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History of Mariemont

Mariemont’s history unfolds in two chapters: the first illustrates the past of the former hunting estate created in 1546 by Queen Mary of Hungary, whose name it bears. The second refers to the Warocqué family, a dynasty of coal industrialists whose last offspring, Raoul, a very wealthy collector, originated the Museum of Mariemont. Queen Mary of Hungary, a sister of Charles V, inaugurated the presence of the governors of The Netherlands who would succeed each other until the end of the Ancien Régime.

The modest pavilion constructed by Mary was considerably expanded by Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabelle, who made it their favourite country residence. These extensions are illustrated with a monumental model. The appearance of the estate did not undergo any more major modifications until the arrival of Marie-Elisabeth of Austria, who had a new chapel built and laid the foundations for a new thermal station to rival Spa. Charles of Lorraine, who succeeded her, built a new chateau in the classical style as shown beautifully in two paintings by Jean-Baptiste Simons. The splendours of the court were reflected magnificently in this enchanted setting. This brilliant period was brutally interrupted by the burning of the chateau by French revolutionaries in 1794.

The arrival of Nicolas Warocqué, the ideal incarnation of the new industrial bourgeoisie, brought back a new radiance to Mariemont. He revived the exploitation of the mineral wealth of the Mariemont park on a large scale and had a new residence established within a sumptuous park. His successors developed his business and made the coalmining company of Mariemont-Bascoup one of the most modern and most prosperous of the country. Warocqué family members were also very well represented in economic and social affairs. Raoul Warocqué occupies an honoured place through his splendour, his international stature and his patronage, whose memory is perpetuated in the estate of Mariemont.