Miles Copeland III is the owner of Château de Marouatte, a medieval castle with battlements, moat, and guard towers set in unspoiled countryside near the town of Perigeux, France. A successful and well-known music executive, Miles purchased the castle in the mid 1990's as a song-writing retreat for artists, leading to four U.S. number 1s being written there.
As the manager of The Police, Sting and a host of other household names in the music industry, Miles' extraordinary story will soon be available in his memoir “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back; My Life in the Music Business” (more details below).
We spoke to Miles about the practicalities of buying a medieval castle and his experiences of castle ownership in France.
What inspired you to purchase a medieval castle in France?
I bought Chateau Marouatte with my UK company primarily to find a site to help me with an age old problem of anyone in the business side of the music business – getting a good selection of songs and possible hits every time an artist records an album. Of course owning a castle also appealed from my upbringing in the Middle East. It was also a dream of my wife as a child. So it worked personally and business wise.
How many castles and chateaux for sale did you view?
We saw at least 12 castles but as you know the French can use the word Chateau to mean castle or large stately home. One has to be specific and say Chateau Fort. We did see lots of places that were called Chateau but were 19th century places, some castle-like elements but really more like large houses with phony machicolations. We were offered the castle of Les Milands on the Dordogne River, once owned by Josephine Baker, but as described in the book was not an attractive buy. We saw others in various states of repair, or no electricity etc.
What attracted you to Chateau Marouatte?
Chateau Marouatte appealed in that it was not too hard to get to but not too easy either and had all the size and space needed for songwriter retreats etc. With 110 hectares it also had lots of land and it had the look needed (it was originally a Roman fort and the earliest parts date to the 1200s with the new wing built in 1569).
What are the pros and cons of castle ownership in France?
Being in the countryside, in a castle, with land, and wonderful French food is obviously great. What is not so great is the many French legal requirements, taxes etc that make owning property in France both confusing and difficult at times.
There is also the need for upkeep. As the weather has become more extreme more repairs are needed, especially on the roofs. Its a constant job and not cheap.
The Dordogne region has (or had until Brexit) lots of Brits living there so English was spoken in many places. However, I had to increase my French language knowledge with specifics like words for nail, roof, cistern, bucket, screw driver, saw etc etc.
I would say that employing anyone in France, a guardian for the property or whatever, brings with it all sorts of taxes and charges for things like health care. The system seems to make sure the employee is covered and the owner pays for it all with little regard for the issues of the owner. In other words one must accept that employee comes first, owner second.
Do you generate an income from the castle? Do you think you could ever sell?
As the property was bought with a view to be both an investment AND a site for songwriter retreats there is no intention of selling it. It is meant to earn enough from rentals and events held there to cover its cost and make a profit. In that regard I added book and script writing events together with photo and painting retreats to the annual songwriting events BUT since COVID that income has stopped. Fingers crossed it will get going again in 2022.
Was the castle furnished when you bought it? Has it been difficult to source suitable furniture since?
When the castle was purchased it came with one kitchen table and two chairs. Otherwise it had to be decorated in keeping with its age and purpose. So Gothic elements were added. We were lucky that at the time of the purchase many Victorian English churches with gothic design by people like Pugin were being renovated or pulled down so one could buy great gothic woodwork, stonework etc for very cheap. Trying to buy today the same today, if one could find the items, would be way out of reach financially.
What did friends and family think when you told them of your purchase?
My French friends thought I was crazy to buy a castle in the Dordogne. I should say that one advantage of land in France is that unlike the English who seem to relish the idea of living in the country, the French prefer the city like Paris or the Cote D'Azur. France has the same size population as England but double the land mass so cheaper by comparison.
Do you have a music studio in the castle?
I store musical equipment at the castle and set up for events as needed but there is no studio there, just rooms that I convert as needed. Four number one songs have been written there (as detailed in the book).
Is the castle a profitable business for you?
I doubt if the castle generated profits from the person I bought it from. It has been a struggle for me to cover its costs and in reality it was not until 2020 that I finally got to the point of profits being possible but then COVID hit and that stopped that. Songs were written there that were hits so I took comfort that its purpose was served to some degree hence annual losses were usually not too bad.
Aside from the many famous musicians who have visited the castle under your ownership (guests include Celine Dion, Sting, Jon Bon Jovi, Carole King, Cher, Belinda Carlisle, Jason Mraz, Britney Spears, Ellie Goulding and Ted Nugent) do you know of any other well-known guests?
Apparently the Queen Mother once stayed there (that's why we call the main bedroom suite the 'Queen Mother Suite') as did Edward Heath when it was owned by Sir Maxwell Joseph.
Miles Copeland's book, “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back; My Life in the Music Business”, is published by Jawbone Press on 18th June (2021) in the UK and 13th July (2021) in the U.S.
If you'd like to rent Marouatte Castle, the property can accommodate up to 30 guests and is available via Oliver's Travels.