The castle of La Vauguyon
From: Vieux logis de Touraine By André MONTOUX
Translation into English: copyright Michael BAYLISS,2002.
La Vauguyon, which in the past has also been called the “Hotel d’Orville”and “La Gaignerie”, originally came within the ancient parish of Parilly. Situated half way up the hillside, facing Chinon Castle on the opposite bank of the Vienne, it is comprised of a group of buildings of differing size and from different eras.
The main façade, on the north side, is composed of a large building dating from the 15th century with an upper storey and roof. This is lit by high dormer windows with triangular gables decorated with hook-shaped adornments.
Examination of the roof timbers with their moulded king-posts and beams leads one to suppose that they were intended to be viewed from the large room on
the upper floor. The irregular cut of the rafters seems to prove that the dormer windows were probably a later addition. It is also possible to make out traces of frescoes on the gable ends which depict, as far as one can discern, scenes of knightly jousting contests. This large room was heated by a wide fireplace with semi-cylindrical columns and a pyramid-shaped hood decorated with a coat of arms surrounded by a garland formed of eight circles. An inscription on one of the stones can easily be read: “Jacques du Breuil was born on the 22nd November, One Thousand Five Hundred and Sixty-Eight and Suzanne, his sister, on the
12th October, One Thousand Five Hundred and Seventy-One. My second son was born on the… of … 1574”.
To this principal edifice has been added a building of lesser height with two massive corbelled turrets topped by conical stonework. They surround and protect the gateway, a broken arch surmounted by a mullioned window and a dormer resting on several machicolated corbels. The gateway gives onto a corridor which in
turn leads to a vast interior courtyard, on the southern side of which is a retaining wall against the land on the overhanging hillside. This wall is pierced with galleries used as storage sheds.
On the western side, there is an ancient cylindrical stone dovecot. It has walls four feet thick, topped with a polygonal lantern roof, and has been converted into a dwelling. In the 19th century, a small building was constructed next to it. This is decorated with a corbelled turret, a large double-mullioned window and a doorway with a carved decoration surmounted by a finial. [Translator’s note: this is a copy of the one to be found above the doorway in the parish church of Parilly]. The building stands opposite a square tower pierced with arrow-slits rounded out at the base to permit the use of firearms. A similar tower protects
the north-east angle of the château. On the outside, it has a kind of crenellation that overhangs the postern gate, which is open at the base and flanks the great gateway with a broken arch. Near the latter is a fountain dating back to 1641, flowing unceasingly into a basin. The water for this is piped from a capped spring in the park, the conduits being laid out successively via a series of inspection wells covered by small towers. [Translator’s note: these conduits have more recently been abandoned and replaced by modern pipework.]
On the hillside near the château, a second circular dovecot is to be be found. The pigeon-holes are still in place, but the roof is in poor condition and has partially collapsed. [Translator’s note: the collapse is now total.]
La Vauguyon is a dwelling whose archives have fortunately come down to us intact. They were donated by M. Droz in 1962 to the society of “Amis du Vieux Chinon”, who classified them before handing them over to the Archives of the Indre et Loire Département (1). They represent an enormous number of documents – some 500 parchments, 8,000 papers, 22 notebooks and 7 registers, the analysis of which would necessitate years of work. Nevertheless, the summary inventory allowed Carré de Busserolle to compile the short article about La Vauguyon in his dictionary (2).
The Le Petit family were the first-known lords of the fiefdom, paying homage to Chinon Castle. Gilleaume Le Petit, Lord of “La Gaignerie”, took his oath upon taking up residence on 26th June 1398. Jean Le Petit, Esquire, bought various properties in Parilly and has left to us his account book of income and expenditure for the year 1441. An inscription in gothic lettering in the deconsecrated church of Parilly tells us that: “in the year One Thousand CCCCLXXIII (1473), Gille Petit, Lord of Vauguyon, and Lady Marguerite de Faye, his wife, had this chapel of Saint John constructed” (4). The marriage of Jehan Le Petit, Lord of La Vauguyon, took place in 1499 and, in 1542-43, René Le Petit was exempted from the “ban et arrière-ban” (the feudal duty of a lord of the manor towards his liege lord to provide persons for military service in time of war). Through her marriage, Françoise Le Petit transferred the domain to Louis du Breuil, who paid homage upon assuming the lordship of the manor in 1566. It was evidently she who carved the previously-mentioned inscription on the fireplace.
