâtissserie, and is located on the south-west side of the place des Religieuses. The chocolates are, well, .............soon gone!

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

'Cordon Bleu' and the 'l'Ordre du Saint-Ésprit'

Le Cordon Bleu (French for "blue ribbon") is an international group of hospitality management and cooking schools teaching French cuisine.

The origin of the name of the school comes from l'ordre des Chevaliers du Saint-Esprit, an élite group of French knights that was created in 1578 by King Henri III. Each member was awarded the Cross of the Holy Spirit, which hung from a wide blue ribbon. The Cardinal de Richelieu always seems to sport the blue ribbon and cross in his official portraits. It had also been awarded to the Cardinals father by Henri IV.
According to one story, the chivalric order became known for their extravagant and luxurious banquets, known as "cordon bleu." While these dinners ended with the French Revolution, the name remained synonymous with excellent cooking. Another theory has it simply that the blue ribbon became synonymous with excellence, and this was later applied to other fields such as cooking.

The name was adopted by the French culinary magazine, La Cuisinière Cordon Bleu, founded by Marthe Distel in the early 19th century. The magazine began offering special lessons by some of the best chefs in France. This eventually grew to become a cooking school that opened in Paris in 1895 and quickly became one of the most elite cooking schools in the world.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Les Vins de Fronsac

The wine of Fronsac; the Claret of the Dukes of Fronsac and Richelieu

FRONSAC and CANON-FRONSAC are AOCs located very close to Pomerol and to St. Emilion.They produce excellent wine. However, although today the name of Fronsac is not as famous as the two neighbouring names quoted above, this situation was not the case at the XVIIIth century. These wines were preferred at the Court of Versailles. At that time the quality of the wine of Fronsac was well known and many wanted to plant grapes on this 'terroire'. But local aristocrats forbade their farmers to plant vines on their estates. With the Revolution of 1789 everything changed. Lands were confiscated and then re-distributed. The new farmers planted vines everywhere, wanting to produce the maximum quantity. But one cannot produce a high-class wine unless the output is controlled and limited, and unless the soil is neither too wet nor too rich in character.

The topography of the communes of Fronsac name is varied. There are vineyards at some height where limestone is more or less close to surface, and there are areas that are easily flooded on the edges of both the rivers l'Isle and Dordogne. The geological composition of these lower areas is not the same and they do not produce the same wine. On these river banks, Vines rooted in areas rich in fertile alluvia and moisture can provide a grape in very large quantity, but it is far from equalling that produced in the less easily flooded areas. At the Revolution in 1798 these lower fertile areas were planted in vines and much wine was produced. As it was produced within the Fronsac area this wine was sold under the name of Fronsac and so contributed to a strong decline in the reputation of the 'appelation'.
Still today there remain vines in these easily-flooded zones of Fronsac, but their wine cannot not to be sold as a product of the Appelation d'Origine Controlée 'Fronsac'.

In his book 'The Wines of Bordeaux', Professor J-R Roger of the Academy of the wines of France, summed up these wines as follows:

"Nine hundred hectares of beautiful sunny vineyards. Nine hundred hectares of a generous soil where clay, mixed with asterised limestone, on a base of fossilized shells, produces a wine of a incomparable richness. This wine combines the charm of the Bordeaux wine with the strength of Burgundy.

Wine coloured, vigorous, fleshy, frank of taste and with a particular sappy tang and, sometimes, a slightly spiced taste. An excellent wine after a sufficiently prolonged ageing."


1 Le Defi de Fontenil (France) Fronsac "Lot 5"
The "defiant" wine, because Michel Rolland covered the ground in plastic sheeting to prevent excess rain seeping though, which incurred the wrath of the AOC, so it is not allowed Appellation Côntrollée, status and, because of that, cannot be vintage dated. This then is a Vin de Table "Lot 05" rather than 2005. It has a huge, creamy nose, with plenty of ripe, juicy red fruits. Palate has a richness and depth of red fruits that become quite silky and really floods the mouth. Lovely quality of tannins, with a certain dryness and inkiness that is perhaps too much, but the sweetness of fruit comes through. Not quite my style, but very impressive. 91/100

