Historic figures

Plenty of famous names have stayed in the Terres du Val de Loire! Through the centuries, many figures have marked the history of our territory, through their commitment, conviction, passion or talent.

Liphard, a cousin of Clovis, was born in Orleans around 477 AD and was the Judge and Governor of the city. He renounced his high legal duties around the age of 40 and retired to Meung-sur-Loire to live as a hermit.

He settled near the fountain, which now bears his name, and brought new life into the diminished village. Along with his disciples, he drained and diked the wetland located to the north of the town and created the “Mauves.” These waterways were a godsend for Meung-sur-Loire due to the many water mills that set up along their banks.

After Saint-Liphard’s death in 565 AD, a new town gradually grew around his tomb. The hermitage became a monastery then a renown school, before turning into a cathedral chapter. The oratory built on the tomb of the saint monk, was embellished to become a Collegiate.

His name speaks for itself… Jehan de Meung was indeed born in Meung-sur-Loire!

This French 13th century poet is known for having given a second breath of life to the “Roman de la Rose” by Guillaume de Lorris, a true masterpiece of medieval literature. He drafted a learned and satirical sequel counting 18,000 verses, at the opposite of the previous work, both through its tone and its morals.

Guillaume borrowed from the chivalric romance the love quest in a fabulous world, whereas, although his work was inspired by old authors and theological and philosophical dissertations, Jehan expresses his contempt of women overtly!

A cultured man and a cleric with an ironic and provocative spirit, he disdained the conventions of feudalism and romance. He was often quick to cast a cynical and salacious eye on all things concerning love, far removed from the courtly idealism.

He was frowned upon by his detractors, such as Christine de Pisan who denounced the author’s boorish manner and defended women, as well as Jean de Gerson, a 15th century theologian and scholar, who accused him of attacking the concepts of marriage and chastity.

© A. Rue – ADRT45

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier – M. Bard

Is there still a need to introduce Joan of Arc? If today, us Loiret inhabitants do not drive on the left-hand side of the road, isn’t it a bit thanks to her?

Born around 1412 in Domremy, in the Lorraine region, Jeanne grew up in a peasant family. According to her account, she heard supernatural voices at the age of 13, who urged her to deliver France – most of which was then occupied by the English, supported by the Burgundians, during the Hundred Years War.

In 1428, she joined King Charles VII in Chinon. Then, accompanied by a strong escort, she delivered the city of Orleans on 8 May 1429. With this victory, the troupes regained their confidence.

Once the siege of Orleans was lifted, she stopped at Cléry-Saint-André, to discover only a ruin of the Notre-Dame Basilica out of which the square tower emerged as the only survivor of the destruction caused by the enemy. She then went to Meung-sur-Loire, where she removed the fortified bridge from the English’s clutches and entered victorious into Beaugency on 17 June.

After her victory in Patay, she took Auxerre, Troyes and Châlons, thus opening up the road to Reims. This is where she had Charles VII crowned on 17 July 1429.

Betrayed in Compiègne by Guillaume de Flavy, she was captured by the Burgundians who sold her to the English and delivered her to an inquisition tribunal. She was declared a witch, and defended herself simply and bravely, claiming that her voices had not mislead her. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake on 29 May 1431 in Rouen.

In 1449, Charles VII entered victorious into the freed city of Rouen. It was only in 1450 that the king had an investigation conducted which resulted in a rehabilitation process for Joan of Arc. She was beatified in 1909 and canonised in 1920.

Every year in Orleans since the 15th century, several celebration days have been dedicated to Joan of Arc.

Find out more about the Joan of Arc celebrations in Orleans

Having chosen to settle down in Beaugency, this noble and brave French man of war left as a legacy to the town a beautiful château – his seigneurial mansion, which he occupied for 17 years.

The Count of Dunois was faithful to king Charles VII and fought against the English alongside Joan of Arc. He took part in the delivery of Orleans and the decisive victory in Patay. His battle exploits did not stop at that, since he then freed Chartres and took back Paris, which was also occupied by the English.

