When I was young, I remember that my brother had a big collection of Tintin books. He even had one in French as, due to racist content, “Tintin in the Congo” was not translated into English until 1991. It was so easy to become immersed in the adventures of Tintin, his dog Snowy and his long-term sidekick Captain Haddock.
Now, I find myself in the Loire Valley about to visit Captain Haddock’s stately mansion Marlinspike, or at least the chateau which inspired Herge’s drawing of it. The chateau is cashing in on its Tintin connections with a special exhibition and a souvenir shop chocked with Tintin books and memorabilia.
The real chateau has a long and illustrious history and the estate has been in the same family for more than six centuries, though they were temporarily ousted when Diane de Poitiers moved in during the renovation of Chaumont-sur-Loire after she had been evicted from Chenonceau by Catherine de Medici.
Whilst the exterior can claim to have inspired the fictional Marlinspike, there is not much similarity with the interior, though I did find some Tintin pages which feature the ornately carved main staircase. In the 17th Century, a talented Blois architect, Jean Monier, was enlisted to create the chateau. He is responsible for the 34 wooden panels in the formal dining room which depict the exploits of Don Quixote by Cervantes.
Upstairs I am able to visit the private apartments: A birth chamber, a nursery, a boudoir, a bridal chamber and another dining room adorned with a dinner service specifically designed for the family and fine crystal glasses.
Across the hall is an Arms Room featuring full suits of armour, lances, swords and a huge Gobelin tapestry representing the Abduction of Helen by Paris and the start of the Trojan War.
Back outside, I wander towards the main entrance gate, which takes me past the kennels. Hunting was, and still is, a big part of life at Cheverny. Many pictures inside the chateau show various scenes of hunting, and in the external Trophy Room there is a large stained glass window by Jaques Loire of Chartres showing the horses and hounds in front of Cheverny. The kennels house about 100 French hounds, each marked with a ‘V’, representing Vibraye.
The present owner, the latest Marquis of Vibraye, was married on the estate in 1994. It is one of the few days that the chateau has been closed to the public. I wonder if Tintin and Captain Haddock were invited.