Their empires are gone, their royalty have been variously beheaded or imprisoned in the pages of tabloids, their Olympic teams are routinely humiliated by squads from the New and Third Worlds--but France and England still have some really big houses. When the English speak of a ``country house,'' they're not talking about a summer place in the Hamptons or the Ozarks. First of all, their houses have names--and not one of them is ``Graceland'': Igthham Mote; Canons Ashby; Alnwick Castle. These are just three of the 20 English mansions whose histories are summarized by Country Life magazine editor Hall and presented with photographs found in the magazine's archives. The French, who never quite mastered the British gift for false modesty, don't call their estates ``houses''; they call them chÉteaux (some were indeed the seats of royalty). They have names like Blois, Esclimont, and Montigny-Le- Ganelon--just three of the 34 chÉteaux covered by Binney, formerly of Country Life and currently architectural correspondent for The Times.