The château de Tocqueville is an interesting and unique mix of styles due to the three different construction periods (16th, 18th and 19th century). This architectural diversity gives a special charm to the house but respects its harmony as well. For its architecture and history the Château is considered a national landmark and is listed among France’s Patrimoine National.
Up until the 16th century, the property consisted primarily in a large Normand stone house surrounded by 2 towers. Throughout the Middle Ages, when most homes were made of wood and thatch, any building made of stone was a “stronghold”, and, already in the 16th century, the manor was considered a house of nobility: as attests the stone banner around the dovecote, the owner was incumbent of the right of “local justice”… the lord of the manor was a kind of “juge de paix“. A third tower, used as a dovecote, was located at the border of the courtyard accessible by a porch (around 1840, the porch was transferred stone by stone to the middle of the driveway in order to add more space to the estate).
In 1661, the manoir becomes the property of the Clérel family in an exchange of estates. The Château de Tocqueville has, indeed, never been sold since its origin. The Clérels were established in Normandy since the 16th century. By owning the Tocqueville manor they added the name of the fief as it was the use in that time and thus became the Clérel de Tocqueville.
During the 18th century, the Tocquevilles married into well-established families belonging to the royal court, which allowed them to transform the Manoir (manor house) into a Château (castle). The current façade was erected and the property enlarged. Side houses were added, as well as a house for “the guard”.
Fortunately, the period of the French Revolution did not have any negative consequences for the estate, since the family has always entertained friendly relationships with the neighboring villagers and therefore did not draw their ire.
During the 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville’s wife, Mary Motley, decided to create an English style garden with the charming pond you can now see. In 1896, Count Christian de Tocqueville, the great-grand-father of the actual owner, built the square tower, the Tower wing, on the Southern side of the building as well as the two annexes to the side houses.
In the 20th century and despite proximity to the war zone, once again the fortune favored the Château: the Second World War left few souvenirs, other than a pair of German blockhouses that you can see in the park, and a visit by the novelist Ernst Hemingway, who was a war correspondent at the time, and had landed with American troops a few days after D-Day and stayed at the Château.