||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the French Wikipedia. (December 2008)|
Main square with a statue of Alexandre Dumas and church
|Intercommunality||Villers-Cotterêts–Forêt de Retz|
|• Mayor (2008–2014)||Jean-Claude Pruski|
|• Land1||41.71 km2 (16.10 sq mi)|
|• Population2 density||240/km2 (630/sq mi)|
|INSEE/Postal code||02810 / 02600|
|Elevation||65–226 m (213–741 ft)
(avg. 120 m or 390 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
It is located 80 km (50 mi) NE of Paris via the RN2 facing Laon. Its nickname Petite villa sur la côte de Retz means Little villa by the coast of Retz, as the town is situated next to the Retz forest (fr) which covers 130 km2 (50 sq mi) of land.
Villers-Cotterêts is famous because of the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts 1539 signed by king Francis I of France ('François Ier') which made French the official language in the kingdom instead of regional languages like Occitan or the cultured European lingua franca of time, Latin.
In 1914, the British Expeditionary Force fought a rearguard action here during the Retreat from Mons. On 1 September, the British 4th (Guards) Brigade who were covering the withdrawal of 2nd Division, came into contact with the leading units of the German III Corps on the edge of woodland near Villers-Cotterêts. The brigade lost more than 300 men in the encounter, but were able to break away and continue the withdrawal. Many are buried at Guards' Grave, a military cemetery maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
The inhabitants are called Cottevreziens.
Notable natives and residents
- Alexandre Dumas, père (1802–1870), popular novelist, was born and grew up here.
The town was the start of Stage 4 in the 2007 Tour de France.
The original château was built around 950 AD and was burnt to the ground twice before being rebuilt out of stone in the early 12th century. The front entrance is the only original remaining structure, which is listed with the Historic Monument Registry at the École des Beaux Arts. Francis I purchased the château from the de Noüe family to house his mistress Anne de Pisseleu d'Heilly. The Château de Noüe (fr) was updated with 18th-century régence decoration by Gilles-Marie Oppenordt. The current owner is the Pépinières du Valois, an agricultural venture.
- Tourist office website (in French)
- Historic society of Villers-Cotterêts (in French)
- The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Gilles-Marie Oppenordt
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