The French Resistance Worker
Josephine Baker is probably best known for her success as a dancer and singer who famously performed in a ‘skirt’ made of artificial bananas. Less known is the fact that she was a resistance worker for her adopted country, France, and was even awarded the Legion of Honour in 1961 in recognition of her work during WWII.
Click on the image above to learn more about this fascinating lady & book.
She rose to fame in the 1920s, particularly thanks to her performances in Paris at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées as well as Les Folies Bergères. She was a true Francophile and obtained French citizenship in 1936.
During the 2nd World War, she performed for troops based in Africa and the Middle East. Thanks to her international fame, she was able to move around freely and carry out covert operations for the French Resistance. She acted as an informant, delivering coded messages during her musical acts and apparently hid secret messages on her sheet music as well as in her underwear! Josephine Baker was a truly remarkable lady who was entirely devoted to France and famously stated « It’s France that has made me. I’m prepared to give it my life. You can use me as you will. »
Josephine Baker’s Chateau in France
During a trip to the Dordogne, Josephine fell in love with the Chateau des Milandes, a fairytale castle set in the heart of the Périgord. Lord Francois de Caumont had the Chateau built for his wife around 1489 as she disliked the austere war fortress that was their home – the Chateau de Castelnaud. After renting it for an initial period, Josephine eventually bought it in 1947. This is also the year that she married her fourth husband, Jo Bouillon, a famous French composer and conductor. They wed in the chapel within the grounds of the Chateau.
Josephine Baker put the Chateau on the world map which is why it is often referred to as the ‘Josephine Baker Chateau’ even though its correct name is the Chateau des Milandes (the name of the local town). She lived there with her 12 strong rainbow tribe of adopted children for several years before she went bankrupt and sadly lost her beloved home.
Planning a visit to the Chateau?
The Josephine Baker Chateau is one of our absolute favourites! It’s a very child-friendly Chateau as there are no heart-in-your-mouth cliffside drops. You can visit the castle in under an hour which is handy if you have little ones. You can then head outside and enjoy all the gardens have to offer.
Our Insider Top Tips
- Do not miss the fantastic Bird of Prey Show/demonstration. Watch the Golden Eagle and Owls swooping overhead. The commentary is in French although this does not detract from the display in any way.
- There is a lovely Brasserie which is located in the Chateau’s old winery on site if you fancy a bite. Alternatively bring along a picnic and head for one of the picnic tables set within the grounds.
- Immerse yourself fully in the experience and read up on Josephine Baker’s remarkable story ahead of your visit. Check out ‘Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker’ (ages 7 – 10) and ‘The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy’
- The audio guides are useful for some background and for setting the scene.
- The grounds, listed as Historical Monuments, are beautiful and are a great area for children to let off some steam. Challenge your kids to find the children’s castle/cabin and the drawbridge.
- Enjoy the water features! In 2016, the gardens were restored to their original design dating back to 1908. The water trail and fountain jet provide a striking contemporary twist to the setting.
- Time your visit for one of their family and children’s workshops – exotic bird feeding, falconry workshop and musketeer workshops (during Christmas and February holidays)
- Our highlights are the Coco Chanel inspired bathroom and Josephine’s stunning stage dresses including the famous ‘banana skirt’
Tip Read: If you’re visiting several chateaux in the Dordogne, be sure to check out Our Insider’s Guide to the Chateau de Castelnaud
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