Thursday, 20 March 2014

French connections with Hartwell House

Between 1809 and 1814, Hartwell House was the home of the exiled French king, brother of King Louis XVI who was executed in 1793.  Previously known as the Comte de Provence, Louis Stanislas was now known as King Louis XVIII of France. 

He brought his court here, with the permission and generous help of the Prince Regent, who granted the exiled Bourbons permanent right of asylum and an annual allowance.

Together with Louis were his Queen, Marie-Josephine of Savoy, and his niece, the Duchess of Angouleme, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. She was married to Louis XVIII's nephew, Louis-Antoine, son of the Comte d'Artois, later King Charles X. Also with the king was Gustavus IV, the exiled king of Sweden.

The history of Hartwell House stretches back almost a thousand years to the reign of Edward the Confessor. William the Conqueror gave it to his natural son, William Peveral, for his domain. Later it was the seat of John Earl of Mortaigne who succeeded his brother Richard the Lion Heart as King of England in 1199. 
The house was enlarged and embellished over the centuries, and the fine park of ninety acres was laid out in different styles, corresponding to changing fashions.

Short of money, the French courtiers converted the roof into a little farm, where birds and rabbits were reared in cages, while vegetables and herbs were cultivated in tubs. They sold their produce in shops they created in the outbuildings.

King Louis signed the document accepting the French crown in the library at Hartwell House in 1814, following the defeat of Napoleon.