History of the château of Grand-Rullecourt

The fortified Flemish castle with its towers and crow’s-foot gables overlooks the road from Avesnes-le-Comte to Lucheux. The lords of Rullecourt were the generous donors of land to the Abbey of Mont-St-Eloi. Joan of Arc passed here as a prisoner, at the foot of these fortifications, in 1430.

In the year 1464, King Louis XI was living at Lucheux, where he enjoyed hunting in the forest and attending tournaments with the numerous lords of Artois (the area around the city of Arras is called the Artois), and on June 14 of that year he created a Council Order establishing it as a royal posting stop. Grand-Rullecourt, seven kilometers (4 miles) away, witnessed the first postal relay.

In 1537, Marie d’Olhain, Lady of Grand-Rullecourt, married Jacques de Hamel Bellenglise. Their daughter Nicole was Lady of Honor to Mary Queen of Scots (Mary was the daughter of King James V of England and wife of King François II of France. Her French husband’s parents were King Henri II of France and Catherine de Medici.) Nicole followed Mary into captivity, and on the day of her execution, the queen gave Nicole her diamond cross.

Ten generations of this family lived in Grand-Rullecourt. During the Wars of Religion (1562 to 1598 pitting catholic against protestant), Antoine de Hamel, lord of Rullecourt was one of the leaders of the Catholic League. He lead a pitched battle against the Protestants and was called the “Marshall of Faith.”

After the siege of Arras in 1640, an event dear to Cyrano (a 17th century French author who fought in the battle), and at the return of the local Artois region to the kingdom of France, Philippe de Hamel de Grand-Rullecourt signed the capitulation of the city, a circumstance which brought him the honor of being the first gentleman of our province to render his loyalty to King Louis XIII.

In the 18th century, the diary book of Antoine-Constant de Hamel, lord of Grand-Rullecourt states: “in 1745, Antoine-Constant de Hamel started to build his castle juxtaposed to the old one, which cost him the sum of 30,342 pounds. Following the design of lord Jean-Joseph Watelet, ECHEVIN of the city of Arras, friend of the family.

Ever true over time to the motto of the Maid of Orleans, “God, First Served” the lord of Grand-Rullecourt had the chapel of the castle blessed on 22 October 1746. It was dedicated to the Virgin, and the bell was baptized Constance.

The deHamel family also had a chapel inhabited by a miraculous virgin, Our Lady of Good Help, in Boubers-sur-Canche. That was the location of the family burial chambers. Legend has it that the inhabitants of Boubers saw veils of the ladies of Grand-Rullecourt floating between the river at the foot of the valley and the chapel on the hill.

In the year of grace of 1759, the lord of Grand-Rullecourt, by patent letters from king Louis XV, was made Marquis “For him and the oldest males of his descendants born and to be born of a legitimate marriage, with the right to apply this name on his land and fiefdoms which he sees fit, and to add to his coat of arms the Marquis’s crown.”

In the property records of 1779, kept in the archives of Arras, you can see that the richest landowner of the village wasn’t the chateau owner, but the Abbey of Mont Eloi.

The chapel must have been changed in 1787, as attested to by a letter of the Priory Curate of Warluzel, who found it “very decent and furnished with everything necessary to celebrate holy mass”.

To conclude the history of Grand-Rullecourt, under the Ancien Regime, it’s to be remembered that the village and its castle fell under governance by Arras, they were part of the leasehold of Hesdin, and in accordance with custom, of the diocese of Arras, protectorate of Aubigny, district of Avesnes-le-Comte. The Empire later created the Department of Pas-de-Calais. (France is composed of about 100 departments).

The second marquis, Paul-Joseph de Hamel de Bellenglise, confronted revolutionary torments. He was elected mayor of Grand-Rullecourt in 1790. The election took place in the church and assembled 207 voters. But when faced with great danger, he escaped to Antwerp. During this time, his beautiful home was sequestered.

Georges Sangnier in his book “The Emmigrants of Pas-de-Calais during the Revolution” tells us about this interesting visit: at the castle of Grand-Rullecourt, at the home of the Marquis de Hamel Bellenglise, the national guard of Sus-St-Leger took some arms and pushed its investigation right into the cellars. In one of them, a deep hole and a rope intrigued the troops. One of the riflemen went down and found himself, at the bottom of the pit, in the presence of the lord’s coachman Jerome Beauvois, who said he was preparing -- on the orders of the caretaker -- a hiding place for wine! Other cellars were visited, the guards destroyed a recently-built wall of masonry and a cellar full of wine appeared: “We couldn’t keep back the guards under such circumstances, we had to let them drink” declared the report. General pillage: “nonetheless there are still about 300 bottles”.

So they went to Antwerp to arrest the marquis. He was dragged back to Arras, barefoot in the snow; and taken to Saint-Omer where after a trial full of iniquity, he was guillotined on the 23 floreal of the year IV (revolutionaries briefly used a different calendar system).

Sold as national property, Grand-Rullecourt was purchased by Citizen Servatius who lived here from 1795 to 1843. His son rose in society in a manner resembling one of the characters in a Balzac novel! Sub-lieutenant in the Infantry in 1809, captain in 1815, colonel in 1832, camp marshall in 1844, baron in 1847 and general of a division in 1851.

From 1827, the son of the guillotined marquis, Antoine Constant, reasserted his rights of all the wartime emmigrated nobility, and in 1843 bought back Grand-Rullecourt, which had been sold at public auction three years earlier. Here is the description in the “Bee of the Ternoise” newspaper dated 21 November 1846, before the sale at auction: “The vast and beautiful castle of Grand-Rullecourt… is built over lovely cellars, the masonry is in stippled gray up to the windows.”

The property was later acquired by Mr. Calluaud, taxmaster. On the pediments, disfigured by hammers applied to the coat of arms during the revolution, he had his own sculpted, and those of his wife Miss Duchesne de la Motte, on the side facing the gardens and on the side facing the village, you can still see their initials, CD.

Their son, an elected representative from the Somme department, died in Bordeaux during the siege of Paris in 1871. His daughter married Alphonse du Croquet de Saveuse. Miss du Croquet de Saveuse married the count Wallerand de Hautecloque (uncle of the marshall Leclerc de Hautecloque), killed on the first day of the First World War in 1914, along with his son Bernard. The Countess of Hautecloque sold Grand-Rullecourt to Misters Siers and Van Celebroeck who used the property for growing lumber wood and built a saw mill in front of the castle. After selling all the hundred-year-old trees to build airplanes, which we know from publicity of the time, these gentlemen sold the property to Mr. Voisin.

On December 7, 1939, George VI, King of England, according to a wartime message transmitted over the radio, announced his visit to “someplace in France” so he could meet his troops on the front lines. He stopped at Grand-Rullecourt at about 11:30 am on the main square, where a motor group stationed in the village a few days earlier passed in review. Then he went to lunch at the Cauroy Castle along with Lord Chamberlain.

Later rented as a holiday camp, the castle was left uninhabited for some time. The daughter of Mr. Voisin, Mrs. Buneau, sold the chateau to Patrice and Chantal de Saulieu and their children on 24 December 1987.

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