The best way to fall in love in with historical romance is to step back in time. Since you can’t fall into the arms of Jaime Fraser, you might want to try Chateau de Gudanes, the historic jewel situated in southern France. Like love at first sight (and only one viewing), the Waters family fell in love with this piece of history.
Nestled in the Midi-Pyrenees region, the chateau’s roots reach back to its past as a 13th century fortress. By 1580, wars left the medieval structure badly degraded. In 1745, the influential Louis Gaspard de Sales, Marquis de Gudanes inherited the baronnie de Gudanes.
To celebrate, he commissioned construction of a grand chateau.
The Marquis contracted French architect, Anges-Jacque Gabriel (the man behind Place de la Concorde) to design the chateau. Gabriel skillfully used the old towers and corner turrets, creating Chateau de Gudanes. She shined for nearly 50 years until the French Revolution took aim at all things aristocratic.
The home was confiscated and later given to the wealthy, bourgeoisie Pierre Astrie. The Astrie family found their wealth in the booming iron forge trade. Ironically, the Astrie family were ennobled in 1824 after Napoleon’s first empire failed. The old ways crept back…2128 families gained honorific titles.
And old class struggles remained. New laws meant local people couldn’t use Gudanes’ forest as they had in times past to collect firewood or graze their animals. The “War of the Demoiselles” (men disguised as women) came to the region. Men protested often, their wrath targeting the Chateau de Gudanes. The grand dame was pillaged twice…more gouges to the beautiful structure.
Some renovations took place between 1870-1875, but Chateau de Gudanes turned into the old relative no one wanted. Neglect soon showed. One World War came and then another, and more damage was done. By the 1960s and 70s, she became a children’s camp.
In 1989, a group purchased the chateau, planning to turn her into a luxury hotel with 17 apartments. However, the French government proclaimed Chateau de Gudanes a Class 1 monument: France’s highest designation for historic buildings, putting the chateau in a class with the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame. Bureaucratic delays stalled the group. The chateau began to crumble.
What was to become of her?
The roof collapsed in 4 places. Of her 94 rooms, only 3 were barely habitable. Mold set in. Floors disintegrated from water damage. The luxury hotel group gave up and let her rot.
Enter the Waters family. While touring France, the Australian family of 4 was seeking a vacation home. They wanted a quaint French farmhouse, but all they found were slick, updated places with infinity pools. Where was the old French character? Searching the internet, their then 15 year old son stumbled on Chateau de Gudanes. The family drove 500 miles out of their way to see the abandoned property and fell in love.
After four years on the real estate market and two years of negotiations, Chateau de Gudanes found a loving family once more.
Now, the Waters family invites you to fall back in time as they gently restore this lovely lady of southern France. You can even participate in the renovations. Why not lend your skills, your hands to saving history?
I’m Gina Conkle, writer of Viking and Georgian romance with a softly sensual side. I follow Chateau de Gudanes’ progress. You can be sure I’ll visit someday. Maybe for restorative help, maybe for research. 😉 If you want to learn about my latest book, The Lady Meets Her Match (an 18th century romance), visit my EmbracingRomance.com page for more information.
If you want to learn more about Chateau de Gudanes go here: chateaudegudanes.org
For your pleasure…
Now you tell me: What historic place touches your dreams?