Photo Albéric d’Orléans

Alberic d’Orleans

General Gudin’s descendant

Albéric d’Orléans is a direct descendant of Charles-Etienne Gudin. The general’s granddaughter, Louise, married Albéric d’Orléans de Rère, whose family seat was the chateau de Rère in the Sologne region just south of the city of Orléans. Thus Alberic was the 22nd generation of his family to hand over the property from father to son.

Alberic d’Orleans
Alberic d’Orleans

The current count Albéric d’Orléans de Rère had not always lived at the stately home. When he was a child, he used to visit his grandfather there. He then pursued a career in finance, but when the chateau became too much for his father to manage, he moved in and ran it as a bed-and-breakfast and reception venue for ten years. However, chateaux are ruinously expensive to maintain, and the work to make it break even became too much. The Orléans family decided to give up their ancient seat, which was sold in 2019.

We thought the grave had disappeared during the 1941 bombing of Smolensk.

Albéric d’Orléans was very surprised when his ancestor’s remains were found: “We thought the grave had disappeared during the 1941 bombing of Smolensk.” However he feels that it is totally legitimate that Gudin’s remains be brought back to France and buried at the Invalides in Paris next to Napoleon’s tomb: “he was one of Napoleon’s greatest generals”.

Since his wife Maria is Russian, Albéric d’Orléans also has personal reasons for wishing that his ancestor’s reappearance will have a positive impact in the present: “I hope that it will remind the French and the Russians of their common history and will cause their relations to become more constructive and friendlier”. In any case, he points that two of Napoleon’s faithful who took part in the invasion of Russia, General Gudin and Marshal Mortier, now have descendants who are both French and Russian.

The Orléans family

The Orléans family is not part of the French royal family, although the name also refers to the branch descended from Louis XIV’s brother. In fact, this family’s roots go very far back in France’s history, to its Medieval knights.

A certain Foulcher d’Orléans, knight of Orleans, was a leader of the first crusade at the end of the 11th century. He is featured in the Crusades Rooms at Versailles palace.

Alberic d’Orleans
Foulcher d’Orleans accompanied preacher Peter the Hermit to Constantinople during the first Crusade. The Siege of Nicea, miniature, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 13th century.

The chateau of Rère passed into the family’s hands in the 14th century when a knight of Orléans married a lady de Rère.

The family kept its tradition of military service and in in 1745, one sixteen year old son took part in the battle of Fontenoy, the French monarchy’s last major military victory.

The French Revolution tore noble families apart: some aristocratic officers, such as Charles Etienne Gudin de la Sablonnière, sided with the new order whereas many others fled France and took up arms against the system that was sending their families to the guillotine.

The family held onto its home during those turbulent years. This was because the lord of the manor, Jacques Marie d’Orléans de Rère, who would have been perceived as more of a threat, died in 1792. His widow, Marie Paule refused to leave the chateau, which meant the government could not sell it. Her two young sons, who were in danger, were hidden by the local baker. They were informed upon but when the authorities came to arrest them, the boys were working as apprentices and were not recognised.

In my family, Napoleon is the one who healed all the wounds of the Revolution. By the end of the empire, everyone was a Bonapartist.

“In my family, Napoleon is the one who healed all the wounds of the Revolution”, Albéric d’Orléans explained. “By the end of the empire, everyone was a Bonapartist.” Therefore, the marriage in 1861 between another Albéric and Louise Gudin was welcomed.

As it turns out, Louise was also the granddaughter of another military leader of the 1812 Russia campaign: Marshal Edouard Mortier, duc of Trevise, was made governor of Moscow’s Kremlin by Napoleon. Later on, he returned to the country as French ambassador to Saint Petersburg in 1830-31. Marshal Mortier became prime minister in 1834-35 under King Louis-Philippe and was killed in an assassination attempt on the king in 1835.

Gudin-Orleans family tree

  • married
    • Charles Etienne César Gudin de la Sablonnière
      1768 -1812
    • Marie Jeannette Caroline Christine de Creutzer
      1778 -1866
  • married 1836
    • Charles Gabriel César Gudin de la Sablonnière
      1798 -1874
    • Eve Sophie Stéphanie Mortier de Trévise
      1814 -1890
  • married 1681
    • Charles Gabriel César Gudin de la Sablonnière
    • Jacques Marie Jean Joseph Albéric d’Orléans
      1822 -1892
  • married
    • Jacques d’Orléans
      1863 -1945
    • Mathilde d’Aymar de Chateaurenard
      1864 -1953
  • married 1934
    • Frédéric Jacques Albéric d’Orléans
      1895 -1985
    • Marie de Forbin de Issarts
  • married 1971
    • Jacques d’Orléans
    • Brigitte Van der Stallen Waillet
  • married
    • Albéric Romée Marie d’Orléans
    • Maria

History of the Château de Rère

The château de Rère is located in the village of Thellay, in the Loire-et-Cher district, seventy kilometres South of the Loire river, in the classic chateau country of Sologne . Until it was sold in 2019, it was the oldest family property in the Sologne.

A medieval castle existed there in the 14th century, and had probably been built much early, according to its most recent owner, Albéric d’Orléans. However there are no historical records proving this.

In the 17th century, the old building was destroyed a new one built in the style known as Louis XIII. The moat, draw-bridge and fortified walls stayed standing until they were demolished in the second half of the 19th century, under Napoleon III.

In 1940, while France was collapsing under the German advance, one of the last command posts of the French army stayed at the chateau and, according to Albéric d’Orléans, a cease-fire was signed there around 16 June, just as the French government was suing for peace. Among the military was a young lieutenant, George Pompidou, who would later become French President.