Sychrov Chateau – Elegance in Exile

The distinctive pink Neo-Gothic facade of Sychrov Chateau

Pink Palace in Paradise 

Located in the picturesque Český ráj (Bohemian Paradise) region of North Bohemia, Sychrov Chateau cuts a striking image through both the extensive use of  pink colouring in its facade and its Neo-Gothic styling.

In addition to the chateau itself, the property consists of an English style park of 23 hectares that contains an orangerie and water tower.

Fortress and chateau type structures have existed on the site of Sychrov since the 15th century. The property passed through the hands of  a number of Czech noble families until it was purchased in 1820 by the Rohan family of old French noble blood.

The Rohan period of ownership, which lasted until the state siezed the chateau in 1945, was the most significant era for the chateau as it was the Rohans who were responsible for the chateau’s present appearance and unique atmosphere. Much of the furnishings are original and a collection of over 200 paintings of Rohan family members, relatives and French kings gives Sychrov the largest collection of French portraits outside of France.

The dining room with portraits of various members of the Rohan lineage on display

Home to an Exiled Family 

One might rightly wonder how a French noble family came into the possession of a chateau on Czech soil. The answer to that question lies in a scandal which befell Henri Louis de Rohan (1745-1809) and his wife, Victoire (1743-1807).

Henri Louis and Victoire bore the titles Prince and Princess of Guéméné and this granted them very high standing in the French royal court. King Louis XVI appointed Henri Louis to the position of Grand Chamberlain of France and named Victoire as Governess of Royal Children. Henri and Victoire had five children of whom all but one survived to adulthood.

Henri Louis and Victoire were living lavishly in the good graces of the French monarchy, but it was to come to an end amid personal and political scandal in the 1780s.

The trouble started when Henri Louis’ mistress and Victoire’s close friend, Thérèse-Lucy de Dillon, died of tuberculosis in 1782.  This created scandal as Dillon was not only a close friend of someone as highly placed as Victoire, she was also a lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette.

Henri Louis had also run up a very high debt and was forced to declare bankruptcy shortly after Thérèse-Lucy de Dillon’s death. With the bankruptcy, Henri Louis and Victoire were forced to abdicate their royal titles and had their properties eventually liquidated. By the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the couple had been banned from the royal court and ostracised from noble circles.

The chateau library

Henri Louis fled France to the Habsburg Empire with his wife, father and children in the early years of the French Revolution. The Czech lands were under Habsburg rule at the time and the family eventually settled in Bohemia.

Henri and Victoire’s son, Charles Alain (1764-1836), brought Sychrov into Rohan ownership when he purchased it in 1820.

At the time of purchase, the chateau was a small Baroque style building. Under Rohan ownership, the chateau saw two reconstructions; the second of which resulted in the Neo-Gothic structure we see today.

Famed Czech composer, Antonin Dvořák (1841-1904), was very fond of Sychrov and visited many times. Many of his musical works were inspired by Sychrov and its environs.

Looking across the chateau park towards the orangerie

Into State Ownership 

As it was with all the old aristocratic residences in the Czech lands that belonged to families which had German citizenship, as the Rohans had taken, the chateau at Sychrov and its gardens were taken by the state in 1945. Sychrov remains under state ownership today.

The chateau and gardens have been open to the public in increasing amounts since 1950.

Starting in the 1990s, a large scale restoration effort was undertaken on both the exteriors and interiors with the goal of bringing the appearance of the chateau as close to its late 19th century look as possible.

Since 1995, Sychrov has been protected as a national cultural heritage monument.

The chateau courtyard

Visiting Sychrov and Learning More 

Sychrov is a very active and popular chateau that hosts a variety of seasonal activities such as bird of prey demonstrations and Scottish Highland Games in the summer months.

As it is one of the chateaus in the country that is open year round, there are naturally more opportunities to visit and take in what may be happening there than at some other chateaus.

Sychrov offers a variety of tours depending on the tastes of the visitor and is also very popular for weddings and film making.

As Sychrov chateau is located in a very popular tourism locale and has a rail station, it is not particularly difficult to reach from Liberec, Prague or Turnov if you wish to visit.

To learn more, vist the chateau’s official website.

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