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The castle

While the château itself is not open to the public, visitors can walk all the way up to its majestic towers. From this vantage point, known as the “terrasse des canons”, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the pretty mediaeval village of Apremont, the wild Allier river and the imposing roof of the estate’s stables. Like many places in France, the Château d’Apremont as we know it today is the result of the ingenuity of many men and women over the centuries. Depending on their wealth, the innovations of their time and their own personal aspirations, the owners of Château d’Apremont made many different changes to the mediaeval fortress.

The mediaeval fortress

Château d’Apremont’s strategic position high on the banks of the Allier river led to its fortification as early as the Middle Ages. Moats, high walls, and fourteen towers originally stood where the castle stands today. Its role was not only to guard the route along the river, but also to collect tolls.

The numerous wars that took place between the State of Burgundy and the Kingdom of France took their toll and left the estate in ruins. At the end of the 15th century, the castle was passed to Philibert de Boutillat, Bailiff of Nevers and later Treasurer of France. He rebuilt Apremont, including the five towers that can be seen today. 100 years later, Apremont became the home of Lord de Roffignac. He extended the main building by adding an additional storey and installed large windows, making the estate a lot more comfortable.

A family-owned chateau passed down by the women

Apremont was purchased by Louis de Béthune in 1722 from the Roffignac, and the estate has remained in the same family ever since, passing down through the women of the family. At this time, the castle was in quite poor condition. Important restoration works were carried out by Béthune’s great-granddaughter, Caroline de Masseran, who would become Marquise de Saint Sauveur in 1801. The roof was adorned with curved dormer windows, a raised platform was built around the castle to make it easier for horse-drawn carriages to pass through, and large stables were built at the foot of the castle. Her son continued the restoration works, and the north gallery was torn down to enhance the view over the Allier river.

At the end of the 19th century, Antoinette de Saint-Sauveur married Eugène Schneider, ironmaster at Le Creusot and third in line to the industrial dynasty. He quickly became enamoured with the site and, between the wars, undertook a large amount of work to improve and modernise it. Vast avenues were created in the forest, ponds were built and the village houses were all redesigned to match Eugène Schneider’s image of the place in the late Middle Ages.
The castle itself also went through a number of changes. The towers were restored using stone from the old village quarries; the west facade was redesigned in the style of the late 15th century, and electricity and running water were installed.

The site was then passed down to the Brissac family following the marriage of May Schneider, Eugène and Antoinette’s daughter, to the Duke of Brissac. Their children Gilles and Elvire took the reins a few years later, both with their own area of expertise: for Gilles, the gardens, for Elvire, the forest.

Today, the estate is managed by Louise Hurstel, Gilles and Elvire Brissac’s great niece, and her husband, Pierre-Armand.

The history of Apremont's cannons

At the foot of the castle you can find two cannons bursting with history! These cannons, named Mercure and Julien, were made in 1747 and 1748 under the reign of Louis XV. Eugène Schneider brought them over from Le Creusot just before the advent of World War II, in order to keep them safe. After being hidden for years, the cannons were subsequently moved to the castle grounds when the floral park opened to the public in 1970.

The cannons were stolen in November 2021, but miraculously found 6 months later in a recycling centre where they were going to be melted down. Both of them had been sawn in two and left with significant damage. Their masterful restoration is being carried out by the COURBERTIN Foundry, with help from the DERICHEBOURG Group. They were put back in their rightful place on June 9, 2023.