Thursday, 26 July 2012

Monday, 28 May 2012

The man who would not be king.

The Chateau de Cande, which has its own unique fairytale look, will not be on most Loire Valley visitor's 'must see' list but I think that, for British and American visitors especially, it should be! I say this because whereas the wonderful Chateaux de Loire will forever be linked with the French Royals and their colourful history, here we have an important link to to the history of the British Royal family and a scenario that was to change its course forever. For one thing Colin Firth would never have won his Oscar ('The king's speech') but more importantly Britain would have missed the influence of its 'Queen Mother' and 'Elizabeth II'. The event which was to change the country's history was that of the marriage of Edward, Prince of Wales to the American divorcee Wallis Simpson on June 3rd 1937.Wallis Simpson came here to escape the harassment of the press who were making life very uncomfortable for her where she was staying with friends in Cannes.Her friends were also friends of Fern Bedaux the wife of the owner Chateau de Cande . Her husband a rich American industrialist had bought the chateau 10 years earlier. Fern gave over her apartments here so as Wallis could get some peace.

As soon as you walk through the front portal you are met with the grandeur one would expect of any grand chateau of the Loire Valley but this is different in that it was neither built by, or used by, royalty. 'The man who would not be king' Edward , Prince of Wales would be the closest it would get. 

The main reception room of the chateau is referred to as the 'Red Sitting Room' reflecting the red silk fabric adorning its walls.It has a ceiling more reminiscent of a Tudor castle than a French chateau.

The dining room is quite dark due to its dark panelled and leather lined walls It was in this room the Windsors' buffet would have been laid out. Certainly large enough to cope with the sixteen people sent by the English court as representatives.

It has a rather splendid fire place and ceiling.

The library of the chateau is delightful and it is here that the mayor of nearby Monts performed the civil part of the wedding to conform to the laws of the country. The religious ceremony was performed in the 'music room' of the chateau.

On one of the panels to the right of the fireplace is engraved with the words 'Ed was here' - only joking it is in fact the signatures of  Edward & Wallis.

At the opposite end of the room there is an American made 'Skinner' organ one of only twenty left in the world and one of only three in working order. Interestingly the organ, with its 1,878 pipes, was classified as Monument Historique by the French government in 1993.

The bedrooms are as you'd expect but the bathrooms on show (two of the eight) are a surprise...

.beautifully tiled with coloured glass mosaics.

Off one of the bedrooms there is a charming spiral staircase leading to a roof terrace which is unfortunately out of bounds- would have loved to have seen that.

The dressing room has a display of outfits from major designers of the time plus there's a small selection from  Wallis' wardrobe. Her panther jewels from Cartier are on display, her painted luggage,elegant handbags, and some of the gowns made for her. 

It is interesting to see she had a little crown designed into her bags - perhaps in anticipation (wrongly) of becoming 'royal'

  Last but not least we have the 'Music room' where the couple were married in a religious ceremony.

A copy of the dress Wallis wore is on display beside a copy of the Cecile Beaton photograph marking the occasion - in which Wallis looks decidedly unhappy.

To visit the chateau is to step back in time and sample a little piece of its history.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

A walk around the gardens at Villandry in the Loire Valley

The gardens at Chateau de Villandry here in the Loire valley are one of the 'must see' visits of any trip to this beautiful part of France. Split on three levels, the ornamental garden, the water garden and the kitchen garden.The gardens change with the seasons... here a picture is certainly worth a thousand words...