Paul-Louis Courier

Courrierist, lampooner, polemist
photo1 photo2

Main information on the small towns or villages
mentioned in Courier’s biography

Azay-sur-Cher Azay-sur-Cher (photo JP Lautman)

Azay-sur-Cher (Indre-et-Loire)

C Crossed by the river Cher, Azay, formerly spelled Azé or Azai, carries this name since the 15th century. Located 15 km from Tours, it is Véretz’s eastern neighbor. The area is home to several residential castles: Le Coteau, Leugny, Beauvais (where De Gaulle spent two or three nights in June of 1940), La Gitonnière, La Michelinière and also the remains of an ancient priory called Saint-Jean-du-Grais. The parish church, consecrated to Saint Magadalen, was restored in 1790; its access was a square reserved for the village’s fairs and in particular for dancing. The young priest of Azay, abbot Bruneau, against the opinion of the town council, forbade the dance during the St John holiday in 1822, the day of the annual Assembly that led Courier to protest in the Pétition for villagers.
Azay had a population of 1,314 inhabitants in 1793, 1,209 in 1821 and today counts more than 2,800 inhabitants.
Azay-sur-Cher Azay-sur-Cher

Cinq-mars-la-pile (photo JP Lautman) Cinq-mars-la-pile (photo JP Lautman)

Cinq-Mars-la-Pile (Indre-et-Loire)

T he first known lord of this seigniory was Geoffroy de Saint-Médard.
With the passing years, the patronymic Saint-Médard given to the parish changed to Saint-Mars.
At the end of the 16th century, the name of the parish was spelled Cinq-Mars.
After the beheading of the 22 year-old duke Henri Ruzé d’Effiat, marquis of Cinq-Mars, Louis XIII’s head squire, on the 12th of September, 1642, the castle was razed by order of Richelieu.
Site of the Roman pile, a unique monument of its kind, Cinq-Mars later became Cinq-Mars-la-Pile. Jean-Paul Courier settled there in 1776.
La Véronique was resold by Paul-Louis Courier on March, 31st of 1803.
The commune counted 1,200 inhabitants in 1792 and 1,690 in 1831. Today there are almost 3,000 inhabitants.
Cinq-mars-la-pile Cinq-mars-la-pile

Larçay Larçay (photo JP Lautman)

Larçay (Indre-et-Loire)

C lose to Saint-Avertin and to its east, Larçay was the seat of a Roman fortress during the Late Roman Empire. This castellum allowed its residents to resist the threat of potential assailants. In the middle of December, 1815, Courier bought the woods known as the “Larçay Forest;” they are located on the borders of four villages: Saint-Avertin, Larçay, Véretz and Esvres. Their largest part is situated on Larçay’s territory. Today, the woods are the property of the city of Tours.
The writer looked at a house there in November of 1816 but did not buy it as it was too expensive.
The mayor of Larçay was informed by his colleague from Véretz about the disappearance of Paul-Louis Courier. Both of the town councilors dispatched, in the early hours, a squad to try to find the missing man. It is Véretz’s team who discovered the body on the 11th of April, 1825, between 9 and 10 a.m. He was carried to a farm of Larçay, le Guessier, also spelled Gaissier.

Larçay Larçay Le Guessier (photo JP Lautman)

Here, the autopsy was carried out on the deceased, whose remains were then taken to the Chavonnière at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon.
The town of Larçay inaugurated the street Paul-Louis Courier in May of 1979 late in the morning of the 20th.
Larçay counted 460 inhabitants in 1792, 441 in 1806, and 470 in 1831. Nowadays, its population exceeds 2,000 inhabitants.

Luynes Luynes (photo JP Lautman)

Luynes (Indre-et-Loire)

T he parish, formerly named Maillé and located along the edge of the Loire, changed its name in 1619 after the purchase of the fortress-like castle and the surrounding lands by Charles d’Albert, Louis XIII’s favorite, lord of Luynes, a fief situated south of Aix-en-Provence. From that date on, the dukes of Albert de Luynes took up residence in Touraine.
The forests of the Duke adjoined those of Jean-Paul Courier who had bought La Filonnière at an auction, situated about 3 km north from the parish’s center, half-way between Luynes and Pernay. A manor was built there in the middle of the 19th century, long after the Courier family owned the place. Paul-Louis Courier, who had wanted to get out of La Filonnière since 1816, sold it off only on March 15th, 1823.

