We visited Verteuil one afternoon in September 2012. I was impressed. It is not classified as ‘One of the most beautiful villages in France’ but having visited several villages which are, I would say this village could merit that accolade.
It qualifies in terms of size (population only about 700) and it has the beautiful River Charente flowing through it. The Chateau has to be one of the most impressive in France, the Eglise Saint-Medard has one of the most famous sculptures (Le mise au Tombeau), the village is very ‘fleuri’ and it has an old but still working mill, lavoirs, parks, ducks – what more does it need?! Have they applied for that status?
I am going to write 3 posts on this village…. there I told you I was impressed! This one will be about the Chateau and its occupants, the second one will be about the church L’Eglise Saint-Medard and the third one about the village in general.
The Chateau is closely associated with the Rochefoucauld family which is one of the most ancient and prestigious in France, claiming a possible direct line back to Charlemagne. There were settlements on the site where the Chateau now stands long before the family’s occupancy. Since World War Two a series of excavations have taken place which are still ongoing. They have revealed much about the Château which was not known before. Perhaps of greatest significance was the discovery of Gallo-Roman tombs which were discovered 40 years ago.
The first documentary evidence of the Rochefoucauld family comes form 1135 when Count Vulgrin the 2nd besieged the Château which was there then and took it from Aymeri de la Rochefoucauld with the help of 1000 men.
It was not till 1385 -250 years later- that Geoffroy de la Rochefoucauld retook possession of it for the Rochefoucauld family. In the meantime it had been visited by Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1175 at which stage she was married to Louis VII of France.
It has had a series of distinguished guests and residents throughout it’s history- well, it’s not a bad little place to stay in after all. Included in the list are Francois I who visited his godfather Count Francois de la Rochefoucauld II in 1539. The Count was married to Anne de Polinac who was responsible for commissioning the sculptures in the church. Further visits by Kings of France were made by Henry II in 1558 and Henry III in 1569.
The French Revolution had its effects on the family although they were regarded as more enlightened members of the aristocracy. Still that cut no ice and I came across a couple of harrowing references whilst researching this post.
Anne Alexandrine Rosalie who was the widow of Armand Alexandre Roger de la Rochefoucauld (1748-1774) was guillotined in Paris on 8th March 1794. She was presumably quite an old lady by that time as she had been widowed for 20 years.
Then there was the 2nd Duke of Rochefoucauld who, in 1792, was seized by a mob at Gisors and put to death behind his carriage whilst his wife and mother were still in the carriage. I do not know what happened to them.
Luckily there were sufficient branches of the family existing by then so that some survived….The family history is very complex and it weaves its way through the European aristocracy with connections to that of Italy, Germany and Austria, but coming up to date:-
The present occupant of the Chateau is Comte Sixte de la Rochefoucauld who was born on the 8th February 1946. He is married to Gildine de la Rochefoucauld. They have 4 children (2 boys and 2 girls) so this branch of the family goes on for at least one more generation.
He was the second son of Roger de la Rochefoucauld and Isabella Maria Antoinetta Luisa Hedwige de Borbone Principe di Parma, and if you think that’s a long name, just wait till you hear her the name of her father! I think,( but am not sure) that Roger was not a Rochefoucauld but just took the name on his marrying Isabella. Isabella was a Rochefoucauld by virtue of her mother. It all gets very complicated but you can check it all out on various genealogy sites such as http://thepeerage.com/p4438.htm#i44372
Finally, before we get completely lost, I mentioned Isabella’s father – he was famous at the end of the First World War for what was known at the time as the Sixtus affair.
He was Prince Sixtus of Burbon-Parma (1886-1934)
and he married a Rochefoucauld called Hedwige de la Rochefoucauld (1896-1986) But- wait for it- he was christened as Sisto Ferdinando Maria Ignazio Alfonso Roberto Micael Francessco Carlo Luigi Saverio Guiseppe Antonio Pio Taddeo Giovanni Sebastiano Paolo Biagio Estanislao Bernedetto Bernardo Marco. Italians always favour plenty of christian names. I have a friend called Roberto Giovanni Giuseppe Giacomo and I thought that was impressive but this must be the longest name ever. On that note I will leave the Rochefoucaulds in peace. There is masses about them on the internet if you are interested. After all there is about 1000 years to cover. Also do have a look at my post about the town of Rochefoucauld which is presumably where they all stem from. Yes please do have a look at it because I thought it was one of my better posts and only one person clicked to say they liked it. sob. sob.
Also a local blog is http://verteuil.blogspot.fr/2007/06/le-chteau.html