Do you know Honoré d'Urfé? He wrote a novel, L'Astrée, where his young heroes, Astrée and Céladon, lived in a dreamy place which was... his own castle! Come on, let’s meet him.
Honoré was born in Marseille in 1568 but it was in Forez that he spent his youth. His family, coming from Germany, moved in the area in the middle of the Middle-Age: they were called Wulfe, originally, but gallicized this name into d’Ulphé, then d’Urfé. The sinister fortress they owned since their arrival didn’t suit them any more : in the 15th c. that finally raised the nicest bastie (″house″), few kilometres away...
Aah, the old d’Urfé’s fortress! Nowadays it’s ruined but it was a pretty dark and gloomy place. Wait and see, the best is yet to come... The next story took place in those walls: Hermentrude, lord d’Urfé's wife, gave birth to 12 children all at once. Panic-stricken, she said to herself: ″Whoa, lots of kids... this situation is open to misinterpretation, isn’t it? People could think I slept around with many guys...″
So she sent her domestic drowning the kids! He put them in a big bag and went to the river. But the husband caught the servant, and asked him what was in his bag. Caught red-handed... the lord immediately recognized his children. He only kept the elder one : he raised him secretly and he became the ancestor of all the next generations of d’Urfé!
Another story, in this sinister castle: now, back in 1418. Jean d’Urfé kept here a big safe full of gold. His domestics knew it and murdered him with his wife and kids… except one: the youngest son, a little baby. Domestics were pretty naughty, yes, but they couldn’t kill this little thing, so cute! One of them suggested: let’s offer him an apple and one golden crown. If he took the fruit, that mean he’ll be a good man and he’ll be spared. But if he chose gold… Fortunately, the baby chose the apple! Then the kid grew up and didn’t want to stay in this damned castle, so full of murders and blood, so he moved in La Bastie.
We left our d’Urfé while they were leaving the old fortress. And then? They moved in La Bastie, a real Renaissance gem made by Italian artists between 1535 and 1578. You’ll also see a rockery grotto raised in 1550, the first one of that kind in France!
So, Honoré inherited this nice castle from his grandfather Claude d’Urfé. He spent here his youth and he chose the place to be the setting for his country novel, in 1607: l'Astrée. Honoré wrote it in 20 years: hey, its’ a pretty huge tome, published in 5 parts at that time, with more than 1000 pages each! A real best-seller… he dedicated it to the king Henri IV, “this prince who gave Europe rest and tranquillity.”
So, his novel took place in the 5th c., in a familiar landscape. Céladon, the shepherd, was in love with the pretty Astrée. But Astrée didn’t care about the poor Céladon, who finally drowned his sorrows… by drowning himself in the river Lignon!
Do you know that the character of Astrée was someone Honoré knew well? Yes, she was Diane de Châteaumorand, one of his brother’s wife… Honoré fell in love with her, and he finally married her in 1600. Anne, the concerned brother, was also a poet. He married Diane when she was 12 years old: she was beautiful, slim and arrogant.
But, little problem: we don’t know why, but Anne the husband never touched her, never. So, when she met the eyes of her brother-in-law Honoré, she immediately fell in love with him. Diane decided to break the marriage, putting forward the non-consummation of the union (because of “Anne’s frigidity and impotence” said the period texts).
Honoré, for his part, joined the Malta knights, but he dumped everything to met up with his love. Let’s imagine Anne’s face when he heard the news: humiliated, he took the holy orders and never came back in La Bastie…
Well, what about our two lovers? The pretty Diane completely changed her manners: the common life became an absolute hell for Honoré! She became naughty, bitter, and under her princess looks hid some uncouth peasant’s manners: she slept with her big muddy dogs in a bed full of dust! Blasé, Honoré finally left her shrew…
When d'Urfé family died out, the castle fell to La Rochefoucauld then to the Simiane. Now, let’s meet Jeanne de Pontcarré (becoming de Rochefoucauld with her marriage, and so, marquise d’Urfé!). A very special lady fond of alchemy and curious things. She had her own alchemy laboratory in her Parisian city house located quai Voltaire, where she met the mysterious counts of Saint-Germain and Cagliostro…
A pretty strange and nuts lady! But very rich… Well, even the famous Casanova met her. He saw that the lady was nuts… and started to make her believe that she could rebirth as a baby! The marquise believed that Casanova had spectacular occult forces and said “yes” to everything… Casanova, for his part, smiled at the lady and get money and jewels from her…
Then la Bastie was owned in 1909 by the "Diana", an Archaeological society, who entirely restored the estate. Thanks to them, we can visit this gorgeous estate!