A historical landmark
Located between Le Mans and Chartres, at the frontiers of Eure-et-Loir, Loir-et-Cher and Sarthe, the small character town of Montmirail is home to its eponymous castle, which is an exceptional site in myriad ways. Indeed, this fifteenth century castle stands out for its unobstructed view over the Perche Sarthois, which it dominates at an altitude of more than 300 metres, not to mention its rich architecture that bears the traces of each era in a stunning mixture of styles: the Middle Ages, the fifteenth century, the Renaissance and the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
As early as during Antiquity, Montmirail was occupied by the Romans. It started being built approximately in the fifth century of our era around what was a simple wooden tower elevated on a mound of earth. The wooden edifice evolved over time and eventually disappeared to make place for the famous U-shaped castle, which boasts a central courtyard.
A testament to defensive castles, this medieval fortress now stands in contrast with the eighteenth century castles, the latter being fully fledged dwellings where major historical figures resided.
A few key dates
The castle was given to the Gouët family during the ninth century as a donation from the Bishop of Chartres, and remained in the family’s possession for nearly 600 years as it was passed down from one generation to the next. It was also during the Gouët’s time that a famous meeting occurred, on 6th January 1169, between Henri II Plantagenêt, King of England, and Louis VII Le Jeune, King of France, in a bid to reconcile the King of England and his archbishop Thomas Becket, then exiled in the Kingdom of France further to a disagreement regarding the religious management of the English kingdom.
From the fourteenth to the fifteenth century, the castle fell in the hands of the English during the Hundred Year War. At the end of the war in 1421, the castle was destroyed by the King of France’s armies. Charles IV, Duke of Anjou, Count of Le Maine, rebuilt the defensive castle that stands today, which included having magnificent arms rooms built.
From then on, the building was handed over according to alliances, right up to the Renaissance when it returned to Marie de Melun, wife of the famous Lord of La Palice, whose real name was Jacques II de Chabannes.
Two centuries later, in 1676, Louis Armand de Condé, Prince of Conti, bought the castle. He bequeathed the estate to his wife, Marie Anne de Bourbon, who was none other than the daughter of the king Louis XIV and Mlle de La Vallière, the king’s first official mistress.
The Princess of Conti eventually sold the castle to the Marquis of Neuilly further to having it fitted out with splendid reception rooms boasting Régence furniture and remarkable heritage woodwork representing the five senses, all of which can be visited today.
The castle remained with the family of the Marquis of Neuilly for nearly 3 centuries to the present day, and has been handed down by the women from one generation to the next.
Major historical figures
- Guillaume Ier Gouët (1005-1060)
- Guillaume III Gouët (1079-1140)
- Louis VII le Jeune (1120-1180)
- Henri II Plantagenêt (1133-1189)
- Thomas Becket (1118-1170)
- Marie de Melun (1495 – 1552)
- Jacques II de Chabanne Maréchal de la Palice (1470-1525)
- Pierre le Pesant de Boisguilbert (1646-1714)
- Louis-Armand de Condé prince de Conti (1661-1685)
- Marie-Anne de Bourbon, princess de Conti (1666-1739)
- Marquis of Neuilly