In Combourg, lil René's ghosts are tenacious

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The castle - ©Summerrahman / CC-BY-SA The castle - ©Summerrahman / CC-BY-SA
Combourg castle Castle François-René de Chateaubriand

Count of Chateaubriand, dad of the famous French Romantic poet François-René, bought Combourg castle in 1761. His family moved in 1777. François-René? He wrote the famous autobiography Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe ("Memoirs from Beyond the Grave"), where he evoked his 2 years spent in Combourg, when he was a kid.

His dad, always gloomy and silent, spent his days to pace his estate up and down. His mum, ill, could not look after her children, René (8 years old) and his sister Lucile. Kids left to themselves. Desperately alone, in the castle’s lugubrious and cold darkness...

"Jails and keeps, stony maze, undergrounds walled up... and everywhere, silence and darkness: that was Combourg castle." Whoa, they were so scared, here! With the dark, the wind howling below the doors. And ghosts haunted the castle! Lil René’s sister and mum told about them.

Because René’s bedroom was located in the Cat Tower, haunted by an old lord, his wooden leg and a big black cat. The lord was Malo-Auguste de Coëtquen, bloody wounded in battle of Malplaquet in 1709. Besides, building works in 1875 revealed the body of a mummified cat... walled up!

The book Guide Gallimard Côté d’Emeraude says it was a medieval practise which used to keep the misfortune at bay... In short! Before going to sleep, René always waited in the big Guards room, for his dad’s signal. Then he slipped in the icy dark corridors towards his little bedroom:

"Relegated in the most deserted place, I only heard the wind murmurs, and those murmurs were weird. Sometimes, the wind seemed to run with a light tread, sometimes it only moaned. Suddenly, my door was violently shaken, and the undergrounds roared. Then all those noises expired, then came back again."

Whoa, Combourg seemed to be alive! And yet, Combourg’s ghosts transformed René into a tortured grown-up. The pure Romantic poet: "It was in Combourg that I became what I am, that I started to fell the first attack of the illness, of this sadness which was both my torment and my felicity."