2 Chateau Fontenil (France) Fronsac 2005
From the same vineyards, but made according to AOC rules. Lovely plumy, rich, rounded red fruit character, with a certain plump lusciousness. There is lovely fruit on the palate. A real bite of delicious black plum skins adds acidity and ripe, dark, glossy tannins. Fine quality here and I might prefer this version personally. 90-91/100

3 Chateau Haut-Mazeris (France) Fronsac 2005
Jean-Luc Thunevin (Valandruad) is consultant here There's a lovely freshness about this on the nose, with a fine raspberry fruit quality running through to the palate and lovely fruit quality and crispness to the tannins. 90/100

4 Chateau Richelieu (Fronsac) 2005
Slightly paint-boxy note, reminds me of a decent Cru Beaujolais weirdly enough, but mineral and plumskin qualities start to grip and the richness is there. Balanced in the end. 89/100

5 Le Favorite de Chateau Richelieu (Fronsac) 2005
Slightly more intense, with plenty of meaty, rich, smooth tannic presence and very good length. Good fruit sweetness comes though and there is acidity to balance a very big structure. Promising. 90/100

6 Chateau Rouselle (Fronsac) 2205
Ripe, full, very dense but a certain elegance. Needs time for wood to soften massively dense fruit and tannin structure on the palate. 88/100


1 Chateau Haut-Mazeris (France) Canon-Fronsac 2005
From part of the same vineyard as Haut-Mazeris Fronsac, that just crosses into the Canon-Fronsac appellation. These are 100-year-old vines and the nose has a much more plush, chocolaty depth with a plummy fruit quality. Big, warm and mouthfilling, with solid tannins and fruit but fine balance, this is impressive. 91-92/100

2 Chateau Vrai Canon Bouché (France) Canon-Fronsac 2005
Very bright, dry, a touch paint-boxy aromatics. The sweetness of the fruit comes through on the palate, with a nice grippy depth of blue/black fruit, cherry skin acidity and good tannins without swamping the fruit. 88/100

Armand-Jean du Plessis, DUKE OF FRONSAC (and Richelieu)

The first elevation:
The title of Duke of Fronsac was first of all created for the Orleans-Longueville family, sinister (or bastard) branch of the Valois royal family. It was discontinued in this line in 1631.
1608 - 1622 Leonor d'Orléans-Longueville (1605-1622), duke of Fronsac, Count of Saint-Pol, successor to the title
dies without issue. His successor is:
1622-1631 Francois d'Orléans-Longueville (1570-1631), Count of Saint Pol, Duke of Fronsac (1608) and Château Thierry, father to the precedent and son of Leonor (1540-1573) Duke of Estouteville, Duke de Longueville and of Marie d'Estouteville (1539-1601). He married Ann de Caumont (1574-1642), Marquise de Fronsac. The line of sucession stops

Second elevation:
In 1634 the title of Duke of Fronsac was created a second time to the profit of Cardinal de Richelieu, already created Duke of Richelieu.
1634-1642: Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal-Duke of Richelieu, now also Duke of Fronsac.
1642-1646: Admiral Armand de Maille-Brézé, nephew of the precendent, Duke of Fronsac
Claire-Clenence de Maillé-Brézé (1628-1694), duchesse of Fronsac and duchesse of Caumont, neice of the Cardinal by his younger sister Nichole (1587-1635), marries (1641) Louis II of Bourbon-Condé (1621-1686), called the 'Grand Condé'.
1646-1709: Henri Jules de Bourbon-Condé (1643-1709) Prince of Condé, Duke of Enghien, Duke of Bourbon, Duke of Fronsac, Duke of Caumont, Duke of Beaupréau, Marquis of Brézé.
1709-1715: Louis Francois Armand de Vignerot du Plessis (1696-1788) Duke of Fronsac and Duke of Richelieu, Marshall of France.
1715-1788: Louis Antoine Sophie de Vignerot du Plessis, Duke of Fronsac and Duke of Richelieu, son of the precedent.
1788-1822: Armand Emmanuel de Vignerot du Plessis, Duke of Fronsac and Duke of Richelieu, son of the precedent, Minister of Foreign Affairs, twice Prime Minister of France.