Chateau de Veves

Chateau de Veves has been in the hands of the same noble family for the last 8 centuries. Count Hadelin de Liedekerke Beaufort who owns the Belgian castle now says running it is an honour and a great responsibility. He is also inspired by his father who took good care of the chateau when he completed major renovations in the 1970s.

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Artiom Ganin, the owner of the Castles_and_Palaces instagram community has the honor of talking to Count Hadelin de Liedekerke Beaufort, the owner of the picturesque Chateau de Veves in the village of Celles, in Belgium's province of Namur. Classified as Major Heritage of Wallonia the castle has been owned by the same family for the last 800 years. Mr. Hadelin de Liedekerke Beaufort continues the cause of his father who conducted major reconstruction works at the castle in the 1970s. The chateau has seen a lot during its long history – it was also the venue where a miracle is believed to have happen when a man who axed a tree found a statue of Virgin Mary inside. Mr. Hadelin de Liedekerke Beaufort say the castle is not a business for him - still he has to apply certain business-like techniques to run it so that he is able to safely pass it into the hands of the family's next generation.

8 CENTURIES IN THE HANDS OF ONE FAMILY

Castles and Palaces (CnP): My first question is how is it possible that your family has owned the castle for so many centuries non-stop – since the Middle Ages? Normally families come and go, branches cease to exist, castles got into state ownership, etc. This is unbelievable!
Count Hadelin de Liedekerke Beaufort (HdLB): You are quite right in saying that. In Belgium at least, keeping a family house in the same family for more than 800 years is unusual but probably not unique. Over the centuries there were of course difficult periods and it was a miracle that the family has managed to retain the castle. Maybe because - as a friend of mine told his son - "it is a pocket medieval castle".
CnP: Strong roots. Your father Count Christian de Liedekerke Beaufort launched major restoration works which lasted a decade - from 1969 to 1979. Do you remember anything from those times?
HdLB: My father did put a lot of energy and finance to save the place. I have followed the restoration works over the period you mention. I remember, in 1971 I believe, having helped with others to organise the opening to the public of the first part of the castle which had been renovated.
CnP: Which surprises did the castle reveal to your father back then?
HdLB: My father knew this house by heart if I may say so. But still we managed to find something absolutely unknown – during the works we discovered elements of a huge chimney, which was situated in the Arms Room. So, we managed to have it rebuilt the way it looked in the medieval times. At the same time this motivated us to rebuild the room in what we believe was its original size and do away with three bedrooms that had been located on the same spot in the 18th century.
CnP: I believe it was quite a discovery! But what was the biggest challenge?
HdLB: The biggest challenge was to get the help of the state for part of the restoration works.

CnP: Any restoration normally costs a fortune! How did the state help you to preserve and repair this 15th century military architecture gem?
HdLB: The state gave large subsidies for the restoration. May be 80%. But the help came not only from the state - some members of the family also helped my father with financing the works.

CnP: Do you live at the castle now?
HdLB: I have what you can call "a grace and favour" small flat within the castle. It is neither a principal or secondary residence but it can be used in some cases - usually when I must be on the site for meetings, or when I need to stay overnight. It is also used in connection with various works or for research in the family archives.
CnP: What's your strongest emotion linked with the castle?
HdLB: It is hard to say. But you know we have in 2017, the Touristic Association of the Village of Celles and me, more than 200 years after its demise, decided to revive what is called"La Compagnie de la Terre de Celles" [the Compagnie is a form of a private army whose responsibility wasto defend the inhabitants of the Barony and their assets].

It was rathermoving to see menof the village in uniforms with flags marching up to the courtyard of the castle and to hear the inspiring music. Such a review in the courtyard of the Castle occurs once a year. As the Commander of the "Compagnie" I am always pleased to receive the troopers and their families for a cocktail party in the castle afterwards.

Needless to say, "La Compagnie" has many other various opportunities in between the village festivities to meet during the year.

CnP: What's your favorite part of the castle?
HdLB: It is probably the first floor which is beautifully redecorated by my wife, Countess Angèle, and of course the Arms Room is fantastic!

CHATEAU DE VEVES AND THE HOLY LAND

CnP: You offer guided tours around the castle – can all premises be visited?
HdLB: I would say you can access more than 85% of the castle but obviously the small private flat and various archive rooms are not open to the general public.

