Mercure Angoulême Hôtel de France

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Discover the Mercure Angouleme Hotel de France, which was the birthplace of prominent French writerJean-Louis Guez de Balzac.

The city of Angoulême has been home to French royalty and dignitaries for hundreds of years. Francis I, King of France from 1515 to 1547, was born in Cognac and is the most famous count of Angoulême. Francis I became well known internationally for the impressive construction projects he completed during his reign, including Château de Chambord, Château du Louvre, and Château de Fontainebleau. Francis I adored Angoulême, and fondly spoke of the city saying, "Angouleme, un doux air bénin,” meaning that to live there is to breathe well. Francis I’s sister, Marguerite de Valoi, was born in Angoulême in 1492 in the round tower in the castle of the town hall. Marguerite was an exceptional woman of her time, as she was very educated and became one of the first female writers. The grandparents of Francis I and Marguerite are buried in the cathedral of Angoulême. The Mercure hotel was decorated to pay tribute to these two extraordinary characters of French history.

The illustrious history of the Mercure Angoulême Hôtel de France dates back to the 16th century, when Guillaume Guez, mayor of Angoulême, constructed the building as a symbol of his wealth and success. Guillaume and his wife, Marie Nesmond, purchased the area of Balzac, where Guillaume built the Castle of Balzac. Shortly after, he was ennobled and became Guillaume Guez de Balzac. On June 1, 1597, Guillaume and his wife welcomed a son into the world. Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac was born in the castle and baptized in Saint Paul’s on rue des Arceaux. The church no longer exists, but the stained glass windows can be seen by looking at the arches on the street next to the hotel. Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac became a prominent French writer and was known widely across France for his outstanding contributions to French literature. Today, Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac is chiefly known for his collection of letters, which was first published in 1624. Guez de Balzac is championed for the elegance and harmony of his writing, which had not previously been seen in French prose. Many consider his writings to demonstrate the true mastery of incorporating clarity and precision into French prose, which encouraged the development of the French language. Guez de Balzac went on to reach much acclaim in his life, so much so that in 1962, he had a school named after him, Lycée Guez de Balzac of Angoulême, and he was selected as the first member of the French Academy, created by Cardinal Richelieu.

The hotel’s bar also has a very compelling history. The area that the bar currently occupies was once a garden that belonged to the Angoulême family. In 1610, François Ravaillac, the son of the Angoulême family, assassinated Henry IV, which led to his family changing their name and their house on rue des Arceaux being demolished. The land then became a garden and is currently occupied by the bar inside the hotel. Marie de Medici, the widow of Henry IV and mother of Louis XIII, continued the regency in her son’s name. She became head of the Council of the king following the ‘lit de justice’ of October 2, 1614, until 1617, when her son took power. A political crisis broke out between Marie de Medici and Louis XIII when she insisted to hold onto the reins of power, while her son demanded that he take over. During the crisis, Marie de Medici was protected by the Duke of Epernon, who helped the queen escape from the Castle of Blois, where Louis XIII had placed her in exile. Marie de Medici then spent several months with Guillaume Guez, living in his building, which was then known as the Demeure des Guez. Living next to the house where her husband’s murderer was born, Marie de Medici went on to raise an army against her son, until he chose to reconcile with his mother through the Treaty of Angoulême on April 30, 1619. Louis XIII was given the cities of Angers and Chinon, but was forbidden to return to the Council. In 1620, Marie de Medici initiated a civil war, which was commanded by the king, that ended in her total defeat at the Battle of Ponts-de-Cé on April 7, 1620. Out of fear that his mother was still plotting against him, King Louis XIII returned to the French court to reconcile with his mother, which was mediated by Richelieu. Peter Paul Rubens painted the reconciliation and signing of the treaty, which is exhibited in the Louvre, and features the suspended domed ceiling that can be seen in the hotel bar.

In 1650 during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, Angoulême prepared to receive the King of France, who was eleven years old at the time. He spent four days in Angoulême, staying at the castle with Mazarin, who governed the kingdom at the time, and Anne of Austria, his mother. During his stay, Louis XIV hosted all of the important people in Angoulême at the castle. The Guez residence was then bequeathed by a nephew of the family to the Carmelites of Angoulême to use as a convent. The sisters never had the means to restore it, so the building was rented but all written records of the “tenants” were lost. Mr. Astier, the owner of the building in 1810, demolished and reconstructed the hotel on the original foundations of the Hotel de France, making it identical to the old building. In 1875, the building became the Hotel of France. The hotel was occupied during the second world war by the Germans and then resumed its pedigree as the Hotel of France.

  • About the Location +

    The city of Angoulême has been home to French royalty and dignitaries for hundreds of years. Francis I, King of France from 1515 to 1547, was born in Cognac and is the most famous count of Angoulême. Francis I became well known internationally for the impressive construction projects he completed during his reign, including Château de Chambord, Château du Louvre, and Château de Fontainebleau. Francis I adored Angoulême, and fondly spoke of the city saying, "Angouleme, un doux air bénin,” meaning that to live there is to breathe well.


  • Famous Historic Events +

    Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac was born in what is currently the Mercure Angouleme Hotel de France. Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac became a prominent French writer and was known widely across France for his outstanding contributions to French literature. Today, Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac is chiefly known for his collection of letters, which was first published in 1624. Guez de Balzac is championed for the elegance and harmony of his writing, which had not previously been seen in French prose. Many consider his writings to demonstrate the true mastery of incorporating clarity and precision into French prose, which encouraged the development of the French language. Guez de Balzac went on to reach much acclaim in his life, so much so that in 1962, he had a school named after him, Lycée Guez de Balzac of Angoulême, and he was selected as the first member of the French Academy, created by Cardinal Richelieu.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    In 1650 during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, Angoulême prepared to receive the King of France, who was eleven years old at the time. He spent four days in Angoulême, staying at the castle with Mazarin, who governed the kingdom at the time, and Anne of Austria, his mother. During his stay, Louis XIV hosted all of the important people in Angoulême at the castle.


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