Lunéville, former Lunae villa, ″moon’s city″! In the Antiquity, the cult of goddess Diana, associated with the moon, was pretty deep-rooted here. Maybe the castle was raised on a pagan temple?
One thing is sure: the castle was mentioned since the 9th century. The fief was part of a county, annexed in the 13th century by the duchy of Lorraine.
Duke of Burgundy Charles the Bold’s troops occupied the castle in the 15th c. The army of Lorraine expelled them, but the castle was completely ruined… it had to be rebuild. Duke René II tried to fortify Lunéville, then in the 17th century by duke Henri II and Charles IV in 1638.
In vain… King of France Louis XIV finally razed the old fortifications. But duke Leopold turned up… the brand new duke of Lorraine!
He took shelter in Lunéville during the war with Spain, in 1702. At that time, the castle looked like an old fortress in ruin, surrounded by stinky moats.
So, Leopold asked architect Boffrand to re-raise him a gorgeous palace: a main building flanked by two wings, overlooking formal gardens. The inner decoration? Full of tapestries, precious paintings and nice furniture!
As for the garden, the building work were huge. They had to level off the ground, clean the surrounding swamps, raze all the houses on the estate… A disciple of famous Le Nôtre, Yves des Hours, done all the job between 1711 and 1718. In 1724, Louis Gervais turned up (the future creator of Schönbrunn’s garden, Austria).
He extended the park, dug big ponds and fountains… But he needed water, for these fountains! So he brought water from neighbouring ponds and engineer Vayringe created a giant hydraulic machine… But Leopold died at 47, after a fall in a ditch full of water…
1729. Stanislas Leszczynski became duke of Lorraine and wanted to transform Lunéville into his favourite estate. But Leopold’s widow still lived here! And she wasn’t ready to leave the place.
She finally accepted the castle of Commercy, in exchange. So Stan could settle in 1737… People of Lorraine loved the duchess… but they coolly welcomed Stan as the new duke!
Oh, it won’t last: he will become the ″good king Stanislas″, the ″Benefactor″! Barely arrived, Stan started to raise. A real frenzy! He especially re-created the park.
He put statues everywhere, multiplied canals, ponds, fountains. He also planted an alley full of orange-trees, leading to his neighbouring castle of Chanteheux. There was the Kiosque, where Stan came in Summer.
It was a detached house, a kind of Chinese pagoda flanked by a gallery and a little grotto. Inside, we had a room with several windows, covered with a light linen, to let the cool wind enter in… Here, Adélaïde and Victoire dined with their grand-dad, one quiet night of August 1761...
In short, Lunéville rhymes with luxury and gentle pleasures of life! Besides, Voltaire, invited in 1738, said: ″When we went from Versailles to Lunéville, it’s like we were in the same place.″ Yes, because Stan modeled his own castle on Versailles! But the comparison stops here: because in Lunéville, people were happy, with no etiquette...
Stanislas’ death let Lunéville like an orphan. The castle was abandoned. All the furniture were sold. They transformed it into a barracks then into a barn, then the French army settled here in the 19th century. Whoa, what a sad destiny!
But… is there a curse on Lunéville? A problem with fire? The poor Stanislas died because of a fire in his castle. And a blaze literally devoured Lunéville on January 2th 2003. A terrible accident! 2/3 of the palace was destroyed. From 2005, the restoration began.