A History of the Chateau de Langeais

Around the year one thousand, the region of Touraine in France was coveted by two lords: Foulque Nerra, count of Anjou, and Eudes I, count of Blois.  By the end of the tenth century, Foulque Nerra had conquered the site of Langeais, not far from Tours.  A castle was then founded on the promontory, and of all this, only remnants of the keep tower remain.  After this period Langeais has a eventful history, occupied in turn by the counts of Blois and those of Anjou.

In 1044 Langeais is passed, along with the whole of Touraine, into the hands of the Plantagenets, and then into those of the kings of England, their heirs.  In 1206 however, Langeais entered into the domain of the King of France, as a consequence of Philip Augustus’ victories over king John of England. From this period onward, the fief of Langeais is granted to various important lords closely related to the king.

During the Hundred Years’ War, Langeais more than once served as a hideout to armed war-bands. Aware of the danger that this type of occupation could bring, Charles VII decided to regain posession of the castle. Athough he in 1422 he reclaimed the domain and had all fortifications except for the “grand tower” demolished, he awarded the castle to his faithful Scottish knight, Sir Thomas Seton, who was thus titled as "Seigneur de Langeais".

During the second half of the 15th centrury, Langeais remained important. As a reaction against the League of the Common Good  (a coalition of important lords against the king), in which the duke of Brittany actively participated, Louis XI had a new castle built on the eastern edge of the promontory. In 1465 and in 1467 building activity was in full swing. The works were under the command of Jean Bourré, the faithful councillor to the king, in cooperation with Jean Briçonne, another servant of the king and first mayor of Tours.  However, after the troubles with the Leage of the Common Good, in 1468 Louis XI had to face a far more dangerous enemy: the duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold. Construction at Langeais is halted.  In July 1466 the castle built at the initiative of the king, is ceded to Dunois, the king’s cousin and son of Joan of Arc’s companion.

At Dunois’ castle the marriage of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany takes place, at the dawn of 6 December 1491. This marriage puts an end to the troubles between France and Brittany, and marks the beginning of the connection of this province to the French crownThe marriage is assisted by a limited company, in one of the great halls of the castle. The contract of marriage stipulates that the two spouses mutually donate their rights to the duchy.  Anne also obliged herself to marry the new sovereign, if the king was to die childless, and that is precisely what happened: all children of the royal couple die either at birth or during minority. Charles VIII died in 1498, at Amboise castle and Anne of Britanny then married Charles VIII’s cousin, Louis of Orléans, who will reign as Louis XII.

After the 15th century, Langeais castle passed to various persons and was kept in a state of bad repair. Only Christophe Baron, owner in April 1839, untertook some restoration works and bought a collection of furniture. Unfortunately his son had to sell a large part of this collection to pay off considerable debts.  After the son’s death, the castle was bought by Jacques Siegfried.

Jacques Siegfried, born in Mulhouse in 1840, was a very active businessman, and as a banker he was commissioned by the French government to research the best ways to develop French commerce abroad. Impassioned for medieval art, he bought Langeais on 28 July, 1886, and spent the next eight years of his life restoring and refurnishing the castle, thus reconstructing the living conditions of the nobility at the end of the Middle AgesIn 1904 he donated both the Chateau and his rich collection of art to the Institut de France, that still owns it today.

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