Turenne, Corrèze

Turenne is a commune in the Corrèze department in the Limousin region in central France. It is characterised by its height and unique position on top of a cliff. It is one of the ‘most beautiful villages of France‘ (along with 148 others, including neighbouring Loubressac, Autoire, Curemonte and Carennac). It also has a well-known castle.

The first lords of Turenne appeared in the 9th century. The town became a veritable feudal state after the Crusades and one of the great fiefs of France in the 14th century. From the Middle Ages to the 18th century, the viscount of Turenne had complete autonomy. Until 1738 the sheriffs, despite honoring the French king with simple tributes, were free of taxation and acted as true sovereigns; convening the Estates General, raising taxes, coining money, and ennobling. The Viscounty formed a state within a state. Thus, when the king banned tobacco (introduced in Aquitaine in 1560), the measure did not apply in the viscounty.

Turenne has seen a succession of four families of Viscounts. From the 9th century to the thirteenth, the Comborn, from the valley of the Vézère (and who had actively participated in the Crusades and Anglo-French wars) obtained extensive privileges from the kings of France. Then, during the first half of the 14th century, the Viscounty was taken over by the Comminges, Pyrenées feudal lords, before being transferred for 94 years to Roger de Beaufort from which came two Popes of Avignon, Clement VI and Gregory XI. This family had two Viscounts: Roger William III of Beaufort and Raymond de Turenne XIII, and two viscountesses names Antoinette de Turenne and Eleonore de Beaujeu. Then, from 1444 to 1738, the Viscounty became the possession of the family of La Tour d’Auvergne. In their heyday, Henri de la Tour d’Auvergne, co-religionist and companion-at-arms of King Henry IV, became Duke of Bouillion and prince of Sedan. His son Henry, Marshal of France, received the nickname “The Great Turenne.” Under La Tour d’Auvergne, the Viscounty lasted until the Reformation. Calvinism was spread by the boatmen of the Dordogne throughout the region. In 1575, after St. Bartholomew, Henri de la Tour engaged with Henri of Navarre and Turenne became a hotbed of religious wars and disorders of the Fronde.

On 8 June 1738, Turenne was sold to Louis XV to pay the gambling debts of Charles Godfrey, the last of the Viscounts of La Tour d’Auvergne family. Thus ended the quasi-independence of this last French stronghold. The Viscounty’s subjects became subjects of Louis XV and were forced to pay taxes. The king also ordered the dismantling of the fortress of Turenne. As of the Revolution, Turenne was more like a seat of a royal provost.

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