Lude Castle (château du Lude) is located in the commune of Lude in the French department of Sarthe. Located among the northernmost castles of the Loire, this place has been inhabited since the Middle Ages and has become a strategic point on the borders of Maine, Anjou and Touraine. Captured by the British during the Hundred Years’ War, the castle became the property of Jean Daillon, chamberlain of King Louis XI, in 1457. Over the course of two centuries, the Daillons worked to embellish the castle and turn the old medieval fortress into a place of rest. The Castle of Lud, rebuilt at the end of the 18th century by the Marquise de la Vieuville and then a century later by the Marquis de Talhouët, bears witness to four centuries of French architecture.
The gardens, created by the site’s various owners, provided the setting for the sound and light that made Le Lude’s reputation for nearly forty years. Since the beginning of the 2000s, several events have been held here, such as the Horticultural Festival, during which the P.-J.-Redouté prize is awarded. The Château du Lude is labeled “Remarkable Garden”.
The origins of the Château du Lude date back to the end of the 9th century. It was during this time, after the first Viking invasions of Anjou between 853 and 873, that the local lords began building fortresses to protect their lands. Thus was built the Fort de la Motte at Luda, in a strategic position on the border of the states of Maine, Anjou and Touraine. This primitive castle, built about a hundred meters north of the current castle, on the left bank of the Loire, consisted only of a hoe on which stood a dungeon. In 1027, Alain de Brittany besieged Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou, at the castle of Lud, “castellum lusdii”, to punish him for his cruel treatment of his ally Herbert Éveille-Chien, Count of Maine. Lacking the necessary troops to support the fight, Fulk Nerra immediately surrendered, returned the land and the hostages he had demanded from Herbert two years earlier during a meeting at Saintes.
By the end of the 13th century, on the site of the current castle, the foundations of a stone fortress were laid, a little to the south. The construction of this medieval citadel lasted from the 13th to the 15th century. At the dawn of the Hundred Years’ War, significant resources were allocated to ensure the protection of the fortress, in particular the digging of a moat, the construction of spurs and ramparts on the banks of the Loire. During the Battle of Pontvallain in 1370, the English troops led by Robert Knolles were twice driven back in their attempts to capture the Château du Lude, defended by Captain Guillaume Méron.
After the defeat of the French army at Verneuil in 1424, the British completed the conquest of Maine. In the autumn of 1425, on the orders of the Earl of Warwick, they also captured the castle of Lud. The English occupation lasted only two years. At the end of 1427, French troops under the command of Ambroise de Loré, accompanied by Gilles de Rais and Jean de Bueil, after several days of siege, recaptured the castle of Lud.
From the Renaissance to the 18th century. Coming from the Poitou family, a childhood friend of Louis XI, Jean de Daillon acquired the Château du Lude in 1457. Having fallen into the favor of the king in 1468, Jean Dion called on Jean Gendrot, the architect of King René of Anjou, study the damage caused to the fortress during the Hundred Years War, and the decision on restoration work. Jean Gendreau arrived in Lude in 1479 to supervise the work and moved into a house next to the castle, now called the “House of the Architects”, listed as a historical monument. The architect brought with him a large workforce and built houses to house them in the street now called “rue de la Gendrottière”. Gendrot completely restores the old castle and turns it into a Renaissance-style holiday home. The planned works are significant and are designed for almost half a century. The southeast façade, according to François Ier, was built between 1520 and 1530 AD. Jean de Dion, the owner of the building, died before the work was completed. His son Jacques succeeds him and brings the project to completion. The barony of Lude was raised to a county in May 1545.
The Château du Lude hosts a number of illustrious guests, including Kings Henry IV, who attended its first procession in 1598 after his conversion to Catholicism on the occasion of the feast of Corpus Christi, and Louis XIII in 1619. All descendants of the Dylon family work on decorating the castle. In 1675 the land of Lude was raised to the peerage of a duchy by letters to Versailles. Henry de Daillon, lieutenant general of the royal army, thus became the first duke of Lud. In particular, he became friends with the Marquise de Sevigne, whom he received at the Château du Lude. Henri de Dion died without an heir in 1685. He bequeathed the castle to his nephew Antoine Gaston de Roquelaure, marshal of France. The castle was then inherited by the Dukes of Rohan, who sold it in 1751.
