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The monarchy is dead Posted by on Sep 26, 2017 in Culture, History, Vocabulary

Long live the nobility! One thing I’ve always found funny about France is that a country that so dramatically tried to eliminate all traces of the monarchy* (and ultimately did) would still have a fascination for – and many examples of – a noble class of landed aristocracy lying around. I came across two more on my recent travels around la Bretagne.

Noble trace No. 1

Olivier de Clisson and Marguerite de Rohan, ancestors of the actual Duke of Rohan

The defensive exterior wall rising above the canal.

One of the internal towers was actually used as a prison during the French Revolution with hundreds of local nobles stuffed into the small “standing room only” floors.

An interior view of the living / house portion of the chateau.

Down the road from our maison de vacances (vacation home) the town of Josselin is home to the descendants of the same noble family who ruled as far back as the 14th century (and who you can see at the local church)!

The remains of the old fortified wall dominate the Canal de Nantes à Brest (the canal running from Nantes to Brest) and the chateau (where the family lives to this day!) serves as both residence to the Rohan-Chabot’s and as a mini-museum where you can get a guided tour and see many wonderful things including gifts from the last kings of France to the family.

The chateau was abandoned when Cardinal Richelieu, battling non-Catholics, attacked it, and remained empty for many years afterwards  until after the French revolution when the family was able to return and claim the property during the Restoration.

Nobel trace No. 2

In previous posts I’ve mentioned the pépinière that Anne-Laure and Ronan own. One interesting thing I learned on our recent trip is that while Anne-Laure and Ronan own the hydrangeas, and they own the business, they don’t actually own the land or the buildings those plants grow on and the business runs in! The land and buildings belongs to another local lord who still lives nearby in his chateau, and the young couple rent the lands and building from him and his family. Because they have a special agricultural lease on the land, they can’t be simply chased off, but if they want to make changes, or if they need work done (like when the chauffe-eau / water heater ) goes they must work through the noble and his family! It’s in some ways, it’s like the French Revolution never happened!

* In addition to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who both lost their heads to the revolutionary fervor, thousands of others died either on the guillotine like them or in prison.

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris