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"A lady of the manor in the trenches", our First World War series


Wallonia-Brussels Tourism offers you an exclusive Facebook application to relive the fascinating story of a Lady of the manor in the trenches.

New, twice a week throughout June, July, September and October and every day in August.

A series presented by Wallonia-Brussels Tourism as part of the First World War centenary.

Follow the episodes on Facebook

Relive Belgium's entry into the First World War

1914. Winter ends. The warmer weather anounces its return at Louvignies castle, the family residence where Maria, countess van den Steen de Jehay, grew up with her brothers and her younger sister Albertine in a warm atmosphere of high society.

At the end of July, the countess is entertaining a few guest at Chevetogne castle. The air is mild, the stars illuminate the night, a gentle breeze whips up the garden's perfumes. Later on, when speaking about that evening that seemed perfect, she would say: "It was peace and we didn't realise it".

A few days later, on 3 August, Belgium was in a state of war with Germany. It was the start of the First World War.

When a lady of the manor becomes a nurse at the front

The day war with Germany broke out, the countess didn't hesitate for a second and transformed her castle into a hospital. Maria, with nurses from Saint-Camille school tended to the weak: the wounded; the sick, children…

Four years of daily struggle, of adventures, of surprising developments, incredible anecdotes, that Maria, countess van den Steen de Jehay scrupulousmy recorded, every single day, in her journals.

A book

The precious documents were found in a chest in the Louvignies castle by Baroness Florence de Moreau de Villegas de Saint-Pierre, countess Van den Steen's heiress. Florence de Moreau decided to pay homage to her grandmother and publish a book: "A Lady of the Manor in the Trenches", to "pass on great stories of altruism. Those of all the soldiers who, in the trenches of the First World War, gave their lives for our freedom. But also those of all the generous women behind the scenes, like Maria, my grandfather's cousin, who transformed her castle into a warzone hospital…".