This was the beginning of a series of victories which led to the expulsion of the English from Normandy and put a gradual end to the consequences of the Hundred Years War between France and England. As a reward for his bravery, he received the title of Lord Chamberlain of France in 1439, along with the honours of legitimate prince.

Very attached to his adoptive region, he chose as his last resting place the Notre-Dame de Cléry Basilica, where he lies alongside his wife, Marie d’Harcourt.

“Brother humans who live after us,
Do not harden your hearts against us,
For, if you take pity on us poor (fellows),
God will sooner have mercy on you.”

The “Ballade des Pendus” or “François Villon Epitaph”, published in 1489

François de Montcorbier lived several lives in his life. Poet, bohemian life, bad boy, prisoner, exile and wanderer. Incidentally, we still don’t know where it ended, as after escaping being hanged at the age of 31, all traces of him were lost.

Born to a poor family and a fatherless child, Maître Guillaume de Villon, the canon of the Saint-Benoît-le-Bétourné Church, took him under his wing. François, who considered him as “more than a father”, even decided to bear his name.

Villon passed his baccalaureate then became “Master of Arts”, before leading a disordered and agitated life. At the end of the year 1456, when he was composing the poems in eight-syllable verses of the “Lais” or “Petit Testament”, he associated with a band of ruffians, the “Coquillards”. He was imprisoned in the jails of the Château de l’Évêque in Meung-sur-Loire, for a theft committed in the Church of Baccon and for belonging to a troupe of “actors” despite his cleric status.

Subject to the abuses of violent questioning and destined to a slow and certain death in the dark dungeons of the Château, he only owed his deliverance to Louis XI’s pardon, who was passing in the city, on 2 October 1461.

Back in Paris, he wrote the “Grand Testament”, where he drew the bitter and sardonic review of his life. In late 1462, he was led to the Châtelet prison for taking part in a theft. This time, the Povost of Paris sentenced him to hanging. His trial inspired him the “Ballade des Pendus” also known as the “Villon Epitaph.” On 5 January 1463, his sentence was commuted and he was banished for 10 years.

After writing his last poems, he disappeared, leaving no trace to historians of any other fate he may have pursued.

© Hervé Lewandowski ; Réunion des musées nationaux

Born in the Chinon area, which remained deer to him, François Rabelais used the landscapes of his youth as the setting for the petty quarrels that fill the chapters of his famous book Gargantua.

He lived for a while in the Terres du Val de Loire, in Saint-Ay, at his friend’s, Étienne Lorenz, who owned the Château, and wrote part of Pantagruel on the banks of the Loire.

A doctor, free thinker and great hedonist, who mastered the art of parody and satire to the perfection, he was caught up in the religious and political turmoil of the “Réforme” and was both sensitive and critical as regards the great questions of his time.

A famous author and novelist of the Renaissance, Rabelais was a native of the Touraine area, nicknamed the “garden of France”, which remained very dear to him and was a bottomless source of inspiration for his work.

Born in Beaugency, Jacques Charles, was the first person ever to fly a hydrogen-filled balloon!

Jacques Alexandre César Charles was born in Beaugency in November 1746. Take a look at his old house, at 15 rue Porte Vendômoise!

Jacques Charles knew how to produce hydrogen gas and experimented its buoyancy force by blowing it into soap bubbles. When the news about the Montgolfier brothers’ experiment in Annonay spread, he knew he could use hydrogen to lift men up into the air. Competition was thus launched between the Montgolfier brothers and Charles!

The first manned balloon flight was achieved in November 1783. Ten days later, Jacques Charles and Noël Robert took off from the Jardin des Tuileries (in Paris), on-board a hydrogen-filled balloon. They travelled over 35 kilometres in 2 hours!

This exploit earned Jacques Charles great popularity, however he never flew again. Charles was the one who designed the devices still equipping hot-air balloons today: the wicker nacelle, the pressure valve, the netting and rigging and the piloting system using ballast.

Claude Chappe was the first telecommunications entrepreneur in the history of mankind!

Born in the Sarthe department in 1763, he was one of 7 children. With four of his brothers, he decided to develop a practical system comprising semaphore relay stations.

