Les Andelys

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Les Andelys (around 1900)
The grey house (below) is were Arthur Conan Doyle lived when he visited the town; the grey structures (above) are the ruins of Château Gaillard.

Les Andelys is a town in the Eure department in Normandy in northern France, 20 km south-east of Rouen.

The town is well-known for the ruins of its castle "Chateau Gaillard", built by Richard the Lionheart between 1196 and 1198, which inspired Arthur Conan Doyle in 2 of his novels (The White Company and The Refugees) and 2 of his short stories (The Lord of Château Noir and The Marriage of the Brigadier).

Conan Doyle and Les Andelys

  • Autumn 1870, his sister Annette (aged 14) was living at the Institution St. Clotilde (rue aux Prêtres) in Les Andelys, a boarding school for young girls. [1]
  • In april 1881, his other sister Lottie (aged 15) went in the same school in Les Andelys. [2]
  • Arthur Conan Doyle himself went several times in Les Andelys as stated in the interview of Mrs. Ricard in 1959 who hosted the British author in her family house (at 13 rue de Penthièvre, and on the other side : Quai Grimoult). The house is still here today. Interview below :


Lise Elina : Madame Ricard chez qui nous nous trouvons en ce moment est une vieille amie de la famille Conan Doyle, on pourrait presque dire une vieille amie de Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lui-même.

Madame Ricard : Quoi qu'il avait 20 ans de plus que moi.

L. E. : C'est-à-dire que vous en avez 80, car il en aurait 100 aujourd'hui. Ainsi il venait quelque fois passer des week-ends...

Mme R. : Il venait souvent, autrefois, passer des week-ends ici lorsqu'il venait en France. Il aimait beaucoup venir aux Andelys. Il lui rappelait des souvenirs de ses soeurs qui étaient ici.

L. E. : Et alors vous vous êtes une amie de toujours de la famille...

Mme R. : Ma famille est une amie, une vieille amie de la famille Doyle.

L. E. : Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, quand il venait ici, quelles étaient ses préoccupations ?

Mme R. : Il aimait beaucoup se promener. Il aimait beaucoup monter dans les ruines du château Gaillard. Et le pays l'intéressait en général au point de vue historique.

L. E. : Oui d'ailleurs les ruines du château Gaillard, ce sont des ruines du XIIe. C'est-à-dire, c'est Richard Coeur de Lion...

Mme R. : ... qui avait construit le château Gaillard.

L. E. : Et vous croyez qu'il est à l'origine d'une de ses oeuvres ?

Mme R. : Peut-être "The White Company" oui.

L. E. : "La Compagnie Blanche." Nous connaissons très mal les oeuvres historiques en France. Nous connaissons surtout Sherlock Holmes.

Mme R. : Oui ses romans policiers, qui sont amusants, mais j'aime beaucoup mieux ses romans historiques.

L. E. : Et est-ce qu'il parlait quelque fois de Sherlock Holmes ou de ses oeuvres... ?

Mme R. : Peu, il parlait peu de Sherlock Holmes. Mais il y avait une chose qui avait frappé mon enfance, je peux dire mon enfance car il y avait une telle différence entre nous, c'est qu'il m'avait dit qu'il fallait beaucoup observer. Tout ce qui se passait autour de toi. Mêmes les bibelots, même les tableaux, quand on entrait dans une maison. Et il m'a rajouté que cela lui avait énormément servi.

L. E. : Puis-je vous demander ce qu'il faisait quand il était là. Il ne faisait pas que des promenades.

Mme R. : Ah non. Alors, entre temps, il écrivait quelques pages ou un ou deux chapitres de ses romans.

L. E. : Oui dans la pièce que vous avez religieusement conservé...

Mme R. : Dans la pièce que j'ai conservé. Son écritoire où il aimait écrire, et la pièce est restée presque telle qui l'a toujours connue.

L. E. : Il aimait cette maison ?

Mme R. : Il aimait beaucoup cette maison.

L. E. : Elle est restée dans le même état ?

Mme R. : Elle est restée exactement dans le même état. Un peu plus abimée puisque malheureusement la guerre est passée par là. Mais enfin, c'est toujours la même maison et le même décor.

