History of the château
Baugé appeared at the beginning of the 11th century when Foulque III Nerra, count of Anjou and fierce warrior, built a fortress designed to keep safe the eastern part of his territory. There are no vestiges anymore of this vast construction; the last ruined buildings were razed to the ground in the middle of the 19th century.
Between the 11th and the 14th centuries, another castle was raised. It is very likely that it was burned down during the Hundred Year War.
It is on the foundation of this second castle, that René of Anjou (1409-1480) had built the current castle between 1454 and 1465. Built in pre-Renaissance style, the castle is simple, elegant and full of charm.
From Foulques III Nerra to King René (1007-1480)
In 1007, Foulques III Nerra, Count of Anjou, undertook the construction of a mighty fortress at the confluence of two rivers: the Couasnon and the Altrée. The site of the stronghold was a rocky spur, a location that was both defensive and strategic to counter possible attacks from Foulques Nerra’s enemy, the Count of Blois.
In the 15th century, Yolande d’Aragon, mother of René d’Anjou, ordered the construction of a château inside the fortress. She burnt it down in 1436 during the Hundred Years’ War to prevent it from falling into the hands of the English.
The history of the present château dates from 1442, the year in which King René inherited a ruin. On the site, he decided to build a magnificent residence, a true maison de plaisance and place in which to take advantage of the region’s game-filled forests and to enjoy some rest. In 1454, he entrusted the project to his architect, Guillaume Robin.
Construction began the same year and as early as 1462 some parts were already inhabitable. The château de Baugé was completed in 1465 (11 years of construction). René then commissioned the design of his gardens, where he planted shrubs and flowers. The château became one of René’s favourite residences. He often went there to hunt and held some sumptuous feasts.
In 1471, René stayed there for the last time before leaving for Aix-en-Provence.
From King René to the Revolution (1480-1789)
In 1480, following the death of King René, Louis XI attached Anjou to the crown. The barony of Baugé and its château then fell into the hands of the different “engagistes” (mortgagees of the King) who collected revenues from the estate, while assuming all the expenses of the seigneurie.
The engagistes belonged to a number of illustrious households: the Alençon family, the Count of Enghien, Countess of Soissons, Louise and Marie de Savoie-Carignan, Duchess of Luynes, Duke of La Rochefoucault and the Duke of Estissac. Eventually, the barony entered into the possession of “Monsieur”, the King’s brother, count of Provence and future Louis XVIII.
The château’s maintenance was greatly neglected, having been abandoned in turn by a succession of governors, who preferred to reside in their private mansions. In 1790, it was almost in ruins.
From the Revolution to the 19th century
In 1806, the building served as barracks for the mounted gendarmerie. Part of the château was given to the town of Baugé.
In 1807, preservation and restoration works were undertaken. In 1811, the château came within a hair’s breadth of being gutted, if not demolished, when the mayor of Baugé wrote to the sub-Prefect: “In my view of things, as a head of a family, firm in the belief that the antiquated shapes of an irregular, graceless building are not worth preserving, I came up with the idea of making these reductions”. He was talking about demolishing the two towers and reducing the height of the roofs.
In 1832, works were resumed. In 1836, the Département acquired the east section of the building allocated to the gendarmerie. The proceeds from the sale went towards restoring the west wing between 1838 and 1843, the headquarters of the town hall, where it remained for nearly one and half centuries. In 1844, a small theatre was built in the old guards’ room, on the ground floor.
The 20th century to the present day
In 1901, the Département handed over to the town the east section occupied by the mounted gendarmerie. The redeveloped premises were successively home to the Justice of the Peace, the fire department, Baugé museum and La Musique municipale rehearsal rooms.
In 1946-1947, under the direction of Historic monuments, the mullion windows on the château’s facade were restored. After 1960, major restoration works were undertaken on the monument’s exterior. The year 1994 the basement was completely excavated.
In 2002, all the cumulative developments over the centuries were removed to restore the monument back to its original primitive architecture. On 1st May 2003, the animated tour devised by Yves Devraine opened to the public.