In my previous post, I shared the exteriors of the Duché d'Uzès as well as the views from the rather exhausting but also exhilarating climb to the upper terrace of its donjon.
But let's step inside, shall we?
Now, worth mentioning immediately? We are visiting the chateau of the oldest duchy in France. The de Crussol family were initially Viscounts and Lords, dating back to Elzéart d'Uzès in 1080. It was Charles IX who first elevated the family to the title of Duke in 1565 and they became the first dukes and peers of the realm when the Duke de Montmorency forfeited the title in 1632. If France was still a monarchy, the de Crussols would rank immediately after les Princes du Sang or the Princes of the Blood.
While the donjon tower was built over the ruins of a Roman encampment, the central core of the Duchy dates to the 11th century and two connected rooms strung with portraits of the various Dukes and Duchesses dating from that time...
...up until the (poorly photographed, I admit) oil painting of Jacques de Crussol d'Uzès, the 58 year old who is the 17th Duke of Uzès. He divides his time between the duchè and the residence that he shares in Paris with his pretty Italian wife Alessandra and their family.
It is worth noting that the chateau has been in the family for one thousand years, save during the French Revolution when it was claimed by the state and transformed into a school. It was bought back from the people of Uzès in 1824.
There have been some interesting characters to hold the title through the years, including the Duchess Anne, who was initially the heir to the Veuve Cliquot fortune (there are quite a few Balthazars of the bubbly in the wine cellar), an adamant huntress who rode until the age of 86, the year before she died. She was also the first woman in France to get a driver's license and the first to get a speeding ticket too.
It will probably come as no surprise that my favorite room is the formal Louis XV salon replete with stucco gypseries, stunning chandeliers, canapés corbeille and chaises both covered in a gorgeous red silk chinoiserie pattern...
...a grand tapis emblazoned with the family crest and motto of Ferro non auro (which means "iron not gold" as the family comes from a line of warriors rather than from finance) that the current Duke had made...
...enough blue and whites to make a collectionneur woozy...
...and even a peek into the recently refurbished red room which is still used as a private sitting room by the family. Pretty, non?
Alas, the rest of their apartments remain...privé.
Let's continue on down the main hall lined with Murano chandeliers...
...to stop off at the bedroom of the Turkish ambassador...
...before heading into the dark and moody Renaissance style dining room...
...decorated with Aubusson tapestries and the hunting trophies from many a generation...
...as well as a charming triptych from the period on the nature of love and union.
I suppose then, that subject appropriately leads us to the family chapel, the end of the 45 minute long tour through the Duché d'Uzès.
So, what did I think?
My initial shock at the 18 Euros per person ticket price was abated with the hope that it would be worth it. I have to say that those hopes were not fulfilled. There are only five rooms plus the chapel on view during the visit and...oh dear...I have to say that the French guide was the worst that I have ever experienced, a number which is not small. Une femme d'un certain age, she most likely has been doing this gig...forever...and yet, as my Mom pointed out, that didn't inspire her to dress more appropriately than worn-out jeans and a baggy t-shirt. Not only was her speech for each room delivered in a monotone rote (think Charlie Brown's teacher) but she would take lengthy pauses to make her point with a dramatic downwards glance that were outright squirm-inducing. That is, for those of us who understood French. The rest were given photocopies describing what to see in each room and I can vouch that the English version covered about half of what the guide actually mentioned. I hurriedly tried to translate the important parts that were left out in a whisper to my Mom and her husband, in vain. And yet, we were, finally, hurried through all but the first two rooms (the least interesting visually) to the point that my Mom did not even get a photo of the chapel as she would have liked as the guide had already given a drawn out sigh at her attempts. This is the only time that I have not tipped a guide because there was in no way that she deserved it. Instead of putting our 18 Euros towards weaving luxurious rugs, perhaps the current Duke would be so kind as to create an informative multi-language audio guide instead? That would certainly have made me feel like I had been taken for less of a rube...or a "commoner" either.
But I did want to present the aspects about the duché that I found interesting as well as its history...so that you can decide on your own if you feel it is worth a visit...or not.
Place du Duché
30700 - Uzès
Tel.: +33 (0)4 66 22 18 96
Admission is 18 Euros, with varying prices for 16 to 7 year olds, children under 7 are free.
The visit is not accessible to those in a wheelchair.
The last entrance is a half-hour before closing time (6pm or 6:30 in July and August).
Open everyday save for December 25th.