We start our story in 1288 whith Hendrik van Leuven, he played an important roll in the battle of Woeringen, and was one of the first owners of Gaasbeek. The lineage van Leuven were owners of the castle for about one hundred years. Another name that stands out is the one of Sweder van Abcoude for his conflict against Brussels. On March 26th 1388 the councilmen of Brussels were ambushed when they were on their way from Lennik to Brussels. Swedor invites the culprits into his castle. They were his bastard son Willem van Cleef and his baljuw Melis Utenenghe. One of the councils dies of his injuries and this is the sign to send an army to the castle to besiege it. This short war is disastrous for the castle. After a five week siege the castle falls and is burned down. Sweder was able to escape and when he returns later he reconcile with the city of Brussels and they give back his belongings. Jacob van Abcoude sells the castle to the Horne family. Filips van Horne seems to have been very important in the history of the castle as he rebuilt the castle between 1436 and 1488. Also the remodeling his descendant Maarten van Horne did between 1543 and 1559 were important for the castle. Maarten did not only use his fortune to remodel the castle but he was also always in war and fought on the side of Karel V. All these wars resulted in huge debts. They became so high that the castle was sold publicly. It was earl Lamoraal van Egmond who bought the castle in 1565 for 210.000 carolusguilders. Lamoraal, 28th Lord of Egmond, Prince of Gavere, Knight of the Gulden Vlies, governor and captain-general of Flanders and Artesië was one of the most important people of the Netherlands. His roll in the revolution against the Spanish king Filips II would cost him his life. The Duke van Alva on command of Filips arrested him. Lamoraal was decapitated June 5th, 1568 on the market in Brussels. All his property was confiscated. His wife Sabine van Beieren and her eleven children were forced to move to the abbey of Ter Kameren. She returns to the castle in 1574.
Filips van Egmond becomes owner of the castle in 1589. Filips dies in the war against Hendrik IV of France in 1590. His wife Maria van Horne inherits all his possessions. Maria's niece sells the castle in 1615 to Renaat van Renesse van Warfusée. He beautifies the garden and builds a chapel in the park. Warfusée is head of the finance. He takes part in an attempted coup with the help from foreign countries. The coup doesn't happen and Warfusée is banned and his properties confiscated. He manage to escape to Luik where he tries to kill major la Ruell, but he gets killed himself by the people. His children are able to stop the auction of their father properties and in 1650 Alexander van Renesse, son of Warfusée becomes owner of the castle. We are in 1695 when Louis-Alexander Scockaert buys the domain. Scockaert was an important diplomat. He signs in 1697 with the authority of the Spanish king the peace of van Rijswijk which ends a nine year long war. The castle went through a rough time during the wars of Lodewijk XIV. French troops burned down the 4 towers in 1691. During the siege of Brussels in 1695 the castle was again the scene of furious battles. It was damaged so much that they didn't even bother to rebuild certain parts. Alexander-Louis Scockaert followed up his father and he married Jeanne Volckaert. Who was family of Pieter Paulus Rubens. Because of this bond important documents of this famous painter ended up in the archive of the castle.
Brigitta-Jozeffa , Filips-Karel Thomas and Augustijn-Justus Scockaert all die without offspring. Their sister Henriette was married with Galeazzo Arconati Visconti. So in 1796 the castle becomes property of Paul Arconati Visconti, who was for a period major of Brussels. The extravagant and modern Paul became at the end of his life a real hermit. His nephew Guiseppe Arconati inherits the property in 1821. He was involved in the Risorgimento, or the revolt of Lombardije against Austria. He was convicted to death but managed to escape to Belgium, where he entertains his fellow rebels who also managed to flee. The castle becomes because of Guiseppe's wife Constanza Trotti a center for artistic and scientific activities. This all comes to an end when their son Carletto dies. The Arconati's leave Gaasbeek. Their second son Giammartino Arconati Visconti, the last of the Visconti lineage marries with Marie Peyrat. Giammartino dies three years after the marriage without an heir. Marie inherits the enormous fortune of her late husband. Marchioness Marie stays only 2 months of the year at the castle. The rest of the year she lives in Paris. She spends however 1.200.000 bef (an enormous amount of money in those times), on restorations which are done between 1887 and 1898. Marchioness Marie Arconati Visconti gives in 1921 the castle to the people of Belgium. She dies in Paris on May 3th 1923.
Visiting the castle is a must. While you walk through the 16 rooms that are open for the public you are taken back in time. It feels and looks like the Marchioness still lives in the castle and that she can walk into one of the rooms any moment.
Take the freeway Brussels -Paris (E19), take exit 15 and follow the signs.
I have a lot more pictures of this castle HERE