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 September 2009

Richelieu's Fontainebleau - 1 - le Cour des Offices

These pictures show the state of the restoration of the communs (outbuildings) court of the royal palace at Fontainebleau, 50kms south west of Paris.  This cour des Offices dates from 1606-1609. The exteriors are being completed at present, and show contemporary conservation scholarship in buildings from the reign of le vert gallant, king Henri IV.

The royal court spent much time at this palace; Louis XIII himself was born there.  So the corridors of the main palace must later have heard the swish of cardinal de R's scarlet robes.  Both Richelieu and Henri IV were fascinated by building and even this grand 'new' service courtyard must have influenced the young cardinal in his ambitions in 'Poictou'.

A point illustrated by this project at present is that enclosed courts and squares were often left as barren as is this current building site - no trees or garden layouts - so that carriages with multiple horses could manoeuvre sufficiently easily to deliver their aristos to their precise destinations. This open aspect really emphasises the rigour and importance of the square's can now be seen in the new open layout of the place du Marché in the cardinal duc's own town of Richelieu.

A characteristic of the 1600-1670 designs (that was to lapse in the architecture of Louis XIV and Colbert), was the use of separate 'roofkins' on each element of the plan - rather as if each element were a 'monopoly' house pushed up tight against its neighbouring block.  This results in a complex but ordered roofscape of slate pitches, valley gutters and tall chimneys; well exemplified by this particular building group.

Dutch influence can be seen in the brick/stone polychromy.  This manner is characteristic of many of the structures of Henri IV, such as the place des Vosges in Paris itself.  Henri's son, Louis XIII, came to prefer the more 'Roman' use of fully cut stonework, and no doubt thought the brickwork homely and old-fashioned - definitely the work of his father's generation.


Wednesday 23 September 2009

The château de Coussay - 2

Firstly look at the first post on this lovely castle. CLICK HERE . And then come back here to see some pictures of the interior.

We were allowed by the current owners (in this family since 1903!) to have a look inside this 16th century building that was the favourite 'hideaway' of the Cardinal as he built a political career that was to make him First Minister to Louis XIII.
At this date merely the Bishop of Luçon in the Vendée, he had started his political career in the service of the boy-King's mother, the regent Marie de Medici, widow of the assassinated Henry IV.

More than once he sought the security of this castle when he needed to 'lie low'.  For the first time in 1608, then 1610, then 1618.

We show the spectacular spiral stair to the cardinal's private oratory high in the castles's oldest tower, and a picture of his communion box within the oratory.

It was in Coussay that he wrote his most famous christian texts, 'Les principaux points de la Foy en l'Eglise Catholique défendus contre l'escrit adressé au Roy par les quatre ministres de Charenton', and  'L'Instruction du Chétien'.

He last came to Coussay in June 1621.

...with many thanks to the many kindnesses of the owners...

Friday 18 September 2009

Nocturne Gourmande du Cardinal - 8 August 2009

This year and for the first time (?) the town of Richelieu held a night market of gourmet products.  It was a nice evening and many people came to fill the place du marché and dance away the night to a Mexican band.

The Confrerie des amis du Truffle turned out for the occasion in their ceremonial gowns, led by Maire Hervé Novelli, Secretary of State for Commerce in the Sarkozy government.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Retail shops (2) - Two new ventures

Two new shops have started up inside the walls.  We will take further pictures as they really get under full steam as the year progresses.

L'Orangerie  is on the Grande Rue next to the taxi service of Lambaseur.  We caught a proud moment, as the signwriter laid out the stylish shopfront title by hand.

A new bridal shop has taken the premises of the former fishmonger, M Bigot, whose shop's trade name (in outline) still adorns the fascia.  The shop's location is just next to the church where the dresses and veils will help celebrate the happy day.
Have you got a new frock for an old trout?

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Work continues at 16 Grande Rue

These photos show stages in the renovation of the main dépendance range of the inner courtyard of 16 Grande Rue .  This 1635 hôtel particulier - individual mansion - is being saved; pulled back from almost complete dereliction.  The restoration techniques of the old building can be witnessed and it never fails to amaze how the construction techniques of centuries past can so easily be revived by the artisans of today.

These pictures show the restoration of the old roof and roof lights.  Protected buildings such as this one are required to use 'authentic' materials: in this case real slates, new tuffeau repair masonry, zinc guttering and lime plastering.


Tuesday 8 September 2009

A patisserie speciality for the town of Richelieu, 7/12ths gone + four chocolates


See the location of the patisserie, La Duchesse de l'Aiguillon on the Google map on the right.
It is located in the place des Religieuses (The Nun's Square).

