Regular readers of this blog know that a few weeks ago one of my writer friend's made the outlandish suggestion that eighteenth century France was simply not a romantic era. After she made that statement, I heard a metallic clank.
I think it was the sound of the gauntlet landing on the ground.
After I recovered from the initial shock of having heard such a statement, I retrieved the gauntlet. Since then, I have endeavored to prove to her (and you, my gentle readers) that the era of powdered wigs, fan languages, early morning duels, masquerade balls, witty salonières, and daring escapes from the guillotine, was indeed a romantic time.
I have shared with you details about the life of the dashing and debonair Chevalier de Saint-George and the epic romance between Napoleon Bonaparte and his beloved Josephine. Today, I would like to tell you about two relatively unknown figures from that period in time.
But first, as I am wont to do, I must digress...
In the Spring of 2005, I embarked on an exciting and ambitious driving trip with my dear friend, Cindy. 12 days, 1 ridiculously small rental car, 10 cities, 4 museums, 8 château tours, 1 behind the scenes palace tour, and 32 pain au chocolat!
The year before, we had travelled to England, Scotland and Wales (I shared the embarrassing details of that trip in How Not to Visit the UK) so Cindy could conduct research for her paranormal romance novels.
This trip was about fun, food, and finding new fascinating facts about France for my own novels. Although I had toured several chateaux during previous trips to France, I had never actually spent the night in such a grand, historic building.
We planned on staying two nights in two different chateaux.
It was with great anticipation that I turned our Mr. Bean Mobile onto the road that would take us to the first chateau, situated on the river Loire in the heart of the Loire Valley.
It was with great disappointment that we eventually found ourselves in a dreary room outfitted with copious cobwebs and crusty bathroom towels. The building wasn't without charm. The 18th century painted ceiling in the dining room was truly spectacular. Despite the numerous family portraits and photographs that were on display throughout the home, it still felt impersonal and devoid of the spectral vibrations that many old buildings emit. The owner spent his time in a tiny office room adjusting the rabbit ears on an old television set instead of regaling us with the history of his grand abode.
Regretfully, the first chateau had been little more than a pricey pit-stop.
The second chateau was in the verdant countryside of Normandy, just a few miles from Mont Saint Michel. I felt the spectral vibrations as soon as we turned down the long, tree-lined drive and again when I gazed upon the impressive chateau with the steeply-sloped mansard roof, curved pediment, and tall windows. The neatly clipped lawn, white painted footbridge spanning the pond, and the charming outbuildings stirred my writer's imagination, but it was what I discovered inside Château de Boucéel that made a lasting impression on my romantic soul.
We had barely stepped onto the gravel drive when the front door opened and a tall, nattily dressed man with aquiline features rushed out to help us with our bags.
He identified himself as the Comte de Roquefeuil and welcomed us to his home.
He ushered us inside the chateau and then took us on a tour of his home, proudly pointing out special antique pieces (including a framed letter from the family of Marie Antoinette and a Louis XV homme debout). Then he showed us to our rooms.
I was staying in the Marquise's Bedroom. I am not sure what impressed me more: that my bedroom had original Louis XVI panelling or that I had spoken to a living, breath French aristocrat!
Most eighteenth century unions were formed for economic rather than emotional reasons. Once the fortunes had been combined and the requisite heir had been produced, it was quite common for the husband (and many times the wife) to take a lover. The Marquis and Marquise de Montecot were highly unusual in that they loved each other.