This small French town was a refuge for the heir to the English throne until death


Henri Court-Mantel, so called in French because of the short clothes he wore, was the eldest son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, at a time when the English monarch ruled over a great part of southwestern France. In English he was called Henry the Young King, as he was crowned during his father’s reign, but he was never allowed to reign.

He fell out with his father and started a rebellion against him and his brother, Richard the Lionheart.

The official guide of the city of Martel, Brigitte Vidieu, says that his fall occurred when he vandalized and looted the Rocamadour sanctuary:

“It was out of revenge against his father, for Henry II had made pilgrimages there and given precious treasures. When Henri Court-Mantel left, legend has it that the bell rang, a sign from God. The rebellious son fell ill and took refuge in Martel.

They say he asked for forgiveness. His father sent a messenger with his forgiveness, who found him lying on a bed of ashes as a penance with a heavy wooden cross on his chest.

He died on June 11, 1183 at the age of 28 at Maison Fabri. There is a commemorative plaque on the house and a leopard crawling the English coat of arms atop its tower.

Martel is called the city of seven towers, although there are more of them than that: “In the Middle Ages, Martel was ruled by the viscounty of Turenne. She was rich because she was on an important trade route for salt. The precious commodity was brought up by the Dordogne of the Atlantic to the port of Souillac, then transported to Martel.

“In the 13th century, wealthy merchants built towers as a sign of their newfound wealth. One day, the Vicomte de Turenne visited the city and, impressed by the towers, named seven after each of his children.

In the 17th century, Mme Vidieu says that there were fewer traders, because they had encouraged their children to pursue other professional careers, such as law, which gave them a better place in society, but less wealth, and Souillac began to sell as an import salt as well.

The tourist train on an old truffle route | Photo: Droniéguy / Dordogne Valley By MilaCroftc

It was still a region rich in truffles and when the train arrived in the 19th century, Martel once again benefited from a flourishing trade since it could now sell its “black diamonds” throughout France: “It happened. ended with the First World War when the inhabitants did not have time to take care of their truffle fields. In the 1980s an experimental truffle station was established nearby and now this precious local culture is successfully exploited again.

Another culture, which is also coming back in fashion, lavender:

“At the start of the 20th century, lavender, which grows readily in this region, was in great demand by the developing soap industry. Martel was atypical because in the 1920s it had its own distillery and was the local capital of lavender.

With the industrialization of soap, demand has faded, but this year Martel celebrated its third lavender festival and more and more producers are settling in the region.

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