The Deschanels are the family that make up the “Crimson” half of The House of Crimson and Clover series. The Deschanels are amongst the wealthiest and oldest of New Orleans, and their residence for the past couple hundred years has been the dark and beautiful plantation Ophėlie.
The family was originally from France. In 1844, Charles Deschanel, a moderately successful French businessman, decided to try his luck in the Americas and purchased 30 acres of land outside of New Orleans, along the great River Road. He found immediate success in both the sugar and cotton trade, in a land that endlessly produced.
Charles built the forty-five Greek Revival mansion soon after they arrived, with parterre gardens, stately ionic and fluted columns, balconies with imported lacework, and floors made of local cypress. He also built a lovely garden facing the rear of the property for Brigitte, which was ever after known as Brigitte’s Garden. When their daughter Ophėlie was born, the plantation was named after her.
New Orleans fell early during the Civil War, and Charles Deschanel seized the opportunity to save his skin. He housed an entire company of the Union army at Ophėlie and kept them fed, comfortable, and entertained. When the war ended, his friendships with the North remained alive, and he was one of the handful of Southerners who profited, rather than suffered, from the war. In fact, there were many people- including his own wife- who considered him a traitor. Love him or hate him, Charles’ quick thinking helped grow the Deschanel wealth by leaps and bounds, and cemented their position of power in Louisiana. The Deschanels would henceforth always be seen with a combination of respect and derision.
The plantation, and the wealth, was passed traditionally through the oldest male, however the family would soon learn that their profiteering and greed would come at a cost. A curse was placed upon the Deschanels, one that thinned out generation after generation, leaving very few to push forward. For many years, the Deschanels feared that each generation would be their last, as the tragedies to continued to plague the family. It was not until August Deschanel (b. 1905) fathered seven children- Charles, Augustus, Colleen, Madeline, Maureen, Evangeline, and Elizabeth- that a new hope began to arise. The books of The House of Crimson Clover series involve the grandchildren of August Deschanel, and their involvement with the Sullivan family (“Clover”).
As the stories progress, the Deschanels slowly learn more about their supposed “curse,” as well as some of the darker sides of their family history…ones that follow them through into today.
Below is a snapshot of some of the early Deschanel ancestors, including Charles and Brigitte:
More family trees can be found by visiting each of the individual books in The House of Crimson and Clover series.