There are many legends of Bonvouloir, here is one we think has a ring of truth.
A medieval knight, not old but exhausted by years of 12th century combat, rode through the forest of Andaines towards home. Hugues, Seigneur de Tessé was tired. Tired of losing good friends in bad battles. Tired of armour, of aching joints and old wounds.
As his horse Rapide stumbled on the path Hugues was shaken awake from his wretched thoughts. He saw how Rapide, friend since youth, walked stiffly each breath laboured. Contrite, Hugues dismounted and talked softly to the ancient stallion who had saved him in many a medieval skirmish.
He knew Rapide’s future would be practical and final. Few knights could afford to keep an old horse as a pet. Rapide would become meat and fur and bone. His bravery, once heralded, remembered infrequently in fireside tales.
Hugues looked at the lush forest of Andaines; he could hear fresh streams rushing between trees, saw sunlit glades carpeted with verdant grasses. He took down his saddle and pack and brushed the sweat and mud from his old comrade. They walked to a clearing by one of the sparkling streams and as Rapide bent is old head to drink, Hugues quietly walked away.
Hugues arrival home was friendly but business like. With no wife to manage the household his small castle never felt quite warm but he did not think of marriage; no lady would want to be nursemaid to a decrepit soldier.
Of course word soon got around that Seigneur needed a horse and not a day passed without some creature, too tall, to small or with just the wrong look in its eye, being paraded before him. None did anything to dislodge his melancholy.
Then one fresh autumn morning he saw from his castle a flash of white between the trees that surrounded his castle . A beautiful young white stallion was pounding its hoofs and tossing its head as if to shout ‘look at me, how perfect I am!’ to the morning sun.
Hugues ran out calling to his men to help him capture this magnificent beast. But as he walked closer to his amazement the stallion trotted calmly towards him, bowed his head and looked straight at Hugues. Hugues knew that twinkle. He knew the broad shoulders, the soft tipped ears. This was Rapide. Not as he had been for the last few years but as he was in his youth.
Astounded at this magic Hugues leapt onto Rapide and let him take the lead back into the forest.
After some time they arrived at a pool under a deep gorge that Hugues did not recognise. Rapide refused to go on. Hugues dismounted and Rapide walked into the strange smelling water. Then, for a reason he didn’t quite understand, Hugues took a swim in the pool. The water was pleasantly warm. Invigorated, he rode back to the castle.
Their ride to the pool deep in the forest of Andaines became a daily event. Every day Hughes sat a little straighter in the saddle, his eyes became clearer and as old aches faded the rejuvenated Lord began to think of the future.
It was a very different man to the tired soldier that set his horse free in the forest, who paid court to a beautiful young lady. Hugues, Seigneur de Tessé was now full of energy, grand ideas and exciting tales from a heroic past, Lady Bonvouloir could not resist.
They married and were blessed with many, many children. Hugues’ other ambitions were also realised and he enjoyed great wealth. So he built a bigger castle in the forest with a remarkable tower of just over 26 meters. A lookout across his forests that still stands today. If it looks like anything else well that would be just a coincidence.
The pool? It is very well known now as the source of the spa’s at Bagnoles-de-l’Orne. See, we told you it was all true.
Battered by centuries and revolution, just a few walls now remain of Hugues’ castle. The charming ruin of La tour de Bonvouloir is set in a grassy meadow near a river on the edge of the forest. Perfect for picnics on a sunny day, do venture into the forest but perhaps not too far – some say wolves still haunt the ancient La forêt des Andaines.
Notes: Legends are very confusing things. Some sources claim Guyon Essirart, steward to René, Duc d’Alençon built the castle and tower in 1485 on landed gifted to him by his grateful master. Guyon’s childless wife then told him to go and drink the waters and nine months later an heir was born. We think she probably got the idea from Lady Bonvouloir.