In the 17th century, there were numerous transfers. Claude du Breuil sold the rights of the manor in 1610 to Etienne Pallu, alderman of the parish of Saint-Venant (5). Jean Sénéchal, the valet de chambre of Cardinal Richelieu, was said to be Lord of La Vauguyon in 1639 – a title given up by Francois Sénéchal in 1654.
There was a new sale in 1661 by one “Sieur Blouin” to Pierre Roque de Varengeville, “King’s Councillor and Secretary of the Ordinances, Finance and Cabinet of Monseigneur, the Duke of Orleans, only brother of His Majesty”.
On 20th August of the same year, Pierre Roque entered into an exchange with the Deans, Canons and Chapter of the Church and Holy Royal Chapel of Plessis-lès-Tours.
The latter owned the “fiefdoms, lands and lordships of the manors of Doudeville, Le Fresnay, Touffreville, La Corbeline, Noaillé, Varenne and Elinsard, situate in the Pays de Caux in Normandy”, stated to be “some 80 leagues distant”. All these rights and properties were ceded to “Pierre Roque, Knight, Lord of arengeville”, who gave over to them in exchange “the land and lordship of the manor of La Vauguyon, situate in the parish of Parilly, and the fiefdoms of La Mairie and Courchamps, together with all dependencies thereto appertaining” (6). But this transaction, however profitable it may have seemed at the time to the
two parties, led to a long legal dispute that lasted for more than a century, originally between the Chapter and Pierre Roque and then with his heirs. It was only finally ended by a decree of 28th March 1787 made by the Grand Chamber of Parliament.
Following this acquisition by the Chapter of Plessis-lès-Tours in the second half of the 17th century, the manor was only lived in by the tenant farmers.
Because of the legal documents, it is possible to trace nearly all of their names, beginning with Pierre Andault in 1676 and Claude Daguindeau from 1685 to 1709. On 24th June 1709, François Lecomte and his wife signed a lease for nine years in consideration of “1,500 pounds payable in gold and silver coin and not by banknote” (7). They were followed in 1724 by Lady Lemaitre with her son Louis, who was still there in 1751.
They were then replaced by Armand Chesnon and Catherine Coquard. Pierre Dechartre and his wife Marie Percheux of the parish of Parilly succeeded them from 1765 to 1786. In the following year, Louis Michau took over – but the Revolution was coming and, as La Vauguyon belonged to the Chapter of Plessis-lès-Tours, it was confiscated to become a property of the nation.
René Jean Champigny-Clément, a broker at Chinon, in the parish of Saint Mexme, offered £74,861 for it but it was valued on 4th February 1791 at £100,100, payable over twelve years. He immediately paid over the sum of £12,327 in promissory notes and his debt was redeemed by 1813, by which time he had paid out a total of 131,327 francs. René Champigny-Clément, Mayor of Chinon in 1797 and again in 1800, was a member of the Conseil des Cinq Cent (Council of the Five
Hundred) until 1798. He had been elected to the Convention on the 6th September 1792 by 226 votes out of the 429 cast (8). A sympathiser of la Montagne (the French Revolutionary extremist party), he voted for the death of the king “given that death is a terrible thing but that it cannot be too much so for a tyrant” (9). After the “Hundred Days”, during which he resumed his functions as mayor, he was forced to go into exile and died at Sloten in Holland.
The heirs of Champigny-Clément nevertheless continued to farm at La Vauguyon which, after various successions and partitionings in 1834 and 1844, was
inherited in 1874 by Mlle. Lemoine, the protagonist in the dreadful “Lemoine affair” which so disturbed the calm of the Chinon countryside in 1859 (10).
Angélina Lemoine only kept La Vauguyon for a short while as, on 12th December 1880, she sold the property to the novelist Gustave Droz, who stayed there frequently. Local tradition says it was here that he wrote Monsieur, Madame et Bébé, but this is rather unlikely as the book was published in 1866 (11). The Droz family owned La Vauguyon until about 1925, and on 6th August 1937 it was acquired by the current proprietor, who maintains it with perfect care.
[Translator’s note: it is now owned by his son, M. Célian Duthu.]
Although the château is not open to visitors, its façade can be admired at leisure from the country lane that runs along the front of the property.
