The Duchy of Uzès castle is built on an old Roman Castrum (camp) which became the residence of the Governor in the first millennium. The architecture of the Duke's chateau, named the Duchy is a potted history of France. The Middle-Ages, the Renaissance, the 17th century, and modern times are all there. Despite this, the ensemble is pleasing to the eye.
During the difficult times of the Revolution the building was considered as belonging to the nation, and sold. It was much misused, and ended as a school. In 1824 the Duke bought back the Duchy of Uzès from the townspeople (the writer André Gide was one of them) who in buying it had actually protected it. In 1834 a new school was build in Uzes and the Duke set about restoring the Duchy of Uzès.
The first part of the 20th century saw sad days for the Duchy of Uzès. In financial difficulty, the Duke sold the furnishings and rented the Duchy of Uzès to the Board of Education who once again installed a school. They did not fulfil their obligation to care for the building and concreted both inside and out.
From 1951 the widowed Marchioness of Crussol set about restoring the Duchy of Uzès that she had re-acquired with the help of the Fine Arts Ministry. Aided by her friend André Malraux, Minister of Culture under General de Gaulle, whom she had met in her Political Society Gatherings, she had the town of Uzes classed in 1964 as a heritage site, which greatly helped it after two centuries of being forgotten.
Her grandson and his wife, the present Duke and Duchess of Uzes, are continuing the work started by the Marchioness. Since then major work has been done to the building, and furnishings and objects are regularly added to enrich the collections for the pleasure of the visitor. The Duchy of Uzès is a rare example in the 21st century of a family castle being completely restored.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.