In 1489, François de Caumont, Lord of Castelnaud, a fortress a little further along the valley, built the Milandes castle, at his wife, Claude De Cardaillac’s request as she was depressed by the austere atmosphere of the Castelnaud castle. Les Milandes, or Mirandes as it used to be pronounced referring to its site which has a delightful view over the valley, was thus used as the permanent, and preferred, residence of the De Caumont family until 1535, at which time it became their second home, due, mainly to the fact that they were spending more and more time at the Court of Versailles. At that time, the Chateau des Milandes consisted of the main building and the square tower raised in the 19th Century. The Chapel dates from the 15th Century.
Confiscated during the French Revolution, the Château des Milandes went through several owners who did not make any particular mark on its history. In 1870, a rich industrialist, Monsieur Claverie, acquired it, restored and enlarged it to give it the appearance it has today. In this Monsieur Claverie was largely inspired by the Neo-Gothic architectural movement led by Viollet le Duc. The exterior was modified or rebuilt during the 19th Century and some parts, such as the square tower were raised. On top of this tower, a 36m3 water tank was built, fed by a spring passing under the Château. In fact the tower served as a water tower, the first modern convenience in the Château. The gardens, laid out in the 15th Century, were also reorganized in the 19th. The farm on the site of the present gardens was removed and a new one built a bit further away. It was reputed to be a model’ farm, extremely modern for its time. Making use of the additional space available and the perspectives opened up, Monsieur Claverie laid out a new garden “a la française”. The wine trade, important in the region from the 14th Century onwards, made a significant contribution to the local economy. “Gabarres”, flat bottomed boats, carried wine for export to England and Holland down the Dordogne to Bordeaux. Monsieur Claverie built the wine cellars, an outbuilding in the form of a barbican, in which he placed enormous vats called “foudres” (tuns) each containing some 45 barrels of wine. On the death of her husband Madame Claverie sold the Château in 1920 to a Monsieur Mallez and the Chapel to the Commune of Castelnaud.
In 1938 Josephine Baker the Vaudeville star rented the Château and then bought it in 1947. Born in the slums of St. Louis, her childhood was spent in the streets, getting by, along with other black kids, she grew up sleeping in cardboard shelters and scavenging for food in garbage cans. At the age of 13,she left her parents’ house and got a job as a waitress. In 1918, she started work for the BOOKER WASHINGTON THEATER Dance Troupe, first as a maid, then, fairly soon after, as the “Funny Girl”. In 1924 she became dresser to a troupe of “Girls” where, when one of them fell ill, she took her place at a moments notice. She rapidly became the main attraction, and her success made her famous. Soon after, a producer, Caroline DUDLEY, offered her a chance of a European tour as she was recruiting black artists for a show in Paris. Josephine accepted, but with a certain trepidation. On her arrival she soon discovered that people could be so open-minded; not like her beloved, but cruel, racist USA. Now, far away from racism and racial segregation she was free to take part in the struggle on behalf on her brothers and sisters, a battle in which she felt morally obliged to participate. France became her new country,Château des Milandes her new home and she remained there to the end of her life. Baker engaged in undercover work for the French Resistance during World War II. She became an “honorable correspondent” and became sub-lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary of the French Air Force and was awarded the “Medal of Resistance” and the “Legion d’Honore”. In 1940, Baker moved to MoroccoIn 1942, she toured the region performing for the resistance. She returned to France in 1944, got married in 1947 to Jo Bouillon, an orchestra leader, and was back in the States in 1948, where she became an activist for civil rights. She was back at the Milandes Château in 1954, with the intention of raising a family of ethnically diverse children that she had brought to France from her tours around the world. She called them her “Rainbow Tribe.”In her last years, Baker suffered struggles, financial difficulties, and poor health.She died on April 12, 1975, four days after the opening of Josephine, a show based on her life. Her funeral took place in her beloved France, the country which she had adopted as her home and had taken her into their hearts.