Jacques de Crussol, 53, is the 17th Duke of Uzès. He has grown up in the castle located right in the center of town, called the Duchy. . These days, he actually leaves in Paris but makes a point of coming to Uzès once a month, and spends most of the summer there. Just like the Queen of England, his family’s flag floats when he is in residence...
The Duke, a US educated (MBA Columbia University) businessman [right], spends a good bit of his free time (and a lot of money) in continuing the massive renovation effort initially launched by his grandmother back in 1951, which he decided to step up 20 years ago. He is proud to say that the project should be finally completed within a few years. From the ground to the top of the highest tower, from gardens to interior decoration: the duchy has now almost regained its former splendor. The Duchy of Uzès is actually the only such family “Monument historique” in France to have been renovated in such a way – mostly with private money.
A large part of the Duchy is open to the public. At 17€ per adult, some say that the ticket price is bit high. The Duke argues that he receives very little financial help to keep the house running and opened – also, he says that by keep this price level, he actually wants to limit the number of visitors... But you can also come on Saturday mornings, market day, and enjoy a reduced fare of 10€.
There are up to four people working fulltime at the Duchy, headed by Mohamed Salhi and Françoise Prezet. Mohamed is the main caretaker. He is in charge of the garden, welcoming the paying guests, and some of the tours. He has also organized wine tastings – but activity has been discontinued as “it should really a full time job here in Uzès.” Françoise takes of the house itself; also during the summer she helps with the garden and the tours (sources: Le Républicain d’Uzès, 18th August 2011).
The Duchy, right in the centre of the town, is of imposing size and shows its military origins in the 12th century Bermonde Tower, and its ramparts with corner turrets. The rest of the history of France is shown in its remarkable Renaissance facade from the 16th century, where once can see superimposed the 3 classic orders of architecture – ionic, Doric and Corinthian. It is very rare to see all three in the same facade. The 17th and 18th centuries meet in the large windows of the facades opening onto the main courtyard and the garden.
Every year the Duchy of Uzès hosts many events - The Musical Nights (Les Nuits Musicales) with its concerts; the Painted Furniture Show, films and receptions; all make these old walls live again. Magic moments like these are limited so as to preserve the family atmosphere of the place. They are held in the courtyards, and in the two rooms on the ground floor looking onto the gardens which are reserved for the purpose (and can be rented for private events): the Capetian Room and the Panelled Room.
To find out more about the history of his family, visit the Duchy’s website - in English here. If you can’t visit the castle itself, enjoy the 360-degree views provided by Sud360.fr: click on the picture in the center of this page, and explore 12 different 360-degree pictures taken inside the Duchy.
Browse below for a 4-minute mini documentary shot in Uzès and in the Duchy (in French) – including a few words with the Duke himself. And those who missed the concert held on the 23rd of July in the courtyard of the Duchy during the Nuits Musicales can enjoy (further below) Handel’s Water Music Suite N°1.