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« AULTRE NE VEUILLE »  I am content as I am

The castle

A little history

The origin of the estate dates back to 1138 and merges for five centuries with the ARDENAY family which gave it its name. The first lord of this line, Drogon de Malmouche (1097), established a feudal castle surrounded by dry moats at the top of a hill overlooking the Sarthe valley.


In the absence of a male heir, the estate was passed on to the Lenfernat family in 1602, a large aristocratic family hailing from the Loiret since the 12th century, then it was sold in 1632 to the Levasseur who kept it for three generations.

Suzanne du Voisin, Marchioness of Cogners left her mark in the history of her own great lineage by converting to Protestantism. When an edict of the regional parliament ordered the destruction of the temple in the village of Ardenay, she secretly welcomed her co-religionists in the cellars of the castle. Fearing for her life, she finally recanted her Calvinist faith by marrying a famous Catholic aristocrat, Huguet de Semonville, hailing from Orléans.


1742, the feudal chateau was leveled. The architect Mathurin II RIBALLIER was then appointed to build a leisure castle. But the family could not carry out this heavy burden.


1767, the estate was sold to Jean-Baptiste Jacques LEPRINCE, who had been knighted in 1763 through the acquisition of the hereditary office of "Secretary-advisor to the king". This family was one of the wealthiest in the Maine region thanks to their famous candles produced in their factory and sold to all the European courts. The family motto speaks for itself: "The prince watches over the bees". Jean-Baptiste Henri, the son, quadrupled the family fortune. He succeeded his father in 1785 and had the castle completed.


Jean-Baptiste Henri LEPRINCE, was a man of the Enlightenment, a lawyer with the Paris Parliament, a European traveller. After various elective functions he became in 1790-1791, mayor of Le Mans. His Memoirs (1801-1817) and his account ledgers are kept in the castle's archives. They tell us about daily life at the chateau, the furnishing of the rooms, the library, the social functions, his "inclinations"... Being added to the list of suspects in 1793, he survived the Terror and spent the years of the Revolution in the custody of his own farmers and tenants whom he paid, in these times of unemployment, to embellish his property.


1819, for lack of progeny, the estate returned to his adoptive niece, Mademoiselle Gauvin de Biard. Single, religious, very generous, she was called "Mother of the poor and great benefactor of the parish".


1846, she bequeathed the land (at the time, several thousand hectares) to her cousin, Marquise Charlotte-Amélie Robert de Beauregard, which became, through marriage, the property of the Gastines-Dommaigne family who then kept it up until 1985.


1870, Prince Frédéric-Charles, brother of the King of Prussia, Senior General of the German armies, requisitioned the castle. The bloodshed marking the end of the war and the defeat of General Chanzy 'miraculously' spared the château and the village by a few short kilometers. As a gesture of thanksgiving, its owner built the "Virgin's nook" in the forest and the identically named chapel inside the castle.


1916, the American general Pershing celebrated Christmas with his staff in the Château of Ardenay sur Mérize and left a sweeping inscription to immortalize his stay.


1940-1944, the outbuildings were requisitioned by the German army as well as one room in the castle for a colonel, thus forcing the then current Earl to cohabit with the enemy.


In 1985, Pierre and Hélène Lanson de Bonneuil, from Reims, acquired the estate of Ardenay sur Mérize. They renovated the castle and obtained its official listing in the French historic monuments register (ISMH).


In 2000, the estate went to the family that occupied it until 2014 and then has been managing it with a marked success in forestry and virtuous hunting.



Mémoires d’un notable manceau аu siècle des Lumières (in French only)

Benoit Hubert

Presses Universitaires de Rennes

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