From the 12th century, there has been a royal chàteau as the place was both congenial and relatively close to Paris, with the river Seine flowing close by. King François 1, Henri IV and Napoleon III were among the famous residents. The village of Fontainebleau reflected the importance of the chàteau. Kings and emperors have long gone, but national institutions still have their place, eg INSEAD (a grande école) and an Army training school. Imagine, if you like, a huge country house containing an Oxbridge College and Sandhurst, with a delightful little town attached.
|Photo Courtesy Luxury Chic Travel|
So far, the story is sad.
|Prosper Péchot in 1907 Photo courtesy Raymond PECHOT|
The military school at Fontainebleau, however, was not privy to Army rivalries. In the winter of 1885, they approached Péchot and explained their problem. They had been holding summer exercises, 'attacking' a putting green just outside Fontainebleau and and 'investing' it with a 240mm gun. The exercise sounds like a delightful game until you see the site. The Mail Henri IV occupies a steep hill about a kilometre from the Palace buildings and, even when dis-assembled into components, the gun weighed 15 tonnes. The previous year, dragging a gun half the size up the slope had taken over a week.