Montal castle: Jeanne's broken life, little Belgians' exile... and Mona Lisa

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The Renaissance façade - ©MOSSOT / CC-BY-SA The Renaissance façade - ©MOSSOT / CC-BY-SA
Montal castle Castle Tragic destiny World War II Legend

Jeanne’s broken heart

Montal, raised between 1523 and 1534, was the old familial castle Jeanne de Balzac d'Entragues' father owned in 1473. She transformed it into a true Renaissance jewel. But, did you see? Walls seem so full of sorrow! On the façade, we can read the device Plus d'espoir, "no more hope"…

Hey, one thing has to be said... Jeanne's life wasn't happy. She was a widow with 6 dependent kids, after the death of her husband Almaric. Alone, but above all completely inconsolable. Desperate. She was a widow, but she decided to rebuild her castle, her master-piece. And look: she immortalized in the stone the two men of her life (her Almaric and her son Robert, died at war)...

But a legend says that Jeanne’s motto refers to the sad story of Rose de Montal, abandoned by her fiancé, lord of Castelnau. She committed suicide by throwing herself out of the window, after she saw in the far distance the wedding cortege of her ex fiancé, yelling this tragic "No more hope"!

A scattered decor

But Jeanne’s building site were never completed… After she died, the castle fell to the Pérusse des Cars, then to the Plas de Tanes. In the 19th century, it was transformed into a barn. A man called Macaire owned it in 1877 and started to deteriorate the decoration, sold in auction. Whoa! What a destiny!

Fortunately, Montal was saved by the industrialist Maurice Tenaille… He repurchased all the decoration sold in auction. And he made copies of the missing pieces. Jeanne and Robert’s busts, on the façade, owned by museums in France and in Germany, were back. The castle came alive again! It was redecorated, refurnished, restored. Then Tenaille gave it to French Nation in 1913...

Belgian kids in the castle

May 1940. War! 3 little kids arrived one evening of Spring in Montal. Quietly, very quietly… we have here 3 Belgian princes in exile, king Leopold III’s kids: Joséphine-Charlotte, Baudoin (future 5th Belgian king), Albert (6th king).

Hey, but wait: what did they do in Montal?! Well, when the beginning of the World War II was announced, the Belgian king decided to find a shelter for his children, in France. Poor ones… They lost their mum when they were babies. So, the separation from their dad was terrible! But they had to… But princes only stayed few days: after the capitulation of the Belgian army, they had to leave for Spain...

Mona Lisa in Montal!

1943. Did you know they hid the famous Mona Lisa here, in Montal, until her return in the Louvre Museum in June 1945?… They had to do this in order to protect her against the German’s destructions! It was not the first time that they hid pieces of art during the World War II: they already send the Mona Lisa in the neighbouring Loc-Dieu abbey, in 1940! 3200 paintings from the Louvre in Paris went in exile in province during this war, and especially here in the Southern France, in unoccupied France.