Chateau de la Meilleraye

This chateau was the cradle of one of the three largest local families of high nobility, with the La Trémoille in Thouars and the Gouffler à Oiron and Saint-Loup-Sur-Thout, who were all closely involved to the great events of the history of France under the former Regime. A small feudal manor, belonging to the baronnie de Parthenay, who once stood on the site of the future and beautiful chateau de la Meilleraye.

It was bought on 12 November 1574 by Jean de la Porte, apothecary in Parthenay, to the Marafin family, who had succeeded, in the second half of the 15th century, to the first known owners. His nephew Charles I de la Porte, who later became a gentleman of the Chamber of King Henry IV, inherited Meilleraye in 1585 and made it start at 1620 by the architect Clément Métezeau, the author of La Rochelle’s dike, the construction of a new chateau.

Married to Claude de Champlais, he had a son who continued his work, performing great embellishments around the body of building which he had found naked and removed from all accompaniments. This son was no other than the Marshal of France Charles II de la Porte, duc de la Meilleraye. His aunt, Suzanne de la Porte, wife of François du Plessis, was the mother of Cardinal Richelieu.

In 1637, Charles II married Marie de Cossé-Brissac, who lived in Meilleraye with the young Armand Charles, his son-in-law, born in 1632 of a first marriage of her husband with Marie d’Effiat. In 1661, Armand Charles married Horten Mancini, niece of Cardinal Manzarin, and became the same year Duc de Mazarin, upon the death of the Cardinal.

He led a princely life and at the death of his father in 1664, he inherited all the charges that he occupied in Brittany and the court of France. Unfortunately, he lost the royal favour and his wife Horten left him. He was very ugly and austere and she was beautiful and fickle. Armand Charles then retired in 1673 to Meilleraye, became a pious, generous and charitable lord and died there in 1713. His son Guy Paul Jules, who distinguished himself in the armies of Louis XIV, was heir to his son Guy Paul Jules, who finally abandoned the Meilleraye and entrusted the guard to his servant Claude François Gallas, for pay, then to his son Pierre François Gallas, janitor.

The decadent chateau was sold in 1776 to the comte d’Artois, brother of Louis XVI, who was not interested in that chateau in any way. After the revolution, Meilleraye was sold nationally, it served as a quarry operated by all successive owners with more or less activity. The beautiful white marble statue of Cardinal Richelieu was broken and the head served as a counterweight to a rotisserie!


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