Nicolas Harlay de Sancy built a château on the former lands of Saint-Victor abbey at the start of the 17th century. This was still incomplete in 1616, when it was sold to Charles de Valois (1573–1650), count of Auvergne then duke of Angoulême (1619), illegitimate son of Charles IX of France by Marie Touchet. de Valois completed the château around 1640, notably building the enclosing wall (1623) and the two wings. On his death in 1650 the estate passed to his granddaughter, wife of Louis, Duke of Joyeuse.
In 1718, the estate was bought by Samuel-Jacques Bernard (1686-1753), son of the financier Samuel Bernard, who commissioned the woodwork in the salon Régence. He then sold it to Germain Louis Chauvelin in 1731, who in 1762 sold it in turn to François Marie Peyrenc de Moras. She left it to her great-niece Anne Marie de Merle de Beauchamps in 1771 - Anne Marie was daughter of an ambassador to the king of Portugal and wife of Pierre Paul Gilbert des Voisins, président to the parlement de Paris. She and her husband sold it to the comte de Provence in 1776.
It was confiscated as national property on the French Revolution and sold on 9 November 1797 to Paul Barras. Later, Barras was exiled to Belgium and sold the château, in 1801, to général Moreau. In 1804, after Moreau's arrest, Napoleon I bought the château via Fouché and in 1805 granted it to maréchal Berthier, prince of Wagram. Berthier spent much money embellishing it, expanding the library, the galerie des Batailles, the salon de l'Empereur and the salon des Huissiers. He also built two more pavilions and the entrance gate across the road. He enlarged the estate to make it the best hunting-ground in the French Empire and gave grand festivals there. His son Napoléon Berthier expanded the library, which included over 3,000 works.
The last prince of Wagram, Alexandre Louis Philippe Marie Berthier, died without issue in 1918, leaving Grosbois to his sister, the princesse de la Tour d’Auvergne, and to his nephew, prince Godefroy de la Tour d’Auvergne. In 1962, René Ballière bought the estate to set up a training centre for racehorses.
Designed by an unknown architect, the château de Grosbois is clearly influenced by those designed by Jacques Androuet du Cerceau. On a U plan, it is made up of a central wing curved into an exedra, flanked by two pavilions of the same height and by two lower wings at right angles. It is built on a rectangular platform in the middle of a once water-filled moat, now dry. It is reached by three bridges.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.