Major historical figures

"An edifice has two characteristics: its use and its beauty. While its use belongs to the proprietor, its beauty is there for one and all”. Victor Hugo.

If the Château of Chambord is the largest and most majestic of the castles on the Loire, this owes nothing to chance.  Commissioned by the king of France (François I) on his return from the Battle of Marignan, it was considered not as a place in which to live, but rather a symbol of power and aesthetic achievement.

Registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1940, the château of Chambord has borne witness to the many figures of renown who were passing through.  From the times of François I, who dwelt there for a mere fifty days, through the reign of Louis XIV who followed through to completion the colossal endeavor initiated two centuries earlier, the Château of Chambord staged grandiose festivities and hunting parties in a park as vast as Paris proper. .

In 1519, François I undertook construction of a new royal house in Chambord, in the heart of the game-rich marshlands of Sologne. Even though during his reign the monarch only rarely slept there, it was with pronounced interest that he followed the progress of work. He was creating a palace in his own image, which was that of an inheritor of medieval traditions and the ideas of the Renaissance. For him, Chambord was as much an isolated holiday destination, ideal for hunting with his inner circle, as an architectural creation of genius and a political manifesto. Wishing to bedazzle, he would invite foreign diplomats and even, in 1539, his arch-rival Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor who was also known as a German prince. When he died (in 1547), the chapel wing and the lower enclosure had yet to be completed.

In 1626 Gaston, Duke of Orleans received in appanage, from the hands of his brother, King Louis XIII, the county of Blois, which included Chambord. An occasional conspirator, he was placed under house arrest in 1634. Appreciative of his sojourn in Chambord, he was the first to undertake renovation and restoration of the château. The insufficiently waterproofed terraces underwent repairs, as did the lantern tower and the sculpted vaults of the second floor, which had been damaged by water ingress. In addition, he acquired new land to constitute the park of Chambord and terminated construction of a boundary wall. So it was that Chambord attained its present-day dimensions: approximately 13500 acres, delineated and bounded by a 32-kilometer wall.

After its having been suspended during the reign of Henri II, the Sun King put the finishing touches on château construction work. The chapel wing and the enclosure were at long last covered with a roof. On nine occasions from 1660 to 1685, generally in the autumn, Louis XIV enjoyed sojourns with his court in Chambord. His days there were punctuated by hunting parties, comedic representations and gala balls. The celebrated satire of the bourgeois wishing to become an aristocrat (written by Molière, with the music of Lully) was performed in Chambord on 14 October 1670 before the king and his court: the world premiere!

In 1680, Louis XIV created in his image, in the center of the keep, a new official royal apartment. He also commissioned a number of operations beside the château in order to sanitize the site (canalization of the Cosson river) and to cultivate a genuine garden on an artificial terrace. Unfortunately, these projects were not completed, but stables were built in the château forecourt.

In 1725, the exiled king of Poland, father-in-law of King Louis XV, was invited along with what was left of his court to stay in the royal house of Chambord. He took pleasure in the seclusion of an isolated palace and led a calm, observant, well-ordered life with the hope of regaining his throne and putting an end to his wanderings. Once summer came, however,  a malaria outbreak forced him to leave the château and find temporary refuge in nearby residences (Blois, Saint-Dyé, château of Saumery, château of Ménars). Wishing to sanitize the air in Chambord, he carried on with the work projects undertaken by Louis XIV in the vicinity of the château. In August 1733, Stanislas Leszczynski departed from the estate for once and for all.

In 1745 Maurice de Saxe, marshal of France, received Chambord from the hands of Louis XV as a reward for his military exploits. He resided there “as would a sovereign”, with his court and his regiments, highlighting his days with military maneuvers, hunting expeditions and lavish entertainment. Felicitously, he found the time to supervise large-scale development projects in the château and its park.  Among other things, he set up a theater on the second floor of the keep and modernized the official apartment with luxurious decoration and furnishing.

The marshal also completed the installation of a French-style garden and constructed a number of roadways for fox hunting in the park. He died in the castle on 30 November 1750.

In 1821, following a nationwide fund-raising campaign Henri, grandson of the future King Charles X, received Chambord … as a birth gift. Forced into exile in 1830, from his Austrian residences he administered his estate with passion and the hope to reside in Chambord on his return to France under the name of “Henri V”. The château benefited from numerous restoration drives and was saved from ruin.

It was also opened to visitors for the first time. The count was proud to present a collection of artworks, notably family portraits, that had been acquired on the art market or donated by faithful royalists. His death in 1883 represented the passing of the last direct heir of King Louis XIV.

For further information: Discover the exhibition  “Lilies and Republic” through this link

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