The history of Mailleberchie has been determined by its dominant location, straddling the border between
the lands of the counts of Angoulême in Angoumois and the Périgord. These were both initially part of the Duchy of
Aquitaine (Guyenne). Thus the area was frequently contested by the Kings of England and the Kings of France.
It straddles other divides as well.
Geographically and ethnically the domain pertains more to the Périgord than to the Angoumois, where
it has recently been situated politically. The domain’s waters flow into the Dronne in Périgord, not
into the Charente, and the local language is historically Limousin-Occitan, not Saintongeais.
In the middle ages the domain lay within the Duchy of Acquitaine. From 1308 onwards the domain found itself on the border of the county of Angoulesme
with the county of Périgord. Mailleberchie was fortified as an outpost of the Duchy of Lavalette at
least since the 1300’s. Foundry activities at the site have been proven beginning at least as early as
the 1400’s perhaps earlier, and the fabrication of chain-mail armour for the local knights at
Villebois-Lavallette may be the etymological origin for the name “Mailleberchie”, alternately Maille has
also been suggested to mean “locality”, thus hamlet of Berchie.
Coinciding with the start of the 100 Year War, wine from the Charente is first exported to England,
adding significantly to the economy of the region, but also increasing the perception of its value to
opposing forces. A chivalric lodge is erected at Mailleberchie overlooking vital
The site was recorded as having been first permanently fortified in the 1500’s, during the French wars
of religion, when Fort Villebois was largely destroyed and whilst Mailleberchie was a feudal territory
of Joseph Lord of Chastellars. In 1586 the castle and châtellenie of Mailleberchie was given by him as
dowry to Jean de Villedon, also feudal Lord of Perefond and de Laurière, as part of the contract of
marriage with his daughter Anne (called Aimée) de La Rebuterie, dame de Mailleberchie. Jean de Villedon
thus became the Seigneur de Mailleberchie.
Mailleberchie remained a feudal domain of the noble family of de Villedon throughout the 17th century.
The production of cognac (and later, Pineau,) takes hold in the area. Colonists leave
Mailleberchie and its châtellenie for New France (Québec).
The barbican and enceinte, having lost their purposes, were destroyed in the 1700’s, although some
vestiges remain incorporated in the foundations of the commons buildings to the North of the château,
notably the system of vaulted cisterns deep underneath them. A small portion of a moat along the exterior of the old
enceinte, built in the domains's extremely heavy clay, remains at the southeast of the château.
After a devastating fire, the razing of most of the main edifice took place. The planning and the
reconstruction was prepared by Paul Abadie, the renowned and controversial architect of Sacre Coeur de Paris, and
sculptor Ernest Jordes, a project which took from the mid 1800’s until completion in the 1890’s, under
order of Henri de Blanc-Fontenille, (who later became Mayor of Villebois-Lavalette.) Paul Abadie never saw
the completion of the building before his death in 1884, rather the new château was completed under the
supervision of Abadie’s disciple Edouard Warin.
After the Franco-German War, and until the first world war, the Mailleberchie Estate was a small oasis
of international sensibility, its salons entertained the intellectual class and European and English nobility
During the second world war Mailleberchie once again became a border hot spot, lying between the German military
occupation to its West, and the French Territory to its East. The Germans drew the new line immediately East of
the château and made use of the château and its commons as a military commandery, with German generals
taking residence there until the end of the occupation. The occupiers that made use of the château
and their subsequent retreat left the property largely devastated. The Blanc-Fontenilles never returned
to the property, instead selling the vast domain to a farming family from the Vendée, whose priority was
the agricultural potential of the lands.
Inhabited only sporadically as a hunting villa, the château and its surrounding village persisted in
an increasingly ruinous state up until the beginning of its restoration in 2007.
In 2005 the majority of the agricultural buildings of Mailleberchie Commons were razed.
At present the domain and the château have regained use as a home and lodge. The château is used privately
and it is also the home of a small Buddhist community. Visits by the public are not permitted. The restoration, using authentic
materials and methods, is ongoing.