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THE CHÂTEAU INTERIOR – GROUND AND FIRST FLOORS
The interior of Château de Bonneval is a rich treasure chest of design, architecture, art, furniture and fittings reflecting the nearly 1000 years of family residence. The detailed description of the individual features of the château’s interior is best appreciated on the conducted tours regularly, and by reservation with the Marquis and Marquise de Bonneval.
The Gate House
Entry to the château’s interior is via the Gate House; which itself is approached by either of the drawbridges. Although this vaulted room is small it is packed with mediaeval military technology. You are able to see not only the workings of the drawbridges and portcullis; but also numerous meurtrière and arrow slits; through which defenders could rain down rocks, scalding water, hot sand, quicklime, molten tar, or boiling oil, as well as arrows on to any attackers who managed to fight their way into this exceedingly cramped space.
Le Cour Intérieure
The main courtyard or le cour intérieure, is in the style of the Italian Renaissance and its elegant aesthetic is in stark contrast with the stern austerity of the East and South facades.
It is paved with slabs of granite and cobbles. It is surrounded by two floors of galleries supported on a collection of granite and limestone columns, each carved in a different and individual style. The previously open galleries have been enclosed with since the end of the 19th century.
On the north side of the courtyard is the 16th century clock tower with a 19th century clock with an enigmatic inscription which translates as:
All hurt, only one kills. Think of the last one
The ground floor gallery, which surrounds the courtyard, provides entrances to the extensive network of cellars; the tower known as le Donjon; as well as the Great Kitchen.
The Page’s Gallery
Entry to the residential part of the château is by way of a staircase from the courtyard, guarded by two crouching lions, carved from marble in the early15th century, and then through an elegant gothic portal into the Clock Tower and dating from the 14th century.
This then leads to the spiral stair case which goes up the Clock Tower but at the first level we enter a large, gallery known as The Page’s Gallery. Because of its south facing aspect, The Page’s Gallery, is light and airy; a perfect place to exhibit pieces from the family’s collection of Renaissance tapestry and art work.
Much of these, as well as the accompanying furniture, illustrate and reinforce the Bonneval family’s historically close aristocratic connections with the ruling families of mediaeval and renaissance France, either directly or through marriage; as well as their leadership role in politics, the military and the Church.
Le Salon à Musique
This pleasant room is also called Salon d’ Hippolyte; named after Hippolyte de Bonneval, (1786 – 1873).
Le Salon à Musique is part of the suite of state rooms that resulted from the 18th century restoration of the whole west wing and façade of the château. As the name implies, this is where the chamber orchestra would establish itself to provide music for the soiree going on through the doors in Le Grand Salon.
The furniture and fittings throughput is also of the period Louis XVIth, and represents examples of the work of some of the greatest designers and craftsmen of that time.
Le Grand Salon
Le Grand Salon is the most important state room in the château and was a result of the 18th century transformation of the whole west wing of the château undertaken by Brousseau. The great windows of the salon open directly onto la Terrasse des Lions.
It is also known as the Europa Sitting Room, after the outstanding ceiling painting of Jupiter abducting Europa, attributed to François Boucher ( 1703 – 1777). Boucher is regarded as the foremost painter of the 18th century Rococo style, and was the favourite of his patron, the infamous Madame de Pompadour . The Europa painting is a fine example of his excellence, demonstrating as it does, all of the characteristics for which he was famous; those of voluptuous women posing in idyllic classical or allegorical settings.
The exquisite grey-white and gold carved panelling is the work of the master carpenters Philippe-Joseph Pluvinet and his son, Louis-Magdeleine Pluvinet . And it is interesting to note that the original paint work has never been retouched, and it is as fresh now as it was in the late 18th century.
Two of the most interesting paintings in this suite of rooms are the portraits of women who played a significant role in the Bonneval family history, Mademoiselle Charlote Elizabeth Aïssé (c1694 – 1733) and that of her daughter Célinie Le Blond. Aïssé’s grand-daughter, Marie-Denise de Nanthiat, eventually married Andre de Bonneval in 1760.
Le Salon de Diane.
This small reception room, which balances the Music Room at the other end of the corridor, is named after Diane de Poitiers (1499 – 1566). She was a well-educated, sophisticated and beautiful noblewoman and an influential presence at the courts of Kings Francis I and his son, Henri II. She became notorious when Henri II chose to joust using her favour rather than that of his wife, Catherine di Medici, Diane’s cousin.
The chimney piece in this sitting room is constructed from the headboard of Diane’s bed. Diane was the mistress of Henri II, and this is why their intertwined initials, H and D, can be clearly seen. Diane perceived herself as being an incarnation of Diana, the ancient goddess of hunting and of the Moon. She, therefore, adopted the crescent moon as her blason, which can also be seen engraved on either side of the fireplace.
The remainder of the furniture is of Louis XIII period i.e. early 17th century, and the tapestry around the door is a Royal Beauvais, also dating from the 17th century.
The Dining Room
The Dining Room is also known as La Salle d’Alexandre. This is another room which benefited from the 18th century restoration designed by Brousseau. However, it contains spectrum of furnishing from the massive but primitive dining table and accompanying chairs of the Henri II period; to the classical Louis XIII furniture and 17th century Flanders tapestry to contemporary art work and table decoration; reflecting the fact that this room is still used by the Bonneval family on a daily basis.
One notable oddity is the 18th century marble fronted heater. The fire is set from the servants corridor behind and once lit, a cast iron door is closed and the heat is directed into the room via louvered ports in the marble facia.
