Tag Archives: Louis XIV

Le Chateau de Chambord

Le Château de Chambord is probably the most famous of castles of the Loire. Images of its fairy tale towers and turrets, silhouetted against a flawless blue sky and reflected in a mirror-smooth pond, represent the region in countless publicity posters.

Le Chateau de Chambord
Le Chateau de Chambord

The extravagant, French Renaissance Château de Chambord was commissioned by François Premier as a hunting lodge. It has been suggested that it was designed by Leonardo Da Vinci who was a guest of the King at Le Château D’Amboise at the time.

Construction on le Chateau de Chambord began in 1529 and continued for 20 years but the château was never completely finished. It is easy to see why. The building is huge and of mind-boggling complexity. The famous spiral staircase of the François Premier Wing at Blois is repeated again and again at Chambord. No space is spared a turret, a tower, a balcony or an arch and no surface is free from a decorative flourish.

The architectural extravagance of Chambord is highlighted by the parklands in which it is set. On one side acres of lawns intersected by neat gravel paths give way to dense stands of trees. On the other, a still, untroubled lake reflects the ridges, the recesses, the folds, the twists and the turns of the busy, if not hectic château.

In many ways le Château de Chambord was a folly and like many follies it was rarely used. François I spent only a few short hunting trips there – seven weeks in total – and after his death in 1547, it was abandoned.

Almost century later King Louis XIII gifted the château to his brother Louis XIV, the Sun King. Louis refurbished the Royal apartments and added a 1200 horse stable. Le Château de Chambord became, once again, a Royal hunting lodge. But even so it was used only for a few weeks every year and by 1685 Louis XIV too had grown bored with Chambord. The château fell from favour and was abandoned once again.

During the French Revolution, Le Château de Chambord was stripped and left to rot.

In 1939, with the Nazi invasion imminent, the French Government cleared art treasures from the Louvre and hid them at Chambord.

Restoration of le Château de Chambord began after World War II. Furnished in a strong, dark, plain masculine style with cabinets of weapons and walls sporting stuffed animal trophies and old paintings of the chase, the refurbished rooms of Chambord reflect its original, practical (and somewhat unpleasant) purpose as a hunting lodge. But the bare chambers that run from one into another at the top of those dizzying spiral staircases, the narrow walkways and the tiny balconies that look out across the turreted rooftops, the round tower rooms are pure fantasia- the stuff of fairy tales.

I was fortunate enough to explore le Château de Chambord with a group of teenage princesses and to see it through their eyes – magical!


Until half-way through the 17th century, Versailles was a tiny village in the countryside outside Paris. It was site of the royal hunting lodge and although, as they were keen hunters, the French regents “camped” there frequently, it was hardly a fitting place for the Kings’ court.

The park of Versailles
The park of Versailles

But in 1642, Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, set up residence at Versailles and began the process of transforming the humble hunting lodge into the larges and grandest palace in the world.

The magnificent Palais de Versailles was designed by the architect Louis Le Vau and its hundreds of splendid rooms were sumptuously decorated by the interior designer Charles Le Brun. One of the most striking rooms is the Galerie des Glaces or Hall of Mirrors, a fairy-tale ballroom designed to reflect and multiply the dazzling King and his courtiers. Surrounding the palace are 800 hectares of parkland and gardens, laid out in the contemporary French Garden style by the landscape designer André Le Nôtre. They include avenues of trees, parterres of flowers, manicured lawns, fountains and sculptures. One of the most impressive features of Versailles is the geometric layout of the entire complex, including buildings and gardens with the Sun King’s bed chamber at its heart.

The Royal Court was officially established at Versailles on May 6, 1682. By keeping his Ministers, Advisors, Provincial Rulers and Courtiers close to him, dependant on him and more or less cut off from the outside world, Louis XIV kept them powerless and loyal. Strict rules of etiquette kept control at Versailles The epitome of this was the “lever” which required an attendance of courtiers every morning when the Sun King rose from his bed. All at Versailles clamoured for the privilege. Breaches or negligence of protocol, lack of deference or a mere fall from favour meant banishment and to banished from the court was to be banished from the sun and from life. Sometimes it simply meant death.

Versailles remained the seat of absolute power until the French Revolution in 1789, when Louis XVI, his wife Marie Antoinette and their children were forced to return to Paris

Versailles is important, historically, as a symbol of the Absolute Monarchy of the Ancien Regime.

Today the village of Versailles is a busy suburb of Paris and the Chateau de Versailles is a treasured part of France’s heritage.