The World: The Chateau Besieged

Vengeance gives strength to our arms.

—Motto of the Barons de Portal

The chateau itself, looming against the skies of Languedoc, looks like the scene of a Gothic melodrama. Turkeys roost on the veranda, and assorted dogs and cats prowl the courtyard where lilacs bloom. In an unburied coffin lies the late Baron Léonce de Portal, whose family title dates back seven centuries. The new baron, Jean-Louis de Portal, has been holding off the police at rifle point for more than six weeks.

The old baron was born here during la Belle Epoque, and grew up on this 314-acre estate in Saint-Nauphary, in southwestern...

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