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Rambouillet (Municipality, Yvelines, France)

Last modified: 2005-03-05 by ivan sache
Keywords: yvelines | rambouillet | fleurs de lys: 3 (yellow) | deer (red) | sheep (white) | tree (green) | crown: mural (white) |
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[Flag of Rambouillet]by Arnaud Leroy

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Presentation of Rambouillet

The city of Rambouillet (25,000 inhabitants; Rambolitains) is a sous-préfecture of the department of Yvelines. Rambouillet developed around a castle located on the limit between the forest of Rambouillet and the grain-producing plain of Beauce. The castle of Rambouillet is an official residence of the President of the Republic since the end of the XIXth century and has welcomed several international celebrities invited to private or official meetings.

History of Rambouillet

A chart dated 768 mentions a place named Rumbelitum. Another act, dated 1153, described the village of Ranbolitum built near a castle. A church is known there since 1052-1053. In June 1230, clearings were organized in the old forest of Yveline, which extended all over the south of Paris. Most of the inhabitants of the early parish of Rambouillet lived from the forest: they were woodcutters, firewood gatherers or clog-makers.
The name of Rambouillet might come from a brook named Rambe, located in the neighbouring village of Goussay. The Rambe was fed by the Rambeuil fountain, and Rambouillet might have meant the place located near the brook Rambe.

In 1368, Jehan Bernier bought a small manor from Girard Tournebou, Prevost of Paris. Bernier was appointed souverain informateur des forêts et eaux du royaume by King Charles V. Bernier built the first modern castle of Rambouillet in 1375. In 1384, Regnault d'Angennes exchanged his domain for Rambouillet with Bernier. The Angennes family included regular members of the Royal court, whose celebrities often stayed in the castle of Rambouillet. On 31 March 1547, King François I passed away in the big tower of the castle, nicknamed since then François I's tower. Aged 52, the king felt death coming and moved from castle to castle near Paris. On his way back to Saint-Germain, he decided to stay in the castle owned by the Captain of his guard, Jacques d'Angennes.
The Angennes revamped the castle in Renaissance style. Among the famous members of the family was Nicolas d'Angennes, appointed Vice-Roy of Poland and responsible of Henri III's crowning in Cracovia.

In the XVIIth century, the parish of Rambouillet had 800-900 inhabitants. In 1612, the domain became a Marquisate, granted to Julie d'Angennes, daughter of Charles d'Angennes and Catherine de Vivonne (1588-1665). Julie was the main attraction of her mother's salon, held in the Hôtel de Rambouillet in Paris. The Rambouillet salon exerted a great influence on the French language and literature. Most important writers of the time, for instance Malherbe, Racan, Scudéry, Bussy-Rabutin, madame de Lafayette, madame de Sévigné, Vaugelas and Tallemant des Réaux, were regular members of the salon. Corneille read there his play Polyeucte for the first time. The born organizer of the salon was the poet Voiture, who, aged 50, fought a duel because of Julie's eyes.
Moliere mocked at the précieuses and their weird way of speaking and behaving in his play Les précieuses ridicules. For instance, Catherine's "salon name" was Arthenice, an anagram of her first name. However, the Rambouillet salon was the only one where women had such an important role. After Voiture's death and Julie's marriage, the Rambouillet salon extincted and was replaced by salons ruled by madame de Sablé and mademoiselle de Scudéry, where the précieuses were really ridicules.

On 13 July 1645, Julie d'Angennes married Charles de Sainte-Maure, Duke of Montausier. Between 1650 and 1660, the castle of Rambouillet was completely revamped by architect François Le Vau. At the same time, the city wall, which had been probably built during the Religion Wars, was suppressed. Montausier also asked the river clearers Jean Roger and Jacques Chavanne to build a canal and transform the marshes into ornemental ponds, following the principles of Jacques Boyceau de la Barauderie. Jean-Baptiste de la Quintinie, Louis XIV's gardener, worked also for Montausier.

