Chateau Villeneuve: Inspiration for The Lady in Yellow



In my Victorian Gothic Romace, The Lady in Yellow, Rafe de Grimston’s late wife, Sovay, is from a house in the Auvergne, Chateau Villeneuve. This is a real place. Inside this medieval castle is a mural called The Lady in Yellow.

The minute I saw a photo of this mural in a photo by Sir Simon Marsden, the seed for my novel was planted. Marsden’s photo was in black and white. This is it in color!



Researching Chateau Villeneuve, I discovered it to be full of murals. Imagine Jacques and Jacqueline groiwng up in this strange castle with paintings on every wall. It seems to be a hive of dreams and imaginings, many quite horrific.

Worse than a werewolf, is the Hell Mouth:



Was Alcheny practiced there?



Frescos cover walls in chapel:



In The Lady in Yellow I created a small church, Saint Lupine’s, that has similar frescos to these on the walls of the chateau. It also has a strange werewolf Madonna. Imagine my surprise to find an odd Madonna in Chateau Villeneuve! Obviously a Black Madonna would be housed in the chateau of magic.



For more imagies go to my Pinterest Board: Research for The Lady in Yellow.


Here’s an excerpt from the novel in which Rafe de Grimston tells the young governess, Veronica, the back story of The Lady in Yellow:


“When I was in France… Have you ever been to the Auvergne?”

Veronica wasn’t sure she wanted to hear this just now. She didn’t want Rafe confiding in her about Miss Frenchie.

“No. I’ve never been outside of Britain.” She took another sip of brandy.

“It’s a land of volcanoes. Some of them are extinct, nothing more than green craters filled with lakes. Sometimes there are islands in the lakes, and some brave souls have built castles on them. Right in the mouths of the volcanoes.”

“Proves great courage, I suppose,” said Veronica. “If not great faith.”

“Yes, faith. You’d expect some faerie queen to live there. Alas, my late wife’s chateau is not so dramatically situated. It’s in a wooded glen. A haunted place. In the midst of a circular garden surrounded by hemlocks. You did see the page I had marked for you in the book?”

“Yes. I also read your translation. The murals. The lady in the yellow dress being carried off by a wolf. Who was she?”

“It started with her. In the twelfth century. The eldest daughter was a great beauty, and to put it politely, a libertine. One of the many men she entertained was under a curse. Every night, when the moon was full, he turned into a wolf, and in that guise, one night, he carried her off.”

“That’s the picture in the book… in the Bestiary.”



“After a night of being lost in the forest, she was picked up by a coachman driving toward the chateau.”

“Alive, then.”

“Quite alive. But changed. From then on.” Rafe leaned toward her, looking deeply into her eyes. “She was loupe garou. A werewolf.” Rafe let his words stay in the air for a moment.

Veronica grimaced, and set her drink on the table. Rafe set his glass beside it.

“I’m not prone to nightmares, Veronica, but I had them in that house. Especially on nights of the full moon,” he said.

“What kind of nightmares?” Veronica asked. She remembered the twins talking about the lady’s hand. Was it her hand? The hand of the libertine?

“I dreamed that I was cursed. The same as she. There was a bell ringing, voices singing a single repetitious phrase…like a spell. And then the howling began. Sounded like a whole pack of them, filling the land with their wild music. I dreamed I was a soul tormented, roving the forests at night, killing any poor creature who crossed my path.”

Veronica stared at him. He could have been describing Belden House.

“A girl in a yellow gown led me along a path into those dreams, first as a seductive beauty, then as a ravening beast.”

“Was she a white wolf? A slinking, unnatural thing, with brilliant green eyes that turn red when she fixes them on you?”

Rafe studied Veronica’ s face for a moment. His voice was gruff. “Yes. That’s why I am going to teach you how to shoot. So fear won’t get the better of you. So when you pull that trigger, you’ll have a will of iron.”





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