The Chateau of Chaumont

The Chateau of Chaumont’s name is derived from the Latin ‘calvus mons’, which translates to ‘bald mount’. From its prominent position overlooking the Loire since 990, it is clear that its origins were defensive, it was built to defend Blois. The Chateau nearly bit the dust in 1465 when Louise XI ordered it to be raised to the ground to punish Pierre and Charles I of Amboise, who joined the League of the Public Weald. However it was saved.

It became the much loved home of the Diane de Poitier famous mistress of Francis I and his son Henry II. She was a skilled politician, with grace and beauty and able to hold great power at court. She gave birth to twelve children and still maintained her looks. She loved Chenonceau, but in 1560 was gently forced by Catherine de Medici to accept the generous settlement of Chaumont, after Henry II died, (1559), it was after all a more valuable domain than her beloved Chenonceau.

The chateau is impressive with its three towers giving it the appearance of a castle. The renaissance wing is reminiscent of the style of Fontainbleau. The wing facing the Loire was taken down, allowing a splendid view of the Loire. The chateau is a wonderful mixture of Medieval and Renaissance styles decorated with Italian tiled floors and wonderful early stained glass windows. The stained glass of the chapel though, dates from 1888. The great staircase combines the Gothic and Renaissance styles with superb carving and turns in the opposite direction to most tower stairs allowing the right-handed swordsman to protect the wide side of the stair.

In the Renaissance rooms tapestries would have hung, gracing the walls in greens, blues and yellows with classical scenes of love and war. Its splendid pinnacled towers are reminiscent of the chateaux illustrated in Les Très Riche Heurs. Saumur, Etamps, Poitiers and the Louvre are shown as examples of feudal control, with overlords constructing massive castles for themselves and peasants living in mud huts. That was feudalism and without it one might argue that these incredible monuments of French architecture would not have existed.

web-stables-at-chaumontThe stables are a later addition. They are splendid and designed clearly for the horse as king. The very best quality of tiles, wood, and stone was used to construct a thoroughly magnificent equestrian facility. It even had running water. The pictures show side-saddles and harness for carriage horses and a fully stocked tack room, well maintained and in good condition. It is an excellent example of why we should protect and maintain equestrian buildings. After all the horse was of great importance and provided transport, ploughed the fields, and was used for sport and war until after the Second World War.

Its presence in our country homes here in England has all but been erased as more and more stables are pulled down or turned into the dreaded shop and tearoom. I believe there are only three indoor riding schools left in equestrian use in Great Britain. One is owned by the Queen. So much for our preservation of the past!

I was enchanted to see that they had people riding around the park on horseback which added to the overall charm of my visit to the chateau and gardens. Chaumont hosts an international festival of gardens every year, showing exquisite, inventive, sculptured gardens that defy description.

Timeline for Chaumont

990 was founded by Eudes I Count of Blois
970-1040 Over this period it was important in the defense of Blois from Fulk III Count of Anjou
1465 Was nearly raised to the ground on order of Louise XI to punish Charles I of Amboise for rallying to the league of the Public Weald, a union of nobles opposed to the centralization of power under the French crown
1469 The League of the Public Weald opposed to the centralizing of power by the French King, were finally pardoned and the Chateau was spared being raised to the ground
1481 Charles I of Amboise died leaving only the north and west wings completed
1498 Building resumed under his son, Charles II
1494 Charles VIII Italian campaign, architectural influence from Italy crept into all chateaux
1498-1515 Louis XII continued the Italian campaign, Cardinal George of Amboise uncle of Charles II of Amboise made his nephew Lieutenant General Beyond the Mountains. The Italian Renaissance style introduced into the chateau
1501-1509 Became the property of George I of Amboise
1550 Purchased by Catherine de Medici
1559 Presented to Diane de Poitier in exchange for Chenonceau and some family jewels on the death of Henri II
1700 The chateau passed into the hands of the banker Scipione Sardini and his family
1750 New era purchased by Jacque–Donatien Le Ray, born into a wealthy Nantes family, became counsellor to Louise XV. He had the north wing demolished to reveal a splendid view of the Loire from the Renaissance rooms
1786 Jean Baptist de Nin, an Italian artist entrusted to create tile and crystal works in the grounds, using the woodlands to fire the kilns. English Lead crystal was made for the first time in France
1833 Purchased by the Comte de Aramon created a parkland. But he died in 1847 before he could complete the project
1877 Paul Ernst Sanson designed the stables on the site of the factory for tiles and glass manufacture. He was tasked with restoring the chateau and also bringing it in line with modern standards of comfort
1884 Broglie invited Henry Duchêne to re-design the park
1875 Marie Charlotte–Constance Say purchased the chateau, she was the daughter of Constant Say who made his money refining sugar. She was married to Prince Amédée de Broglie
1938 The chateau was taken over by the state and its valuable heritage was sold off, leaving the interiors stripped of their delightful archectural characteristics

Since 1994 work has continued to restore the Chateau to its decorative order in the spirit of the Brogolies, taking into consideration the constant changes that have been made over the centuries. Furniture has been designed specially to fit in with the style of the chateau or borrowed from French depositories of valuable furniture.