Climbing a few stairs at the end of the corridor takes you into the exquisite family chapel. It is situated immediately above the main entrance in the square tower, central to the east Wall. Although the chapel was consecrated in May 1835 by the Bishop of Limoges, the date 930 AD can be seen etched into the stonework from which the chapel was constructed. This date is believed to be the date of the foundation of the original château.
Two angels of the Italian Renaissance can be seen on the support pillars. Two larger angels, flanking the altar are attributed to Edmé Bouchardon (1698 – 1762), who as sculptor to the Holy See and then to the Court of Louis XV, was esteemed as the greatest sculptor of his time.
The font is a beautiful marble structure dating from the reign of Louis XIV. And is stark contrast to this romantic style of the French Renaissance are examples more primitive sculptures from Brazil. These include 18th century polychrome wooden statuettes and a statue of the patron saint of Brazil, Nossa Senhora de Aparecida, dressed in blue velvet encrusted with semi-precious stones. These were introduced by the current Marquise and the Dowager Marquise, who are both Brazilian.
THE CHÂTEAU INTERIOR – SECOND FLOOR AND ATTIC
The Clock Tower stair case now ascends to the deuxieme etage which comprise the private suites and bedrooms of family members past and present. The change in atmosphere from the magnificently ornate state rooms, typically used for official receptions, to more intimate, family-oriented suites is very noticeable. These apartments are all connected by what is known as the Gallery of Ancestors.
The Gallery of Ancestors
The name of the gallery becomes immediately obvious as your take your first step into it – it houses the majority of the family Bonneval portraits; including the wedding photos of current Marquis and Marquise, the Marquis’ parents and his grand-parents.
Some notable examples include portraits of:
Germain de Bonneval, who was killed at the Battle of Pavia, (1525), while protecting his King, François I. Gaston de Foix, King of Navarre, who was killed at the Battle of Ravenna when he was 23 years old. His cousin, Marguerite de Foix, married Antoine de Bonneval in 1471. The sons of Marguerite and Antoine de Bonneval: Jean de Bonneval, Foucault de Bonneval, and Germain de Bonneval.
Timoléon de Bonneval (1845-1939), became President of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta from 1914 until his death in 1939. He was awarded the rank of Bailiff Grand Cross of Honour and Devotion.
There are also more examples of Renaissance carvings, chests and tapestries.
The King’s Chamber
This is the room where the 16 year old of Henri, Prince of Navarre (1553 – 1610), stayed the night before the Battle of La Roche l’Abeille (25 June 1569) ). The young Prince Henri went on to became Henri III, King of Navarre, and then later, inherited the French throne from his childless brother-in–law, Henri III in 1589, to become King Henri IV of France (1589 – 1610). As a result, Henri IV merged the formerly independent Navarre into the Kingdom of France in 1620, thereby creating the new ruling House of Bourbon.
Henri although born a Roman Catholic was raised as a Protestant by his mother, Jeanne d’Albret, Queen of Navarre. As a Huguenot, Henri was heavily involved in the numerous Wars of Religion between 1562 and 1629.
The Battle of La Roche l’Abeille was part of the 3rd War of Religion and followed the Battle of Jarnac (13 March 1569). The Huguenots were pushing down from Nexon towards the Perigord but were blocked by the Royalist Catholic army occupying St Yrieix la Perche. At that time, the Bonneval family were Huguenot supporters and in particular, Gabriel de Bonneval (1520-1590) was a commander in the Huguenot army and a mentor of young Henri. The outcome was a victory for the Huguenot forces.
The room is luxuriously appointed and contains an elaborately engraved bed, a statue of Henri IV and two columns with the H and the royal crown on top of each. There is an engraving of the action of the battle as well as two hanging Aubusson tapestries bearing the royal arms of France and Navarre.
There are also two family portraits. One is of the Marquis César Phoebus de Bonneval, the elder brother of the famous “ Bonneval Pacha”. César was the last Marquis of that branch of the family because his son had only two daughters. As the title passes through the male line, it passed to his cousin, André de Bonneval, whose portrait can be seen.
The Chamber of the Pasha
This was the bedroom of Claude-Alexandre, Count de Bonneval (1675 – 1747) who enjoyed a colourful and controversial military career. He ended up serving in the armies of the Ottoman Empire; he converted to Islam and took the name Humbaracı Ahmet Paşa; and is better known as Bonneval Pasha.
His bed chamber includes several items of memorabilia including a portrait of his wife Judith-Charlotte, Comtesse de Bonneval, née de Gontaut Biron, (1694-1741) with whom he lived for only seventeen days.
Other Suites and Chambers
There are numerous other private suites and bedrooms off the Gallery of Ancestors, including Le Chambre Coussac, which bears the name of the local village. The others Les Chambres de l’Ange, des Anglais, Malte and la Rochefoucauld.
One particularly eccentric innovation is that almost all the bedrooms have a bathroom built into the thickness of the wall, and often disguised as a wardrobe. These domestic improvements were all carried out in 1925 by the grandparents of the current Marquis.
THE BONNEVAL ARCHIVES
This truly extraordinary room contains the archives of the château. More than 30,000 documents are catalogued and stored in specially designed drawers and cabinets. They record the history of La Maison de Bonneval from 1055 to the present day, in Latin and Old French.
Another feature of unique historical and romantic importance is displayed on the end wall. It is the family tree of the Bonnevals, beginning with Chevalier Gerault de Bonneval, the first Bonneval for whom we have a first name and a signature, and the date 1055. A beautiful piece of art work which illustrates nearly 30 generations of continuous history. It is interesting to note that a family tree reflecting the second millennium of Bonneval history will also start with a “Geraud de Bonneval – the current Marquis!