there were no visits at Rochecotte, Talleyrand would live in the
greatest simplicity. When time would permit, he would sit on the
terrace and admire the magnificent and relaxing view of the Loire.
He would tour the grounds in his wheelchair and took interest
in the plantations. He would occasionally travel to Langeais,
Bourgueil, Saumur and even to Châteauvieux, where he liked
visiting his friend, the philosopher, Royer-Collard.
When the weather was bad, he would stay in the library where he
kept the most beautiful publications, which he enjoyed consulting.
But most of all, he preferred intimate evenings with his niece,
It was at Rochecotte, where
Dorothée experienced the most triumphant success of her
mundane life. Talleyrand, who was representing Louis-Philippe,
received in London the most flattering welcome. The duchesse seduced
the high society that she would invite to her house. She was at
the peak of her beauty. But after having reached this pinnacle,
on her return to Rochecotte in 1834, she realized for the first
time, the vanity of worldly honours. She reached the age when
women with a tormented past turn towards devotion. Last but not
least, she was particularly impressed by her daughter, Pauline’s
piety. Her favorite books were the works of Bossuet and "l’imitation".
It was at this moment that
she decided, after converting herself, to convert her uncle so
that at his death, he will have reconciled with the church. She
was far too intelligent not to realize the difficulty of this
task. Talleyrand, as a bishop, braved the Pope, recommending the
Civil Consitution of Clergy.
It is obvious that as he
got older, Talleyrand began to show a certain amount of sympathy
for Catholic rites and he would sometimes accompany Pauline to
mass. In London, he even delayed a diplomatic reception so that
he could drive Pauline to her religious class. But his pride,
was too strong and to deny publicly what he had fought for his
entire life, was the most difficult obstacle to surmount. Thus,
Dorothée made a wish to build a chapel at Rochecotte, on
the site of Talleyrand’s bedroom, if she could obtain from
him a reconciliation with the Catholic religion.
Each day, discretely, she
indulged herself into this work. She gave us an example in her
diary, « 29 August 1836. After a loud violent thunder, M.
de Talleyrand asked me what my thoughts were at that very moment
and I answered him immediately : if there was a priest in the
room, I would have confessed. I’m afraid of sudden death.
To die without preparation, to bring with me my heavy bag of sins,
we can’t do without reconciliation and pardon. On every
occasion, I establish as best I can, my beliefs and I hope to
awaken yours. In those circumstances, one must be forgiving ».
Pauline is her mother’s
best collaborator. She confied to her great-uncle the sadness
she felt when she encountered a civil burial. What a distress,
should such a scandal happen in the family !
In 1837, Talleyrand’s
strength is slowly declining. After the marriage of the Duc d’Orléans,
he goes to Rochecotte to rest in the fall and part of the winter.
In December, the Duchesse de Dino is gravely ill and her days
are in danger. Talleyrand tells her these touching
words : « If you
die, what would become of me ? What could I do to make you happy
? ». It is on this day that Dorothée was able to
get the signature that she needed from her uncle.
We know the rest of the
story. The return to Paris, the fortunate intervening of Father
Dupanloup and the Christian death of the morning of May 17th.
The Duchesse de Dino transformed Talleyrand’s bedroom into
a chapel, as she had wished. The bed in the alcove was replaced
by an altar. This oratory was blessed on November 18th , 1840
by Father Dupanloup.
After her Uncle’s
death, the Duchesse de Dino became Duchesse de Talleyrand but
lived almost constantly at the Principality of Sagan that she
had just acquired. However, the memories of Rochecotte did not
leave her. Thus, we can read in her memoirs : « I sometimes
feel some deep and melancholic regrets for that sweet and quiet
Rochecotte, that wide horizon with the purest sky ». She
passed away in 1862, shortly after having written these lines.
Nevertheless, she offered
Rochecotte to her daughter Pauline, when she married the Marquis
Henri de Castellane.
After her death, the estate
of Rochecotte became her three grandson’s property : Boni,
Jean and Stanislas who sold it to their brother-in-law, Emilio
Terry, in 1934. He was an exceptional landlord. He lived in Paris,
Place du Palais-Bourbon, in a charming residence previously owned
by Comte Boni de Castellane. He was of Cuban origin and had a
real admiration for XVIII century mansions. Mr. Terry took great
care in conserving the memories of Rochecotte. Not only did he
keep the furniture of the times of the Duchesse de Dino, but he
also completed the collection with pieces of furniture and artifacts
from the same period, which turned the lounges and the library
into remarkable suites.
Rochecotte has become nowadays
a charming hotel where this sweet and fine « Art de Vivre
» that the Duchesse de Dino greatly cherished, is perpetuated.
Those who will spend some
time on these premises, must keep in mind when entering this fine
dwelling, the characters that made its history. When you are on
the magnificant Italian terrace overlooking the Loire Valley,
you can hear the Prince and the Duchesse walking in the park …
au flanc blond du coteau
Et c’est un ravissant château
Qui reçut autrefois le baiser de l’Histoire
Devant l’horizon bleu que caresse la Loire.
Ceux qui furent jadis les
hôtes de ces lieux,
Le diplomate habile et l’enfant aux doux yeux
Ont enrichi ces murs d’un passé précieux
Et si depuis longtemps
leurs paupières sont closes,
Les terrasses, le parc, les arbres et les roses ,
Tout ici garde encor l’écho tendre et discret
Des entretiens touchants, des mots si beaux à dire
Que rien qu’en écoutant le vent doux qui soupire
Dans les ramures l’on croirait
Retrouver ce qui fît tout leur charme secret :
La grandeur d’un esprit, la grâce d’un sourire.