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Inside historic Normandy Chateau: Count and Countess Lepic unveil stunning French home Chateau de Louye

Inside historic Normandy Chateau: Count and Countess Lepic unveil stunning French home Chateau de Louye
Inside historic Normandy Chateau: Count and Countess Lepic unveil stunning French home Chateau de Louye


Jean-Ghislain and Eléonore, Count and Countess Lepic, couldn’t ask for a home with a more distinguished history. Set in the verdant landscape of Normandy, the spectacular Château de Louÿe dates back to 1180, when Richard the Lionheart built a fortress there to defend the lands he held in France. The Lepic dynasty also has an illustrious story. By the time Jean-Ghislain’s ancestor Charles Edouard de Viel-Castel acquired Louÿe in 1882, other relatives of his, the Dukes of Bassano, had been giving loyal service to France’s Napoleonic emperors for the best part of a century.

© CESAR VILLORIA

WORKING PROPOSITION

But despite all that, Jean-Ghislain and Eléonore don’t consider themselves to be classic chateau owners. Rather, they are, she says: “A working couple renovating their family home. Big, yes; historic, yes; but a family home.” And, they add, it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that they’d be living here at all. If the couple aren’t entirely conventional, their family isn’t either. 

Count and Countess Lepic posing outside al fresco with daughters© CESAR VILLORIA

The happy clan at Louÿe includes seven children: Achille and Theodore, Eléonore’s two from her first marriage; Evangéline and Axel, from her second; Jean-Ghislain’s son and daughter Adrien and Clémence; and finally the youngest, Hortense, fruit of their own special love story.

ROMANCE RENEWED

Count and Countess Lepic Nromandy home with floral rugs © CESAR VILLORIA

Eléonore de Boysson, a top executive with the luxury LVMH Group, and her husband, a financial expert, first met when they were barely in their teens. After a short but delightful romance their paths diverged and by the time they crossed again, in London, both were married. After that, it was to be another 20 years before they even set eyes on each other. When they did – at a singles dinner organised by a mutual friend – they finally knew it was meant to be. That was in autumn 2005, and they haven’t looked back.

Eléonore recalls how she received the warmest of welcomes at Louÿe from Jean-Ghislain’sparents, Louis-Jean and Marie-France. “And as I worked and travelled a lot, I was delighted to spend as much time as possible here with the children,” she says. “Of course, I was unaware then of the incredible work and dedication that goes into being châtelaine…”

Count and Countess Lepic fireplace with stag heads and floral seating © CESAR VILLORIA

Then, six years later, her much-loved mother-in-law passed away, and a difficult era opened at Louÿe. “Although Jean-Ghislain helped his father a lot, the truth is that the house gradually fell asleep and that made him very sad, because he has a very strong bond with this place,” she recalls. When, sadly, Jean-Ghislain lost his father too, the property passed to him. The couple knew that they must make a decision. Awaking Louÿe would be a huge task, so they had to either fully commit to it or walk away. And of course, they both already had demanding careers.

Count and Countess Lepic posing on car bonnet with three childrenin Normandy © CESAR VILLORIA

AN AMBITIOUS PROJECT

In the event, it was their professional backgrounds that gave them confidence to take the plunge. Eléonore’s current position at LVMH’s DFS Group includes responsibility for iconic Paris store La Samaritaine. Her talent for promoting French expertise – through developing Disneyland Paris and expanding Louis Vuitton internationally – has even seen her recognised with the Legion of Honour.

Count and Countess Lepic hallway in Normandy chateau© CESAR VILLORIA

Meanwhile, Jean-Ghislain, founder of financial consultancy Infra Gestion, is a valued adviser to the governments of their own and other countries. Together, the pair knew they had the skills needed to assure Louÿe’s future. According to Jean-Ghislain: “We said to ourselves, we have the energy and the entrepreneurial vision, as well as the moral obligation to our ancestors and our children, to move forward.”

