Little histories about Serrant castle
A king stuck in the mud
Jean de Brie raised the main building and the two towers in 1539, with architect Jean Delespine. Fell in 1636 to the French academician Guillaume de Bautru, two more wings were added.
At that time, while he was going to Nantes to arrest Fouquet, the king Louis XIV stupidly get stuck in the mud, in front of Serrant’s gates! Hey, Bautru jumped at the chance and hosted the king in his nice house...
And here was the 17th century. With? The marquise de Vaubrun! Bautru’s descendant, born Marguerite de Bautru. She was so sad, Marguerite. Her husband, the marquis de Vaubrun, died at the battle of Altenheim, in 1675. Such a painful absence! Alone in this big castle, alone for ever…
She embalmed her husband’s heart and ordered to architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart a nice funerary chapel. The best artists of the time took part in the construction: Le Brun drew the plans, Coysevox sculpted the grave... We still can see this gorgeous grave! Yes, because spared from the damages of the French Revolution… The marquis is represent as a warrior, lying, watching over by a Marguerite petrified by the pain. Hey, look! Do you see those marble tears rolling on her cheeks?
Irishmen in Anjou
Breton or Irish?
In 1749, brand new owners turned up: the Walsh, a ship owners family from Ireland, settled in Nantes. They designed the landscaped garden. So, our sirs Walsh were Irishmen. Yes, but born in France! And they loyally served their country… So, king Louis XV raised Serrant to a county, in 1755!
And Louis’ patent letters allow us to learn more about this very old family: ″Philippe Walsh, nicknamed the Breton, in Irish Brenagh, who killed in 1174 the Danish admiral who invaded his country, became pretty famous and get lots of lands and possessions in Ireland...″ Whoa!
We know that a branch pf the family moved in England, in the 12th century. Later, the family even settled in Saint-Malo (Brittany, Western France), and in the Pays-de-la-Loire. In Nantes, they became rich ship owners! And the countess Walsh, born Louise de Vandreuil, became empress Josephine and emperor Napoléon I’s ″Empire countess and lady of the Palace″! During the French Revolution, they spared the castle: yes, the owners were foreigners, so, hands off!
High society in Serrant!
Archduchess and emperor
The upper crust turned up in Serrant: after Louis XIV, the archduchess Marie-Christine, Marie-Antoinette’s sister came. She was hosted for lunch in 1788. In 1808, Napoléon I and Josephine came. They came from Nantes and had to go to Angers. They sojourned here a half-day. A quick stay! The bedroom provided for Napo is still as it was. But the little emperor said to his host: ″I see a castle in France, at last. This architecture reminds me the one in Italy.″
Enchanted forest and roses
In June 1828, the duchess de Berry came in Serrant. The parties gave in her honour in the castle were just magnificent! Joseph-Alexis Walsh wrote about them in his book Suite aux lettres vendéennes ou relation du voyage de S. A. R.. We had about 10000 guests! Silk flags fell from the castle’s windows, a giant triumphal arc welcomed the duchess’ carriage, at the entrance of the park. On this arc, about 100 young men waved flags and threw roses’ petals. In order to cross the park under this hot summer’s sun, 200 men carried branches to make a kind of arbour, keeping the duchess in a cool place! ″It was like an enchanted forest″ said Walsh. ″The duchess was really amazed and said many times: It’s truly royal.″