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.

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Founded: 17th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

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Château de Falaise

Château de Falaise is best known as a castle, where William the Conqueror, the son of Duke Robert of Normandy, was born in about 1028. William went on to conquer England and become king and possession of the castle descended through his heirs until the 13th century when it was captured by King Philip II of France. Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840 it has been protected as a monument historique.

The castle (12th–13th century), which overlooks the town from a high crag, was formerly the seat of the Dukes of Normandy. The construction was started on the site of an earlier castle in 1123 by Henry I of England, with the 'large keep' (grand donjon). Later was added the 'small keep' (petit donjon). The tower built in the first quarter of the 12th century contained a hall, chapel, and a room for the lord, but no small rooms for a complicated household arrangement; in this way, it was similar to towers at Corfe, Norwich, and Portchester, all in England. In 1202 Arthur I, Duke of Brittany was King John of England's nephew, was imprisoned in Falaise castle's keep. According to contemporaneous chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall, John ordered two of his servants to mutilate the duke. Hugh de Burgh was in charge of guarding Arthur and refused to let him be mutilated, but to demoralise Arthur's supporters was to announce his death. The circumstances of Arthur's death are unclear, though he probably died in 1203.

In about 1207, after having conquered Normandy, Philip II Augustus ordered the building of a new cylindrical keep. It was later named the Talbot Tower (Tour Talbot) after the English commander responsible for its repair during the Hundred Years' War. It is a tall round tower, similar design to the towers built at Gisors and the medieval Louvre.Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840, Château de Falaise has been recognised as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.

A programme of restoration was carried out between 1870 and 1874. The castle suffered due to bombardment during the Second World War in the battle for the Falaise pocket in 1944, but the three keeps were unscathed.