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.

Wednesday 30 April 2008

The squashed 'Testament Politique' of Cardinal-Duke de Richelieu

Read this doc on Scribd: SquashedTestament

squashed books, philosophers, divines, writers.....

Monday 28 April 2008

The Pheasant Hotel - Le Café et Hôtel du Faisan

Le Faisan café and hotel is located in the south-east corner of the place du Marché. 

Today standing empty, it is said to be owned by an englishman who hesitates to refurbish his property while occasionally sustaining his official hotel licence by hosting a public event. It is the second hotel located on this square, being a companion (and formerly a competitor) to le Puits Doré hotel, whose doors are said never to have closed since the foundation of the town in the 1640s.
It is sad that the locked-up building now blights that important corner of the square. And that the extended original façade (look at the additional 19th century top floor) cannot be restored to match the other original buildings that flank the complete seventeenth-century square, so recently restored to its former glory.

The upper picture taken from a postcard of about 1920 shows happier and more active days.

Sunday 27 April 2008

Richelieu on banknotes

10 new francs (Richelieu) - Type 1959 - Face and obverse

Colour: polychrome, mainly red-brown.
Face: Effigy of the cardinal de Richelieu (Paris 1585 - Paris 1642), on the right in front of the Palais Royal (formerly le Palais Cardinal, after a canvas by the painter Philippe de Champaigne.
Obverse : Portrait of Richelieu identical to the face version, on the left in front of the monumental gate of the town of Richelieu (Indre-et-Loire) built to the designs of Jacques Lemercier.
Watermark : Profile of Richelieu
Date of creation of note : 5 May 1960

Axial view of the Château of Richelieu

I found this nice picture on the blog site of the Château de Milly which is a few miles from Richelieu to the south, past Razines.  It seems that when the agent Boutron scandalously demolished the castle he may have flogged some bits that reappered in the tower at Château de Milly. Remember the sculptures on the house in Richelieu that came from the same source, it is said.

Thanks to Sylvain for the information.

Wednesday 23 April 2008

Visits to the parc of Richelieu on the 'Grand Tour'.

....quoth Sir John,
"But I Hast to the castle, which is beautiously environed wt the same canale on the banks of which are such pleasant arrangements (palissades) and umbrages of tries making allies to the length of halfe a mile; in which I fand that same I had observed in the toune: the tries ranked so aequally that it is wonderfull to hear; though monstrously hy yet all of them observing such a aequality that ye sould find none arrogating superiority over his neighbour. We entred the castle by a stately draw bridge over the canale….. Of one of the balconies we descryed the garden, which was very pleasant, having a great resemblance wt that of Chateau Neuf, up and doune it ware growing Holyhaucks of all colours…"

Hollyhocks (rose trémière n.f. (Althaea rosea) still grow like pretty weeds in the gardens of Richelieu.

Sir John Lauder (Lord Fountainhall)
1646 - 1722

Judge and author of a noted journal. Born in Edinburgh, the son of John Lauder of Newington, a merchant and Bailie in the city, who had been elevated to hereditary baronetcy and bought an estate called Woodhead in East Lothian, which he later renamed Fountainhall. Having graduated from the University of Edinburgh, his father sent the young Lauder to study law in France and he recorded the details of his continental journeys in his journals. Returning in 1667, he wrote candidly about public affairs and political events in the times leading up to the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 and these journals are regarded invaluable by historians. He continued to record his observations on public events, legal decisions and his own thoughts for the remainder of his life, leaving extensive manuscripts which were published in the 19th century.

Connections with Edinburgh

Monday 14 April 2008

Memoires of the Cardinal

Read this doc on Scribd: 08-memoiresrichelieu

John Locke visits Richelieu in 1678.

The philosopher John Locke made two tours of France, in 1675-1677 and 1678-1679; these comments on our little town come from a visit during the second tour:

Arrival Tuesday, 30 August 1678
“From Saumur to Chinon 6 leagues. … From Chinon to Richelieu 4 leagues.” – [Journal: MS. Locke f. 3, pp. 271-272]
Departure Wednesday, 31 August 1678
“From Richleiue [sic] we went to Milleray [La Meilleraye] 11 or 12 leagues.” – [Journal: MS. Locke f. 3, p. 275]

“In this day’s journey also we saw more chasteaux & handsome gentleman’s seats than I have seen in 5 in any other part of France &, to compleat all, in the evening we saw the exactly regular and magnificent house of Richelieu, to which I think noe thing is wanting but a more healthy aire, for the flat it stands in is not without morass ground &, I thinke is not over healthy.”

