Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Château de Chaumont

*Château de Chaumont (SHAH-toh deh shoh-MOHNG). Home of the novel’s hero, Henri d’Effiat, the marquis de Cinq-Mars, sits alone high on a hill near the Loire River, dominating what lies below, distinctly separated from a village and its commoners. Halfway up the slope of the mountain is a church, frequented by both the nobles from the château and the villagers. Alfred de Vigny’s descriptions of the châteaux in this story emphasize the fairy-tale ambience of the Loire countryside, a region famous for its many Renaissance châteaux and the romantic legends that surround them. Vigny presents the valley as the scene of peace, prosperity, health, and happiness. The Château de Chaumont is, naturally enough, the birthplace of the love between Cinq-Mars and Marie de Gonzague, an Italian princess who takes refuge there.

The ideals and values that the Château de Chaumont and its setting represent physically are clear: the grandeur of France’s hereditary feudal nobility, their traditional independence, their religious traditionalism, and their obligations to the lower classes. In the novel’s first chapter, the young, passionate, impetuous Cinq-Mars rides forth from his lofty dwelling, headed for Perpignan to fight in Louis’s war against the Spanish—but ultimately to defend the hereditary nobility and his own ambition against Richelieu.

Once Cinq-Mars leaves his mountain castle, however, he begins a physical and moral descent that will end in his execution, in a public square in Lyon beside another river—the Rhône.

Château de Chambord

Château de Chambord (SHAH-toh deh shahm-BORE). Favorite country estate of King Louis XIII, not far away from Cinq-Mars’s estate in the Loire Valley. In direct contrast to the latter, Chambord is dark, sad, and dreary—the estate of a gloomy,...

(The entire section is 769 words.)