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Country life

The chateau de Malesherbes
« Life at the chateau de Malesherbes was quite pleasant. »
(Hervé de Tocqueville, Memoirs)

Before becoming the property of Chrétien-Guillaume-François de Lamoignon around 1726, the chateau de Malesherbes belonged to the d'Illiers d'Entragues family, who had owned it since the 16th century. The chateau's first owner, François de Balzac d'Entragues, remained well-known due to the relationship between his daughter, Henriette, and Henry IV. The story is told that the relationship began at the chateau de Malesherbes, and that the father of Henry IV's official favorite tried to take advantage of this before the king married Marie de Medicis. François de Balzac was then condemned to death by Parliament for conspiring with the Spanish court against the king, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison in the chateau de Malesherbes, where he died.
In the 18th century, long after these romantic stories and the questionable figure of the first owner, the chateau de Malesherbes had a second moment of glory when, following the end of the d'Illiers d'Entragues line, it passed into the hands of the Lamoignon family. Substantial alterations were carried out on the chateau, overseen by the son and grandson of the buyer, who was none other than Chancellor de Lamoignon and the "great Malesherbes". Although the three round towers, which date from the 14th century, testify to the chateau's medieval past, the profound modifications carried out subsequently have transformed it into a perfect example of French 18th century architecture. The vast grounds surrounding the chateau benefited from the botanical tastes of Louis XVI's avocat, who planted, among other things, a grove of exotic trees. The king seemed to appreciate the place a great deal, which offered him a peaceful refuge during the période d'exil du Parlement, as well as during the dark years of the revolution, which he spent surrounded by his children and grandchildren. When Hervé de Tocqueville arrived at the chateau de Malesherbes in February 1793 to meet his future in-laws, he was surprised by the peaceful life led by its famous inhabitants, who refused to emigrate despite the threat that the Terror represented. His Mémoires retrace the memory of this final year of grace that his new family enjoyed at the chateau de Malesherbes: "Spring, summer and autumn were spent in the gentle, peaceful customs of the life of the chateau. However, the horizon never ceased to darken." The entire family was arrested in the dining room of the chateau, before being subjected to the wrath of the revolutionary tribunals. After these arrests, the chateau de Malesherbes was requisitioned by the members of the Committee of Public Safety, and its furnishings were generally dispersed. After their release from prison, Hervé de Tocqueville and his wife and his wife refused to move back into the chateau. They chose instead to live in another residence that had become theirs due to the executions under the Terror: the chateau de Verneuil-sur-Seine.

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Chateau de Malesherbes

Chateau de Malesherbes, lithograph, C. Motte
© AD Loiret

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