The Château de Champs, at Champs-sur-Marne was built in its present form for the treasurer Charles Renouard de la Touane in 1699 by Pierre Bullet. After the first proprietor's bankruptcy, another financier, Paul Poisson de Bourvalais, took up the project. Jean-Baptiste Bullet de Chamblain, the son of Pierre Bullet, finished Champs in 1706.
Ten years later, Paul Poisson was in the Bastille on charges of embezzlement and the château was seized by the Crown. In 1718, it was sold to the princesse de Conti, natural daughter of King Louis XIV of France and his first official mistress, Louise de La Vallière. That same year, however, the princess cancelled a debt by deeding Champs to her first cousin, the duc de la Vallière. When the duke died in 1739, he left the château to his son and heir, the famous bibliophile, Louis César de La Baume Le Blanc. The new duc de La Vallière was later to become a trusted friend of King Louis XV and his mistress, Madame de Pompadour.
Around 1750, the duke added a beautiful rococo salon chinois (Chinese salon) to the château with wall paintings by noted artist Christophe Huet. At the château, Louis César entertained many of the famous writers of the day, including Diderot, Voltaire, d'Alembert and François-Augustin de Paradis de Moncrif, with whom he also corresponded regularly.
After the construction of a magnificent new château at Montrouge around 1750, however, the duke gradually abandoned the Château de Champs-sur-Marne. Eventually, he tried to sell the domain, but he could not find a buyer and was forced to rent it out. Between July 1757 and January 1759, he leased the estate to Madame de Pompadour for 12,000 livres per year. The marquise spent 200,000 livres in less than eighteen months to renovate the château. In November 1757, she received the prince de Soubise there after his defeat at the Battle of Rossbach. As the king did not like the château, the marquise left it at the beginning of 1759. In 1763, the duke finally sold Champs to Gabriel Michel de Tharon (1702–1765), a rich shipowner.
In 1820, Armand Santerre, nephew of the Revolutionary General Antoine Joseph Santerre, bought the parc Saint Martin surrounding the château. In 1855, his brother Ernest Santerre bought the château as well. Later, in 1895, it was finally sold to comte Louis Cahen d'Anvers, who thoroughly restored it, installing boiseries designed by Germain Boffrand that had been removed from the Hôtel de Mayenne, Paris, and recreated its parterre gardens in the hands of Achille Duchêne. Marcel Proust was among the guests in this era at Champs. Louis Cahen d'Anvers' son Charles made a gift of it to the state in 1935.
The residence was modernised in 1959 to ready it for visiting heads of state of the French Union. In 1974 it was opened to the public and ceased its official capacity. It has served as a location for many films since then, while the Monuments Historiques employ some outbuildings as research facilities.
The château looks onto a grand parterre with two basins and an extended central axis that sweeps down all the way to the Marne, laid out about 1710 by Claude Desgotz, the nephew and pupil of André Le Nôtre; it is surrounded by a landscape park laid out in the nineteenth century in the English fashion.References:
The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.
After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.
The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.
Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.
The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.