From the 18th to the 21st century. Coming from a family of Dutch corsairs who settled in Saint-Malo, Joseph Julien Douvelard, member of the Compagnie des Indes, acquired the castle and lands of Luda in 1751. He died without descendants in 1785, he bequeathed the castle to his niece, the Marquise de la Vieville, who took on its restoration, making significant changes. It was at this time that the northeast façade facing the spur, known as the “Louis XVI façade”, was built according to the plan of the architect Jean-Benoît-Vincent Barré, which rotates the castle 180 degrees.
Revolution. The castle was arrested, but the Marquise de la Vieuville managed to keep possession of it. Her daughter Elisabeth married Louis-Céleste de Talhouët. After the death of the Marquise, the castle passed to the Talouet family, originally from Brittany, whose members would carry out high political duties: Frederic de Talouet, son of Elisabeth and Louis Celeste, was appointed Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor and becomes chairman of the General Council of Sarthe. His heir, the Marquis Auguste de Talouet-Roy, mayor of Lud, then deputy senator of Sarthe, was appointed Minister of Public Works in 1870. It was he who, from the mid-nineteenth century, began a massive restoration campaign for the building, with the participation of four different architects: Pierre- Felix Delarue, Henri Darcy, Louis Parent and Alain Lafargue (Pierre-Félix Delarue, Henri Darcy, Louis Parent and Alain Lafargue). Work began in 1853 with the restoration of paintings from the old 16th-century oratorio. The northwest tower of the building, which contains the guardhouse, library and stairs. Between 1854 and 1855, the north façade overlooking the city was erected, restored in neo-Gothic style by the architect Pierre-Félix Delarue. Finally, the renaissance façade was renovated without changing its composition.
The Marquis de Talouet, and then his son Rene, continued to decorate the castle until the outbreak of the First World War.
On February 10, 1892, the Vendéan engraver Octave de Rochebrune presented a view of the castle with the coat of arms of the owners in the upper left corner, the confirmation of which he presented to Countess Georges de Talhouet Roy in March.
In 1928 the façade of François I and the chapel were classified as historical monuments.
The castle remained the property of Talouet until the death of René de Talouet in 1948, who was mayor of the city of the same name for 56 years; his grandson, René de Nicolai, became heir, and it was under the leadership of his widow, née Princess Pia-Maria of Orléans-Braganca, that one of the first sound and light in France was created in 1958, which made Le Lude famous until its last performance in 1995 The castle, its fortified system of spurs and moats, the masonry and balustrades of the terraces enclosing the walls of the park, as well as all the outbuildings were also listed as historical monuments in 1992.
Today, Lude Castle is the property of Count Louis-Jean de Nicolaÿ and his wife Barbara, founder of the Fête des Jardiniers festival in 1994. The celebration is held as part of this annual festival, the main cultural event of the castle. In early June, the PJ Redouté Prize is presented, which recognizes the best books on horticulture and botany published in French. Other events are organized every summer, such as “Days of vegetables and gourmets”.
Architecture, the description
– Renaissance façade
– Main (honorary) courtyard
– Facade of the 18th century, Neo-Gothic facade and columns
– Lobby and reception rooms for important guests
The Studiolo is a wardrobe typical of early Renaissance furniture, divided into drawers around a central wall cabinet.
– Kitchens and cellar
Parks and the gardens
The park and gardens of the Château du Lude, covering more than six hectares, are classified by the Ministry of Culture as a “Remarkable Garden”. The first landscaping dates back to the seventeenth century: the old fortifications of the city served as the basis for a large terrace, bordered by a stone balustrade overlooking the Loire. A century later, the ditches between the castle and the spur were filled in to create a hanging garden facing the façade of Louis XVI. In 1851, a water-lifting machine was installed on the banks of the Loire, which supplied a network of canals for irrigation. This system was later replaced by a hydraulic tympanum, listed as a Historic Monument since 2012. In 1882, the landscape designer Édouard André transformed the surroundings of the castle by drawing plans for the gardens in the romantic spirit of the time. Since the 1980s, Le Lude gardens have undergone new modifications and are built around a rose garden, a regular French garden, an English garden and a large vegetable garden.
– Garden Éperon (spur)
– Lower garden
Garden. Designed by Édouard André in 1880, the two-hectare garden is divided into three terraces. Around the greenhouse, almost 9,000 m2 of land is used to grow rare or traditional fruits and vegetables. The vegetable garden is a private part of the Lude Gardens and is only open during events held at the castle, such as the Horticultural Festival, Vegetable and Gourmet Days or Heritage Days.
Practical tourist information.
How to get there.