Jane Austen Slept Here. (Well, no . . . not really.)
Two summers ago my family and I vacationed in Montreal, Quebec. I’d never been and was eager to see the sites and get a taste of local flavor, culture, and, of course, history. Imagine my pleasure when we stumbled upon the Chateau Ramezay, a lovely stone building built in 1705 by Claude Ramezay, then Governor of Montreal.
Surrounded by a 41,880 ft garden and orchard brimming with fruit trees, the home has opened its doors to countless historical personages over the last three hundred years, including our own Benjamin Franklin.
Though it changed hands quite a few times over the years, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the Quebec Government, to whom the chateau belonged, decided to sell it. The Antiquarian and Numismatic Society of Montreal (ANSM), fearing the loss of heritage if the building were lost to demolition, organized Montreal’s citizens and, together, convinced Montreal to purchase the Chateau. In return, the society would preserve the Chateau and its heritage by converting it to a museum.
The Chateau Ramezay Museum opened its doors in May of 1895 and today boasts a collection of 30,000 artifacts cataloging generations of Montreal’s and Quebec’s history. The building, which has since undergone extensive interior and exterior restoration, is classified as an historical monument, the first building ever proclaimed to be so in Quebec.
And what, you ask, does any of this have to do with Jane Austen? Well, to be honest, nothing, except for the fact that my daughter, who was then six years old, was delighted by the Chateau Ramezay for the simple reason it made her think of Longbourn and the Bennets. My girl took one look at the Chateau’s beautiful stone work and the yellow roses blooming beside the front door and asked me if Jane and Elizabeth lived there.
When I told her no, but proceeded to inform her that the house contained things that the Bennet family might have found useful in their day to day lives, her eyes grew wide. She was eager to explore every inch. My husband, who would have preferred stopping for a pint at that point, rather than touring a house that incited our daughter to mention Mr. Darcy and Pemberley repeatedly, was less enthusiastic; but he put up with us admirably. Then again, he always does . . . especially where Mr. Darcy is concerned. This summer we’re going to Ocean City, Maryland, so he’ll probably be safe. Then again . . .
I hope you’re all having a wonderful summer. So far, mine has been monopolized by a very active and imaginative eight-year old, so my time is spread pretty thin these days, especially around the internet. (But she’s incredible, and I adore her, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!)
Thank you so much for reading!
Susan Adriani is the author of The Truth About Mr. Darcy.