Château d'Amboise

Amboise, France

The Château Royal of Amboise, standing firmly on its riverside rock facing the Loire river, was home to every king or queen of France for 160 years, up to the end of the 16th century. Built to control a strategic ford that was replaced in the Middle Ages by a bridge and the château began its life in the 11th century, when the notorious Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou, rebuilt the stronghold in stone.

Expanded and improved over time, on 1434 it was seized by Charles VII of France, after its owner, Louis d'Amboise, was convicted of plotting against Louis XI and condemned to be executed in 1431. However, the king pardoned him but took his chateau at Amboise. Once in royal hands, the château became a favourite of French kings; Charles VIII decided to rebuild it extensively, beginning in 1492 at first in the French late Gothic Flamboyant style and then after 1495 employing two Italian mason-builders, Domenico da Cortona and Fra Giocondo, who provided at Amboise some of the first Renaissance decorative motifs seen in French architecture.

Amboise was the site where a garden laid out somewhat in the Italian manner was first seen in France: the site of the origin of the French formal garden. At the time of Charles VIII, an Italian priest, Pasello da Mercogliano, is credited with laying it out. Charles widened the upper terrace, to hold a larger parterre, enclosed with latticework and pavilions; round it Louis XII built a gallery. The parterres have been recreated in the 20th century as rectangles of lawns set in gravel and a formal bosquet of trees.

King Francis I was raised at Amboise, which belonged to his mother, Louise of Savoy, and during the first few years of his reign the château reached the pinnacle of its glory. As a guest of the King, Leonardo da Vinci came to Château Amboise in December 1515 and lived and worked in the nearby Clos Lucé, connected to the château by an underground passage. Tourists are told that he is buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert, adjoining the Château, which had been built in 1491–96.

Henry II and his wife, Catherine de' Medici, raised their children in Château Amboise along with Mary Stuart, the child Queen of Scotland who had been promised in marriage to the future French Francis II.

In 1560, during the French Wars of Religion, a conspiracy by members of the Huguenot House of Bourbon against the House of Guise that virtually ruled France in the name of the young Francis II was uncovered by the comte de Guise and stifled by a series of hangings, which took a month to carry out. By the time it was finished, 1200 Protestants were gibbetted, strung from the town walls, hung from the iron hooks that held pennants and tapestries on festive occasions and from the very balcony of the Logis du Roy. The Court soon had to leave the town because of the smell of corpses.

The abortive peace of Amboise was signed at Amboise on 12 March 1563, between Louis I de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, who had been implicated in the conspiracy to abduct the king, and Catherine de' Medici.

Amboise never returned to royal favour. At the beginning of the 17th century, the huge château was all but abandoned when the property passed into the hands of Gaston d'Orleans, the brother of the Bourbon King Louis XIII. After his death it returned to the Crown and was turned into a prison during the Fronde, and under Louis XIV of France it held disgraced minister Nicolas Fouquet and the duc de Lauzun. Louis XV made a gift of it to his minister the duc de Choiseul. During the French Revolution, the greater part of the château was demolished, a great deal more destruction was done, and an engineering assessment commissioned by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 19th century resulted in a great deal of the château having to be demolished.

King Louis-Philippe began restoring it during his reign but with his abdication in 1848, the château was confiscated by the government and became for a while the home in exile to Emir Abd Al-Qadir. In 1873, Louis-Philippe’s heirs were given control of the property and a major effort to repair it was made. However, during the German invasion in 1940 the château was damaged further. Since 1840, the Château d'Amboise has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.

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Details

Founded: 15th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Chrissi H (2 years ago)
Beautiful castle with gorgeous gardens. Stunning, breathtaking views. Right at the Loire. Slightly challenging with a pram - it is on top of a rock after all. Fun for kids, plenty of space to run around. Entrance fee ok.
Raymond Loehr (2 years ago)
Very impressive and beautifully restored Loire castle. Untill 1130 it is possible to drive your car into the old city and park right next to the castle entrance. Spectacular river views from the castle tower. The rooms are nice, nothing special though. I found the visitor tablet not very useful, you might want to read up beforehand. No coffee / drinks in the castle. Bring some small change for the toilets.
Margherita Flamini (2 years ago)
Beautiful castle with nice views of the city. There is the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci in the chapel but you can't see it now because it's under restoration. Despite that you will take an hour to visit all the Castle and the garden. Recommended!
Hansei Kai (2 years ago)
Beautiful Chateau, visit it early or late to avoid people, it can take 2:30 min if you like to go read the details. Once you left the chateau turn to left and walk for 10 min then you reach Clos Luce. Amboise is a nice town to walk and have something to eat.
Fiona Dodd (2 years ago)
A beautiful chateau and definitely worth a visit. Quite a long walk to enter/exit but if you have mobility issues you can book ahead to get vehicular access I believe. Quite a confusing 'route' around the interior and not all areas would be accessible to all mobility levels. Beautiful rooms and furnishings. Spectacular views from the 'ramparts' across the valley and over the town. Stunning gardens. Recommend visiting. Plenty of restaurants, cafés and bars for refreshments in the town.
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