le bois des chambres

The dog cemetery

published at 20/10/2022

As she adored animals (dogs, monkeys, cats and donkeys in particular), Princess de Broglie wanted them to be buried close to her Château when they died, and had a dog cemetery laid out for the purpose.

The site selected was that of the former village cemetery, which had existed since 1788. When they acquired the estate in 1875, the de Broglies negotiated the transfer of the municipal cemetery. The municipality agreed to this on condition that the Prince paid for a plot of land and construction of a new, considerably larger cemetery. The municipality also required that no changes be made to the old cemetery that might cause “the graves to disappear of their own accord” and that he should do no more than have concessions in perpetuity moved.

The new cemetery was laid out between 1881 and 1883, in which year it was inaugurated, before startup of work on the grounds. Exhumation of bodies was carried out in 1893, and Princess de Broglie put the site to use as an animal cemetery the same year.

The previously enclosed cemetery contained a score of graves, each with a flowerbox in front of it (eighteen in all have been inventoried). Divided up into three rows set in different parts of the copse, most of the graves still bear the epitaphs that Prince de Broglie had carved on them – heartfelt poems to the memory of her favourite pets.

The epitaphs are now almost indecipherable, but we know how they read thanks to transcriptions made by a visitor in the 1950s. We can imagine the Princess’ affection for these animals, continuing to devote all her care to their graves until the Great War years.

Dolly chérie (Darling Dolly) (15 August 1915 – July 1922)
So good, so gentle, so tender, so affectionate. I loved you as much as you loved me, and I will always miss you. Your mistress, Marie.
 
Titite (fallen ill in 1910)
She has departed, she who loved me so much, sleeping near her fox-terrier in the same mossy hollow. And I weep for her, repeating as I leave, “Goodbye my little friend, my sweet little friend!”
 
Chou (1893 – 1907)
The only truly dead are those that have been forgotten. You stay forever alive because I love you. But if you are cradled in shadow, lulled by the song of the poplars, sleep and breathe in the scent the flowers I have planted for you. Your mistress Marguerite. (Prince and Princess Henri-Amédée de Broglie’s daughter).
 

More generally, animal cemeteries were something of a tradition on 18th century English landscaped grounds, the most representative example in France being on Île de la Jatte in Asnières.