History

The beginning of the story of the Chaslerie has been lost because of wars, fires and revolutions throughout the centuries.

One can imagine that a family settled there to levy tolls on pilgrims at the ford of the neighbouring tributary of the Loire river. Lonlay abbey, less than 5 kms from the Chaslerie, was built at the beginning of the 11th century, as was the church of “Notre-Dame-sur-l’Eau” in Domfront where Chaslerie knights of the Ledin family used to be buried (you can still see the recumbent statue of one of them in his armour when you visit). There, Saint Thomas Becket said mass.

Recumbent statue of Pierre I Ledin



It is likely that a previous manor house existed on the site of the Chaslerie, but was destroyed at the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War between the kingdoms of France and England (from mid 14th to mid 15th centuries). The presence of a moat, plus the numerous shooting holes in the wall stretching from the manor house to the chapel support this interpretation. Relations between Normandy and England date back to when Normandy's Duke, known in France as Guillaume le Bâtard (William the Bastard), defeated Harold at Hastings (1066) and was crowned King of England (and renamed as William I the Conqueror), as related by the Bayeux Tapestry.

Nearby Domfront was a royal castle at the time of the Plantagenêt kings. Aliénor d’Aquitaine (1122 or 1124 – 1204), Queen of France as wife of Louis VII, then Queen of England as wife of Henry II and the mother of Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199), gave birth there to her daughter Aliénor, who became the great mother of Louis IX (Saint Louis, 1214-1266), King of France. Several Ledins, Knights of the Chaslerie, also were Viscounts of Domfront.

The oldest existing buildings of the Chaslerie are the two towers, with their conical roofs, that flank the main dwelling on its NE-SW diagonal. Evidence that this dwelling was rebuilt in 1598 is founded in two inscriptions in the granite, one above the main entrance.

1598 was the year of the edict that put an end to the French Wars of Religion. Thus began an era of prosperity under Henry IV, King of France, whose Prime Minister was Sully. Sully was the landlord of the abbey of Lonlay and it was the Knight of the Chaslerie who managed Sully’s interests in Lonlay ; in this role the Knight could restore his family fortune, previously dilapidated during Italian wars (one Ledin died at the battle of Pavia), which allowed him to rebuild the family manor house. In 1608, Domfront castle was destroyed by order of Sully, to prevent any loss of control of this fortress by the developing central power of the King.

Ruins of Domfront castle



One generation before the French Revolution, the Ledin name was extinct. The last lord of the Chaslerie, Count Louis-Marie de Vassy, a son-in-law of the last Ledin, emigrated, so the Chaslerie was nationalised then sold through an auction in 1794. The family who took over, the Levêques, could keep control of this estate for almost two centuries, until 1991.