Château de Valençay

Valençay, France

Château de Valençay is a residence of the d'Estampes and Talleyrand-Périgord families. Although geographically it is part of the province of Berry, its architecture invites comparison with the Renaissance châteaux of the Loire Valley, notably the Château de Chambord. The manor was praised as "one of the most beautiful on earth" by George Sand, who also noted that "no king has owned a more picturesque park".

The château, sited at the edge of a plateau that overlooks the little Nahon river, was built on a royal scale by the d'Estampes family of financiers over a period of some 200 years. Construction started in 1540 at the behest of Jacques d'Estampes in place of the demolished 12th century castle and was not completed until the 18th century, when the south tower was added.

The 18th century saw a rapid succession of owners, including the notorious Scottish banker John Law, who purchased the estate in 1719. Nearly a century later, in 1803, Napoleon ordered his foreign minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand to acquire the property as a place particularly appropriate for reception of foreign dignitaries, notably Ferdinand VII of Spain, who would spend six years in Napoleonic captivity at Valençay. (The treaty providing for his release in 1813 took the estate's name).

The period of Talleyrand's occupancy was the golden age in the history of Valençay, with twenty-three communes reportedly administered by the ruling prince. Undoubtedly the most celebrated of Talleyrand's servants employed at Valençay was his chef, Marie-Antoine Carême. After Talleyrand's death in 1838, the great statesman was buried in a small mortuary chapel in the park. His collateral descendants retained the ownership of the estate until 1952, when the male line ended. The last prince bequeathed the property to his stepson, who sold it to an association of historic chateaux in 1979.

Talleyrand's château boasts one of the most advanced interiors of the Empire style anywhere. There are a hundred rooms, of which a quarter comprise Talleyrand's apartments. A room of King Ferdinand is also shown to tourists. The western wing contains the Talleyrand Museum, formerly housed in outbuildings, and Le Musée de l'Automobile du Centre, exhibiting over fifty vintage and antique automobiles.

The formal French gardens, dating from the early 20th century, cover about forty hectares, not counting the area of Talleyrand's vineyards. Llamas, peacocks, and other exotic animals kept in the park provide amusement for tourists.

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Founded: 1540
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Rick (6 months ago)
Very informative free audio guide and ths allows you to go at your own pace. The rooms were beautiful and the gardens wonderful. Just the right size for a half day visit and parking nearby for motorhome was excellent. Thanks to the tourists office, brilliant.
Shirley Walsh (6 months ago)
A beautiful Chateau set within stunning gardens audio guide if French is not your first language. Well worth a visit
Arnaud de Meulemeester (6 months ago)
Fantastic discovery of Talleyrand’s place, foreign minister from French Revolution to Louis-Philippe king. The castle itself hasn’t been well maintained for a long time, now property of the department it is being restored but a lot remains from Talleyrand’s times.
Stephen Blanchette (7 months ago)
Not in the best condition, though its history is interesting. Disappointed by the gardens which are not getting the care and water they need to thrive. Also disappointed by the state of the interiors, which desperately need refurbishment. The restaurant looks like it’s closed permanently. Evidently this château is a victim of not being on the beaten path.
Mai-Britt Larsen (15 months ago)
Beautiful place and very friendly guide!
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