For over 15 centuries, the prosperous medieval market and cathedral town of Uzès (pronounced “ee-oo-ZESS”) has been linked to the history of France.
This picturesque town in Southern France dates way back… The first people settled on the banks of the River Alzon, close to the water source at the Eure. In 50 AD the Romans moved in and built an aqueduct to bring water to Nimes, some 50 km away. What remains of this aqueduct today is where the Pont du Gard crosses the Gardon River.
Between the 5th century and the French Revolution, Uzès was a Bishopric. These Bishops were very powerful having the right to mint coins and dispense justice. Like in many places in France, there was continual rivalry between the Bishops and the Lords.
In 1088, a charter was drawn up allowing for the existence of the Lords of Uzès. Two hundred years later (in 1229), the Languedoc was brought back under Crown’s rule and the lords of Uzès took part in the King’s wars. Their loyalty resulted in the Kings making them viscounts, counts and dukes. In 1632, the last Duke of Montmorency, who was the 1st Duke in France, rebelled against the King. He was beheaded and the title passed to the Duke of Uzès by seniority. The Uzès family own the chateau in the center of town and have been living there on and off for more than 1000 years. If you part with 18 euros, you can visit the chateau.
But what does it mean to be a Duc. It means that through this title, the Dukes of Uzès were first in line for the throne after the direct bloodlines of the King’s sons. They were also responsible for pronouncing the words “The King is dead, long live the King” at funerals. It was their duty to protect the King and fight for him. This resulted in 21 Dukes of Uzès being killed or wounded in battle.
If you are in this part of France, the town is worth a visit!