The first fort at the village of Montrésor, just south of the Loire, was built by the celebrated Folque Nerri, a count of Anjou who was famous for being both violent and pious, and a great architect too. Apparently, he made four pilgrimages to atone for his sins, and then went out and slaughtered another five thousand soldiers. If your history goes far back enough, I guess you can be anything you want.
Within the fort, two chateaux went up in the 14th century and 15th century respectively. After being passed down from one French nobleman to another, it was bought in 1849 by Xavier Branicki, a Polish count with gobs of money and charisma. Cleverly, he hung pictures of Napoleon everywhere, between the heads and antlers and entire bodies of game animals proudly slaughtered.
When Xavier died 150 years ago, his Polish family left the house just as it was with the same wallpaper, furniture, leather-bound books, and pricey Italian art, and opened eight big rooms to visitors. When guests arrive, they are most often greeted by Branicki descendant Count Constantin Rey, who lives on site, maintains the two chateaux, and tells people he is “the guardian.” We knew better, and he confessed his Polish blue blood under pressure.
(Click any image to enlarge)
But he is right, of course. To own a thousand-year-old property that has been in the family for over a century, you are never just the owner. You are the caretaker.
And in case you’re wondering, he looks much more like a caretaker than a count.
(Credit for photo at top: http://www.chateaudemontresor.fr)