The gorgeous La Chartreuse hotel and chateau in the picturesque and charming village of Gosnay, near Lens, northern France is the subject of a famous local legend…
When the Countess Mahaut of Artois (circa 1270-1329) lived at the old Chateau in 1392 she established a court there and ruled with austerity. She was the grand daughter of the brother of King Louis XI and a prominent member of the French aristocracy and her life had been blighted by her two daughters’ trials for adultery – both were married to the King of France’s sons. All of her servants followed the rules implicitly as the countess threatened severe punishments to those who erred.
A pretty chambermaid called Alix was wooed by a young servant and the pair fell in love – but, their affair produced bitter effects. The Countess noticed of course that Alix was pregnant and furiously reproached her for her scandalous behaviour.
She bought the terrified Alix before her court and asked her how she dare break the rules of her court.
“I was seduced” said the girl with a quavering voice.
The Countess told her that if Alix revealed the name of the man who had wronged her she would spare Alix and the seducer would be put to death. If she did not name the culprit, Alix herself would be killed.
The young girl refused to name her lover and be the cause of his death; he watched shivering from the massed servants and courtiers. He thought about owning up but fear for his life prevented him from speaking up.
The Countess ordered that Alix be buried alive. The maid threw herself to the ground and begged the Countess to forgive her and to let her and her unborn baby live. The officers of the court were moved by the sight of her distress and begged their mistress to show mercy. But the Countess was adamant and ordered the priest to hear the wicked girl’s confession.
Alix, who had fainted was carried away.
Her lover disappeared, the guards later reported that he had been seen walking out of the Chateau looking as though he had lost his mind – he was never seen again.
The sun set behind the hills of nearby Houdain and night fell; torches were lit and a silent procession save for the Priest’s quiet words of comfort and prayer made its way to the end of the chateau grounds where a deep grave had been dug.
Alix was pushed into the hole and the guards were ordered to cover it with large rocks. The screams of the young girl turned to groans and then fell silent.
It is said that the valley is haunted by strange apparitions, the muffled groans of a young woman and some claim that they have seen the ghost of an emaciated woman wandering in the moon light across the fields and streams.
What of the Countess? She later felt remorse for her actions and established a hospital and two chapels in the town where each day a prayer was said to the memory of the poor maid…