CHÂTEAU DE LA COURONNE
The Château de la Couronne domain originated in the 12th century, established by the "Abbey of Our Lady of La Couronne," a significant abbey located in what is now a suburb of the nearby city of Angoulême. While the abbey remains as a beautiful ruin to this day, the estate suffered severe damage during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), a conflict that amusingly lasted for 116 years.
In 1449, a young nobleman named Bertrand Farinard acquired the estate. Bertrand served as a Varlet in Marthon, a position under the supervision of a Lord and involved training to become a Knight. Bertrand's daughter, Louise Farinard, bestowed the estate as a dowry upon her marriage to Mathieu de Chambes, the Lord of Vilhonneur, in 1564. Vilhonneur, now a small village between Marthon and St. Sornin, served as Mathieu's possession following their marriage, as was customary in the 16th century when a man's possessions also extended to his wife's.
By the late 1600s, the Chambes family still retained ownership of the house, with Marie de Chambes as the sole heiress. It appeared that the chateau would once again change hands through marriage when Marie wed Jean-Pierre Chaigneau, passing the estate to their son, Charles.
In 1767, the chateau was sold to brothers Francois and Jacques de Viaud, eventually passing through inheritance to the Modernard family and then the De Fornel family. It was during the late 1800s that the De Fornels decided to remodel the chateau, giving it a more formal and imposing appearance. They added turrets, changed the roof on the tower to a crenelated castle profile, and replaced the typical Charentaise roofs with slate, reminiscent of the classic chateaux in the Loire Valley. The De Fornels intended to make a bold statement with these alterations. Additionally, they planted formal gardens with yew alleys and installed basins with fountains, incorporating many rare and exotic trees into the landscape.
T H E
The chateau kept its peaceful and refined form for many years until the Second World War shook things up. Germany divided France into two areas. The Occupied Zone was under German control, covering the entire western part of the country, including the important channel ports where they had U-boat pens and naval yards. This zone stretched along the coast, all the way up to Normandy and Calais, where the famous D-Day landings happened with the US, Canada, and Britain.
The rest of France was governed by the Vichy Government, a puppet government allowed by the Germans to run the less important parts of the country. There was a real border between the two zones, and you needed permission and papers to cross it. The old border site is just about 5 kilometers away from the chateau.
The chateau happened to be inside the Vichy zone and became home to a group of French troops. The commanding officer, probably someone who expected total obedience, decided to set up shop in what is now the Guest Office. Funny thing is, when we moved here, Nicky automatically claimed that room as her office, without knowing any of this history.
NOW & THEN
Those Happy Days
The chateau changed hands multiple times and was eventually transformed into a residential training center called the Centre de Formation in the 1970s. It also served as a Summer Camp during the summer months. The previous owners repurchased the chateau and restored it to its original form, including missing fireplaces and the beautiful local stone wall. Inspired by their time as Camp Counsellors, filmmakers Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano shot a film called "Nos Jours Heureux" at the chateau, capturing moments of joy and humor. They later gained fame with their internationally successful film "Intouchables," considered a masterpiece.