During the Middle Ages, Les Baux-de-Provence was the seat of a powerful feudal lordship that controlled 79 towns and villages in the vicinity. For several years, it was controlled by the Lords of Baux of the House of Baux, one of the richest and most powerful families of Medieval Provence. It was later joined to the French crown and in the 17th Century became a center for Protestantism. In 1642, the town was granted to the Grimaldi family, rulers of Monaco, as a French marquisate. To this day, the title of Marquis des Baux remains with the Grimaldis, although administratively the town is entirely French. The title is traditionally given to the heir to the throne of Monaco. Princess Caroline of Monaco uses the style Marquise des Baux, but, being a French title it can only pass through a male line under Salic law. It lapsed on the death of her grandfather Prince Louis II, the last male in a direct line.
The ruins of Château des Baux, a fortified castle built during the 10th Century, dominate the landscape. It was by far the largest footprint of castle ruins we visited in France, with the exception of the ramparts that are still scattered about the town of Dinan to the north. A display of enormous trebuchets sit on a plateau above the valley below and you get the sense that the rulers of this castle had little tolerance for would-be invaders. Throughout the summer, demonstrations of these huge catapults are given by actors adorned in medieval garb and while they were absent during our visit, a video we watched had these machines hurling 100 lb projectiles at walls over 200 yards away. The old village they once protected, inhabited by as many as 4,000 people, now has a population of only twenty-two residents.
We arrived in Les Baux-de-Provence a couple of hours before sunset and checked into Benvegudo, a charming boutique hotel in the valley below the village. Once a country house, it was hands down the most picturesque hotel we stayed in during our scout. Its 25+ rooms could easily accommodate our film’s entire cast and crew and there is a fantastic Michelin recommended restaurant on the premises. There’s much to like about Les Baux-de-Provence if you’re looking for a getaway in the south of France, but the area’s main attraction is the castle ruins and I can’t see shooting our film here. Tourism is the village’s main source of income and it’s designed strictly as a walk-through location. If we were producing a movie about medieval knights and warring lords, I would highly consider it.