Here is a wonder nestled on one of the hills of Port-Marly, about 20 kilometers from Paris: the castle of Monte-Cristo.
The place is confidential today, yet the reputation of its first owner was flamboyant at the time, since we speak of the French novelist Alexandre Dumas.
Where to start when it comes to Alexandre Dumas? I have boundless admiration for him. Rarely have I read a better storyteller, capable of carrying you breathlessly into historical romance stories of an off-putting length.
Alexandre Dumas used to say that he raped History to deliver beautiful paper children, and even if the expression is quite awful, I have to admit that he did indeed give birth to marvels of intelligence, suspense and humor.
I am reading “The Queen’s Necklace” and the knots of intrigue are masterful, especially when we know the (historical, this time) end of this unfortunate affair.
Even if I do not necessarily subscribe to this way of life, I admire in Alexandre Dumas this frenzied desire to live fully, to burn the candle at both ends, working like a dog, enjoying every pleasure of life.
There was, I think, a lot of thirst for revenge in this man who did not want to be imposed any limits, he, the mixed-raced writer so often mocked and caricatured as an ogre by the press of his time. He was bigger than life and this Monte-Cristo domain is the best exemple of his way of life.
The domain includes a beautiful park, a neo-Renaissance castle and a neo-Gothic “study” (well, it’s a tiny castle and I want the same) where the writer blackened his pages.
At the housewarming party in 1847, 600 people showed up after only 50 invitations had been sent.
But in 1848, deep in debt, Alexandre Dumas was forced to sell the estate.
Almost in ruins and then saved by the Society of Friends of Alexandre Dumas in the 1970’s, the Monte-Cristo estate is now owned by three towns: Marly-le-Roi, Port-Marly and le Pecq.
The place is enchanting, really.
The study is a tiny castle, called the “Chateau d’If” – an obvious reference to the novel “The Count of Monte-Cristo”, and it overlooks an equally tiny pond. The title of many of Alexandre Dumas’s novels is inscribed on the facade of this neo-Gothic curiosity.
The neo-Renaissance castle is an architectural marvel. Its facades are adorned with many decorations and the interior includes an absolutely incredible Moorish living room.
I have always wondered whether the name of the domain had been chosen by Alexandre Dumas himself or if the name came out with the institutionalization of the domain as a museum.
If I believe the estate’s auction poster in 1848, the name was indeed chosen by the writer. The choice of the domain’s name, “Monte-Cristo”, is very telling – the name could very well have been taken from “The Three Musketeers” for example, but no.
We are talking about a story of smart revenge, of recognition. And I think it’s intimately what Alexandre Dumas wanted when building this estate.
June 18, 2021