Count and Countess Lepic exterior shot of Normandy chateau © CESAR VILLORIA

A MODERN-DAY REVIVAL

That’s not to say that any of it has been easy. The family were spending a weekend at Louÿe when the Covid pandemic hit, putting them in lockdown. But again, they found a positive side to the situation. Jean-Ghislain explains: “For us, the confinement turned out to be a blessing; a kind of honeymoon period. We arrived here in March, when nature begins to wake up, the days are getting longer and everything around you is growing, developing… reviving.

Count and Countess Lepic in workshop during renovations © CESAR VILLORIA

“In fact, it was then that any doubts we’d had dissipated. We began, little by little, with the reconstruction. As we are surrounded by 300 hectares [740 acres] of forest that belong to us, we thought, why not use our own wood? So we set up a professional carpentry shop right here. Now we make windows, doors and furniture for the chateau, and in the future – when, hopefully, we’ve produced all we need – we may even be able to sell our designs.”

Count and Countess Lepic red bedroom with floral curtains and bedspread© CESAR VILLORIA

PROUD FAMILY HISTORY

For the Lepics, it’s not just about restoring objects, but restoring lives. It’s hard for young people from the neighbouring villages to find work locally. “But,” says Eléonore, “the chateau and the projects we are developing should help improve that. We already have apprentices in the workshop and gardens, and this is just the start.”

Count and Countess Lepic red and white floral bedroom with fireplace© CESAR VILLORIA

Jean-Ghislain, who has an enthusiasm forLouÿe that would make his forebears proud, says that he is inspired by those who went before. “My ancestor Hugues Maret, 1st Duke of Bassano, was Secretary of State and Minister of Foreign Affairs to Napoleon Bonaparte and remained loyal to him until the end.” His son Napoléon Maret, the 2nd Duke, was Grand Chamberlain to Napoleon III, and his wife, Pauline van der Linden d’Hooghvorst, was one of the ladies-in-waiting to the Empress Eugénie,” he tells us. 

Count and Countess Lepic green bedroom with leaf print wallpaper© CESAR VILLORIA

(Proof is there in Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s 1855 painting of the Empress at her palace at Compiègne, with Pauline sitting to her left.)The 2nd Duke of Bassano even followed Napoleon III and his Empress into exile in England, where they lived under the protection of Queen Victoria, who was very fond of Eugénie. 

Count and Countess Lepic in grounds of Normandy chateau© CESAR VILLORIA

He later had the sad duty of informing the Empress of the death of her only son, the Prince Imperial Napoleon-Louis, in a battle against the Zulus in what is now South Africa, and of accompanying her to the scene to pay her respects. While the past is everywhere at Louÿe, that doesn’t rule out modernity. 

Count and Countess Lepic dining table with floral tablecloth© CESAR VILLORIA

“We’re adding contemporary details,” Eléonore insists. “Som enice curtains, a comfortable sofa, a cosy quilt… it makes me emotional to think that, a year ago, the entire eastern part of the second floor was in very bad condition and now it has welcoming bedrooms for the children and our friends.”

Count and Countess Lepic table setting with plate and cutlery© CESAR VILLORIA

She says that one of her greatest allies in bringing past and present together is Braquenié, a royal textile manufacturer now celebrating its centenary. “It belongs to our friends at Pierre Frey, and Jean-Ghislain’s mother used the sesame fabrics when she renovated the north wing 30 years ago,” enthuses Eléonore. 

Countess Lepic in belted mini dress with daughter© CESAR VILLORIA

For her and her husband, their remarkable house deserves only the best. As Jean-Ghislain says: “What we are fighting for here is continuity. We’re not the owners, but the managers, the curators of the history linked to Louÿe. And it’s a wonderful challenge that has only just begun.”

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© CESAR VILLORIA

PRODUCTION & INTERVIEW: VICTORIA DE ALCAHUD

PHOTOS: CESAR VILLORIA

DECOR: BRAQUENIE-PIERRE FREY

Count and Countess Lepic china collection© CESAR VILLORIA



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