CHÂTEAU DE MAUVIÈRES
This beautiful old Chateau and estate sits in St Forget, between Dampierre and Chevreuse, surrounded by the meadows and woods of Mauvières and bathed by the waters of the river Yvette. The Chateau’s pure white walls rise beneath its slate roof and the tranquillity of its setting belies the sheer depth of its history.
The first Lord of Mauvières was Bernard de Malveris who gained his title in 1179 and his descendants remained in ownership until 1368. The Lord of Mauvieres was answerable to the Lord of Chevreuse and records show that this was Henri de Berigny in 1385 and to Nicolas de Villetin, lord of Gif in 1450.
In return for his action against the English for the capture of Bergerac in 1450, Raymond de la Rivière de la Martigne assumed ownership of the estate and mill of Mauvières. In remembrance, Raymond de la Rivière named the meadows to the west of his estate Bergerac, formerly named Sous-Forêt. The Lords of Mauvières then became Lords of « Mauvières and Bergerac ». The descendants of Raymond de la Rivière de la Martigne, Antoine, Gallois, and Dauphin, reigned until 1576, although the estate was split into two parts.
Gallois sold his land, named Pré-Joli to Catherine de Cirano who lived in nearby Bignognière and in 1576 Thomas Forbois, Lord of Coubertin, became owner of the main estate when it was sold by the Dauphin of Mauvières and Bergerac. Savinien of Cirano (brother of Catherine) then bought Mauvières in 1582 and re-established the estate as a whole by joining his own and his sister’s land. The bill of sale describes the grounds as; « Manor with tiled ferrel, comprising basement, cellar, kitchen, main bedroom, granary, stable, barn, farmyard, pigeon house, corn mill and fish pond ». Ownership remained with this family until 1636.
The son of Savinien, Abel de Cirano, a lawyer in high judicial court, married Espérance Bellanger and had six children of which the fourth, Savinien, had to surrender posterity.
An agreement was made between Abel de Cirano and Olivier, the gardener at Saint-Forget for maintaining the grounds from 9 October 1604 until Martinmas – the winter of 1605; Olivier had to keep the nine acres of land well tended. Of these acres, four were surrounded with apple trees and he was to plant one acre with flowers and strawberry plants, and the remainder as he wished although without offending the eye. He was also to keep the paths clear of stone and refuse. In payment he would receive the five acres plus 36 pounds.
Born in Paris, 6 March 1619, and baptised in the parish of Saint-Sauveur, the young Savinien spent his childhood at Mauvières where he met Henri le Bret. Henri’s father followed Louis Habert, the wartime treasurer, who had just established himself at Mesnil Saint-Denis at the beginning of the 17th century. As Lord of Mesnil and Montmort, Louis Habert liked long titles and surrounding himself with poets and literary men which is perhaps how Henri le Bret got the taste for words. Savinien and Henri began their studies under a parish priest nicknamed « Red Face » who ruled them with a rod or iron . They Then became boarders at the college of Beauvais and at twenty years of age they joined the Casteljalloux guards. It was at this point that Savinien de Cirano added the name Bergerac (from the name of the groundsat the Chateau named so by Raymond de la Rivière de la Martigne in 1450) , which gave Savinien the air of a perfect Gascon! They both followed army careers from 1638 to 1642, and took part in the capture of Arras. Gravely injured twice, Savinien returned to civilian life together with his friend who became a lawyer.
Savinien de Cirano de Bergerac then lived in Paris pursuing a more simple life; teaching fencing for Pierre Houssard, a master of arms, and dance lessons with David Dupton, a dance master and a writer. With little money, Cirano found himself a guardian to the Duke of Arpajon. Cirano’s writing was only known by those people he came into contact with, and he died in 1655 aged 38 at Sannois, abandoned by the Duke who tired of his eccentricity. It was his old friend Henri le Bret who saved Cirano’s manuscripts and had them published; thus « Le voyage dans le lune », « l’histoire comique des états du soleil », « Agrippine » and « le Pedant Joué » became well known only after the death of Cirano. His father, Abel de Cirano had sold Mauvières in 1636 to Antoine Balestrier for 17,000 pounds.
