THEY MADE HISTORY!

Discover some great women in the history of France, the arts and literature in the monuments of the Centre des Monuments Nationaux. 

MARGARET OF AUSTRIA, ETERNALLY IN LOVE

In 1501 Margaret of Austria, daughter of Emperor Maximilian 1st of Hapsburg, repudiated by the king of France and already a widow at age 20, married the Duke of Savoy, Philibert II.

This arranged marriage turned into a true marriage of love. Then in 1504, a dramatic incident occurred during a hunting party when the Duke had an accident and died. Margaret decided to have a monument built to perpetuate her love to her husband: the Royal Monastery of Brou

LADY CARCAS, HEROINE OF THE CITY

In Carcassonne people tell the legend of Lady Carcas, the heroine who gave her name to the famous mediaeval city.

Princess at the head of the Knights of the City of Carcassonne, which was then in the hands of the Saracens and besieged by Charlemagne, seeing food supplies dwindle and the city's defenders die of starvation, she had the idea to feed a pig with wheat and throw it over the ramparts. Charlemagne and his men were horrified, thinking that the City was still overflowing with provisions if they could afford to waste wheat by giving it to their animals despite six years of siege, so they decided to leave the plain. Lady Carcas then sounded the bells, "Carcas sonne" (Carcas sounds), and agreed on a peace treaty with the sovereign.

This legend, inspired by songs of mediaeval stories, is of course false. Charlemagne never besieged Carcassonne!

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MONA LISA, THE MASTERPIECE IN DANGER

In 1938, before the threat of war, the French government was considering evacuating major works of art. The Mona Lisa was moved from the Louvre Museum on 28 August 1939.

The château de Montal, located in the Lot, offered considerable advantages for accommodating it: limited risk of fires, vast vaulted rooms on the ground floor. On 13 March 1943, a modest box registered under MNLP0 arrived at Montal. It was the Mona Lisa!

In July 1944, fearing Allied bombing, the team at the Château de Montal wrote "Louvre Museum" in large white letters in the meadow adjoining the monument.

The Château de Montal was never bombed and on 15 June 1945 the artworks returned to the capital.

GEORGE SAND, THE WRITER OF THE FIELDS

Aurore Dupin, alias George Sand, was raised in Nohant in her grandmother's house. She liked to escape the tumult of Paris and frequently sought refuge there. She was friends with major artists such as Balzac, Chopin, Flaubert and they were often invited to share her studious days. She wrote one of her most famous books in Nohant, "La Mare au Diable" (The Devil's Pool). The estate and the region were sources of inspiration and thus held a large place in her work.

MARIE CURIE, DOUBLE NOBEL PRIZE WINNER

Among the personalities buried in the Panthéon, one of the most famous is most certainly Marie Curie. She received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with her husband, Pierre Curie, who rests at her side. She received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her research on radium and polonium.  The long hours of exposure to radioactive elements were detrimental to her health. Suffering from leukaemia, she died in a sanatorium in 1934.

On 20 April 1995, following a decision of the President of the Republic, François Mitterrand, Marie and Pierre Curie were buried in the Pantheon. Up until 2015, Marie Curie remained the only woman honoured in the Pantheon.

MADAME DE MONTESPAN THE FALLEN FAVOURITE

In 1666, Madame de Montespan, born Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, met Louis XIV. She soon became one of his favourites while her husband, the Marquis de Montespan, a little too explosive, was exiled to his land in Gascony.

A few years later came disgrace. Madame de Montespan left the court and returned a pearl necklace to the King that he had given her In return, she received 100,000 pounds to acquire the land of the Château d'Oiron !