Château d'Amboise

The Château d'Amboise has always been a favorite of French royalty since it came into their possession (read: since they seized it from a commoner). On a promontory overlooking the Loire River, this site has always boasted a strategic position and so has been in habited one way or another since the Iron Age.

Majestic and regal, the Château d'Amboise dominates the landscape in the same way that it has dominated French history since its creation.

Favored as the royal residence since the 15th century the château has been home to some great, and some bloody, moments in French history.

The First Serious Castle

Château de Amboise

King Charles VII 'The Affable' seized the Château d'Amboise in 1437. Charles VIII then decided to make extensive improvements to the castle first in a French gothic style and then after 1495, when he employed two Italian masons, there were more Renaissance touches. He developed the gardens as well, pioneering the first French formal style garden (that was in fact designed by an Italian priest).

Sadly though, Charles didn't live to see his great project completed - while playing jeu de paume (real tennis) in Amboise in 1498 he struck his head on the lintel of a door and a few hours later he was dead.

The Da Vinci Era

As a guest of the King, Leonardo da Vinci, painter, inventor and all-round polymath, came to the Château d'Amboise in 1515. Da Vinci lived in Clos Lucé, a nearby mansion connected to the castle by an underground passage.

Château de Amboise

Leonardo spent the last three years of his life there, and according to the people that run Château d'Amboise today he is buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert (but no one has ever proved it).

Henri II and his wife, Catherine de Medici, raised their children at Amboise along with Mary Queen of Scots.

A controversial issue, even at the age of 5, she was taken from Scotland by Henri II who intended she should one day marry his heir, François, and unite the kingdoms of Scotland and France. Despite growing up together as brother and sister, Mary and François were married ten years later at Notre-Dame in Paris in 1558.

Mary had a happy childhood at Château d'Amboise, although Henri II was frequently away on 'business trips' (i.e. seeing his mistress Diane of Poitiers in the Château de Chenonceau).

Wars of Religion

The darkest hour at the Château d'Amboise came in 1560 during the Wars of Religion.

Henri II had died suddenly the previous year and young François was now king at the age of 15. The Comte de Guise uncovered a conspiracy by members of the Huguenot House of Bourbon against the King's life. In order to quell the uprising 1,200 protestants were disemboweled and hung from the castle and town walls.

The executions took a month to carry out and the Court was forced to leave the town because of the smell of corpses.

The Decline of Amboise

The peace of Amboise was signed on 12th March 1563 between Louis I de Bourbon and Catherine de Medici. The agreement had no real effect and the Château d'Amboise never really returned to royal favor.

Château de Amboise

At the beginning of the 17th century the estate was all but abandoned when King Louis XIII gave it to his brother, Gaston d'Orleans. After his death it was returned to the crown and then the profile of Amboise plummeted. During the Fronde it was used as a prison and Louis XIV kept his disgraced minister Nicolas Fouquet imprisoned there.

During the French Revolution, a great deal of Château d'Amboise was demolished and then even more so on the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte.


King Louis-Philippe began restoring it during his reign but his abdication in 1848 stalled any building work. The German invasion of France during the Second World War didn't do the Château d'Amboise any good either.

Today, you see about one fifth of what would have been there in François' time.

Today it is owned by Henri, the present Comte de Paris, who is a direct descendent of the last French king Louis-Philippe. This means the poor guy would be eligible for the French throne should it be restored - I think he's probably safe from that thankless task though.


To get to the Château d'Amboise you can take the TGV from Paris to Tours-Saint-Pierre-des-Corps station which is 20km from the estate. A connecting train runs to Amboise station or there are plenty of taxis that will make the trip. By car, take the Amboise exit off the M10 or the Tours-Sud direction from the A28.

Château d'Amboise open to visitors all year round except on 1st January and 25th December. From 1st March to 15th November the estate is open non-stop from 9am to 6pm.