Suze-la-Rousse: ginger hairs, legendary death and royal jams

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The castle - ©GautierPoupeau / CC-BY-SA The castle - ©GautierPoupeau / CC-BY-SA
Suze-la-Rousse castle Castle Festivities Charles IX Catherine of Medici Wars of Religion Legend

Ginger hairs

In the beginning, it used to be counts of Orange's manor. Then, mighty lords of Baux raised a keep in the 12th century: nothing remains from this keep, but we can imagine it as a fortress flanked by towers, crenelates and machicolation. The archetypal medieval defensive stronghold, in short!

Bertrand des Baux gave it to his daughter Marguerite. The young lady was nicknamed la Rousse ("Redhead"), because of her beautiful ginger hairs: was the castle named after the young lady? Err… no. We know the city of Suza la Rossa since a long time, long before Marguerite and her dad: so her nickname of ″Redhead″ didn’t came from her hairs. This Rossa came from the ochre local stones...

The La Baume

Italian palace

Anyway, Suze fell by marriage to the La Baume family in the 15th century: Pierre then Rostaing de La Baume, bishop of Orange, completely transformed the castle. Suze was a medieval fortress: it became an Italian palace with a courtyard and a Renaissance façade overlooking the inner court. François de La Baume (he became count of Suze in 1572), made a refitting of the apartments in 1551.

Dead on horseback!

Do you François de La Baume, this warrior who defended Catholic cause during war of Religion? He even fought against the terrible baron des Adrets, one of the most famous Protestant leaders! Yes, they fought a duel in front of the castle.

And François succeeded in knocking him down with 2 superficial blows with his sword. Ouch! And he put him in his place, saying: ″-What will you do with me, if I was in the same state?″ ″-I would kill you.″ ″-I’m not surprised. But I never killed and I’ll never kill an enemy when he’s down.″ François let him go after he healed him...

You know what? Mortally wounded in Montélimar siege, François mumbled to his mare "Let's go die in Suze" and breathed his last in front of the castle...

Jams for the Medici

September 1564. Catherine of Medici, coming from Lyon and going in Provence, stopped to see the lord of Suze, François de La Baume. She turned up with her kids: the future king of France Henri III (13), the king Charles IX (14) and the little Margot (11). Plus lots of courtiers and lords!

And François hosted them well: he raised for the occasion (in 4 days only) a building housing a jeu de paume (ancestor of tennis). Ohh, nice! The king loved this sport! And wait: the banquet was just amazing, with ″a nice snack made of jams″! Jams and tennis, whoa, they were lucky… Today, we still can see the tennis site.


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