Sunday, August 11, 2013

Chateau St. Projet

The Chateau St. Projet is famous for having been a brief refuge for Queen Margot (Margaret of Valois or Marguerite) in September 1585. Margot's story, like many other royal princesses, is complicated and full of political intrigue. Her arranged marriage to the man who eventually became Henri IV of France was designed to bring harmony between the warring and politically powerful Catholic and Protestant Huguenot families of royal France. The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, occurring at the time of their marriage, however, only further fanned the flames of France's religious wars. Neither Margot nor her husband were faithful spouses; both took numerous lovers which scandalized the reigning monarch, Margot's brother, Henri III. Separated from her husband, Henri, and banished from her brother's court because of her scandalous behavior, Margot took refuge in Agen where she staged a coup d'etat and established her own court. The citizens of Agen soon grew tired of her, though, and threw her out. Outraged, her brother, the king, pursued her as she fled from one safe haven to another. With Henri hot on her trail, she came here to St. Projet where a sympathetic lord agreed to shelter her and two of her lovers (that must have been a bit awkward!).
Sitting atop a high hill, the Chateau is built on the remains of a Gallo-Roman site and commands sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. The village of St. Projet spills down the hillside behind it.
After entering the ground floor Guard's Room (where I took yesterday's photo of Quentin by a full suit of armor) my young guide pointed out the toilet seen above. We then wandered through the kitchen, a reception room and into the library...
There is also a small chapel where Quentin took my picture with St. Projet, another one of those head-less saints. Being a devote Catholic, Queen Margot would have worshiped here
The door to Queen Margot's chambers is full of these iron spikes which Quentin told me were to make it impossible for intruders to lean against it to push it open.
It can be opened from the inside in order to see who is in the outer room...
This bedroom contains...
a rare inlaid writing desk...
a low, red velvet chair that will accommodate milady's voluminous skirts...
and a portrait of Queen Margot herself. She's been described as a great beauty and a stylish trendsetter. I don't see it myself.

But here's the real surprise. This room is not the Queen's bedroom. It's actually where her guards slept. Her small room lies beyond another door. While all the furniture in the Chateau is from the 16th and 17th centuries...
this is the actual bed that the Queen slept in here. After her departure, this room was sealed and its entrance hidden. It lay undisturbed for 400 years and was only discovered in 1990 during renovation of the Chateau...with all its contents intact.
My fashion and fabric-conscious friend, Quentin, was quick to point out the lovely valence above the bed with its beautiful and intricate handwork.
The view from Margot's window.
The back of the Chateau

Margot was eventually caught by her brother and imprisoned. She spent 18 years in captivity. Her husband ascended the throne in 1589. He soon began proceedings to have their marriage annulled. Just in time since he had a long-term mistress who had already borne him 4 children! The annulment was finalized in 1599, and Henri IV married Marie d'Medici. Margot was released and moved her household to Paris. According to Wikipedia. she was reconciled with her former husband and his second wife. She became a mentor of the arts and a benefactress of the poor. She often helped plan events at court and nurtured the children of Henri and Marie."

An unusual ending for a princess's story filled with infidelity, murder, political intrigue and religious turmoil!

1 comment:

  1. Funny that we both posted on the same day! It's a fascinating story and has been fictionalised on a number of occasions. Your photos scrub up pretty well - but the interior light was poor and I realised too late that I had my camera on the wrong setting!

    She certainly led a colourful life.