Dr. Kuifje's Travels: Tintin in Cheverny

In his early adventures Tintin lacks a place where he can safely return to after his travels. He lodges at 26 Labrador Street, but the place never seems to become a real home. This changes in Red Rackham's Treasure, when Captain Haddock buys Marlinspike Hall, the castle of his ancestors. Haddock moves from his appartment to Marlinspike Hall and although Tintin does not move in, the castle becomes a home base for the whole 'family': Haddock, Tintin, Prof. Calculus and Nestor.

In French the castle and the village nearby are called Moulinsart, an anagram of the Belgian village Sart-Moulin, which doesn't have a castle. Nevertheless, Marlinspike Hall is not entirely fictitious; Herge adapted the French Loire castle of Cheverny for his means. Dr. Kuifje visited Cheverny in March 2004 and reports in this article on his findings.

Short history of the castle

Count of Cheverny Philippe Hurault built de castle in the period 1624-1630. It was designed by architect, master-mason, and sculptor Jacques Bougier as a shining example of Louis XIII classical style. Decorations of the interior, including the many paintings on wooden panels, were made by Jean Monier. No major changes tot he exterior have been made since. The interior underwent a major renovation in 1768. The castle changed owners various times, but the Hurault family bought it back in 1824. They still own it today. Since 1914 the castle is open for visitors.


Since Cheverny would be too large a castle for a private individual to buy, Herge decided to leave out the two outside wings. Apart from that, Marlinspike Hall is a very truthful depiction of Château de Cheverny. Farr (2001; p. 106) reproduces a brochure of the castle found in Herge's archive. It shows a photograph of the castle, with in pencil the figures of Haddock and Tintin (more or less the same construction as can be seen at the very top of this page).

Given the presence of the castle in almost all books since The Secret of the Unicorn, it is remarkable that Herge shows it from so few angles. Often he draws the frontage or, in closeup, the front door (see below). We never see the rear side. If you would like to see the rear side of Cheverny, have a look at this 3D model of the castle.

Cheverny overview Marlinspike overview

Left: Château de Cheverny as seen from the gate. Right: The Castafiore Emerald, p. 4.

As with many of his drawings, Herge was meticulous in depicting the details of the castle. Hence it is remarkable that the stairs at the entrence are different. Herge added a pair of hand rails, giving a somewhat unwieldy look.

The website of Château RiveSarthe provides a possible explanation. They claim that Herge copied the stairs from their castle. Indeed the stair cases look quite the same, and there are more similarities. First, the general shape of the building is exactly the same as Marlinspike Hall, that is, Cheverny minus its two ouside wings. Second, the sand around the castle is pink. Finally the website claims that the surroundings of RiveSarthe also match with Marlinspike Hall. However the pictures on the website do not provide evidence for the latter claim.

Because of Marlinspike Hall's interior (see below), there can be no doubt that the castle was primary inspired by Cheverny. I think it may well be possible that Herge borrowed additional details from RiveSarthe. Once I have the upportunity to visit the castle I hope to be more outspoken on this matter.

bordes Cheverny bordes Marlinspike Hall

Left: Entrance of Cheverny. Right: The Seven Crystal Balls, p. 2.


The interior of Marlinspike Hall matches only superficially with Cheverny; most of the details are fictitious. The lushly decorated fireplace depicted in The Secret of the Unicorn, however, is an exact copy of the original in the King's Room (see below). Note the painting of Perseus and Andromeda by Monier and the tapered sides of the fireplace. Of course, they are simplified because of Herge's ligne claire, but they are unmistakably the same. Even the outlines of the fireback and the small oblong format painting below the large painting are present.

fireplace in Cheverny fireplace in Marlinspike Hall

Left: Fireplace in the King's Chamber. Right: The Secret of the Unicorn, p. 45

The second similarity in the interior is the staircase, which plays such an important role in The Castafiore Emerald. Farr (2001, p. 107) shows the original picture of the staircase that Herge used as documentation. A drawing from The Secret of the Unicorn (below, right) shows the staircase from exactly the same angle. Unfortunately I forgot to make the same picture during my visit. The suit of armour and the wooden chest below bring scant comfort.

Armour in Cheverny Armour in Marlin Spike

Left: Arms Room. Right: The Secret of the Unicorn, p. 47. Below: The Castafiore Emerald, p. 54.

Tintin in chest

Tintin Exhibition

Because the small number of similarities of the interior, the owners of the castle decided that so as to draw more Tintin lovers to the castle, a special Tintin exhibition was necessary. In 2001 the exhibition was opened to the public. Several scenes from Tintin were reconstructed in full scale. Below I show two of them.

broken window in Cheverny broken window in Marlin Spike

Left: Exhibition. Right: The Calculus Affair, p. 3

Tintin escapes from Cheverny Tintin escapes from Marlin Spike

Left: Exhibition. Right: The Secret of the Unicorn, p. 41


M. Farr (2001). Tintin: The Complete Companion. Editions Moulinsart.

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