Luynes Halls in Luynes (photo JP Lautman)

The small town was the site of the episode of the White Terror (Terreur blanche), denounced by Courier in the Petition to the two Chambers (Pétition aux deux chambres). It still has some old buildings, one of which houses the municipal library. There is also the old covered market with its superb roof structure, partially destroyed in order to accommodate the community center.
The town counted 2,136 inhabitants in 1792 and 2,165 in 1831. Today it has a little over 5,000 inhabitants.
Luynes - House of the fifteenth century (photo JP Lautman) Luynes - House of the fifteenth century (photo JP Lautman)

Mazières Mazières (foto JP Lautman)

Mazières-de-Touraine (Indre-et-Loire)

O n April 21st of 1774, Jean-Paul Courier bought the land of Le Breuil and its numerous dependencies. He sold all of it on the 4th of December, 1779, thus never residing in the 18th century castle, modified in the 19th.
Courier’s parents got married on the 11th of February, 1777 in the church of Saint-Pierre, the only one in the area to have a double wall steeple.
Enclosed in the middle of the forest to the north of Cinq-Mars, Mazières was home to 130 souls in 1789, 539 in 1794, and 659 in 1821. Today, the Mazerians exceed 1,100. Its main street (and road) carries the name of Paul-Louis Courier.

Mazieres Castle of Breuil in Mazières

Mazieres Paul-Louis Courier street in Mazières

11 rue de l'Estrapade à Paris 11 rue de l'Estrapade in Paris (photo JF Hartmann)


A t the end of 1784, Paul-Louis’ parents settled in the neighborhood of the Pantheon so that their son could benefit from a sound education. They took up residence on Estrapade Street. In 1925, a commemorative plate was affixed to the number 11 of the street. In fact, everything points to the fact that the Couriers settled in the current number 5 next to the number 3 where Diderot had lived thirty years before. The cousins Marchand, to whose house Paul-Louis Courier went often, were living at Bourdonnais street, number 12. Likewise, most of his friends or relations were residing in the capital. The Claviers lived on the Rue Neuve des Bons Enfants, then on the Rue Coq-Héron, and finally in the Marais.

Histoire de Paris History of Paris (photo JP Lautman)

Pernay Pernay (photo JP Lautman)

Pernay (Indre-et-Loire)

P ernay is situated at around 20 km from Tours, north of Luynes and Cinq-Mars. There, Paul-Louis Courier, age seven-and-a-half years, was placed for twenty four months under the care of Jean-Martin Duroncé, who was a former teacher at the collège of Tours, held by Oratorians since the eviction of the Jesuits. The latter consolidated the child’s knowledge of Latin and in all likelihood introduced him to Greek. Duroncé will be Mayor of Pernay during part of the Revolution, and died there on September 14th, 1805.
Pernay had 400 inhabitants in 1793, 406 in 1821, and counts about a thousand today.

Christophe Plantin

Saint-Avertin (Indre-et-Loire)

I It was first known under the name of Vençay or Vançay. The village gradually took the name of Saint-Avertin, a hermit of Scottish origin, and a companion of the Archbishop Thomas Beckett. The councillor of the Archbishop of Canterbury was thought to have found refuge in the forest of Grandmont after the assassination of his master.
Christophe Plantin, the famous printer of the Renaissance of Antwerp, was most likely born there around 1514.

The two bridges of Saint-Avertin (photo JP Lautman) The two bridges of Saint-Avertin (photo JP Lautman)

The village was crossed by the river Cher until 1855 when the city of Tours, anxious to extend, bought from it the north area of the river. An old bridge of two parts, linked to an island through the north and the south, long ago allowed to cross the Cher on foot. The north part was however pulled down in 1793 for fear that the pro-royalists of Vendée would use it to invade Tours. Paul-Louis Courier denounces the non reconstruction of this structure in the introduction of his Simple Speech (Simple discours).
Destroyed during World War II, the stone bridges of Saint-Avertin were rebuilt in concrete. The picture on the right shows the new north bridge at the place of the one destroyed during the Revolution.
When the lampoonist bought the Larçay Forest, he thought of purchasing a residence in Saint-Avertin. In poor health, undecided and tired, he confided to his wife in a letter on the 1st of March, 1818: “A house at Saint-Avertin would restore both of us.” This project did not see the light, for, exasperated to try to find a house somewhere, he bought La Chavonnière.