Montausier died in 1690 and his succession was difficult. The owners of the castle ran out of money and had to sell the domain to Jean-Baptiste Fleuriau, appointed directeur des Finances by the King in 1701. Fleuriau refurnished the castle and restructured the park.
In 1705, Fleuriau sold - or was forced to do so - his domain to Louis XIV, who reallocated it to the Count of Toulouse, the legitimized sun he had had with madame de Montespan. The Marquisate was transformed into a Duchy-Pairy in 1711. The castle was once again refurbished by the architects Lassurance in 1706-1709 and Legoux in 1730-1736. Wood trim marked with the monogram of Marie-Victoire-Sophie de Noailles, Countess of Toulouse, have remained famous. On 14 March 1731, the Countess founded in Rambouillet a poor's hospital, ruled by the brotherhood of the Daughters of Charity, set up by St. Vincent de Paul in 1634.

In 1737, Duke of Penthièvre inherited the castle from his mother. The new chapel of the castle was consecrated on 6 September 1770. In 1779-1780, the English park was decorated with fabriques such as the Hermitage and the Shells' Pavilion, for the pleasure of Penthièvre's daughter-in-law, the Princess of Lamballe. The princess was a close friend of Queen Marie-Antoinette. In 1790, she was slaughtered in Paris by the mob and her head was placed upon a peak and shown to the poor queen.
King Louis XVI bought the castle on 29 December 1783, in spite of Penthièvre's oppposition. In 1785, he asked the painter and architect Hubert Robert to increase the picturesque character of the park, and a dairy was built for Marie-Antoinette. The village of Rambouillet was restructured, with the building of a new church, a government hotel and a new bailiwick, also used to keep grain, placed in the middle of the village by the architect Jacques-Jean Thévenin. The work ordered by Louis XVI required 900 men, some of them settled definitively in Rambouillet.

After the Revolution, the castle was property of the Bonaparte family and became one of Napoléon's personal residences. Architect Trepsat revamped the castle, which had been used as a grain warehouse during the Revolution. Trepsat suppressed the eastern wing of the castle. A project of increase by Auguste Famin, requiring the suppression of François I's tower, was fortunately never completed. Famin rebuilt the government hotel in Florentine style. At birth of Napoléon's son (L'Aiglon) in 1809, the new hotel was renamed pavillon du roi de Rome.
In 1814, Empress Marie-Louise met in Rambouillet his father François II of Austria and accepted to follow him in Vienna with the roi de Rome. On 29 June 1815, Napolé, overthrown,on spent the night in Rambouillet before leaving for St. Helena.

As related by Châteaubriand in his Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe, King Charles X arrived in Rambouillet 1830 after having fled Saint-Cloud in insurrection. The king abdicated in the castle on 2 August 1830 and fled to England. In 1832, the castle was removed from the civil list and successively rented to baron Schikler, count Duchâtel, and eventually to Dufour, which transformed it into a restaurant.
The railway linking Rambouillet to Paris was inaugurated by President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte in 1849. The castle was reincorporated to the state domains by an Imperial decree in 1870.

The early presidents of the Third Republic Mac Mahon, Grévy, Casimir-Perier and Sadi-Carnot enjoyed hunting in the forest of Rambouillet but did not stay in the castle. In 1896, President Félix Faure decided that the castle of Rammbouillet would be the president's summer residence. A presidential lounge was set up in the railway station and the Ministers often came to Rambouillet by train for the Council of Ministers. Among his successors, presidents Loubet, Fallières, Poincaré, Doumergue, Lebrun and Coty stayed in the castle. On 12 November 1955, the popular Madame Coty passed away in the castle.

On 23 August 1944, General de Gaulle met Leclerc in the castle of Rambouillet and ordered him to march against Paris. The castle was later used as a place for international meetings. De Gaulle welcomed there Krushtshev in 1960, Pompidou received Brezhnev in 1973. In 1975, Giscard d'Estaing invited Gerard Ford, Harold Wilson, Aldo Moro, Takeo Miki, Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Helmut Schmidt for the first Rambouillet G7 summit. On 29 October 1990, Mitterrand and Gorbatschow signed a treaty of alliance and cooperation. In February 1999, the Rambouillet meeting attempted to find a negociated solution to the Kosovo conflict, to no avail.

