Little histories about Biron castle

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The castle - ©Manfred Heyde / CC-BY-SA The castle - ©Manfred Heyde / CC-BY-SA
Biron castle Castle Execution Treason Armand de Gontaut Charles de Gontaut

A proud fortress

The traitor’s gory punishment

Biron belonged to the famous family of Gontaut since the 11th century. Biron was cut out for war, with its big keep! That’s good,

Simon de Montfort besieged it in 1211 during the Crusade against Cathars, then the English and the French occupied it... Besides, in 1212, a man called Martin d’Algaï (he just deserted Montfort’s army, the naughty one) occupied Biron.

So Montfort besieged it, effortless. He required Martin’s surrender. The besiegers immediately gave him Martin… and this one was punished, tied to the tail of a galloping horse… He was jagged but not dead! Hey, never mind: they hang him...

Rustic: straw for dogs!

In 1351, the fortress suffered a lot, it needed to be re-raise. It was done in the 14th century! A period text described the inner decoration: very rustic and makeshift! We had “hunting machines” everywhere, “some fresh straw for dogs' beds”, “a big and warm fire” in bedrooms... In short, the brand new castle was ready to welcome the new Gontaut generation!

The Gontaut, king of Biron

The head cut!

First, let’s meet Pons de Gontaut, who fought in Italy with king Charles VIII: he raised the two main buildings overlooking the courtyard.

Then, we had Armand de Gontaut, who loyally served kings Henri III and Henri IV. You know what? The legend says that Armand, during the battle of Epernay (1592), caught the king’s hat (his famous hat with the white plume) who just fell off his head.

Instead of giving him back, he put it on his own head! But an enemy thought he was the real king, so he shot... Gontaut get a cannonball in his head and died...

Sharp, the marshal de Gontaut!

Aaah, arrogant and proud, those Gontaut! And now, Charles turned up, king Henri IV’s friend, marshal of France in 1594. 4 years later, the king appointed him general lieutenant, then governor of Burgundy.

Henri nicknamed him “the sharpest tool of his victories”! But Charles wanted more. He started to plot with duke of Savoy and Spanish governor in Milan. Gontaut was unmasked and king forgave him.

But Gontaut plotted more and more! This time, Henri IV forgave him... provided that he admitted. The incorrigible Gontaut denied it all outright: too bad for him, he was sentenced to death and beheaded in 1602 in the Bastille jail...

Marie-Antoinette’s beau Lauzun

Meanwhile, his family, humiliated, was exiled. Charles-Armand, marshal of France, came back in king’s good books: he embellished Biron in 1725, but he seldom came in the castle!

During the French Revolution, Armand-Louis, duke de Lauzun and de Biron, had a tragic fate. Hey, he was Marie-Antoinette’s beau Lauzun (″handsome Lauzun″)! Her so-called lover…

He was elected deputy of the nobility in the States General (1789), and joined the Revolution, where he fought in Vendée (1793). Accused of being a revolutionary lieutenant, he was sentenced to death and guillotined… Finally, the Gontaut family, completely ruined, sold the castle to the general council of Dordogne, who opened it to the public.

And also!