L’Histoire – By Dick Strawbridge

Chateau-olden-days

It’s no secret that there has been years, actually centuries of tensions between England and France. It’s fair to say it all dates back to English Kings having ‘possessions’ on the European mainland, actually right back to 1066, William the Conqueror was Duke of Normandy when he became King of England. The kings of England were easily the mightiest of the King of France’s vassals, and the inevitable friction between them repeatedly escalated into open hostilities. From the time of William, through to the end of the hundred years war (1337 – 1453), when the English lost the last of their once wide territories in France, our little part of what is now the department of Mayenne, was in the County of Maine and alternated between British and French control. I suppose we’ve just come back to a land that was English…(the term ‘county’ was used to draw parallels with all the other English counties on the mainland).

Here is a link to an historical map

From the 12th to 14th centuries the site of the chateau was in the parish of La Motte and was a fortified stronghold, however, it was not until 1406 that the Husson family, the Seigneurs of Montgiroux, named the castle, Chateau-de-la-Motte Husson.

In 1600, the estate was acquired by the De Baglion family, descendant of the princes of Perugia. The castle was rebuilt in the enclosure of the old square moat during the period 1868-1874. The wealth of the aristocracy at that time is very hard to comprehend and the De Baglion had numerous parcels of land and grand buildings all over the country. It was Countess Dorothy who told her husband she wanted a grand chateau on the site of the fort, and she was obviously formidable as she got her own way (a trait common to ladies here even to the modern day). Interestingly, her main residence was near Nantes, a hundred miles to the south west, and the family decided to spend winters there, in the milder maritime climate, and summers in the country at Chateau-de-la-Motte Husson. It’s worth remembering that the family didn’t work. They were privileged and consequently they were occupied living life to the full. They would have travelled, staying in their grand houses and those of their friends, and it would have been the armies of staff that actually lived in the houses, making sure the properties were ready to receive visitors in grandeur and displaying the wealth of the owners.

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Prior to us finding Chateau-de-la-Motte Husson, it had been passed down through generations of the De Baglion family. Latterly Guy de Baglion de La Dufferie had received the bare title to it from Xavier Marie Octave, Count de Baglion de La Dufferie and his wife, Elisabeth Marie Joseph Marthe Charlotte Treton de Vaujuas de Langan in 1954, as a part of a dowry. He owned the chateau until his death in 1999, when it passed to his wife and children.

We found it in October 2014 and purchase was completed January 2015. Our neighbours include members of the De Baglion family who have been nothing but welcoming. It is almost unheard of, but they continued to maintain the property even after we paid our deposit. The family was going to tidy the attic and outbuilding and throw away all the ‘rubbish’!! Fortunately we discovered this, in one of our trips to do some measuring, and managed to save the treasures that vary from hundreds of pre-WW1 magazines to a side saddle and pieces of Victorian clothing.

Some Interesting Aspects of the Chateau

We are fortunate enough to have the original plans and bills for the rebuild. With the necessary inflation, the bills show that it would cost the best part of £1M to do the same build today. The chateau has numerous features that prove the attention to detail, but it was extremely encouraging that, when excavating the hole for our new sewage system, we discovered the foundations of the chateau clearly go down beyond the 3m hole we dug (and clearly showed some of the construction of the original castle).

On the first floor the Madame and Monsieur had suites of individual bedrooms and there was a Salon D’Honeur, which was their meeting place. We wondered if it was purely by chance that the Master’s suites had a staircase to the servant’s quarters?

We have an orangery and fell in love with it when we walked around the property waiting for the estate agent to turn up. Orangeries originated from the Renaissance gardens of Italy, when glass-making technology enabled sufficient expanses of clear glass to be produced. It is basically a room or a dedicated building on the grounds of fashionable residences, of the 17th – 19th centuries, specifically for overwintering orange and other fruit trees. The orangery, however, was not just a greenhouse, but a symbol of prestige and wealth and a feature of gardens, in the same way as summerhouses or follies were built. In the past, owners would conduct their guests on tours of the garden to admire not only the fruits in the orangery but also the architecture. Often the orangery would contain fountains, grottos, and an area in which to entertain in inclement weather. Ours is relatively simple, but we love it and it was big enough to entertain 80 guests for our wedding breakfast. After many decades of neglect there are citrus trees thriving in there again.