The forest of Rambouillet

The forest of Rambouillet, one of the remains of the old forest of Yveline, stretches over 20,000 hectares, 14,000 hectares of them being state-owned (forêt domaniale). The elevation of the forest is 110-180 m and its soil is mostly clayey, with some sandy parts. The most common trees in the forest are oaks (60%) and pines (30%). Beeches and birches are also common. The forest is very wet and rich in rivers and ponds, and therefore very rich in big game (deers, roe deers and wild boars). The forest of Rambouillet is a very popular place for hearing the deer's troat. It is also a popular place for hiking, biking, horse riding, mushroom picking and hunting (especially with hounds). The forest is famous for its star-shaped crossroads and long, rectilinear paths, as well as its old-fashioned "forestry houses" built during the Second Empire.

The national sheepfarm of Rambouillet

Louis XVI was mostly interested in hunting but he was also an "agromaniac", and set up an experimental farm (grande ferme) in 1785 in Rambouillet. In 1786, upon request by the naturalist Daubenton, Louis XVI purchased a herd of Spanish merinos sheep (318 ewes and 41 rams) from his cousin Charles III. Louis XVI also imported Swiss cows, African sheep, angora goats and mouflons. Bonaparte imported Italian buffalos and Belgian, Normand and Arab horses. The first imperial sheepfarm (Bergerie impériale) was built in 1804. The farm became royal (1815-1848) and again imperial (1853-1870), and a second imperial sheepfarm was built under the Second Empire. In 1840, the Ile-de-France sheep breed was created by breeding the races Merinos and Dishley. A school for shepherds, open in 1794, was transformed into the National College for Sheep Breeding in 1939. Another three colleges founded after the Second World War were merged into the Centre d'Enseignement Zootechnique in 1955.
Rambouillet was the main center of improvement of the merinos sheep. From 1850 to 1930, the Rambouillet Merinos was used as stock for sheep breeding in Australia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The last pure-bred merinos herd in the world (120 ewes and 25 rams, about the 70th generation) is kept in Rambouillet.
Bergerie Nationale is open to public visits.


Ivan Sache, 12 September 2004

Municipal flag of Rambouillet

The municipal flag of Rambouillet, as communicated by the local Office du Tourisme, is white with the municipal greater coat of arms in the middle.

Arnaud Leroy, 10 April 2004

Coat of arms of Rambouillet

The municipal coat of arms of Rambouillet is (GASO):

Parti : au premier de sable au demi-sautoir d'argent mouvant de la partition, au second tiercé en fasce ; au I d'or au cerf contourné au naturel, au II de gueules à l'agneau d'argent, au III d'argent à l'arbre arraché de sinople ; sur le tout d'azur aux trois fleurs de lys d'or et au bâton péri en barre de gueules.

Brian Timms gives a slightly different blazon:

Parti : au premier de sable au sautoir d'argent, au second tiercé en fasce ; d'or au cerf contourné au naturel, de gueules au mouton au naturel, et d'argent â l'arbre de sinople ; sur le tout d'azur à trois fleurs de lys d'or brisé en coeur d'un bâton péri en barre de gueules.

and the English blazon as follows:

Per pale sable a saltire issuant from the sinister flank argent and tierced per fess or a stag contourned proper gules a sheep proper and argent a tree vert overall an inescutcheon azure a bendlet sinister couped gules between three fleurs de lys or.

The first field of the shield recalls the arms of Angennes, Lords of Rambouillet from 1384 to 1690, which were: sable au sautoir d'argent (sable a saltire argent). The escutcheon is the coat of arms of the Count of Toulouse, the legitimized son of King Louis XIV, who was granted the castle of Rambouillet in 1705. The lamb recalls the Bergerie Nationale and its famous Merinos herd. The tree and the deer recalls the forest of Rambouillet, a former royal hunting domain.

On the greater arms, the shield is surrounded by two branches and surmonted by a mural crown and a scroll bearing the Latin motto of the city Semper erecta (Always high).

Ivan Sache, 10 April 2004