What is its history ?
Dampierre represents over a thousand years of history. Its name comes from the Latin "Domo Petro", or the house of (saint) Pierre. Some, however, have interpreted a more secular or neo-Celtic origin which would mean it comes from the Lady Pierre.
Whilst the presence of a Roman camp has been documented and vestiges have been found on site, the property’s modern history begins at the end of the 10th century. There is mention of a feudal chateau in 995 with the village church acting as its castral chapel. The lord of that time was called Adalbert. His daughter, Petronilla, married a noble from Surgères in 1027, his name was Hugues Maingot. His direct and indirect heirs were lords of Dampierre until 1598. Much is owed to François de Clermont, chamberlain to Louis XI. He was inspired by his discovery of Italy and Renaissance art to abandon his old chateau and erect an Italian-style house on the site of a former Knights Templar priory. This is the current chateau’s origin, it is located on two islands surrounded by the water of the Boutonne, the main tributary of the Charente.
De Clermont’s son, Jacques, made few modifications to the original project. The following generation (Claude de Clermont and his wife Jeanne de Vivonne) however, added the superimposed gallery - with its ribbed vault and emblematic caissons, it is still the monument’s best-known feature. An H and C can be found engraved in it (the initials of Henry II and Catherine de Medici) as well as a D for Diane de Poitiers, the favourite of the king.
Claude and Jeanne’s only daughter, Claude-Catherine, held a literary salon in Paris and at Dampierre. "The Green Salon of Dictyne" was well known for its refinement and erudition. She was brought up at the Louvre with Marguerite de Valois (Queen Margot) and married Jean d'Annebault, a gentleman of King Charles IX’s chamber and Baron of Retz. After she was widowed, she inherited the barony of Retz and passed it onto her second husband, Albert de Gondi, who had quite a remarkable career. He was first an ambassador at the court of Vienna and then governor of Metz before being promoted to the rank of Count de Retz. He then became Marquis of Belle-Île and Islands of Hyères, was promoted to Marshal of France and was appointed as governor of Provence and general of the galleys. He finished his life as duke and peer of France at the age of 80. A long line of figures followed him and each was more famous than the last, examples include the Cardinal of Retz and the Duchess of Retz. Whilst the cultivated Duchess’ cultural influences had a positive impact on Dampierre, her husband’s political commitments and military actions had more of a negative effect.
The wars of religion left the castle in a semi-ruinous state when the Gondi-Clermonts fled. The property then passed into the hands of Fourré who was soon to be the Marquis of Dampierre. The current appearance of the buildings is the work the Fourré family. They had the third building demolished as most of it had been destroyed by Condé, the yard in front of the house was transformed into a garden, the terrace was set up on the western side, and the windows on the facade were enlarged. Their weapons feature above the southern door of the gallery. The estate remained in the Fourré family until 1712. After several different owners, it was sold to the Marquis de Gallifet in 1752. He was Lieutenant-General of the King’s armies and his wife’s portrait (Marie-Joséphine-Laure de Lestang- Parade) is still preserved in the chateau, despite it being vandalised by the revolutionists. After they fled the chateau during the revolution, the château de Dampierre was plundered and sold as national property in 1795.
After many different owners, the chateau was acquired by the Rabaults, a family from Val de Boutonne. It was then passed down to the Texiers and the Hédelins who worked hard to restore it after a serious fire in 2002. These families added the maze and the French-style flowerbeds in the park which they named the garden of Diktynna, this was in tribute to the Duchesse de Retz and to echo the alchemical symbolism of the gallery. In 2017, our family moved into the Hedelin suite.