Attractions: Chateau de Chenonceau

May 8, 2023

Paul Kay

Are you looking for some vacation destinations? You probably want to know about attractions at your destinations. We have fun facts about attractions at the Chateau de Chenonceau, France in this post. Chateau de Chenonceau has so many interesting things to see. It is often referred to as the "Chateau des Dames" or the "Castle of the Ladies" because it was designed and inhabited by several influential women throughout history, including Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers. During World War I, the castle was transformed into a hospital, and during World War II, it was used as a hiding place for resistance fighters and refugees. If you love castles, you’ll love this. Maybe you need to add it to your vacation destination?

We had a lovely tour that we booked with our friends and tour guides, Doru and Stella. They are a terrific duo. Doru is a walking encyclopedia book and can answer anything on your mind. Stella is full of history as well but she’s also a terrific photographer. She and Madeline would walk around composing and discussions shots, angles, composition, etc. Doru and I would talk about history. They are a terrific couple, very informative and just fun to be around. We would recommend taking the tour with Doru and Stella. You can find them at their Instagram page I Come and Go.

2nd Chateau Chenonceau watercolor by Les Gorsline 1991

Madeline had always wanted to visit Chenonceau. We have this hand painted picture by Madeline’s uncle in our home. It looks like a fairy tale castle. We knew where it was, but we never visited it together. 

Chenonceau is often referred as the Ladies’ chateau. It has a very interesting history as a royal residence in the Loire Valley. It is one of the oldest and most beautiful castles in France. It was built over the river Cher in the 11th century. The original building was simple and was a home to Marques family. In 1412, it was ordered to be burned to the ground by the order of French king. Two decades later, Jean Marques managed to rebuild the castle. When he died, his estate sold the castle to a nobleman from Normandy - Thomas Bohier. He razed it all again and rebuilt the castle that you see today. The large tower you see in the background is named the Marques tower.

Madeline and Paul in front of Marques Tower Chenonceau

In 1535, King Francis I incorporated it into the Crown Estate as part of a debt settlement. Later, King Henry II decided to offer it not to Queen Catherine de Medici, but to another woman, Diane de Poitiers, “in full right of ownership, seisin and possession, completely, peacefully and perpetually, to dispose of as her own and true patrimony.” 

Catherine de Medici

Catherine de Medici was from the famous Medici family and her marriage to King Henry II was first suggested when she was only six years old and formally arranged when she was eleven. Catherine herself was never consulted – the marriage was political, made so that France could keep a foot in Italy.

Diane de Poitiers in Francois I Drawing Room Chateau de Chenonceau

All of Henry II’s court knew that Diane de Poitiers was the mistress of the King. She loved coming to Chenonceau. When Diane became owner of Chenonceau, she became one of the most influential women in France. Queen Catherine was not amused. Diane held parties, balls, etc. at Chenonceau. She expanded the castle so that it spanned the river Cher. At one of the balls, King Henri II was fatally injured during a jousting event at Chenonceau. When King Henry subsequently died from his injuries, this was the final straw for Queen Catherine. She quickly deposed Diane de Poitiers and installed the authority of her young king, her son, at Chenonceau. Under her rule, the castle was expanded again with a new style of garden and construction of a grand courtyard, and the grand gallery was finished. The 17th century was beginning, and it was not until the 18th century that a new woman began her influence on the chateau, Louise Dupin.

After Chenonceau was purchased by her husband, Louise Dupin welcomed France’s greatest scholars, philosophers and academicians to Chenonceau. She created a Code of Women’s Rights, with the assistance of her secretary, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

In the 20th century, Chenonceau has been the property of the Menier family. Once again a woman, Simone Menier (1881-1972), steered the direction of Château de Chenonceau. During the First World War, she turned the gallery into a hospital for wounded soldiers. 

Today Chateau de Chenonceau is in a beautifully restored condition. The interior has some period furniture with walls and ceiling lavishly decorated and hung with old masters’ paintings and historic tapestries. The gardens of Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici are lovingly maintained.

At bridge to cross over to Chateau de Chenonceau

As we crossed the bridge to enter Chenonceau, the castle appeared to be part of a fairy tale. 

Deer at front entrance Chateau de Chenonceau

The large deer statue was obvious as we approached the front entrance. Our tour guides, Doru and Stella told us that Chenonceau has a large area around it used for hunting. Diane de Poitier considered herself a modern age Goddess as Diane, the Huntress. 

Front entrance doors Chateau de Chenonceau

The massive doors gave an idea of what was considered a strong and defendable entrance. They are massive and intricately designed.

Chapel full view

The information and tour desk are inside the chapel, which is magnificent. Once we paid for our tickets, we followed the route.

Diane de Poitiers Bedroom at Chateau de Chenonceau

The bedroom of Diane de Poitiers was beautiful and was the bedroom she occupied when she was the owner of the castle.

Gabrielle d Estrees Bedroom Chateau de Chenonceau

Gabrielle D’Estrees was the mistress of King Henry IV of France. She only lived 26 years, but she apparently had her own bedroom in Chenonceau.

Louis XIV drawing room

In 1650, Louis XIV was the last king of France to visit Chenonceau and his portrait is easy to spot in the drawing room.

Tapestry in The Guards Room Chateau de Chenonceau

There are magnificent tapestries in various rooms. This one was in the Guards Room.

The Gallery at Chateau de Chenonceau

The two-story gallery was created by Catherine de Medici to organize lavish parties. Today you can simply walk from end to end and look at the river below and imagine what a party might look like.

Paul in Chenonceau on blue and white tile

You can see me in the gallery with porcelain reliefs of some of the famous people who visited or inhabited this famous castle.

Chateau de Chenonceau from right river side

This view of the chateau in the above picture shows how long the gallery is and how it spans the river. The Chateau de Chenonceau is definitely worth your time. Chateau de Chenonceau is the second most visited castle in France; it is second only to the world-renowned Château de Versailles. We would recommend taking the tour with Doru and Stella. You can find them at their Instagram page I Come and Go. You will learn plenty of history along the way from Paris.

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