The Château de Luzigneul is situated in Normandy in part of the Eure department long known as the « Ouche » region, which for more than 1000 years was witness of conflict... from the Viking invasions, the wars between England and France in the Middle Ages up to the Normandy landings of the Second World War.
The Lordship of Montreuil belonged to Helgon, Lord of the Echauffour and Montreuil l'Argillé before transmission, in the tenth century, to William Giroie. Guillaume Giroie was to marry the daughter of Helgon but she died before confirmation of the marriage. Richard Ist , Duke of Normandy (933-996) allowed Guillaume Giroie who was presented to him by Robert de Belleme, Lord of Alençon, to retain all property of the former Lord Helgon despite the death of his daughter. Guillaume Giroie died during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem leaving behind seven sons.
In the eleventh century the Giroie family built a Motte and Bailey castle for protection and to assert their power. From the eleventh to the fifteenth century, the lordship of Montreuil suffered several attacks and passed into different hands. Gislebert, Count of Brionne tried to remove their land from Ernauld and William, the eldest sons of Guillaume Giroie; he failed and died on his second attempt in 1040.
A few years later Ernauld lost the lands of Montreuil, Echauffourée and Saint Cerner. The estates were returned to him in 1060 by Guillaume, Duke of Normandy, known as William the Conqueror who then gave them to Roger de Montgomery. The Giroie family recuperated them shortly after.
In the twelfth century, Montreuil l'Argillé found itself at the centre of conflicts and suffered several attacks. Such as the conflict which opposed Geoffrey of Anjou in 1138 against Etienne Bloispuisen then the attack by William de la Ferte Fresnel who burned down Montreuil as part of his clash with Simon Leroux, an ally of Rober II of Giroie.
In the thirteenth century, the Count of Alençon took possession of the manor of Montreuil l'Argillé. In 1404 the Count of Alençon, Peter the Loyal and Noble gave his land to his daughter Marguerite d'Alençon.
In the fifteenth century, Normandy was again invaded by the English. The lands of Montreuil, which then belonged to the heirs of Hugh of Beufville, a rebel knight, were given to Thomas Burton by the king of England before the descendants of Robert and Hugh of Giroie Beufvillle were to reign once again on Montreuil l'Argillé under the name of Lord and Baron de Montreuil.
In the seventeenth century and upon the request of Erard Gaspard II, then lord of Montreuil, Louis XIV raised the baronies of Montreuil and Echauffour to the rank of Marquisate. The seventeenth century was also marked by the plague that raged in the town in 1651.
The lands of Luzigneul had been acquired at the beginning of the thirteenth century by the lord Payen de Montreuil. He gave his stronghold the name of Luzigneul (or Lusigneul). This name comes from the Latin word "lucinolum" meaning "grove". On this land Payen built a castle of which there remains no trace. In 1210 his son Raoul succeeded him as reported by the historian Carpillon.
The origins of the present château date back to the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, a manual from the year 1600 referred to the construction work undertaken by the lords.
In 1666, Charles de Chaulieu, Esquire Sieur de Miramonde Lusigneul welcomed the famous hero Cavelier de La Salle at Luzigneul before he left to the New World to take possession of Louisiana. The Chaulieu family remained owners of the château until 1788.
Ownership then past to the Filleul family. In 1789, Louis de la Frotte stayed in the château de Lusigneul. He was executed shortly after for having organized the Chouanneries (royalist uprising) and Girondin party insurrections during the French revolution. That same year, Alexandre François Marie Le Filleul was forced to emigrate. All his property was sold as national property except the Château de Luzigneul.
In the nineteenth century, the castle passed to the Lemichel family. In 1811, Jacques Charles Dupont, Parliamentary lawyer of Normandy stayed in the château before preparing the July Revolution.
Zinaida Lemichel married Louis Victor Paul Fouquet. From that time, the name of Fouquet was linked to that of Lusigneul. This family has counted many intellectuals, politicians, and no less interestingly champion marksmen! The representatives of this family added Lusigneul to their family name; their coat of arms consisted of two silver chevrons and three shells.
