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Nogent-le-Rotrou (Municipality, Eure-et-Loir, France)

Last modified: 2021-03-20 by ivan sache
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Flag of Nogent-le-Rotrou - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 24 October 2020

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Presentation of Nogent-le-Rotrou

The municipality of Nogent-le-Rotrou (10,130 inhabitants in 2013, 2,349 ha; municipal website), is located on river Huisne, 50 km west of Chartres.
Nogent-le-Rotrou was the capital of the County of Perche, an area named in the Middle Ages "sylva pertica", from sylva, "a forest", and pertica, "a pole", "a stick", probably referring the long trunks of the trees. Perche is traditionally divided into Grand [Greater] Perche, in the north, including the small towns of Nogent-le-Rotrou, Mortagne-au-Perche, Bellême and Châteauneuf-en-Thymerais, and Bas [Lower] Perche or Perche Gouët in the south, including the villages of Authon-du-Perche and la Bazoche-Gouët.
The Perche Natural Regional Park was created in 1998, encompassing 118 municipalities and an area of 182,000 ha. The original forest was progressively cleared to establish agricltural settlements but sizeable remains of it, such as the forest of Bellême, are still there. The Perche is the birth place of the Percheron draft horse, which took a notable part in the Conquest of the West of the USA in the 19th century.

Nogent probably means "a new settlement". The fortified town of Nogent was founded in the 10th century by a knight named Rotroldus, whose name, simplified to Rotrou, was added to the name of the place for the sake of distinction from the 25 other Nogent known in France (for sintance, Nogent-sur-Marne). Rotrou was sent to Nogent by the count of Chartres around 960 to fortify the border of his domain. Progressively, Rotrou's successors became independent lords and took the title of Count of Perche.
In the 11th century, Geoffroy II, Rotrou's grand-son, founded the St. Denis abbey, which specialized in the production of muslin. Until the middle of the 20th century, Nogent-le-Rotrou was famous for the production of delicat cloth, and especially hat industry. Geoffroy II was murdered at the entrance of the cathedral of Chartres in 1040.
In the 12th century, Nogent had c. 1,200 inhabitants. Count Rotrou III the Great went to Spain to support the king of Navarre. He seized the town of Tudela and was made lord of it, and took part to the seizure of Pamplona, Toledo and Zaragoza. Back to France, he was killed in 1144 during the siege of Rouen. Count Rotrou IV took part to the Crusades and was killed during the siege of Akkro in 1191. The last count of Perche from the Rotrou house, Guillaume, left the town in 1225 and disappeared without trace, possibly during the Crusades.

In 1233, Theubald IV, Palatine count of Brie and Champagne, became count of Perche. During the Hundred Years' War, the fortified castle St. John's built by the Rotrou was the aim of English attacks. The 35 m-high donjon was burned by Thomas of Salisbury in 1428 and looted once again in 1449.
The town and castle were rebuilt in the 16th century in Renaissance style by Marguerite and Charlotte d'Armagnac, known as the Ladies from Nogent. The town streets were cobbled in 1527. Pierre Durand, Bailiff of the St. Denis abbey and his wife, Blanche Février, built in 1542 the Bailiff's House, as said by the canting inscription: De pierre blanche, durant febvrier, je fus faicte, 1542 (Of white stone, during February, I was made, 1542). The Customary of Perche was redacted in 1558 in this house.

Prince Louis I of Condé (1530-1569), uncle of king Henri IV and leader of the Calvinist party, was appointed lord of Nogent in 1561. He organized in 1566 a great festival in the castle, inviting the famous poets Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585) and Nogent-born Rémi Belleau (1528-1577), members of the group called La Pléiade. The two poets were close friends, as recorded by Ronsard in one of his elegias: Belleau et Ronsard n'estoient qu'un (Belleau and Ronsard were a single one).
In 1624, the domain of Nogent was purchased by another famous Calvinist lord, Maximilien de Béthune, Baron de Rosny, Duke-Peer de Sully (1559-1641), King Henry IV' s Superintendant of Fianances and great administrator of the state. The Sully family kept the castle until the Revolution but abandoned it in 1659 after the death of Sully's wife, Rachel de Cochefilet. The writer Victor Hugo planned to buy the castle in 1836 but found it too dilapidated. The castle was eventually acquired by the municipality in 1950 and transformed into a municipal museum.

Ivan Sache, 7 March 2004

Flag of Nogent-le-Rotrou

The flag of Nogent-le-Rotrou, hoisted in front of the Town Hall, is a banner of the municipal arms, "Azure a lion rampant argent between two fleurs-de-lis or". The arms are featured in the Armorial Général (image) with the lion or.

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 24 October 2020