The chateau de Bonnemare, a living heritage

The discovery of the chateau de Bonnemare begins with a long avenue of poplars leading to the gatehouse, an arch flanked by two turrets that has become the symbol of this Historic Monument. A symbol that represents the values that the owners, Sylvie and Alain Vandecandelaere, hold for Bonnemare: welcoming, openness and sharing. Because, like the gatehouse, the only access the chateau offers, they introduce their friends and guests to the history, that of heritage and their own. It is the passion for this building and the desire to share it that motivates them today to bring this remarkable monument to life and preserve it.

Its history

Like all beautiful stories, Bonnemare’s story begins with it once upon a time; a medieval mansion that would have been inhabited by Raoul de Bonnemare whose legend still haunts the old stones of the estate.

A local tradition tells us that Bonnemare sheltered the kings Charles VII and Charles IX who liked to hunt in this region.

It was between 1555 and 1563 that Nicolas Leconte, friend of Henri II, built the current chateau. Its remarkable architecture owes much to Philibert Delorme, a famous 16th century French architect, although no evidence has been found to date.

Around 1637, the estate was bought by Etienne de Fieux, to whom we owe much of the parade room, which has been accessible to everyone for almost 400 years. During the 18th century, two families followed one another on the lands of Bonnemare: Les Cromelin, de Villette and the family of Charles Leblond. During the French Revolution in order to preserve their castle and try to keep their heads, the owners decided to engrave the stones in order to hide their coat of arms and their loyalty to the king.

In the 19th century, other owners followed one another: Louis Alexandre, banker in Rouen, then Louis Cavelan and finally in 1888 Gustave Gatine, notary in Paris and grandfather of the current owners. Since then, the chateau de Bonnemare has been owned by the same family.

It is in 2006 that the history of Bonnemare takes a decisive turn because Alain and Sylvie decide to open the guest rooms classified as historical monuments. Another major milestone in 2018, with the opening of reception rooms for weddings and seminars.

Bonnemare’s story has only just begun and is only waiting for its new hosts to blacken new sheets of paper.

The legend of the two lovers

The chateau de Bonnemare has one of the most beautiful legends in France, the two lovers legend. Coming from the tragic milk of the poetess Marie de France written in the 12th century (1160), a romantic drama that draws its history from real events or under the whims of the Lord Robert the Baron of Cantelou, Raoul de Bonnemare, a young man in love with Mathilde, the daughter of Robert, had to carry her hand on his shoulders on a hill that has been called the “côte des Deux-Amants” ever since.

“Towards the end of the 12th century, at the mouth of the Andelle, there was a fiefdom belonging to Sir Robert, Baron de Cantelou, Lord of Amfreville-les-Monts. The sire of Cantelou had all the looks of an old knighthood, worried his vassals, dreamed only of hunting wars and journeys to distant lands. Richard the Lionheart’s departure for the crusade was an event for the Lord of Cantelou. However, the baron had one strong regret: it was to leave his vassals alone. From his wife and daughter, the charming Mathilde, he had nothing to worry about; so he left with little regret and headed for Marseille where the crusader army was meeting. His wife, left alone with Mathilde, had a relative, Alix de Bonnemare, who lived in the mansion of the same name. Alix, who had become a widow a few years earlier, was raising his son Raoul, then 18 years old, with tenderness. The two mothers who were related to each other rarely left each other. Neither of them suspected that a stronger feeling reigned in their hearts. The two mothers had seen the possible union of their children but they would have been careful not to take any sides without the Baron’s confession and his return still seemed far away. In the meantime, Mathilde’s mother died. The Bonnemare chateau took her in and provided her with maternal care. Two years had barely passed when the Baron de Cantelou returned to his mansion in the company of a knight who had saved his life at the cost of an eye and a scar that had horribly disfigured him. The Baron de Cantelou soon returned to his cruel and annoying habits; he had forbidden not to have any weddings during his absence; the young people showed up in droves when he arrived. So to realize the feeling that animated them, “he prescribed to each of them the strangest and most difficult trials: some were forced to spend their first night of marriage perched like birds on the branches of some great tree; others were immersed for two hours in the icy waters of the Andelle; they were harnessed to a plough and forced to trace a painful furrow; those were forced to jump with their feet joined over an antler and woe to those who did not obey his orders.

Until then, the Lord of Cantelou seemed to forget that he had a daughter, when one day, using his spare time for hunting, he came to Bonnemare Castle accompanied by his faithful knight. He saw Mathilde with indifference but Mathilde’s beauty struck his companion who, blinded by his own ugliness, made openings for the baron. A few days later the girl was commissioned by her father, the orders were positive the lady of Bonnemare and Raoul led Mathilde to the castle. Only the walls of the castle of Cantelou witnessed Mathilde’s crying and her father’s cruel demands. Mathilde resisted and soon after she was locked in the monastery of Fontaine Guérard. However, the knight who loved wine and independence even more than the women missed all these resistances. One fine morning he left the country leaving the baron to torment the hosts of the forests his vassals and his daughter. Poor Raoul was never for a moment without thinking of his beloved. Suddenly, a serious event gave him a glimmer of hope. In one of his hunts, the baron was seriously wounded by a boar. Raoul, who was looking everywhere for the opportunity to approach him to make him favorable to his union projects, ran to his rescue and saved his life. He missed Raoul at the castle and said to him: I will give you Mathilde but I have subjected my vassals to hard tests and the knight who will want to obtain the daughter of the Lord of Cantelou will have to resign himself to the hardest he has imposed until now. See Raoul, see this steep peak; Mathilde will be your wife if you can carry her running from the base to the top.

On the day set for the event, everything is ready, the signal is given, he takes Mathilde in his arms, he leaves, he flies. Mathilde, the poor girl as she makes herself light. She barely dares to breathe, fearing to add to her weight. He continues to reach the top of the mountain but falls lifeless at the end of his race. Mathilde is on the edge of the abyss, holding Raoul’s body in her arms. Is my father writing to himself, the union you have allowed is coming to fruition. At these words, she rushed with her precious burden and came to exhale at her father’s feet. For the first time, the baron’s ruthless soul was softened; he was surprised to shed tears. In the grip of the most vivid repentance, he founded the priory of the Two Lovers, where he took the habit of penance.

The lady of Bonnemare could not survive the misfortune that had just struck her heart. The nuns of Fontaine Guérard claimed the bodies of the two victims and placed them in the same tomb near the church choir. We could still see it before the revolution, covered with a stone where the arms of the Bonnemare and the Cantelou were gathered in a single crest.

However, God’s justice required more terrible atonement; the baron soon died and for a hundred years his ghost wandered in the heathers, exhaling from his oppressed chest these only words that we have retained: Mathilde Mathilde a hundred years of penance! The hills that witnessed these apparitions were abandoned as a cursed place and since then one of the coasts that look out over Radepont Park is called the Dolent Field.