After the death of her husband, Paul Victor Louis Fouquet, on March 4th, 1879, Zinaida decided to undertake major work in the château. She kept in its original condition the room where her husband died as well as the boudoir and the dining room of the north wing and reworked the rest of the château in the style of the nineteenth century (style Louis XIII, local pink brick and Angers slate).
Both Fouquet children also resided in the château. Albert, a lawyer and Camille, a graduate of the prestigious Polytechnique academy, an artillery officer, agronomy specialist, adviser to Count de Broglie, was also elected as a member of parliament for the Eure department in 1889 and 1910.
In 1902, a court granted the estate of Beaumarchais (author of the famous Marriage of Figaro) to Madame de Lusigneul because of the ties between the two families.
The Fouquet Lusigneul family not only appeared in the legal and social columns of the newspapers of the period but also in the sports section. In the first quarter of the twentieth century, their name is often mentioned in the "Sports" pages of newspapers such as Le Matin and La Presse. In fact, they won many awards as marksmen.
The Montmarin family became owners of the château in the early twentieth century. During the Second World War, the Von Bentroff division of the German army occupied the Luzigneul estate and Rommel is reported to have stayed at the château before it was liberated by the allies.
At the end of the war, the Cloue family bought the property. Horse breeders, they ran the stud farm for commercial purposes.
In 1965, Dr. Williams Abbou bought the castle. With his son Dr. Sidney Abbou and the latter's wife, Marie Gabrielle Abbou they restored the castle to its former grandeur. In 1984, parts of the Château de Luzigneul were listed and protected as an historical monument by the French ministry of culture.
The origins of the present château date to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There are no documents showing the construction of the castle, but a 1600 manual refers to the work undertaken by the Lords of the Manor at that time. This leaflet is a quotation that specifies that in order to complete the building "1500 oak pieces for floors and roofs, 400 tons of Saint Guy stone, three thousand pieces of iron, 70 carts of sand, 25 thousands of bricks" would be required.
The chateau is located on a small hill in the middle of an estate of 600 hectares adjoining the "de Broglie" estate. Charles Levasseur described it in these terms: "built of local stone and brick, dating from the thirteenth century, the main body of the building with windows surmounted by dormer casements is further underscored by white stone accentuating geometric patterns. The entrance tower is perched on a dry moat of noble proportions. The Lusigneul is located on a plain where beautiful avenues denote it from afar. This is a beautiful château of the last century." It should be noted that although the manuscript of Charles Levasseur suggests that the château dates from the 13th century it is undeniable that the Château de Lusigneul is from the 16th century. This mistake would originate in the error of reading the script as XIII rather than XVI; Charles Levasseur actually wanted to write "XVIth century" or "Louis XII style."
Today, of the original sixteenth century construction are conserved the north wing of the main building, two pavilions, a dovecote and an old bread oven:
- The north wing is the only wing of the original château that has been preserved intact. Although it was reunited in the reconstruction and restoration of the nineteenth century, the basement of this original wing indicates that its origin is older, probably from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
- In the park the two corner pavilions were built in the seventeenth century. They are located along the same line to the east of the present château. This suggests that the old château was orientated to a projected north-south plane. In the nineteenth century, a low wall was added to the Northern Pavilion and a fireplace was installed in the South Pavilion.
- The construction of the dovecot probably dates from the eighteenth century.
- Of the original old bread oven, all that remains is a brick chimney. It was completely renovated, enlarged and restored.
The east and west wings of the castle date from the nineteenth century, specifically the years 1880-1885 (work undertaken by Zinaida Fouquet after the death of her husband).
The architect wanted to give a certain magnitude and dimension to the new wings. Several features of the chateau testify: the range of volumes, the monumental entrance, a colourful decor.
The exterior and interior have been designed for ceremony and reception. Some parts of the plantations in the park also date from the nineteenth century: a row of lime trees, conifers, poplar and laurel hedges.