Château de Montrésor

Montrésor, France

The Château de Montrésor is a medieval castle with a Renaissance mansion built in the grounds. In about 1005, Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, chose a rocky spur dominating the valley of the Indrois as the site for his captain Roger le Petit Diable ("Little Devil"), to build him a powerful fortress. Montrésor had one of the first keeps built in stone, similar to that at Loches, and two circular walls, but today only the west wall remains. In the 12th century, Montrésor fell into the hands of Henry II of England and the imposing towers at the entrance were built, as well as a part of the north curtain wall. In 1188, King Philip Augustus of France retook Montrésor from the English. André de Chauvigny, returning from the Third Crusade with Richard the Lionheart, became the new lord of Montrésor, before having to cede the castle for almost two centuries to the Palluau family. Demolished in 1203, the castle was rebuilt in 1393 for Jean IV de Bueil by Jean Binet, who put up the enclosure wall, the gatehouse and the existing outbuildings.

From the start of the 15th century, with the court spending more and more time in Touraine, Montrésor became a centre for courtesans and royal servants. In 1493, Imbert de Batarnay bought Montrésor to build an elegant residence in the feudal enclosure, of which only the main wing remains. Imbert was an influential councillor and chamberlain to four kings of France: Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XI and Francis I. This royal servant had a long tenure in this function, rare in this epoch, but he was skilful and cunning, and was present at all of the negotiations in his time - he was particularly responsible for arranging the marriage of Anne of Brittany to the king, sealing the joining of the Duchy of Brittany to the French kingdom. He was entrusted with preparations for war with Italy and the education of the children of Louis XII and François I.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, other leading families - such as the Bourdeilles and the Beauvilliers - lived in the castle. The French Revolution marked the beginning of its decline. Around 1845, count Jouffroy de Gonsan demolished the west wing of the Renaissance logis as well as the castle chapel. In 1849, Xavier Branicki, a rich Polish count and friend of emperor Napoleon III, arrived to give new life to Montrésor; Branicki undertook the complete restoration of the castle. He equipped the house with rich furnishings and roofs and the house was the setting for sumptuous feasts with Napoléon. Branicki's descendants still own the castle.

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Château de Chaumont

The Château de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. The purpose was to protect his lands from attacks from his feudal rivals, Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou. On his behalf the Norman Gelduin received it, improved it and held it as his own. His great-niece Denise de Fougère, having married Sulpice d'Amboise, passed the château into the Amboise family for five centuries.

Pierre d'Amboise unsuccessfully rebelled against King Louis XI and his property was confiscated, and the castle was dismantled on royal order in 1465. It was later rebuilt by Charles I d'Amboise from 1465–1475 and then finished by his son, Charles II d'Amboise de Chaumont from 1498–1510, with help from his uncle, Cardinal Georges d'Amboise; some Renaissance features were to be seen in buildings that retained their overall medieval appearance. The château was acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550. There she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus. When her husband, Henry II, died in 1559 she forced his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, to exchange Château de Chaumont for Château de Chenonceau which Henry had given to de Poitiers. Diane de Poitiers only lived at Chaumont for a short while.

Later Chaumont has changed hands several times. Paul de Beauvilliers bought the château in 1699, modernized some of its interiors and decorated it with sufficient grandeur to house the duc d'Anjou on his way to become king of Spain in 1700. Monsieur Bertin demolished the north wing to open the house towards the river view in the modern fashion.

In 1750, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray purchased the castle as a country home where he established a glassmaking and pottery factory. He was considered the French "Father of the American Revolution" because he loved America. However, in 1789, the new French Revolutionary Government seized Le Ray's assets, including his beloved Château de Chaumont.

The castle has been classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture. The Château de Chaumont is currently a museum and every year hosts a Garden Festival from April to October where contemporary garden designers display their work in an English-style garden.