Man who created the Domain of Killien remembered
By Martha Perkins and Jean-Edouard de MarenchesPublished Oct. 31, 2017
In 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and Count Edouard de Moustier was worried about the Cold War. A veteran of the Second War World, he and his wife Agnes decided that Canada offered a safe refuge should things go wrong again in Europe. With his family, they bought an estate of forests and lakes north of the village of Haliburton. By 1981 they had acquired additional properties, bringing their holdings to 5,000 acres.
Bordering the estate sat a former hunting and fishing lodge on the shores of Drag Lake. It had been built in the late 1920s by Dr. Louis Carroll, the village’s first full-time local physician. The property, which was called Haliburton Lodge at the time, appealed to the Moustiers’ love of heritage. They bought it and when their sons, Dante and Jean-Edouard, joined them in 1984, the Domain of Killien was born.
Famous for its authentic French cuisine prepared by chefs from France, it would become a standard bearer for understated luxury and refinement among Ontario inns. Celebrating the peace and quiet of its setting, the inn’s motto, often heard on radio, was “Master the Art of Doing Nothing… Beautifully”
Count de Moustier died on Feb. 16, 2017 in Chateau d’Oex Switzerland at the age of 92.
He and his wife had just returned to Switzerland, where they lived most of the year, after spending three months at their home on Drag Lake.
Edouard de Moustier, or “the Count” as he was known in Haliburton, was a member of two illustrious French families. His mother, Countess Blanche de Bourbon-Busset, daughter of a dynasty attached to the House of France, was a direct descendent of the Sun King, Louis XIV. His father, Count Philippe de Moustier traced his roots back to early 1100s chivalry.
Edouard’s ancestors included Marquis Elie de Moustier, first French ambassador to the nascent United States; when the ambassador was called back to France he sold his house in New York to George Washington.
A close confidant of Louis XVI, at the outset of the Revolution, the marquis joined the queen and king of France in their carriage as they tried to flee Versailles. They were eventually captured, the monarchs tried and executed. Elie survived the ordeal.
For years, Count Edouard de Moustier wore a black armband on Dec. 21, the day his royal ancestor was guillotined.
A multi-faceted thinker, after the war he got a doctorate in law then joined Air Liquide, a French multi-national company that produces oxygen and industrial gases. He was known in Paris for his eccentric elegance, love of horseback hunting and the huge carnations he wore in his lapel.
In 1958, he met Agnes Henderson Larcade, a young black American expat, at a party in Paris. They shared a common interest in polyphonic music and their first date was at a church concert.
At 34, Edouard was quite a catch in European society and while his autocratic parents were expecting a marriage that would form an alliance with other aristocratic families, Edouard and Agnes eloped in New York City in 1961.
This caused a scandal in Paris and beyond. Not so much because of race, in a country where her personal bearing and manners mattered more than her skin colour, but more because she was a divorced mother of two.
The family moved to Guadeloupe in the French West Indies where Edouard was put in charge of creating and managing new outposts for Air Liquide.
He would eventually participate to French aerospace industry setting foot in Kourou, French Guyana, providing the new base with fuel gases for its rockets. The Countess was made godmother of one of the early space rockets, which eventually floundered in the sea.
Their home in Guadeloupe became an unavoidable social hub of the island. They hosted parties for visiting dignitaries, friends and especially Parisian socialites, anxious to report on the couple that had all but vanished from French society.
When U.S. President Jimmy Carter came to Guadeloupe in 1979, the Countess de Moustier was asked to host a lunch for Rosalyn Carter. Agnes declined because it would have meant cutting down trees in her garden to make room for the First Lady’s helicopter.
It was in the West Indies that they rekindled their passion for sailing; in 1976, they crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a 41-foot sailboat and spent many holidays sailing throughout the islands and Mediterranean until well into their 80s.
Retired from Air Liquide, the Domain of Killien offered them a new project along with the regrouping of the family.
They loved and tended to the forest, creating trails and restoring the cabin that was once Dr. Carroll’s retreat on Delphis Lake.
Lyle Bacon, who has worked for the family since the early 1980s, once asked the count why they chose to spend winters in Haliburton. “You can go anywhere in the world and have a beautiful summer,” the count told him. “There are not many places where you can have a beautiful winter.”
The resort and property — which were named after his ancestral home, Quillien — were sold in 2012 but the Moustiers retained a 400-acre property on Drag Lake.
Edouard de Moustier leaves his wife, the Countess Agnes, sons Dante Larcade and Jean-Edouard de Marenches, and two brothers.
His funeral was in Chateau d’Oex in February and his ashes were buried on an ancestral property near Paris.
A celebration of life for County Edouard de Moustier will be held at the Bonnie View Inn on Saturday, Dec. 2 from 1 to 4 p.m.