( Originally Published 1926 )
And then there is Chaumont! What of Chaumont? The story there is mostly tragedy....
For ourselves we found Chaumont a mere country house, occupied by the Duc de Broglie; who, being a great racing man, is covering a large part of his grounds with model stabling.
But Chaumont has its history, and very exciting history; for here, in the tenth century, lived Le:Diable de Saumur, the only man of whom Foul ques Nerra of Loches was really afraid. How ever, it is not of him, but of his descendant, Sulpice, that our story has to tell. We cannot go over the castle, so let us lie on the grass here, and, as we look up at the great towers, I will tell you about it.
They were a wild race, these lords of Chaumont, and Sulpice found it hard to submit to the Count of Blois, his suzerain. So he rebelled, and a world of trouble it brought him. " At last he was made prisoner, and thrown into a dungeon at Chateaudun, where he had leisure to meditate on the inconveniences of immoderate appetites, and the dangers attending ambition. And the horror of the prison was but the prelude to fearful tortures. The conqueror practised on the unarmed knight all the cruelties which barbarous ages had invented. Sulpice, stripped, and loaded with chains, was stretched repeatedly on bed of iron and placed over a glowing fire. The flesh of the unfortunate man was slowly roasted, and they had the ferocious precaution to:stop the torture just at the moment his strength was beginning to fail. They then left the prisoner to recover for a few days, after which they recommenced their fiendish operations." The treatment was applied for the purpose of " persuading " Sulpice de Chaumont to give up his fortress, it being so strong that they found it impossible to take it by force. The prisoner, however, died without yielding; but his son, Hugues, himself in the hands of the enemy, was so terrified at sight of his father's sufferings that he gave up all his possessions on condition that - he was set at liberty.
It was at Chaumont that Catherine de Medicis held her famous seance with her astrologer, Ruggieri, " homme noir, qui n'a le visage bien fait; toujours habille de noir, puissant homme," to inquire as to the fate of her sons. The consultation took place in a large hall, which still remains almost untouched. We may be sure that the wizard—who, it is said, struck even his accomplices with terror — had fitted it up in the most approved fashion, with all manner of bizarre objects, calculated to impress the Queen. After showing her her children's horoscopes, according to which they were all to die violent deaths, without leaving any offspring, he repeated his prognostications by means of a magic mirror, the account of which certainly sounds very weird and terrifying.
" First, through the room which Catherine beheld reflected in the mirror, passed the reigning King, a sad and mournful figure, whom the Queen had barely time to recognise before he vanished. After him followed Charles, who made thirteen and a half turns and disappeared, leaving a blood-stained cloud over the glass. Then came the Duc d'Anjou, afterwards Henry III., who passed fifteen times before vanishing."
No wonder that Catherine took a dislike to Chaumont, and insisted on Diane de Poitiers accepting it in exchange for Chenonceaux.
In later days Chaumont became for a time the home; of Madame de Stael, who here composed some of her most charming works.