Chateau de Baronville

The word château is a French word that has entered the English language and now denotes a historic country mansion. Most French chateaus are country houses and not palaces or castles, and for these the English word "chateau" is appropriate. Sometimes the word "palace" is more appropriate for outstanding examples of palatial country houses. The Château de Versailles, was so called because it was located in the countryside when it was built, but it does not bear any resemblance to a country house or castle (the English translation of "chateau"), so it is known in English as the Palace of Versailles. In French where clarification is needed, the term château fort is used to describe a castle, such as Château fort de Roquetaillade.

A chateau is the personal (and usually hereditary) badge of a family that, with some official rank, locally represents the royal authority; thus, the word chateau often refers to the dwelling of a member of either past French royalty or the nobility. Some fine chateaus were also built by high class wealthy elite businessmen and aristocrats.

Today, the quality of chateau residences varies considerably, from chateaus owned by past royalty, ministers of Louis XIII and his royal successors or the wealthy, to run-down chateaus in the French countryside, vacated by poor nobility and government officials.

A chateau was historically supported by its surrounding lands that allowd the chateau to be self-sufficient. Todays chateaus often retain some land and outbuildings that are distant descendants of the medieval chateaus and castles of the past with fortifying walls and turrets, enclosed forecourts, gatehouses or keeper's lodges, and supporting outbuildings - stables, kitchens, breweries, bakeries, manservant quarters and chapels. Todays chateaus are often surrounded by beautiful green vistas, parks, gardens and forests isolating the owner from the humdrum of the outside world and providing peace and tranquility.

From the palatial chateaus of the Loire valley to the chateaus of rural France, the French chateau is a glimpse into French history, an architectural art form of beauty, elegance and fine interior design. The French chateau is a window into the past of the grand style, the luxury and opulence of old France.

Maison de Maitre - Translating as ‘master’s house’, the maison de maître is an elegant bourgeois mansion of 18th- or 19th-century origins that would originally have been the home of a squire or other minor landowner. Usually one of the smartest houses in the village and behind their stately facades, maisons de maître typically have evenly proportioned interiors with high ceilings. There are often four main rooms on each floor, the ground-floor reception rooms opening off a central entrance hall and each offering a similar style and footprint, where the original gentleman owner would receive and entertain visitors. In addition to its existence as a status symbol, the maison de maître had a strong connection to farming as its owner typically lived off agricultural rents.

Manoir - which can be directly translated as the English ‘manor’, was originally occupied by a man of rank – a lord, for example – but it was built on a more intimate scale than the other main aristocratic home, the château. Manoirs are always sizeable and located in the countryside, but they were originally little more than a grand farmhouse.

Bastides - are French farmhouses often made of stone and located on land in the countryside. These houses are basic when compared to manoir and chateaus but in my opinion they really are beautiful when located on a large plot of land in the French countryside.

Rob West


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