(1) Bulletin of the Amis du Vieux Chinon (1962-63) p. 366
(2) Dictionary of the Indre et Loire, Carré de Busserolle, Vol. 6, p. 369
(3) Archives of the Indre et Loire Département, 13 J 34
(4) Bulletin of the Amis du Vieux Chinon (1914) p. 372
(5) Archives of the Indre et Loire Département, 13 J 1
(6) Archives of the Indre et Loire Département, 13 J 31
(7) Archives of the Indre et Loire Département, G 323
(8) La Révolution en Touraine, Fave, p. 107
(9) Sire, ils on voté pour la mort, Arthur Comte, pp. 58 & 309
(10) Angélina Lemoine had had a child by Jean Félis, her parents’ coachman.
Her mother killed the baby and then burnt its body at their house at Givray, Cravant, during the night of 29th/30th July 1859. Angélina was acquitted but
Mme. Lemoine was sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment, dying insane in Rennes prison on 2nd March 1870.
The “Lemoine affair” was the subject of a television film some years ago.
(11) Ancient Dwellings in Touraine, J-M Rougé, p. 280
CHRONOLOGY OF LA VAUGUYON
1350 or 1360 La Vauguyon is first constructed.
1398 Guilleaume LE PETIT is Lord of “La Gaignierie”, as La Vauguyon was then known.
1429 Joan of Arc is at Chinon on 25th February 1429 – she is believed to have visited La Vauguyon.
1432 Jehan LE PETIT is lord of the manor.
1473 Gilles LE PETIT is lord of the manor and, with his wife Marguerite DE FAYE, builds the Chapel of St John, also named “Chapel of Notre Dame of La Vauguyon”, at Parilly.
1534 Rabelais publishes his famous work Gargantua in which he depicts the ictitious war against Picrochole, King of Lerné, the entire action of which takes
lace in the local Chinon area. In Chapter 34, we read the following: “Gargantua, ho had left Paris, …arrived at Parilly, where he was informed by Farmer de oguet that Picrochole had taken La Roche Clermault… But Ponocrates Gargantua’s tutor and counsellor] advised that they should betake themselves to he Lord of La Vauguyon, who had at all times been their friend and ally, and by hom they would be better advised on all matters. Which they did immediately, nd found him minded to assist them. He was of the opinion that he should send ne of his men to reconnoitre the land and see what state the enemy were in…” One of Gargantua’s company then sets off, accompanied by “Prélinguande, an squire of Vauguyon.”
1542-3 René LE PETIT is exempted from the “ban et arrière ban” (the feudal uty of a lord of the manor towards his liege lord to provide persons for military ervice in time of war).
1566 Louis DU BREUIL acquires La Vauguyon upon his marriage to Françoise LE PETIT.
1568 A carved inscription in the château notes the birth of Jacques DU BREUIL, followed by that of his sister, Suzanne, in 1571 and brother, Louis, in 1574.
1610 Etienne PALLU, alderman of the parish of Saint Venant, purchases anorial rights from Claude DU BREUIL.
1626 Jacques BAZARY inherits the property from his mother, Suzanne DU REUIL.
1639 Jean SÉNÉCHAL, valet de chambre of Cardinal Richelieu, is said to be the Lord of La Vauguyon.
1654 François SÉNÉCHAL, brother of Jean, cedes the title to Jerôme BLOUIN.
1661 Pierre ROQUE DE VARENGEVILLE purchases the title from BLOUIN – ROQUE DE VARENGEVILLE then exchanges La Vauguyon for other land and
properties with the Deans, Canons & Chapter of Plessis-lès-Tours, who become the new owners.
1676 – 1789 to The property is occupied by tenant farmers who lease it from the chapter of Plessis-lès-Tours.
1789 The French Revolution takes place – La Vauguyon is confiscated as national property and ultimately sold to René-Jean CHAMPIGNY-CLÉMENT, politician and Mayor of Chinon in 1797-98, 1799-1800, and (briefly) in May 1815. He was then exiled as one of the ‘regicides’ (having voted for the death of the king) and died in Holland.
1815-1874 The heirs of CHAMPIGNY-CLÉMENT continue to farm the estate.
1874 Angélina LEMOINE, at the centre of the notorious “Lemoine affair” of 1859, inherits the property.
1880 The property is sold by Mlle. LEMOINE to Gustave DROZ, the novelist, who undertakes considerable restoration.
1924 The grandson of DROZ sells to Mme. LIEBAUT.
1937 The heirs of Mme. LIEBAUT sell to MRS. ZAPPA DUTHU, whose son is now the proprietor.