Monday 7 September 2009

the eight dukes

A bit like Wikipedia, we have tried to draw up the genealogy of the 8 aristocratic dukes of Richelieu.  Can anyone find any errors? - the list was surprisingly difficult to create, especially when the line transfers.
A list of the eight dukes of Richelieu
1629-1642 : Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu (1585-1642), cardinal, 1st duke* of Richelieu, first minister for 18 years under Louis XIII. A celebate priest without direct issue.
1642-1657 A 15-year gap without a duc de Richelieu when Anne of Austria was Regent with the little Louis XIV. Cardinal Jules Mazarin (cardinal Richelieu's appointment) was First Minister.
1657-1715 : Armand Jean de Vignerot du Plessis de Pont-Courlay (1629-1715), 2nd duke* of Richelieu, great-nephew of the former. Grandson of cardinal Armand-Jean’s elder sister Françoise (d. 1615), who had married in 1603 René Vignerot, seigneur de Pont-Courlay (d. 1625), of minor nobility in Poitou. Their only son was François, marquis de Pontcourlay (d. 1646), and their only daughter was Marie-Madeleine (d. 1675), Duchesse d’Aiguillon (cardinal’s favourite and his executor at his death). The 2nd duke's life and career was a generally a disappointment, card-player and debtor.  13 years old at the death of the cardinal and 28 when he adopted the ducal title. Nephew of the Duchesse d’Aiguillon.
1715-1788 : Louis François Armand de Vignerot du Plessis (1696-1788), 3rd duke* of Richelieu, marshal of France, son of the former.  Libertine, seducer extraordinary, lecher, bawd, and soldier.  First Gentleman of the Bedchamber of Louis XV, procurer of Madame du Barry, the King’s last official mistress. He was 19 years old at the death of 2nd duke.
1788-1791 : Louis Antoine Sophie de Vignerot du Plessis (1736-1791), 4th duke* of Richelieu, son of the former. 52 years old at the death of 3rd duke. First Gentleman of the Bedchamber. Maréchal de Camp and-lieutenant general.
1791-1822 : Armand-Emmanuel Sophie Septemanie de Vignerot du Plessis (1766-1822), 5th duke* of Richelieu, président du Conseil and Foreign Minister, 1815-18, son of the former. 25 years old at the death of 4th duke. Lived through the Revolution and its aftermath. Escaped the Terror by living in St Petersburg. No issue.  Founder of the city of Odessa in the Crimea (contemporary Ukraine) for Catherine the Great.
1822-1879 : Armand François Odet de La Chapelle de Saint-Jean de Jumilhac (1804-1879), 6th duke of Richelieu, great-nephew of the former, by 5th duke’s half-sister Simplicie and Antoine-Pierre Chapelle de Jumilhac. 18 years old at the death of 5th duke. No issue.
1879-1880 : Marie Odet Richard Armand de La Chapelle de Saint-Jean de Jumilhac (1847-1880), 7th duke of Richelieu, nephew of the former.  31 years old at the death of the 6th duke.  Died at the age of 32, one year later.  Had married American heiress Alice Heine of New Orleans USA, god-child of Empress Eugénie and Napoleon III. The Berlin/Paris/New Orleans banker family Heine restored the parc and château de Richelieu.  Beautiful rich widow Alice subsequently re-married into the Grimaldi family of Monaco to become Princesse de Monaco as well as dowager Duchess of Richelieu.
1880-1952 : Marie Odet Jean Armand de La Chapelle de Saint-Jean de Jumilhac (1875-1952), 8th and last duke of Richelieu, son of the former. 5 years old at the death of the 7th duke.  Married Elinor Douglas Wise of Baltimore USA. No issue.  Benefactor of the parc de Richelieu to the Sorbonne in 1930.
The line finally ended in republican 1952 as there was no French monarchy or aristocracy to allow the title to be formally transferred (as in 1657 and 1822).
These dukes also had the title duc de Fronsac. This subsidiary title - originally awarded to the cardinal himself - was used by the first son of a duke until the decease of his father and his accession to the full ducal title de Richelieu.  They used the title of Comte de Chinon, another of the cardinal's subsidiary titles from his ducal estate, for the grandson in his minority (e.g. the 5th duke).

Friday 4 September 2009

Car clubs like to visit Richelieu

Many international car clubs are attracted by the cité idéale de Richelieu.  It is surrounded by pretty and sparsely use roads and the walled town makes a splendid mid-day arrival destination. In August 2009 the Grand Prix d'Automobiles Rétro de Le Puy Notre-Dame - a small town just south of Saumur in neighbouring département of Vienne - passed through at lunchtime and parked up in the place du marché.  Lunch was taken for all involved under the 1630s chesnut beams of la halle de Richelieu.

We feature two cars from the splendid old machines, which had to pre-date 1950.  A pre-war Delahaye 135 MS (they taught the Führer's Nazi-financed Mercedes-Benz team a lesson in 1938) and a dinky little racing MG with Belgian numberplates.  The weekend rally comprised a ballade on the Saturday and a race round the le Puy streets on the Sunday to win the Grand Prix 2009.

or maybe even a Cadillac.......

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Richelieu August 2009 - the Music Festival in the Dôme - five concerts

The Dôme in the parc de Richelieu - formerly the 1630s manège of the cardinal duc's stables - the venue for the concerts below.....

On the completion of Verklärte Nacht (1899) by Arnold Schoenberg, the Quatuor Rosamonde + Hélène Clement and Jérôme Pernoo.  
The quartet has a particular connection with Henri Dutilleux, who lives at nearby Candes-St.- Martin when 'in the country'.

Well known film actor Michaël Lonsdale and pianist Alain Kremski illustrate the secret souls of musicians with readings from their letters.

Christophe Brandon and Anne Ricquenbourg play en pleine air in the rosary garden of the château de Richelieu.

The cardinal's namesake, Herbert du Plessis, tickles the ivories (quite a lot of them) in his forbear's riding school!

'L'Amour et Bacchus' performed by the early music ensemble "La Réjouissance".

Tuesday 1 September 2009

The third duke -

3rd duke of Richelieu, Peer & Marshall of France
1696 - 1788
First Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Louis XV
Patron of both Voltaire and Rameau for the composition of 
on the occasion of the 
Marriage of the Dauphin of France to the Infanta of Spain
 at Versailles in 23 February 1745

in contrast to Armand Jean du Plessis, cardinal and first duke, this chap actually lived some of the time in the château de Richelieu and embellished it to the sumptious fashion of the day.

The third duke was a famous seducer of ladies of the nobility and was the model for the Vicomte de Valmont in Laclos' 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses' of 1782.
.......first gentleman of the bedchamber.......