Friday, January 11, 2013

Chateau de Brissac: The Lady in Green

When people first see the Chateau de Brissac located in the province of Anjou in the Loire Valley in France they often state it looks like a fairy-tale castle. 

In fact, it was a castle until the 15th century when King Rene of Anjou altered over sixty castles and great homes in Anjou into chateaus. Among these structures Brissac is one of the most beautiful. 

The castle is the tallest in France and exudes old world charm but one of its earliest residents has shocked more than one visitor.

In its history this stately structure was destroyed rebuilt and even abandoned for a while in the late 1790s. It survived Nordic attacks, the Huguenots, English occupation and the Jacobins. 

Generations of the same family who gained their title from its name have been haunted by one specific entity. A double murder that occurred in the 15th century within its walls resulted in the Chateau de Brissac being renowed for a ghost called la Dame Verte, the “Green Lady”.

The castle was first built in the 11th century under the reign of King Philip II of France. When France defeated the English the king gave the property to Guillaume des Roches. 

In the 15th century Pierre de Breze who was the chief minister of King Charles VII rebuilt the castle. His son Jacques de Breze the grand seneschal of Normandy inherited the chateau and married Charlotte of France.

Charlotte was the illegitimate daughter of Charles VII and Agnes Sorel, who was a former employee of King Rene. Despite the circumstances of her birth Charlotte was the beloved half sister of King Louis XI, Charles’ son. 

The marriage between Jacques and Charlotte was not a happy one. It is said that she was not faithful to her husband. One day Jacques discovered Charlotte in the arms of one of her huntsmen.

At this point accounts differ as to what happened next. One version states that Jacques enraged dealt over one hundred blows of his sword to the cheating couple. 

Another version states that he strangled Charlotte in the Chapel Tower at Brissac later the same day. We will never know what exactly happened but Charlotte and her lover were never seen again.

Louis XI, Charlotte’s half brother, was outraged when he heard the news. He immediately vowed revenge. He had Jacques arrested and thrown in prison for several years. 

He convinced the court to sentence de Breze to death and confiscate all of his property. But in the end Jacques prevailed, he gave all of his property to the king who spared his life. 

Louis XI then gave Jacques' property to Louis de Breze, his nephew who also was Jacques son. But just three years later Charles VIII, Louis XI successor over ruled the judgment and restored Jacques’ titles and lands.

After this the Cosse family took ownership of the chateau in the 15th century. This family acquired the title dukes of de Brissac at this time—today the current Duke of Brissac and his family still live at the chateau. 

For generations this family has encountered the apparition of The Green Lady. This ghost is often seen walking in the tower room of the chateaus’ chapel. The family is used to this sight but the ghost has startled many guests over the years. 

She is named for the green dress that she wears. Her face is most disturbing for it is described as the face of a corpse with gaping holes where eyes and a nose should be. 

Witnesses over the years have heard her moans in the early morning hours. It seems she stays in the place where her life was taken so violently.

Today Chateau de Brissac hosts many special events. Tours are provided and two suites are open to the public to stay overnight.

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