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Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte (Municipality, Manche, France)

Last modified: 2022-07-05 by ivan sache
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Flag of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 12 September 2021

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Presentation of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte

The municipality of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte (2,088 inhabitants in 2019; 3,427 ha) is located 40 km south of Cherbourg.

Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte emerged as a domain during the Scandinavian invasions of Normandy in the 9th and 10th centuries. Neal II of Saint-Sauveur, son of Neal I, built a keep during the minority of William the Bastard. In 1046, he was part of the plot to assassinate William; after the defeat of the revolted barons in the battle of Val-ès-Dunes on 10 August 1047, the keep was razed, while Neal II was sentenced to seven years in exile.
In the 12th century, the domain was transfered to the Taisson family, and in the 13th century to the Harcourt family. At the start of the Hundred Years' War, the castle was hold Geoffrey d'Harcourt, a younger member of the family. He was banned from the kingdom by a Decree issued by the Parliament on 19 July 1344; all his estate was confiscated, the castle of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte being handed over to Jehan de Bresne. First exiled on a domain of his own in Flanders, Geoffrey then went to England to pay homage to the king of England, Edward III, whom he convinced to land in Normandy. Geoffrey d'Harcourt fought on the English side in all the battles of the years 1346-1356. He eventually joined the French camp after having the banishment sentence against him nullified. After Philip VI of Valois had returned his estate to him, Geoffrey retired to his completely ruined castle, which he restores. On his death in November 1356, he bequeathed of his assets, the barony of Saint-Sauveur includied, to Edward III who took advantage of the occasion of this heirloom to seize Cotentin.
In 1360, the Treaty of Brétigny returned to France all the strongholds of Cotentin, Saint-Sauveur and Saint-Vaast excepted. The English installed in Saint-Sauveur in January 1361 probably the best English soldier of the moment, John Chandos, who was made the same year Lieutenant General of all English possessions in France and Constable of Aquitaine. He further strengthened the fortress, building a large square keep. Saint-Sauveur was the headquarters of the English troops, who established in the neighborhood fortified posts such as Garnetot; this was the main English base in Lower Normandy, serving as a starting point for devastating rides. In 1374, Charles V ordered to drive the English out of the last castle they still occupied in Normandy. The siege preparations lasted two years, commanded Du Guesclin jeading 3,000 men-at-arms and 600 crossbowmen. In September 1374, Admiral Jean de Vienne isolated the place and built temporary fortifictions in Pierrepont, Pont-l'Abbé and Beuzeville. Siege machines were brought from Caen and Saint-Lô, as well as cannons sent from Paris. Chronicler Froissart reports that the cannons allowed Jean de Vienne to seized the fortress on 3 July 1375. The English monetized their surrender 50,000 gold francs and withdrew to England. Charles V offered the fort to his chamberlain, Bureau de La Rivière, who was succeeded by Charles d'Ivry, Charles VI's chamberlain. The Duke of Gloucester, Humphrey of Lancaster, took the fortress on 25 March 1418 without a fight. In 1420, Jean de Robessart, lord of Escaillon and Bruilles, abducted Duchess Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut, to take her to England. King of England Henry V offered him, among other things, the town of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte.
In 1450, Dunois took over the fortress after a brief assault. His captain, Robessart, , at leading two hundred men, surrendered. Charles VII granted the Barony of Saint-Sauveur to his chamberlain, André de Villequier, who was succeeded by Baptiste de Villequier, and then, after 1559, by his grandson René de Villequier, first Gentleman of the King's Chamber and Henry III's mignon.

Defended by a garrison of 20 men, the fortress surrendered to Protestant troops, under the orders of the Earl of Montgomery, in 1573, to be quickly recaptured by the royal troop. It was once again taken in October 1589, by supporterd of the Holy League hostile to Henry IV, who remained there for several months. Around 1590, the castle was commanded by Guillaume de Pierrepont. After last skirmishes, the castle, deemed obsolete do to the progress of the artillery, lost all strategic interest and fell into disuse.
In 1685, Jesuit Father Chaudran founded a hospital in the castle, and then an orphanage. From 1712 to 1789, the castle was used as a prison. The castle was severely damaged in 1944 by Allied bombardments.

Olivier Touzeau, 12 September 2021

Flag of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte

The flag of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, presented in June 2021 by the Mayor to the Municipal Council (photo) is a banner of the municipal arms, "Gules two fesses or surrounding a triple towered castle three paris of bars addorsed in chief and another one in base.
Based on the arms of the Harcourt family ("Gules two fesses or"), the arms were designed in 1956 by the former Director of the Manche Departmental Archives, Yves Nédélec.

The Armorial Général shows the arms of different members of the Harcourt family:
- Catherine-Henriette d'Harcourt, widow of the Duke of Arpajon, Duke and Peer of France (image);
- Jacques d'Harcourt, knight and lord of Olonde (image);
- Pierre d'Harcourt, chief of the house of Harcourt - arms of the house of Harcourt (image);
- Henri de Harcourt, knight and Marquess of Harcourt (image);
- Henry de Harcourt, Count of Thury, Brigadier of the King's armies, Colonel of the Infantry Regiment of Maine (image);
- Louis de Harcourt, Marquess of Thury (image);
- Gillonne de Harcourt, widow of Charles-Léon, Count of Fiesque (image);
- François d'Harcourt, Marquess of Beuvron and La Mailleraye, Count of Sézanne, Commander of the King's Orders, Lieutenant General of His armies (image).

The two bars, undoubtedly, comes from the canting arms of the Barbey d'Aurevilly family, "Azure two bars addorsed argent a chief gules three bezants or". An heraldic bar is indeed a barbel, in common French, barbeau.
Jules-Amédée Barbey d'Aurevilly (1808-1889), born in Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, was a French novelist and short story writer, famous for his in mystery tales.

Vincent Barbey (1692-1770), the writer's grand-grand father, was ennobled after having acquired in 24 May 1756 an office of Councillor of the king.
Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly spent his youth in an ultra-conservative family. He moved in 1827 to Paris, where he started with the poet Maurice de Guérin (1810-1939) a unique friendship. After having broken up from his family, he turned to an unsuccessful journalist and a dandy; he wrote a treatise on dandyism that would be a main source of inspiration for Charles Baudelaire.
In 1846, he reconciled with his family and morphed into a fierce, provocative defender of the Catholic religion and old traditions. Une vieille maîtresse, published in 1851, was his first significant work, followed in 1854 by L'ensorcelée. In 1860, he initiated the compilation of his critics in Les œuvres et les hommes (26 volumes), in which he bitterly criticized Victor Hugo and Gustave Flaubert but praised Baudelaire.
Barbey d'Aurevilly met in 1867 the critic Léon Bloy (1846-1917), whom he converted to Catholicism and who would award him the title of "Constable of Letters". In 1869, he succeeded to meandering Sainte-Beuve as the blunt editor of the Constitutionnel. Still relying on provocation, Barbey was sued for "immorality" after the publication in 1874 of Les diaboliques, which was withdrawn from sales. At the end of his life, more and more pessimistic Barbey frontally attacked republicanism and naturalism as the main causes of degradation of traditional values, while being perfectly aware that his struggle was already lost. In his last years, he was eventually recognized by a group of young writers including Paul Bourget, J.K. Huysmans and Jean Richepin).
For long, Barbey d'Aurevilly was recognized mostly as an original writer relying on folklore and supernatural rather than for his writing skills. More recently, the complexity of his narratives and his powerful dramaturgy was celebrated. Philippe Berthier evokes his "modern archaism" and "fecund isolation".
[France Archives]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 12 September 2021