Cange castle in Saint-Avertin (photo City of Saint-Avertin) Cange castle in Saint-Avertin (photo City of Saint-Avertin)

In the last century, Saint-Avertin was the scene of a dark chapter in France’s history. As he was running away from the advancing German army, the President of the Republic, Albert Lebrun, settled at the castle of Cangé with part of his staff on June 10th, 1940. There, he presided over the last two Cabinet meetings of the 3rd Republic, which had to formally record the defeat and to draw the distressing consequences that know. On June 14th, the presidency withdrew to Bordeaux. Many authors are not afraid to mistakenly claim that these tragic events occurred at the commune of Cangey, near Amboise, but we hope to forever put an end to this common oversight.
On June 3rd, 1972, the town of Saint-Avertin gave the name of Paul-Louis Courier to one of its streets.
When Courier wrote his Simple speech (Simple discours), Saint-Avertin counted 1,167 inhabitants. Today a bit more than 14,000 are registered.

Tours Tours Plumereau square (photo ville de Tours)

Tours (Indre-et-Loire)

C ourier used to go to Tours where his father resided before getting married. The writer would stay at the Hotel d’Angleterre, as would his wife when she went there to do some shopping or for administrative errands.
The city, situated upriver from the confluence of the Cher and the Loire, takes its name from the Turones, the Gallic population who lived near the royal river. It was once the base of a Roman camp, Caesarodunum.
Tours is rich with a prestigious past over which we cannot linger but which was seriously damaged in the last world war. This prefecture and university town is the seat of the secondary school Lycée Paul-Louis Courier, close to the Saint-Gatien cathedral. Formerly a high school for boys founded in 1882, the lycée settled in the site of the ancient seminary, in 1908.
Tours Hotel de ville Tours City Hall

Contained for a long time along the Loire, the city has gradually absorbed the surrounding areas: first the parishes, and then its bordering municipalities. The demographic evolution of this administrative and cultural regional capital is as follows: 20,434 inhabitants in 1790, 21,928 in 1820, 83,753 in 1936. Nowadays, 137,000 people reside there.

Véretz Véretz (photo JP Lautman)

Véretz (Indre-et-Loire)

T he village known under the name of Verez became Véretz, traditionally pronounced « véret » without the sound of the letter « z ».
Véretz has seen several celebrities. Among them, Pierre Forget, baron and lord of Véretz, a Catholic who Henry IV put in charge of writing up the Edict of Nantes with the pastor Daniel Chamier; Armand-Jean Bouthillier, godson of the Cardinal de Richelieu, usually referred to as l’abbé de Rancé, a socialite ecclesiastic, fond of women and horses, and future rigorous reformer of the Trappist order; Emmanuel Armand-Vignerot du Plessis, Cardinal de Richelieu’s great-grandnephew, better known as Duke of Aiguillon, who, in the middle of the 18th century, had a residential castle built on the Cher’s edge, where Baron Jean de La Barre who was close to Charles VIII, had his the castle erected in 16th century.

Véretz The castle of Véretz at the time of the Duke d’Aiguillon
(painting of Louis Nicolas Van Blarenberghe,
housed at the Agen prefecture)

The Duke of Aiguillon was the big Touraine rival of the Duke de Choiseul, with whom he was disgraced in 1774 in his castle of Aiguillon near Agen, forbidden from staying at the Véretz’castle. After its nationalization, the castle was bought on June 24th, 1796, with its 80 acres of land and its 224 acres of garden, by Messrs Jean Perré and François Paumier. The residence and parc was deforested for the latter, torn down for the former, such that after some years, only the outbuildings and a small part of the castle beside the church remained.

Véretz The castle of Véretz, neo-gothic style, built in the 19th century

In 1836, another castle in neo-gothic style was erected by the new buyer of the remains of the place, Count Philippe Panon Desbassayns de Richemont, also owner of the castle of Cangé at Saint-Avertin.

Place de Véretz Véretz square

At the begining of 1816, Courier sees the Chavonnière for the first time; it belongs to Augustin Isambert. He will buy it only in April of 1818 because he had hoped to purchase the Roche-Marin’s castle, but it was bought by the marquis de Siblas in 1821. The Couriers got along well with him, so much so that the marquis invited Mrs Courier to a lunch while the author of the Simple Speech (Simple Discours) served his prison sentence. She declined the invitation. Mr de Siblas took the place of de Beaune as the mayor of Véretz on June 3rd, 1830. He discovered that his predecessor had slightly confused his personal accounts with the commune’s. He informed the prefect about this fact who asked de Beaune to pay back the missing amount.
For lack of maintenance, the Roche-Marin’s castle fell into decay after World War II until it became a pile of ruins.
In 1793, 885 people were living in Véretz, in 1821 there were 855. Today, the population consists of 4,000 inhabitants.