As history unfolds

During the Middle Ages the Boulogne forest massif in which the National Estate of Chambord is located was the property of the counts of Blois; in 1498, it became a crown property, a royal domain.

During the Middle Ages it extended from Mont-près-Chambord in the west to la Ferté-Saint-Cyr in the east. Its northern boundary ran parallel the somewhat distant Cosson river, while the southern confines of the massif were close to the course of the Beuvron river. In 1523, at the initiative of François I, the boundaries of the Chambord park were delineated in these ample confines. During his youthful sojourns in Romorantin in Blois, François I developed a passion for hunting. In 1515, when he became king of France, he decided to have his castle built in an immense park in the heart of the Boulogne forest massif and on the farmland north of the Cosson. Ideal hunting grounds were thenceforth at his disposal.

The largest enclosed forest of France

Construction of the Chambord château got underway in 1519. At the same time and in view of developing what was to become the park, François Ier acquired the farmland north of the Cosson river and adjacent to the Boulogne forest massif. More than 6200 acres of farmland were thereby annexed. It consisted mainly in cultivated areas, a few groves and, in all likelihood, a smattering pf heaths in which the sheep of the nearby peasants found their subsistence. In 1645, Gaston, Duke of Orléans enlarged the estate and completed construction of its perimeter wall. So it as that the National Estate of Chambord reached its present-day size: approximately 13500 acres.

A 32-km perimeter wall

Its construction having started in or around 1542, the perimeter wall bounding and surrounding the National Estate of Chambord is 32 km (20 miles) long. Though building activities were protracted, they do not appear to have been interrupted following the death of François I in 1547; invoices dated 1556 attest to the fact that Henri II, his son, had ordered the local construction crews to proceed while he was away. The average height of the wall is 2.50 m, and the depth of its foundations approximates 70 cm. It is composed of small dry lacustrine Beauce limestone. Little by little, doors were carved out so as facilitate movement. In 1549 there were three of them, and they were countlessly displaced over the centuries. Edification of the wall aroused some hostility among the local population; as early as 1549, numerous breaches appeared. It is easy to imagine the inconvenience that the “ramparts” could occasion for the region’s inhabitants; it complicated their comings and goings … and prevented them from poaching in the forests.

Notwithstanding the penalties provided for – and constant surveillance by guards -, breaches in the wall kept on opening up.

Surveillance of the estate

In 1542, François I created royal captaincies tasked with ensuring “with the utmost rigor the maintenance and conservation of the shrubs and bushes, of the black and red beasts of this park, for our pleasure and pastime of hunting”. The captain and three guardsmen of the Chambord estate were invested with authority over hunting – and the waters and forests – in the county of Blois. They maintained their prerogatives over the forest and, more specifically, over eventual logging operations. Due to their presence, breaches in the walls declined in frequency, but other offenses and misdemeanors were severely punished. In addition, the captains underwent little if any supervision and often abused the local peasants and other residents; they were said to be violence-prone; that is one of the reasons why, in 1777 during the reign if Louis XIV, the royal captaincy of Chambord was brought to an end.

The doors in the perimeter wall were complemented by portals, gates that on principle were closed for the night until the outset of the 20th century. They were then supplanted by safety gratings positioned on the ground that allowed for circulation of vehicles but prevented animals from going in and out.

Gift Shop
Chambord products delivered straight to your door