Lise Elina : We are at Mrs. Ricard's house now. She is an old friend of the Conan Doyle family. We could almost say an old friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself.

Mrs. Ricard : However he was 20 years older than me.

L. E. : So you have 80, because he would have 100 today. So he came here sometimes to spend weekends...

Mrs. R. : He came often to spend weekends here when he came in France. He liked to come to Les Andelys. It reminded him memories of her sisters who were here.

L. E. : And you are a long time friend of his family...

Mrs. R. : My family is a friend, an old friend of the Doyle family.

L. E. : Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, when he came here, what were his interests?

Mrs. R. : He loved to have walks around. He loved to visit the ruins of Chateau Gaillard. And the region interested him in general from the historical point of view.

L. E. : Yes indeed the ruins of the Château Gaillard, they are ruins of XIIth century. That is to say, it's Richard the Lionheart...

Mrs. R. : ... who built the Château Gaillard.

L. E. : And you believe that the ruins inspired some of his works?

Mrs. R. : Maybe "The White Company" yes.

L. E. : "The White Company." We know very little about his historical works in France. We mostly know Sherlock Holmes.

Mrs. R. : Yes his detective novels, which are fun, but I prefer his historical novels much better.

L. E. : And did he ever talk about Sherlock Holmes or his works...?

Mrs. R. : Few, he seldom spoke of Sherlock Holmes. If there was one thing that had struck my childhood, I could say my childhood because there was such a difference of age between us, it was that he told me that we should observe a lot. All that was around us. Even trinkets, even paintings, when we enter a house. And he added that it had served him a lot.

L. E. : May I ask you what he was doing when he was there? It was not just walks.

Mrs. R. : Oh no. So, in the meantime, he wrote a few pages or one or two chapters of his novels.

L. E. : Yes, in the room you religiously kept...

Mrs. R. : In the room that I kept. His writing desk where he liked to write, and the room remained almost as he has always known.

L. E. : He liked this house?

Mrs. R. : He liked this house a lot.

L. E. : It stayed in the same state?

Mrs. R. : It stayed exactly in the same state. A little more damaged since unfortunately the war went through there. But it's still the same house and the same setting.

  • According to a 1959 French newspaper article, Conan Doyle told about Les Andelys to a friend of his family, Miss Berkley. She bought the house and named it "The Cottage". She bought it to an English writer Frank Harrett, whom wife died in the fire of Opéra-Comique of Paris (25 may 1887). Mrs. Ricard was the niece of Mrs Berkley. A lot of photos with Arthur Conan Doyle, kept in this house, were robbed during WWII by German soldiers.

Les Andelys in Conan Doyle's works

« "It is their fitting death. Mais Le Seigneur d'Andelys, avec le sang des rois dans ses veines ! C'est incroyable !" »

  • The Refugees (1893) : Onega de la Noue de Sainte Marie, chatelaine of Andelys castle.
« "Allow me to present you, Monsieur de Catinat," said the Seigneur de Sainte Marie solemnly, "to my wife, Onega de la Noue de Sainte Marie, chatelaine by right of marriage to this seigneury, and also to the Chateau d'Andelys in Normandy, and to the estate of Varennes in Provence, while retaining in her own right the hereditary chieftainship on the distaff side of the nation of the Onondagas. »

  • The Lord of Château Noir (1894) : During the Franco-Prussian war, Colonel von Gramm commanded in the little Norman town of Les Andelys.
« It was nearly eight when they left Les Andelys. At half-past eleven their guide stopped at a place where two high pillars, crowned with some heraldic stonework, flanked a huge iron gate. [..] The black chateau lay in front of them... »

  • The Marriage of the Brigadier (1910) : The Hussars of Conflans were in camp all that summer a few miles from the town of Les Andelys in Normandy.
« It is not a very gay place by itself, but we of the Light Cavalry make all places gay which we visit, and so we passed our time very pleasantly. Many years and many scenes have dulled my remembrance, but still the name Les Andelys brings back to me a huge ruined castle, great orchards of apple trees, and above all, a vision of the lovely maidens of Normandy.  »

  1. "The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes", by Andrew Lycett (Free Press [US], 2007, p. 36)
  2. "The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes", by Andrew Lycett (Free Press [US], 2007, p. 75)

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