A grand private estate in France’s historic Loire valley served as the inspiration for Captain Haddock’s stately home in the Tintin comics.
The Château de Cheverny cuts an impressive figure against its impeccably landscaped grounds, which are located about nine miles south of the city of Blois, France. Built between the years of 1604 and 1634, and changed little since, the castle presents an immaculate picture of symmetry, peace and the aristocratic good life.
Its unaltered state is perhaps a result of the fact that it has remained in the stable hands of the original owner’s family over the years–although its fictional occupant was far more volatile.
The château is best-known for its role in Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin comic books, where it was used as a model for the hot-tempered Captain Haddock’s ancestral home. The fictional “Château de Moulinsart,” or Marlinspike Hall in the English translations, is almost an exact replica of the Château de Cheverny, although its two outermost wings are not present in the comics.
Hergé purposely excluded the outer sections of the building, with the reasoning that this would make it a more realistically-sized home for Captain Haddock to inherit. Marlinspike Hall makes its first appearance in The Secret of The Unicorn, which sees Haddock reclaiming his family’s ownership of the estate from the villainous Bird Brothers. In this comic, the cellars of Marlinspike Hall are shown to be disproportionately large, as Hergé had drawn them to scale to suit the larger Château de Cheverny.
Though Marlinspike Hall plays host to its fair share of adventures–such as Professor Calculus blowing up parts of the hall in The Land of Black Gold–the real-life Château de Cheverny has seen a relatively quiet history. The castle was built by Henri Hurault, the comte de Cheverny, and soon after was briefly owned by Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of King Henri II. She preferred the more ostentatious Château de Chenonceau and sold the property back to the original owner’s son, Philippe Hurault.
Today, the château is still owned and inhabited by the descendents of the Hurault family. It was one of the first châteaus to open its doors to the public in 1914, and now houses a permanent Tintin exhibition in addition to its extravagant collection of furniture, paintings and tapestries. The manor also keeps a pack of some 70 hounds, whose hunt culls around 30 deer a year.
As you wander the elegant grounds, keep a close eye out–you might just see Professor Calculus disappearing into the bushes.
Know Before You Go
The château can be reached from Paris in two hours by train or car. Feeding time for the Cheverny hounds occurs at 5pm daily.