Visit the Chateau Chaumont in Loir-et-Cher, Loire Valley
Chaumont was constructed from 1465 on on the site of a much older 10th century fortress castle, that had been burned down by Louis XI in a reprisal for the actions of its owner Pierre d'Amboise - he had been involved in the anti-Royal revolt known as the 'Ligue du bien public'. After Pierre had his properties reinstated he started (and his son completed) the construction of the current chateau.
The design is interesting in that when work started in 1465 it had many elements of a defensive castle, but as time progressed the parts added are much more in the style of a renaissance chateau, with a decorative renaissance design, much more typical of the castles of the Loire Valley, rather than protective.
A century later, the castle was bought by the notorious Catherine de Medici, although she soon exchanged it for the grander Chateau Chenonceau by applying pressure on its owner, Diane de Poitiers, who had previously been the mistress of Henry II, Catherine de Medicis late husband.
The castle has three sides around a central courtyard, which has fine views out across the river and countryside - originally there were four sides, but one was destroyed in 1739 to make more of the views across the river. At the same time the castle was altered to become less fortified.
Unusually for a castle in France, Chaumont escaped significant damage during the revolution, due to its technically American ownership at that point. Chaumont remained occupied and cared for until 1938, by a succession of rich industrialists and gentry. The interior decoration especially reflects that of the Broglie family who owned the castle from 1875 to 1938, although there are earlier period recreations in several of the rooms.
Since 1938, when the Broglies fell on hard times, the castle has been owned by the French state.
The impressive stables, built by the Broglies and much more recent than the chateau, are also very interesting and lavish and show the high regard in which the horses were held.
Chateau de Chaumont is also now known for its summertime garden festival, one of the more popular gardens with visitors featuring each year a selection of modern garden installations.
Map showing location of Chateau Chaumont