“…it [the towne] stands in the very bottom of it [the plain] where runs a little river, which furnishes the moats of the house and gardens.”

“The town is very litle, but neat and regular, & from the farther gate one looks through the street which is exactly strait and uniforme to the other & soe into another gate which opens into a walke that leads to the house, passes between the base court & office & fine house, & soe into a walke in the parke, so that this vista is above a league long.”

He stayed at the Puits Doré hotel - still is open today in the place du Marché - of which he says “at the Puis d’Or 30s[ous] pour couché, not very well”

“This morning we left Richelieu, the most compleat peice of building in France, where in the out side is an exact symmetry, in the inside convenience & beauty; the richest guilding & best statues that are to be seen any where, the avenues on all sides exceeding handsome and magnificence on all sides”.

John Locke (August 29, 1632 – October 28, 1704) was an English philosopher. Locke is considered the first of the British Empiricists, but is equally important to social contract theory. His ideas had enormous influence on the development of epistemology and political philosophy, and he is widely regarded as one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers and contributors to liberal theory. His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. This influence is reflected in the American Declaration of Independence.

Friday 11 April 2008

The Heine family tomb

These three pictures show the tomb of the Heine family in the town cemetery located just to the north, outside the walls of the town of Richelieu.  The family is interesting as their involvement with the town resulted in the re-assembly of the domain of the château that had been broken up in the 1830s. The mega-rich banker Michel Heine, having married off his daughter Alice to the seventh duke of Richelieu - almost the last descendant of the Cardinal – elevating her to the rank of Duchess, recreated the park and remnants of the château at his own expense, including renovating the extensive water-engineering that feeds the château’s canals and the town's moat. It is really ‘his’ parc that we see today.

The tomb contains Michel, his New Orleans born wife Amélie (née Miltenberger), and their two sons Henri and Georges. Their gorgeous daughter Alice, who after five years of marriage was widowed by the sudden death of the seventh duke of Richelieu went on to marry Prince Albert I of Monaco, and is remembered among other things as the origin of a character portrayed in Marcel Proust’s book ‘Remembrances of lost time’.

When she was just 16, Alice Heine was presented to Paris society, and it didn’t take long for the attractive blonde heiress to receive offers of marriage from among France’s society elite. On February 25, 1875, Alice married Armand Chapelle, 7th Duke of Richelieu and Marquis de Jumilhac in Paris, bringing with her a substantial dowry. Although she had been raised in the Jewish faith, Alice converted to Catholicism on her marriage to the duke. The couple settled at the duke’s country estate, the Château de Haut-Buisson, and had a son, who eventually became the 8th and last duke of Richelieu, in 1875, and a daughter in 1879. When the duke of Richelieu died suddenly in 1880 after only five years, he left Alice a reported 17 million francs, making her – once again – a very sought after young woman.

Marie (or Mary) Alice Heine was born in the French Quarter of New Orleans on February 10, 1858, and was the second child of Michel Heine and Amélie Miltenberger. Michel was a jewish German who had emmigrated to New Orleans in 1843. He was the nephew of the famous German poet Heinrich Heine. Michel and his brother, Armand, left Berlin in 1840 and settled for three years in Paris before making their way to the United States, where they started their own banking house, A&M Heine. Within ten years, the company was the most successful banking operation in New Orleans, and Michel’s position was such that he was able to marry Amélie Miltenberger, the daughter of a very wealthy first-generation German-American and his creole wife, also of New Orleans. Shortly after their wedding, the young couple traveled to Paris to open a European branch of A&M Heine, and for years afterward they lived part of the year in Paris and part in New Orleans, alternating responsibilities for the businesses on each continent with Armand. The Heine brothers were as successful in France as they had been in America, and by 1863 A&M Heine was one of France’s most important banking houses. With the onset of the American Civil War, the family settled permanently in Paris, and Michel and Amélie became regulars at the court of Napoléon III. The emperor and empress became godparents to Alice and her older brother George, and A&M Heine lent the emperor a substantial sum of money in his fight against Prussia. After the emperor was defeated by the Prussians, Amélie, who was a close friend of the Empress Eugénie, was with the empress when she was forced to escape her palace in Paris for exile in England.

Alice Heine

Wednesday 9 April 2008

Charleville-Mézières, another Ideal Town, built in 1606

Charleville is located close to the Belgian border in the Ardennes, not far from Sedan and Rocroi, famous battlefields of Cardinal de Richelieu's foreign politics.
The town was founded in 1606 by Charles of Gonzaga, Governor of Champagne and nephew of the king Henri IV, who precedes the king of the Cardinal de Richelieu era, Louis XIII.  The town was laid out on a grid plan around the central place Ducale with a rampart wall pierced by four gates. 

