Le Perche

On the French political scene, the little province of le Perche has not counted for much in relation to its powerful neighbours like Normandy, Ile de France or Maine. The age-old forest frequently turned it into a crucial territorial issue in the conflicts of the Middle Ages between the great vassals of the King of France and the King of England. The creation of the county of le Perche, however, recognized an original territory with a strong identity. The local residents, hardy pioneers in the demographic expansion of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, were known as hardworking but fairly aloof when it came to systems. Here we have a Percheron identity or “soul” that may explain why some of them, aspiring to a better life, were attracted in the seventeenth century by the adventure of New France.

Antiquity : Silva Pertica originally denoted an immense forest on the borders of the Gaulish cities of the Essuins (capital : Sées), the Eburovices (capital : Evreux), the Cenomans (capital : Le Mans) and the Carnutes (capital : Chartres).

1079 - 1100 : Geoffroy IV, one of the region’s most powerful landowners, extended his rule over both the county of Corbon (the present area around Mortagne) and the seigniory of Nogent-le-Rotrou, which made him the master of much of the old forest of le Perche. He assumed the title of “Count of le Perche.” His son Rotrou III, who added the seigniory of Bellême to these territories in 1113, brought le Perche to the size of a province, though it remained much smaller than the natural tract of the same name.

1226 : On the death of Guillaume, 6th Count of le Perche, without an heir, the county reverted to the Crown. Le Perche would thereafter be handed out as an estate to the children or brothers of the King of France.

1559 : The compilation of the “Coutume” or laws of le Perche confirmed the provincial status of the region. The age of the Renaissance was marked in le Perche by the construction of numerous manors of original design.

1792 : When the departments were being created by the Constituent Assembly, le Perche found itself carved up among four of them: Orne and Eure-et-Loir for the most part, and Sarthe and Loir-et-Cher for lesser shares.

1947 : The founding of the Amis du Perche (Friends of le Perche) by Georges Massiot came as the first expression since the Revolution of the determination of the people of le Perche to recontact their past and preserve a cultural and ancestral identity that has never, despite administrative separations, been extinguished.

1998 : The creation of the Regional Natural Park of le Perche, followed in 1999 and 2000 by the creation of the Pays du Perche Ornais and Perche d’Eure-et-Loir, has reunited a large part of the old province across departmental boundaries around common goals: the preservation of the natural environment, cultural renewal and economic development.