The Weekly Postcard: Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

With its pale stone and sloping black roofs, Château de Chaumont rises above the the bald hill from which it derives its name (chauve mont meaning “bald hill”). Like most châteaux in the Loire Valley, the beautiful Chaumont was entangled in intrigue, revenge, and rivalries.

 

A Brief History

Château de Chaumont was initially built as a defense fortress during the 10th century by Eudes I, Count of Blois, to  keep watch over the border between the counties of Blois and Anjou. In 1455, King Louis XI burned down the castle in retaliation for its owner’s involvement –Pierre of Amboise– in the anti-Royal revolt known as the ‘Ligue du bien public’. Château de Chaumont remained in the Amboise family for almost 500 years, but it was Charles I of Amboise  –Pierre’s son– who rebuilt it and turned it into the beautifully ornate château that you see today.

DSC_0484In 1560 the estate was acquired by the notorious Catherine de Medici, shortly after the death of her husband, King Henry II.  There she entertained many astrologers, like the famous Nostradamus and the sorcerer Ruggieri, her adviser on occultism.

Remember the feud between Catherine de Medici and her rival, Diane de Poitier? Catherine just couldn’t bear the thought that Henry gave the beautiful Château de Chenonceau –which she had wanted for herself– to his favorite mistress, Diane de Poitier. So after the King’s death, Catherine forced Diane to relinquish her favorite Château de Chenonceau and move at Chaumont.

Diane refused to live at Château de Chaumont. She only moved there for a short while after which she retired to the Château d’Anet, where she remained for the rest of her life. However, during the short time she lived tat Chaumont, Diane undertook a long series of alterations on the castle, like the walkway and the battlements on the gatehouse.

In 1750 Chaumont became the property of the French aristocrat Jaques-Donation Le Ray, who bought it as a vacation home. Le Ray lost it 40 years later to the newly formed Revolutionary Government in Paris.

In the second half of the nineteenth century Château de Chaumont was inherited by the wealthy heiress of a sugar tycoon  – Marie Charlotte Say – who owned it till 1930. She enlarged and restored the castle, building the stables and the beautiful park around it.

Château de Chaumont is currently the property of the French government and was turned it into a museum.

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Visiting the Château de Chaumont

Today, the château has three sides built around a central courtyard. However, the original construction had four sides. One was demolished in the 18th century by one of the castle owners, Monsieur Bertin, who wanted to have a better view of the Loire River.

The interior of the château is very spacious, with elegantly furnished rooms, beautiful tapestries and finely crafted floors. Among the rooms are those of Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers.

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Interior courtyard of Château de Chaumont

The château stables are set around two communicating courtyards – a larger one for the use of the owners and a smaller one for their guests. The Château stables are the best preserved in France and in their glory days were the most luxurious ones. There is a beautiful display of saddles and harnesses by Hermes in one of the stable rooms, as well as some old carriages.

The most enjoyable part of the castle seems to be the beautiful garden that surrounds it. For the past 24 years, Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire has been hosting the International Garden Festival every year. The festival promotes not only landscape designs, but also contemporary art exhibits on the theme of nature.

We visited the  Château de Cahumont on a sun-filled October morning and found the grounds filled with mini pumpkins. Skewered and spiked into the ground, or swinging from the trees, there were pumpkins everywhere. The garden was a joyful celebration of autumn. The spectacular works of Klaus Pinter were also on display, like the “Golden Magnolias,”  a giant transparent ball covered in copper flowers.

The particularly nice thing about Chaumont is that –unlike Château de Chambord, Chenonceaux, Azay-le-Rideau or Blois – it actually stands alongside the Loire River, which gives the castle an even more impressive look.

 

 

 

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26 Comments on “The Weekly Postcard: Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

  1. A lovely castle that I’ve never had the chance to visit. I have wanted to tour the Loire river valley since I was in high school.

    • I didn’t know you lived in France, Suze. Tours is a beautiful town. We just passed through it, but didn’t stop there.

  2. Is this the castle that is currently flooded? I saw tonight on the news that the Loire Valley is flooded and two of the castles have been closed due to the floods. Great photos and a place I hope to visit next year.
    Lyn – A Hole in my Shoe recently posted…In search of snowMy Profile

    • No, it wasn’t Chaumont that was flooded, it was actually Château de Chambored. Château de Chaumont is pretty high up, on a little hill.

  3. This castle looks like it’s straight out of a fairytale. I’ve read that Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany was the inspiration behind the Disney castle, and I’ve actually visited Neuschwanstein – but I’d believe it if someone told me this castle also inspired the Disney castle! It looks very elegant inside and out. I especially like the artfully placed pumpkins!
    Michelle | michwanderlust recently posted…Naples National Archaeological Museum: Art from AntiquityMy Profile

  4. Everything about the Chateau de Chaumont looks incredible! The castle and grounds around the castle are gorgeous. The “Golden Magnolias” on display are fascinating, I’d love to see it in person.
    Brooke of Passport Couture recently posted…May 2016 Book ListMy Profile

    • The truth is that stories make visiting these castles so much more interesting. Looking at the bare walls of an old castle doesn’t mean much, but when you think at all the history that these walls have witnessed you see the castles in a very different light.

  5. A beautiful Chateau to be sure. One of our best experiences in France was spending a week in a small stone cottage in the Loire Valley. We’d visit a different castle each day, have a long sumptuously delicious lunch, visit a winery for some tasting and purchases, and relax in front of the fireplace in the late evenings. Your article brought me back to that wonderful time, thank you Anda!
    Jim ~ ReflectionsEnroute recently posted…Experiencing Eastern EuropeMy Profile

    • We did the same thing as you, Jim. We rented a beautiful 16th century house close to Blois for a week and we visited a castle each day. I would love to go back for another visit though.

  6. Château de Chaumont looks lovely. It appears to be very well-maintained. It must have been great to actually live here. Feud between wife and mistress aside, I can’t imagine refusing to live here. I have to echo the words of others – it does look like a fairy tale castle.
    Donna Janke recently posted…Does Voluntourism Make a Positive Social Impact?My Profile

    • Thank you for your comment, Donna. I’d imagine Diane de Poitier didn’t feel like living there not because the château wasn’t beautiful enough, but because she was forced by her rival.

  7. Beautiful, Anda. As you know we had to miss a trip to the Loire Valley that we were really excited about. We were planning to see a number of chateaux around Blois and this is one of the ones I was especially looking forward to visiting. I really had no idea that it was this well preserved though, or that the gardens are such a highlight. Do they host the International Garden Festival at the same time every year? We really enjoy gardens and garden shows and it would be fun to plan a trip around that, when we do finally make it.
    Linda Bibb recently posted…Boquete: a Mountain of Coffee & a Cloud Forest in ParadiseMy Profile

    • Too bad you had to miss this trip, Linda. I hope you’ll go back to the Loire Valley someday. Yes, the Garden Festival is in fall every year.

    • Thank you, Vlad. By all means you should take a trip to the Loire Valley. It’s not far from you and you’ll have a blast photographing all those castles.

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