Chanteloup

9 September 2009

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The great Château of Chanteloup was first built in 1715 for the Princesse des Ursins and then radically revamped and extended in the 1760s by the Duc de Choiseul, who made it the principal seat of his family.

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It’s lucky that he expended so much time and effort into the improvement of the château as he was ignomiously exiled there in 1770 for insulting Madame du Barry and did not return to court until 1774 when Louis XV died and was succeeded by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who favoured the Duc as one of the most active agents (along with his great friend Madame de Pompadour) behind the Franco-Austrian alliance and therefore their marriage.

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The Duc’s life at Chanteloup was not a dull one, although we are often told by writers of the time that being rusticated from court was a fate worse than death. He retired there with his wife, mistress and sister, the intimidating Béatrix, Duchesse de Gramont and seemed to have a very merry time, entertaining celebrated artists, writers, philosophers and all the great and good of society.

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There were family celebrations there too: on the 10th October 1778, his eldest niece Marie-Stéphanie de Choiseul-Stainville was married at Chanteloup to her cousin, Claude-Antoine who was later to succeed to the title of Duc de Choiseul.

The great château was sold after the Duc’s death in 1785 to the Duc de Penthièvre, father in law of the Princesse de Lamballe and Duc d’Orléans and then was confiscated during the revolution, swapping owners many times until it was finally demolished and its stone and other materials shamelessly plundered.

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All that now remains is the graceful Pagoda, built for the Duc de Choiseul between 1775 and 1778 by his architect Le Camus. It towers over the forest of Amboise and was intended to act as a monument by the grateful Duc to the many friends who visited him during his exile from Versailles. It is touching that it should now be all that remains of his once great château.

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