CnP: The original castle was built in the 7th century, it was destroyed several times, rebuilt, restored and what not – what's the most significant (or little known) historical fact about Chateau de Veves in your opinion?
HdLB: Everybody knows about the Holy Grail, right? There's a story which is based on real facts by the way - it was in the 12th century that Theodore de Celles took part in the Third Crusade. But what did the man bring back from the Holy Land? This is a great mystery for all! My castle manager was so inspired by this that she came up with an idea – to organize The Holy Grail game for kidsand since we work in tandem I told her "I like it, please go ahead!" This is how her brilliant idea converted into a very successful and enjoyable attraction for families.
CnP: Let's hope children will find the Holy Grail after all those years! Dressing up, princes and princesses, knights, swords and shields, dames and kings – you do offer this experience to children – what about grown-up children I mean re-enactors. Do you hold medieval reenactment festivals on the castle grounds?
HdLB: For the time being we don't have medieval festivals on the castle grounds on a regular basis. Last time it was done in 2017 with a large participation of the village.

THE LEGEND OF VIRGIN MARY

CnP: There's a legend linked with the castle – the so-called oak miracle when a statue of Virgin Mary was found by a woodcutter inside an oak tree he just fell. What do you think of it?
HdLB: Well, this is so personal – you will learn why in a minute! A statue of Virgin Mary was indeed found by a woodcutter on the estate in 1609. It was brought to the castle and given to the Count of Beaufort, Baron de Celles. And then one more miracle happened – the Baron had a baby son and once the infant fell in the staircase of the castle. His mother, father and their household prayed in front of this statue for many hours or even days and the little boy which everyone thought was dying – recovered! Had he not, I would not be there to tell you the story! The Count of Beaufort of the time built a chapel on the spot where the statue was found and another chapel at another estate he had close to Brussels.
CnP: This a very good story indeed! You call the castle "The sleeping beauty castle" – does it have any connection with the actual story from the 14thcentury?
HdLB: The castle was referred to this way by many people in the region. Why? It was a beautiful building which hibernated for some 200 years with relatively no activity around it.
Chateau de Veves
Practical Information: How to get there and where to stay?
CnP: Ah, I see, it is used in this sense - the castle is a true mixture of different architectural styles – can you trace these different periods if you look at it? Are they seen or are they hidden?
HdLB: The oldest rooms of the castle date to the 13thcentury. Different parts were then either transformed or added from the 16ththrough to 18thcentury. They can be all seen by the visitors. You know many of the buildings which were part of the fortress were dismantled in the 19thcentury – like the stables, the chapel, and others. However, the main house managed to survive. In the 16thcentury the three-level fortifications were destroyed during a local war, but one can see the remains of these at a ground level now.
CnP: Even if you own a county house you have to mend something from time to time – what about your castle? How often does it require interventions to fix this or that?
HdLB: It all depends on the finances - but much work is done every year to keep up the place. Certain parts of the castle (such as for example the roofing) require the intervention of the state and it was the case in 2008. We normally try to do other works by ourselves.

CnP: Do you have plans to offer accommodation – a lot of people would love to spend a night or two at such an old castle with such a great history to experience the atmosphere first-hand?
HdLB: We have no plans to offer accommodation. Only a room or two could be used in such a way and therefore the staff cost would be ridiculously high and it is not reasonable. However, we do have a program for schools – it is called a "Night at the Castle". This includes a medieval dinner and staying together sleeping - as people did in the medieval times - in the Arms Room with a fire in the chimney. And mind you – we have no ghosts! We are ghost-free castle if you like!
CnP: If you had no castle would you buy one to restore and reside there?
HdLB: Most probably I would not. Just imagine how much effort is needed to keep that kind of place! I am quite happy to keep the 800 years of family history but I would not be very keen to take the unnecessary burden.

CnP: What would you tell those dreaming about buying a castle to restore and turn it into a private residence, a restaurant or a luxurious hotel?
HdLB: Why not! But it depends entirely upon the structure of the building and if it can be adjusted for the purpose you intend to use it for. Let me tell you this - for me it is not a business as such, on the contrary, it is a responsibility to run a place like this and to consider a business approach in a way that allows the next generation to be encouraged to take up the challenge. Indeed, it will then be their responsibility to continue or discontinue the work which I have now done for some 34 years!
We very much hope that you liked the interview with Count Hadelin de Liedekerke Beaufort who owns Chateau de Veves in Belgium!
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Photo credits: Chateau de Veves

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