The Enlightenment and Romanticism

published at 20/01/2017

The Age of Enlightenment and Romantic Era were marked by two exceptional figures at Chaumont: Jacques-Donatien Le Ray (1726-1803), Intendant of the Invalides of Louis XVI (1754-1793), and Germaine de Staël (1766-1817), a woman of letters from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Nantes-native Jacques-Donatien Le Ray made his fortune in trade and bought Château de Chaumont in 1750. Twenty years later, Louis XVI named him Intendant of the Invalides. In 1772, he founded two factories – one that made pottery and the other fine glassware – where the stables stand today. He tasked Jean-Baptiste Nini (1717-1786), a famous Italian sculptor, with overseeing them. Sympathetic to the cause of the American insurgents for the Revolutionary War, Le Ray acted as an intermediary between King Louis XVI and the American representatives (Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee, Silas Deane) and also financed the American army out of his own pocket.

Jacques-Donatien Le Ray Junior (1760-1840) moved to America in 1785 but continued to come and stay at Chaumont. He married an American woman and became an American citizen.

Forced into exile by Napoleon, Germaine de Staël made the most of her friend James Le Ray’s absence to stay at Chaumont from April to August 1810, in order to correct and keep an eye on the printing of her book “De l’ Allemagne” ("On Germany") in Tours. Her exile at Chaumont brought more than one famous guest to her court there, for example Madame Récamier, Adelbert Von Chamisso, the Counts of Sabran and Salaberry as well as the author of “Adolphe”, Benjamin Constant.

In 1833, the Count of Aramon (1787-1847) acquired the Domaine. He devoted most of his efforts to creating the park that until then had sorely been missing from Chaumont. Upon his death, his wife remarried with Joseph Walsh (1792-1860) who called on the architect Jules Potier de la Morandière (1813-1883) to restore the Château, listed as a Historical Monument in 1840. Despite his efforts, Walsh could not keep up his costly renovation programme and, in 1872, Chaumont was once again put up for sale.