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Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé

Travel & Experiences

A few years ago, I was extraordinarily fortunate to be invited by the Kravet family to stay as a guest at one of the finest remaining examples of French Neoclassical architecture. The Château Du Grand-Luce sits on 80 acres of magnificent countryside south-east of Paris. This once-in-a-lifetime experience was even more magical once I started to research its incredible history.

A medieval castle situated in the Loire Valley was purchased by Jacques Pineau de Viennay II in 1718, using his wife’s fortune. His heir, Jacques III, who had become a trusted, high-ranking aid to King Louis XV decided to replace the old castle with a modern summer palace fitting his social status. Mathieu de Bayeux was hired as the architect. He was famously known for having designed the longest bridge in the world. Construction of the 45,000 square foot Neoclassical Château began in 1760 and was completed in 1764. All the original plans are still in existence at the National Archives in Paris. Sadly, Pineau de Viennay died of a heart attack only a few days after his first visit to inspect the building of the chateau. Upon his untimely death at the early age of 54, and to everyone’s surprise, the Château was left to his daughter, Louise Pineau de Viennay, and not his wife. A court battle brought to light the Baron’s long love affair with his wife’s cousin, a famous writer and champion of women’s rights during the 18th century. After the Baron’s death, the inheritance was challenged, and his wife was confined to an asylum. The property was passed on to their son who died shortly after of smallpox, leaving the property to the eldest daughter, Anne Marie Francoise Louise, known as “Mademoiselle de Luce”, and commonly referred to as Louise.

In 1781, a fire destroyed 144 houses in the village outside the front gates of the Château, and sadly five people died. The origin of the fire was traced back to a baker that was making resin candles. Louise was heart-broken and paid to rebuild the village using stone instead of wood to ensure it would never suffer the same fate. This act of altruism saved Louise and the Château during the decade long French Revolution that began in 1789. The townspeople were so grateful to her that they protected the beloved Château, going as far as constructing an underground secret tunnel should it be necessary for an escape. While Louise and her husband were eventually banished, they remained safe. It is one of a very few chateaus to remain intact, without any damage or vandalism.

Guests at this beautiful Château have included Voltaire, Rousseau, and Mozart amongst many others during its long history. The Château remained in the family until after the early 20th century. It was used as a hospital for British military officers during the First World War and a secret storehouse for seven hundred priceless paintings that were removed from The Louvre for safe keeping during the Nazi occupation in WWII.

In 2003, it became a labour of love for American designer, Timothy Corrigan to bring it back to life. And so, he did – magnificently. I can’t describe the feeling of driving up through the gates and seeing before me this unbelievably beautiful palace. It’s one of those moments that I’ll never forget. You can’t help but think of the people, throughout the centuries, that walked the same halls, had dinner in the Formal Dining Room or shared drinks and enlightened conversations in the Grand Salon. I never thought I’d have the luxury of soaking in a marble tub overlooking manicured formal French gardens. It was a week that felt quite unreal and ethereal. I will always be grateful for the memories of a week living in a grand palace. I’ll forever be in awe of a truly incomparable vacation.

Today, the Château is owned by Pilot Hotels with 17 beautifully appointed suites. If you’ve ever dreamt of spending a night at Versailles, this is the next best thing. I would highly recommend Timothy Corrigan’s book, “An Invitation to Chateau du Grand-Luce: Decorating a Great French Country House”, published by Rizzoli. It details the renovation of the Château and is a celebration of French classical decoration and architecture.