The desire to communicate with friends living a few leagues away, led the young physicist to devise the project to speak to them through signals, in 1791. These attempts were so successful, he realised that what he had seen as a game, could turn into a very significant discovery. He then conducted many studies to find the means to implement his process on a large scale.

His experiment consisted in placing two mobile dials equipped with hands and figures, called tachographs, installed respectively in his birth village of Brûlon, and in the village of Parcé, 14 km away. This made it possible to send a message in each direction and was a success certified by an official report. With the proof that the system worked, Claude Chappe was able to go to Paris to promote his invention.

His brother, Ignace Chappe, a member of the Legislative Assembly, helped him have approved a line between Paris and Lille comprising fifteen stations installed over some two hundred kilometres to transmit information on the war.

The Chappe brothers determined through experimenting that the angles of a beam were easier to see than the presence or absence of panels. The final design consisted in two arms connected by a crosspiece. Each arm had seven positions and the crosspiece four, i.e. 196 positions to the code in total. The relay towers were positioned 12 to 25 km apart. Each tower had two telescopes pointed to either side of the line.

He named his signal machine “telegraph” and imagined it with highly-visible shapes and simple and easy movements, which could be transported and set up anywhere and would resist the worst storms. The installation of the first telegraph line was only ordered in 1793.

People quickly understood how useful the telegraph invention could be and the system was widely copied in other European countries. Napoleon I himself used it to coordinate his Empire and armies.

However, Claude Chappe came to a tragic end. He threw himself into a well, the victim of depression caused by illness and declarations from his rivals who believed he had copied military semaphore systems.

In 1846, the French government had a system of electrical telegraph lines set up.

Discover one of Claude Chappe’s telegraph towers in the Terres du Val de Loire.

The Chappe Tower in Baccon

In the family of illustrious inhabitants of Meung-Sur-Loire, we ask for the talented Neo-Classical and Romantic painter!

© Musée des Offices

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, the author of the superb curves of the beautiful and graceful “Grande Odalisque”, lived for a few years in Meung-sur-Loire. He travelled there every year, form June to the All Saints, between 1853 and 1866, with his second wife, Delphine Ramel, which he had married in 1852, thus becoming the brother-in-law of Jean-François Guille, a notary and Municipal Councillor of the town.

Although his artistic motherland remained Italy, he still appreciated the stunning avenues of Meung-sur-Loire:

“I taste in Meung perfect tranquillity and good family happiness. ”

He became mayor of the town and resided in the Maison du Change, where a plate affixed to the wall bears his name today.

He also offered to the Saint-Liphard Collegiate Church a stained glass window to the glory of Saint-Dominique, and at the bottom of which he represented himself in a medallion. This gift occurred after his appointment as honorary church warden (administrator of the goods and income of a church) for the parish.

A man of many talents, Mister Ingres had a second passion, the violin! Rather gifted, he played often, to the point of becoming second violin of the Toulouse Capitole orchestra. Incidentally, this is where the French expression “avoir un violon d’Ingres” (literally: have an Ingres’ violin) comes from, i.e. an activity you enjoy practising outside of your trade.

Who would have through that this mediocre and disruptive pupil then ruined dandy would become successful and rich through his literary works?

The son of a famous doctor, surgeon of Napoleon I’s guard and godson of the beautiful Joséphine de Beauharnais, he chose the quill over the caduceus. He found his inspiration in Lailly-en-Val, where he bought the Château des Bordes.

The social and democratic ideas he expressed in his first serial novel “Les Mystères de Paris” (1843), helped spread the humanitarian theories announcing Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables”. Next came “Le Juif errant” (1845) then “Les Sept péchés capitaux” (1847).

Through the power and precision of his descriptions of working class environments and pits of human society, Eugène Sue can be considered as the originator of the Realists.

 

© Musée Carnavalet

He was elected as a republican deputy on 28 April 1850. However, he was forced to flee when Napoleon III performed his coup on 2 December 1851. He was welcomed in the Duchy of Savoy, where king Victor-Emmanuel II and the head of his government were favourable to liberal ideas.

