Fort de Brégançon

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Coordinates: 43°05′36″N 6°19′20″E / 43.093384°N 6.32216°E / 43.093384; 6.32216

The Fort de Brégançon seen from the sea.
The Fort de Brégançon.

The Fort de Brégançon is a medieval fortress, located 35 metres (115 ft) above sea level on an islet off the French Mediterranean coast, connected by a short causeway to the mainland, in the commune of Bormes-les-Mimosas in the Var department. It has been the official retreat of the President of France since 1968.

History[edit]

The island has long been occupied, due in part to its easily defended nature, and that it allows easy view of the sea access to Hyères and Toulon. The island was the site of a Ligurian oppidum in the 6th century BCE.

In the eleventh century, the territory belonged to the Viscount of Marseille, lieutenants of the Count of Provence, who sold it to the Community of Marseilles. In 1257, following the marriage of heiress Beatrice of Provence, with Charles I of Anjou who was the brother of King Louis IX, the island became part of the Kingdom of France. Charles subsequently became King of the Two Sicilies, and hence began a programme of sea defence improvement, including the fort at Brégançon. In 1348, after staying at Brégançon, Queen Jeanne of Naples and Sicily donated Brégançon to Jacques de Galbert, a ship owner based in Marseille whom she had appointed a Vice Admiral of Provence, by an Act dated 31 July 1348. In 1366 she revoked the Act, returning Brégançon to the crown of the Two Sicilies.

In 1480, Charles of Maine, last ruler of Provence, bequeathed his county to King Louis XI of France. After the King confided Brégançon to Provencal captains, the current fort was built on the island in 1483 by Jean de Baudricourt as part of the French monarchy's coastal defence efforts. In 1574, King Henry III of France donated Brégançon by letters patent to Antoine Escalin des Aymars, baron of the guard, captain general of the galleys. The fort and estate were separated in 1786. Napoleon Bonaparte became interested in Brégançon after the recapture of Toulon, and after initial repairs endowed it with improved artillery, and then strengthened the garrison with a company of Imperial veterans.

After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the War Ministry commissioned work to ensure that the fort could receive modern artillery and a powder magazine, without affecting the external appearance of the fortress. The allowed a small garrison to occupy the fort during World War I, but this was decommissioned in 1919. From the 1920s, excluding the period of World War II, the French Republic rented the fort to various private individuals, the last being the former Minister of Marine of the Third Republic, Robert Bellanger, who with approval restored the fort to become a comfortable private residence whilst preserving its original appearance.

Presidential residence[edit]

After the expiry of the lease to M. Bellanger in 1963, the state took possession of the fort. It became a presidential residence in 1968 during the presidency of Charles de Gaulle (1890–1970).[1]

It was used only once by President Nicolas Sarkozy and his then wife Cécilia.[1] It was also only used once by President François Hollande and his partner Valérie Trierweiler, in the summer of 2012, when it was discovered it wasn't sufficiently private, and too easy a target for paparazzi.[1]

In October 2013, it was announced it would become a national monument open to the public, in an effort to reduce state expenditure.[1] Indeed, the maintenance and staffing of the property cost 200,000 euro a year.[1] Instead, La Lanterne, a hunting lodge in Versailles, would become the official retreat of the French President.[1]

In 2018 and 2019, the fort remained in use as an official retreat of the President of France. Emmanuel Macron used it to host the British Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss Brexit on August 3, 2018, and in August 2019 to host the President of Russia Vladimir Putin.[2] [3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Mulholland, Rory (13 October 2013). "François Hollande gives up de Gaulle's summer retreat". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  2. ^ Boffey, Daniel (2 August 2018). "UK's Brexit proposals threaten future of EU, says Barnier". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  3. ^ Laughland, John (20 August 2019). "Putin-Macron meeting heralds glorious summer after long winter of discontent". Russia Today. Retrieved 21 August 2019.

External links[edit]