Built in the 11th century, on a steep hillside overlooking the River Loire, Le Chateau d’Amboise enjoyed its first few centuries as a tranquil retreat. Then, in 1434, its owner was convicted of plotting against King Louis XI and the château was confiscated.
Once in the hands of the monarchy, Le Chateau d’Amboise became a favourite of the French Kings, who extended and remodelled it in true royal style.
Charles VIII and his wife Anne de Bretagne lived at Amboise and among their many additions to the chateau were some of the first Renaissance decorative motifs ever seen in France. Gardens were established, in the Italian style, and these were later to develop into the formal French style, seen still all over France.
In December 1515, Leonardo Da Vinci came to Amboise as a guest of The King, François I. He lived and worked in the nearby Clos Lucé, which is connected to the château by an underground passage. It was during his time that Amboise reached the pinnacle of its glory. Da Vinci died at Amboise and is buried in the Chapel of St Hubert, adjoining the château.
King Henri II and Catherine de Medici raised their children at Amboise along with their ward, Mary Queen of Scots who had been promised to the future French King François II. Renowned for her redecorating zeal, Catherine de Medici left a significant mark on the appearance of Amboise.
Amboise lost favour with the royals during the religious wars and never regained its standing. In the 17th century it was abandoned and, like so many of the great buildings of France, became a prison. During the French Revolution much of the château was destroyed and more of it fell in the bombings of World War II.
Happily, after the war, Le Chateau d’Amboise was listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture and restoration began.