Château de Chenonceau

Perhaps one of the most enchanting of all the castles, the Château de Chenonceau certainly has a history that intrigues as well.

Château de Chenonceau

Loved and restored by three great women in France's history, Diane de Poitiers, Catherine de Medici, and Louise Dupin, the Château de Chenonceau is undeniably full of the feminine touch. The peaceful, delicate atmosphere of the castle belies the tumultuous past that it has endured and there is no doubt that it makes for an interesting visit.

More pleasure palace than fortress, the original Chenonceau was torched in the early 15th century as a punishment for its owner, Jean Marques for an act of sedition.

The property was eventually sold to Thomas Bohier, Chamberlain (read: wealthy tax collector) to King Charles VIII.

Bohier went about building a residence fit for a king although it was his wife (the first woman of Chenonceau) Katherine Briçonnet who oversaw all the work.

Royal Ownership

The next king, François I, was not so forgiving and seized the castle from Bohier's son as punishment for non-payment of taxes (slightly ironic) in 1535. After the death of François I, his son Henri II gave the château to his mistress Diane de Poitiers who promptly fell in love with the river-side property.

Château de Chenonceau

From the moment she set eyes on it in 1547 Diane de Poitiers was the undisputed mistress of Chenonceau. she began construction of the château's most characteristic feature, the galerie de bal and oversaw the planting of exquisite gardens set along the banks of the river.

She did extensive improvements, including the arched bridge which connects the castle to the opposite bank and the gardens.

Diane was made Duchess and would go on to become one of the most influential women in the Kingdom.

With this influence also came many enemies, namely the Queen, Catherine de Medici, who could not understand why the King preferred a mistress 20 years his senior. In 1552 the King and his court journeyed to Château de Chenonceau and Diane's status was sealed.

The château attracted the nobility, artists and entertainers who enjoyed its magnificent surroundings.


Henri II died suddenly during a jousting accident in 1559 and his willful Queen, Catherine de Medici, took no time in taking her revenge on Diane de Poitiers.

She demanded Château de Chenonceau for herself, but, alas, the crown did not own it anymore. So, she instead opted for the Château Chaumont and then forced Diane to exchange castle. Then she erased her enemy's presence from it.

She threw lavish entertainments at the château and she even hosted France’s first ever fireworks display here in 1560.

Anxious to leave her mark, Catherine de Medici had the gardens remodeled, created the grand courtyard, extended the terrace and transformed the galerie de bal into what we see today.

She died in 1589 and bequeathed Château deChenonceau to Louise of Lorraine, the Queen and the wife of her son Henri III.

The White Queen

Louise was a devoted wife, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that the King was openly gay, and at she was at Château de Chenonceau when she heard of her husband's assassination. She became horribly depressed and never recovered. Named the "White Queen" by the villagers she spent the rest of her years wandering the halls of Chenonceau.

Château de Chenonceau

After the years of music, the château had given way to silence.

Louise's heir, César of Vendôme, and his wife became owners of the estate in 1624 and for the next hundred years the Château de Chenonceau passed quietly down the Valois inheritance line without once re-gaining its former glory.

The Duke of Bourbon bought Chenonceau in 1720 and started selling off the contents - furniture, paintings, books - over the years.

Finally the château was saved in 1733 when it was bought by a squire and given into the care of his wife, Louise Dupin.

The Re-Awakening of Chenonceau

Louis Dupin was a charismatic, much-loved member of court and she injected life back into the château by entertaining brilliant people of the age such as Voltaire, Fontenelle, Marivaux, Montesquieu, Buffon and Rousseau, who later became her secretary and her son’s tutor. Once again the château was at the center of court life.

Louise Dupin went one step further and physically saved the château from destruction during the French Revolution by impressing on the Revolutionary Guard the importance of the château for travel and commerce as it was the only bridge across the river for miles.

Fast forward 64 years and Chenonceau is once again in the possession of a strong and dedicated woman.

A famous chemist bought the château in 1864 and his wife Marguerite set about with important construction work.

Madame Pelouze

Château de Chenonceau

Madame Pelouze wanted to restore the château to the look it had at the beginning of the 16th century and thus many Catherine de Medici's input on the castle was more or less destroyed. Since 1913 it has been owned by the Fernier family of chocolate manufacturers..

Now, the sprawling castle and gardens are open to the public (it welcomes more than one million visitors a year) and Chenonceau has fully recovered its glory.

Owing to its colorful history and incredible architecture, the Château de Chenonceau is, after Versailles, the most visited château in France.


Getting to Chenonceau isn't difficult as it has one of the best locations of any château in the Loire area. The château is located in Touraine on the Cher River’s bank and is 214 kms south of Paris, and some 34 kms from Tours. The website contains lots of useful information.

Situated in a small town, Chenonceau is close to good hotels and restaurants so is ideal as a base from which to visit other locations east of Tours.

Driving from Tours, you can reach the château in 20 minutes or in 25 minutes on the TER. From Paris the TGV takes an hour from Montparnasse to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (Tours) or alternatively you can catch the TGV from Paris-CDG Airport to Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (Tours) which takes about an hour and a half.