Henri IV, a very charismatic and heroic monarch who came from Navarre and allied that crown to the crown of France, is remembered as the monarch who finally calmed the nation after the Wars of Religion of the sixteenth century and the horrendous massacre of protestants in Paris, the 'St Bartholomew's Day Massacre', by recanting his Hugenot protestant beliefs and becoming again a Roman Catholic.  He was finally assassinated by Ravillac, leaving his son, the young Louis XIII, to succeed under the regency of his frightful Italian wife Marie de Médicis.

The place ducale shows arcades that remind one of the famous place des Vosges in Paris, also built under Henri IV.  At Richelieu, these characteristic arcades were not used on the private mansions of the Grande Rue as the town's arcaded shops were located on the two squares, as they remain generally to this day.

Tuesday 8 April 2008

The new holiday village

A new holiday village called the Relais du Plessis is being built in 'La Coupure du Parc' in Chaveignes, half kilometre from the town of Richelieu.  Timber holiday houses are scattered among the pine trees around central holiday facilities that will 'give a mediterranean feel'.  
At present the complex is nearing completion but it is hoped to bring holiday makers to the town from July 2008 for the holiday season.  It is great to see a new development that will attract visitors to the area and an enterprise that will bring more work and prosperity to the town.

Monday 7 April 2008

The scaffolding comes off 14 Grande Rue

Another hôtel particulier has been restored from its former dreadful state.  The new façade looks splendid and now looks well cared for.  This property on the west side of the street and it  extends right back to the next street, rue Henri Proust.  The state of its neighbour, no.16, can be seen where they abut.  No.16 is the next hôtel to be restored and is now surrounded by builder's hoardings at street level.

Friday 4 April 2008

Richelieu's hanging shop signs

The architectural colours of Touraine - 1

One of the most characteristic qualities of the buildings of Touraine is the consistency of the 'colour palette'.  With a sky often cloudy or overcast, a truely delightful aspect of the area occurs when the many 'greys' are lit up by sunshine falling on the ubiquitous greeny-cream 'tuffeau' stone work.  This little building shows off the traditional palette well - it is a gatehouse at the château of Azay-le-Rideau.
  • whitish tuffeau stonework around windows doors and at the corners
  • pinkish rendering to the coursed rubble walls between
  • grey 'ardoise' slates
  • flat grey-painted windows and doors
  • grey shutters, often left closed
  • overhanging stone cornices in tuffeau
  • french grey painted oak dormers
  • zinc rainwater pipes with a characteristic Touraine gutter design
  • whitish hard stone setts
  • decorative ironwork, in this case in faded blue paint
  • sandy gravel ground surface
  • a few patches of rising damp in the render at ground level - very typical too!

Thursday 3 April 2008

The renovation at 13 Grande Rue

One of the most spectacular houses of the town is being restored - one of three mansions that are now being worked on that are close to the centre of the Grande Rue, around rue Traversière. This particular! hotel particulier built for Le Ragois in the 1640s by Jean Barbet, was heavily 'updated' in the nineteenth century with the removal of the rear range of dépendances on the south side. As a result it has a lovely sunlit garden along rue Traversière that all can see through the railings.  At present the work is being done to the remaining rear range on the north side of the garden.

Boating on the château canals on 3rd September 1905

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Hervé Novelli elected the new Mayor of Richelieu

Last week HERVÉ NOVELLI was elected the new mayor of Richelieu.  
He follows his colleague the out-going Mayor Pierre Gravel, who was responsible inter alia for the reconstruction of the place du Marché in '06-'07 and the purchase of 28 Grande Rue as an example of the grand houses of the town, accessible to the tourist and general visitor.  He also realised the recreation of the château of Richelieu in a 3-D digital realisation.  These three acts have made the extraordinary patrimony of the town very much more 'visible' to the visitor. While Richelieu could improve the welcome it extends to a visitor even further, these three aspects have improved the town's reception considerably.
Hervé Novelli is a Minister of State in the government of PM Francois Fillon & President Nicholas Sarkozy, with the portfolio of external trade, and now of tourism.  While he is clearly a busy chap, it is not uncommon for French government ministers to have a role as a local mayor, despite their onerous responsibilities in Paris.  It keeps their feet in the 'terroir' so to speak!  Let us hope he keeps the interest of his town of family and birth in the front of his mind!
As M.Novelli has observed, a long time ago there was once ...another Minister who came from Richelieu...