A dream of Charles V,
an imperial castle in Luxembourg
Count Pierre-Ernest de Mansfeld had settled comfortably and permanently in Brussels, and so had done the last surviving of his legitimate sons. Pierre-Ernest remained in Brussels after his appointment in 1545 as governor of the Duchy of Luxembourg and the counties of Chiny and Namur. So why, for whom, the Fontaine-Palace in Clausen, why such a deployment of luxury, since it was only at the age of 77, that he finally retired to Luxembourg? Why did he bequeath, in his testament of 1602, this magnificent castle to the crown of Spain? It is assumed that the estate was encumbered with debts. Perhaps, but there is no documentation on this subject; on the other hand, there is found evidence of a debt of King Philip II of Spain, until the payment of which Mansfeld and his successors had the lordship of Vianden.
In the correspondence with his sister Mary of Hungary, Emperor Charles V evokes " the park and the forest ", where he wanted to walk, without specifying the place. On the other hand, the Count of Mansfeld, in his Journal de Captivité, written in Vincennes between 1552 and 1554, makes several allusions to his "private affairs", without anywhere explaining what he means by that. These affairs are on the one hand put in relation with Charles V, and on the other, at the end of the Journal de captivité, with Luxembourg.
Hence my question: Was castle Fontaine originally intended as a prestige-residence for Charles? Answer: No, since its construction began only in 1563, while Charles V had died five years earlier, in 1558. The date of the start of the preparatory works remains however uncertain. To think of the required infrastructure – the straightening of the rocks, the deviation and channeling of the river Alzette, the capture of the springs and the installation of the fountains, the digging of the foundations, the flattening of the land, the plantations, the enclosure delimiting the park, the high wall surrounding the deer-reserve, and perhaps even the construction of a hunting mansion, also destinated to Charles V, – all these multiple works may have preceded the construction of those buildings which were to form the prestigious Renaissance-palace. So, there is a strong probability that the plans were elaborated already in the thirties of the 16th century, and that the big work began immediately after the nomination of Mansfeld at the post of governor of the duchy in 1545.
In consideration of the treasures amassed there – the collections of historical paintings and portraits of sovereigns, sculptures (including those of the first Roman emperors), antiquities, exotic birds and plants – as well as the excellence of the finishing –, everything speaks in favor of my thesis, that this castle was designed for Charles V, and paid mainly with the gold of New Spain. Governor Pierre-Ernest de Mansfeld was the proud executor of this work, rightly decorated at the end with his coat of arms and his motto: Force m'est trop.