|Pierre-Denis Martin (1663-1742)|
|View of spiral staircase|
After Francis died in 1547, the château stood empty until 1639, when King Louis XIII gave it to his brother, who embarked on a restoration. Later King Louis XIV had the great keep refurbished as a hunting lodge, furnished the royal apartments, and added a 1,200-horse stable. He used it to entertain for a few weeks each year but by 1685 he’d lost interest. King Louis XV’s father-in-law, the deposed King of Poland lived in it for a while, then Louis gave it to Maurice de Saxe, who installed his military regiment on the property and began to furnish the château with woodwork, parquet floors, ceilings, and private petits cabinets. Those efforts ended with his death in 1750.
|Double spiral staircase|
Another restoration was begun after World War II, and Chambord has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site since 1981. Today extensive formal French-style gardens and water features characteristic of the 16th century surround the château within a 13,000-acre wooded park and game reserve enclosed by a 19-mile long wall. The château is open to the public and receives hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Flooding in June 2016 damaged the grounds but thankfully the château itself remained undamaged.
|Louis XIV’s Ceremonial Bedroom|
If you ever make it to the estate for a visit, you can watch a film inside the main building that gives an excellent introduction to the château’s history and architecture. Today the building is sparsely furnished, but visitors can view its 18th-century kitchens on the ground floor and the most interesting rooms including the royal bedchambers on the first floor. From the roof, accessed through the great lantern tower atop the famous spiral staircase, one can marvel at the chateau’s fairytale roofline of turrets, chimneys, cupolas, and domes, and look out across the estate’s vast grounds. Hour-long guided tours in English are offered in the summer along with outdoor spectacles that include birds of prey and an equestrian show with horses and riders decked in colorful 16th-century accoutrements.
It’s nice to see that, although French kings often emptied the public coffers to build their pleasure palaces, today these extraordinary buildings enable France to rake in piles of cash to benefit her citizens, all to the delight of tourists. All I can say is “Vive la France!”
As a lover of European medieval history, I’d be thrilled to take a grand tour of the continent’s castles, but especially those in the historically Germanic areas where my ancestors originated. There are also stunningly romantic castles in Europe’s Slavic regions and elsewhere. If you have a European or English heritage, what areas would you love to visit? And if you ancestry lies elsewhere, please share that information and let us know what places you would love to visit if you were doing genealogical research into your family!
~~~J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is a professional editor, a publisher, and the author of award-winning historical fiction whose books have been endorsed by bestselling authors such as Lori Benton, Laura Frantz, and Jocelyn Green. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. She is also the author of One Holy Night, the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year, and co-authored the award-winning Northkill Amish Series with Bob Hostetler.