The Chateau then passed into the hands of Pierre Manseau who sold it to Henri Lamouroux in 1738. At this time Mauvières seemed to have had a brick and stone construction, covered in tiles like the annex buildings which exist today: a central framework with a tower at the exterior angles which today resembles a spiral staircase, and surprisingly thick walls, two wings at the end of which is a small square building where one wing is still used as a chapel. In the grounds, Lamouroux had a castle of modern design built, not by demolishing the old one, but by building over it, which served as the foundation: the central framework was surmounted with a triangular pediment cut out in the roof and bordered by two wings concealing the towers, the ceilings were raised and the windows adjusted to a new level except the flemish dormer-windows on the second floor which remained unaltered together with the tiled roof thus concealing its luxuriant windows. This work was carried out in an extraordinary fashion and it is not often that on sees work of similar standard.
It is fitting to leave the last word to the Duke of Luynes, who wrote in 1744:
« Monsieur de Bosnier de la Mosson died here in Paris, he was treasurer of the Languedoc region, a very important job, but which was merely a commission and consequently a title which the king bestows on whoever is appointed.
Many people had taken steps to obtain the position but the decision of the king governed that of the States. Monsieur Bosnier had a cashier named Lamouroux, whose brother remained here in the vicinity of my grounds. For a few years he has owned an estate named Mauvières, bought from Madame de Maintenon and bought previously to that by Bergerac, a relative of the famous Cirano of Bergerac, well known for his daydreaming.
Lamouroux whose second marriage was two or three years old, had a son from his first marriage who became blind at two or three years of age and who is now twenty four or twenty five years of age. This son who was brought up with all possible care, studied music, of which he was very gifted, he played instruments, composed, played chess, backgammon, he even learnt to draw, he also constructed the new building at Mauvières commissioned by his uncle which is quite attractive and well executed, he himself instructed the workers of the dimensions of width and breadth to be used « .
This new castle was leased for life to the Marquis Feron of Ferronnais he had an average tenure of 2.000 pounds yearly rent and 3.000 on cessation of the usufruct, Lamouroux having reserved for himself the tan mill, and barn with the right to have an exit on to the garden.
The family of Feron de la Ferronnais, however, emigrated, in 1791 and the Republic took the property into sequestration, the official report of the imprints dates from 1792 ; but the heir of Lamouroux, Carquet, protested that he was the sole owner under the terms of his great-uncles’s will, and that the Republic, having handed over its life tenancy had to give him the money halted by the previous lease. It was established that the Nation could only claim 1.684 pounds of the estate, as money was unavailable, the Republic also proceeded with an adjudication which was issued to Louis Trufet in February or March around 1700. But on the previous 18 October F Casquet had sold the estate to Pierre Ters for a sum of 13.800 francs, including damage and arrears, plus a life annuity of 7.500 francs. In a short space of time Louis Trufet brought about an enormous defacement of the estate, with trees cut down, stone sold, and in a panic Ters appealed that Trufet’s lease be amended, the written agreements having lost much of their worth.
The Minister for Finance decided that it could only be advantageous to rid the Nation of the reparations and consequently he had to renounce the tenure resulting from the life lease of the Ferronnais family and engage Ters as vendee who would then enter into full tenure of the Chateau, park and grounds on condition that the Republic would find itself totally relieved of arrears and reparations. Ters accepted, as his own property was in rapid decline; the annulment of the life lease took place on 6 January 1796.
In 1803 Mathieu Saint-Laurent, a Parisian lawyer acquired the estate. He was the father-in-law of Meneval, secretary to Napoleon, and was entrusted with the guardianship of the young Léon Denuelle, natural son of the emperor.
A review of the papers and tuition fee give rise to believe that this was not an easy job as the young Earl Léon was intolerable. In acknowledgement, Mathieu was made Prefect and Baron of Mauvières. His son Joseph, mayor of Saint-Forget, died without posterity and left his estate to his niece Sophie de Ségur, duchess of Lesparre in 1857. Her descendants are still in ownership.
One member of the family was related to Marshal Gérard, and numerous mementos are to be found in a room at Mauvières, of which a portrait has been painted by Horace Vernet. Having learnt of this, Rosemonde Gérard came to visit the Chateau and on being told of its history, she told her husband, Edmond Rostand, and we are indebted to Mauvières for « Cirano of Bergerac ».
The Chateau as seen today has lost one of its wings, its tiles are now slate and the dormer-windows in the roof have been replaced, although fashionable until the end of the century, by zinc dormer-windows.
The chapel is still made of brick as is the pigeon-house and outbuildings, the actual décor deceives the eye in certain parts in particular the lintel doors which are more often than not made of wood.
Lived in and loved by its owners, Mauvières, having suffered the affects of the last war, slowly regained its lustre, its ravishing panelled lounges are once again adorned with delicate tones and open onto the valley of Yvette wonderfully serene at the entrance to Paris.