Chateau de Chenonceau : the Women’s touch
Nick-named the « Château de Dames », the Château de Chenonceau is the result of the women who lived there. This château is the second most visited in France after Versailles, with over 1 million visitors each year. It is an emblem of elegance. Built with grace and remodeled with innovation, the chateau and its surrounding property is a remarkable sign of femininity. At least five women left their mark.
The original Château de Chenonceau was built in 1513. Its construction was supervised by Katherine Briçonnet whose husband Thomas Bohier was away fighting battles for Francois I. She undertook innovating construction using Renaissance influences. The Chateau is built on the foundations of an ancient castle and mill along the Cher River. Each floor has a long hallway with four rooms. Each room has a tour for a changing room and private quarters. The Chateau is built with large windows to illuminate the interior. It was later learned that Thomas Bohier owed large sums to Francois I, Chenonceau thus became royal property.
Diane de Poitiers was a tutor of Henry II (son of Francois I) as he grew up; he held a special place for her in his heart. When he became king, despite that she was 20 years older, he took her as his mistress and offered her the Château de Chenonceau in 1547. She remodeled and added her own touch building a bridge over the Cher River, and installing Renaissance gardens.
Catherine de Medici, Henry II’s wife and then regent as queen-mother took Chenonceau from Diane after his death in 1559. She wanted to outdo her rival and continued extravagant renovations by adding galleries that were built upon the bridge and her own gardens.
Louise de Lorraine was the daughter- in- law of Catherine de Medici. When her husband King Henri III died she installed in Chenonceau in 1589, mourning the sudden death (assassinated) of her beloved. She painted her room black and spent her days in prayer. She installed a convent of nuns in Chenonceau. A draw-bridge was constructed inside the chateau so that the nuns could gather without disturbances in the attic.
Madame Louise Dupin, lived during the 18th century of Chenonceau. She was recognized as a feminist during the Period of Enlightenment turning Chenonceau into a residence of fine arts and sciences and regularly holding debates and meetings. Shesaved Chenonceau from the wrath of Revolution. She disguised the royal chapel as a storage place for wood to hide its original use, and reminded the revolutionaries that Chenonceau was the only bridge over the Cher River for miles, a useful construction for the state, so that it wouldn’t be destroyed.
Even during modern times Chenonceau has distinguished itself by its femininity. Today’s visitors admire the grounds and parks. The interior is richly decorated each day with new flower compositions from its garden. This leaves an impression that the Chateau is still lived in. That means a large-scale production of flowers is needed. A floral workshop is installed in the 16th century farmhouse on the property. They regularly hold forums on the art of floral decorating and horticulture.
The Chateau de Chenonceau is a remarkable stop along Discover France’s Loire Valley Tours.