He lived in Annecy-le-Vieux from 1851 until his death in 1857. It was Colonel Charras, another republican outcast, who assisted his last moments and accomplished his wish to be civilly buried in Annecy as a “free-thinker.”

A member of the French Academy is buried in our Terres du Val de Loire, in Tavers, more specifically. One of the avenues of the town was even named after him.

This illustrious former Scholar, who quickly gained recognition as a literary chronicler and theatre critic, is Jules Lemaître! Hostile to any theory and only guided by his judgement, he exercised “impressionist criticism” on literary works with a clear and elegant style, capable of irony.

A playwright himself, he left spiritual “theatre impressions” on the French and foreign creations of the late 19th century. His tales “En marge des vieux livres” brought back to life characters from Greco-Latin, Christian and even Indian literature through skilfully naive transpositions.

After contributing to create the Ligue de la Patrie Française in 1899 – a moderate league aimed at campaigning for the guilt of Capitaine Dreyfus, he then left it in 1904.

A libertarian French poet, Gaston Couté belongs to the family of the most unusual characters to walk the Terres du Val de Loire, along with Villon and Rabelais.

Born in Beaugency in 1880, he left the town two years later when his miller parents moved to the Moulin de Clan mill, in Meung-sur-Loire.

He hated school from a very early age and quickly left it, before the baccalaureate. He worked for a time at the Le Progrès du Loiret newspaper and started to publish his first poetic essays in the local papers. He had the opportunity to recite them to a troupe of Parisian artists on a tour, and with their encouragements, he decided to go to Paris, with only a hundred francs in his pocket. He was then 18.

He started to recite his texts in cabarets for a daily cream coffee and a few drinks offered by his audience.

After several lean years, he became somewhat successful. The poet Jehan-Rictus, who specialised in the use of slang language in poetry, said of him: “a genius teenager… combining the most skilful technique with deep knowledge of the trade. ”

His dialect had nothing to do with a folkloric postcard language, it was the language of rural inhabitants of the Beauce area. Translating it would no doubt betray all the local flavour and the rebel spirit of this clog-wearing poet. Indeed, Gaston Couté was the spokesman for the Land, Love, Freedom and Peace.

Unfortunately, tuberculosis, absinthe and deprivation led him to an early grave. He died leaving memorable texts behind. He was buried in the cemetery of Meung-sur-Loire.

” Meung-sur-Loire with its rich past
Along the Mauves listen to the Mill
Who sang, sang all day long
Its refrain all white, all soft,
While performing its labour of love…”

Alain Corneau, the famous and talented French director, was born in August 1943 in Meung-sur-Loire. The son of a veterinary surgeon, he grew up on the banks of the Loire.

He was attracted to the 7th Art from a very young age, thanks to his father who transmitted his passion for the art to him, and undertook film studies. His beginnings as a director were marked by the thriller genre (“Police Python 357”, a hard-boiled thriller), thus drawing inspiration from hard-boiled crime novels and films, yet, he also directed epic and historic sagas (“Fort Saganne”, “Tous les Matins du Monde”).

He directed the greatest French actors and actresses, such as Gérard Depardieu, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Patrick Dewaere, Bernard Blier, Catherine Deneuve and Sophie Marceau.

He died in 2010, aged 67, a few weeks after the release of his last film “Crime d’Amour.” The town of Meung-sur-Loire paid tribute to him by naming one of its auditoriums “La Salle Alain Corneau”.

Honoré de Balzac set several scenes of his novel “Sur Catherine de Médicis” in Beaugency.

Victor Hugo set act V of the drama “Marion Delorme” in Beaugency.

In “The three Musketeers”, Alexandre Dumas set the first meeting of D’Artagnan and Milady de Winter on the Meung-sur-Loire bridge.

Paul Claudel used to write about Beaugency, “you know that little town where I still buy andouilles (chitterlings)” (Interviews in the Loir-et-Cher).

In Ian Fleming’s “Moonraker” novel (1955), at the end of the adventure, James Bond is thinking about taking a break in one of the villages on the banks of the Loire: “…places like Beaugency, for instance…”