The limits assigned to Normandy by the treaty of Louviers, made Gaillon a frontier town of the duchy; and here therefore I should take my leave of you, but that, in the prouder days of its history, Vernon was likewise swayed by the ducal sceptre. Vernon also seems peculiarly connected with England, from the noble family of the same name still flourishing, agreeably to their well-known punning motto, on your side of the water. This motto is in the highest degree inapplicable to the present state of the town, whose old and ruinous appearance looks as if it had known neither improvement nor repair for centuries. Better things might have been expected from the situation of Vernon, on the banks of the Seine, in a singularly beautiful valley, and from its climate, which is reported to be so extraordinarily healthy, that instances of individuals attaining in it the age of one hundred are not unfrequent.
The royal palace, formerly here, is now wholly swept away; and of the ancient fortifications there remains little more than a tower, remarkable for the height and thickness of its walls, a part of the castle, which, in the reign of Henry IInd, was held by the service of sixteen knights for its defence.—Prior to the revolution, Vernon contained five religious houses, three of them founded by St. Louis, who is said to have regarded this town with peculiar favor, and probably on that account assigned it as a jointure to his queen, an honor which it has received upon more than one other occasion.
The present parish church of Vernon was collegiate. It was founded about the year 1052, by William of Vernon, and was endowed by him, at the time of its dedication, with the property called, La Couture du Pre de Giverny, and with a fourth part of the forest of Vernon, all which the dean and canons continued to enjoy till the revolution. This William appears to have been the first of the family who adopted the surname of Vernon. His son, Richard, by whom the foundation was formally confirmed, attended the Conqueror to England, and obtained there considerable grants. One of their descendants ceded the town in 1190 to the King of France, accepting in return other lands, according to a treaty still preserved in the royal library at Paris. The tombs of the founder, and of his namesake, Sir William de Vernon, constable of England, who died in 1467, and of many others of the family, among the rest the stately mausoleum of the Marechal de Belle Isle, were destroyed during the reign of jacobinism and terror. The portraits, however, of the Marshal and of the Duc de Penthievre, both of them very indifferent performances, were saved, and are now kept in the sacristy. The only monument left to the church is that of Marie Maignard, whose husband, Charles Maignard, was Lord of Bernieres and president of the parliament of Normandy. She died in 1610. Her effigy in white marble, praying before a fald-stool, has also been spared.