In Bourg-Saint-Léonard, they invited Voltaire and even Marie-Antoinette!
A outdated visit!
Originally, we find here a manor belonging to the family du Barquet: the last member of the family, Louis de Barquet, was 86 years old. He was childless. So, in 1747, the old knight gave his fief to his niece.
He lived 5 years with her family, in this small castle described by Dufort de Cheverny in his Memories: “The castle was very antic. Chimneys were old-fashioned, like the lady owner. Pretty and good-looking, she was a real tapestry figure, tall, stiff in her movements, very ceremonious, dressed with antic clothes…”
They went hunting in the morning, and they played cards or piquet. Same thing after diner!
From Barquet to Léonard
In 1756, the estate was sold to Jules-David de Cromot, first servant for the High Lord Treasurer.
This chap, after a nice wedding and a comfortable social position, owned the old manor with all the furnitures: paintings, tapestries, he sold everything 108 400 livres!
At that time, the old castle of Le Bourg-Barquet became le Bourg-Saint-Léonard…
Meanwhile, Cromot became King’s secretary and first servant for the French Marine.
With those kind of respectabilities, Cromot had to transform the old manor into something luxurious: he razed it and raised the current castle in 1763, completed in 1768.
Hey, he also destroyed the village and the church, and rebuilt them from afar his estate…
Voltaire and Marie-Antoinette
New owners had wonderful parties in the castle, even in honour of young queen Marie-Antoinette, in 1776! For that occasion, Cromot asked Voltaire to write a “little entertainment”.
Voltaire, pretty modest, wrote: Je vous enverrai des vers, aussi mauvais que j'en faisais autrefois, vous paraissez avoir beaucoup de goût, vous les corrigerez, vous les placerez..., “I’ll send you verses, pretty bad ones. But you have good taste, so you’ll correct them…”
The baroness de Cromot received people. Sweet, pretty and cultured, she was also a good sportswoman, who liked hunting!
She had a salon in her castle of Le Bourg and organized plays in the orangery. Maybe you know one of her friend: poet Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian, Voltaire’s nephew!
He often came to Le Bourg, to see his friends. The tradition says he wrote here his famous “Fables” in 1792…
Emile and le Bourg
Then came the French Revolution… Cromot’s son emigrated in England and in 1814 they get back in Normandy. Heavily in debt, poor, they couldn’t restore the castle, completely abandoned since years...
But the granddaughter of the baroness de Cromot turned up: Mrs. de Varaigue. She had a best friend, Mrs. Dupuy.
They knew each other since they were little girls, their daddies working together in the royal Court. So, they were together in the castle of Le Bourg.
And when she was 20, Mrs. Dupuy met in Le Bourg the handsome general de Girardin… she was married, but she had a love affair and a child, little Emile…
Oh my gosh, an illegitimate son! They called him Delamothe and sent him in the castle of Le Bourg, protected by Mrs. de Varaigue.
That little kid would become the famous Emile de Girardin, one of the creator of the modern press, inventing cheap newspapers for everyone…