The Six Women of Chateâu de Chenonceau – Loire Valley France
The Loire Valley is home to over 100 French châteaux, some of these are spectacularly grand. On our château trail we visited Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, Château d’Amboise, Clos Luce, Château de Chambord, and my very own favorite Château de Chenonceau, including its interior.
Chenonceau is a magnificent château with a very interesting history. We normally associate palaces with the kings who occupied the palaces during their reign, however Chenonceau is unusual in that three aristocratic ladies were responsible for some of the creation of the château and three other ladies played huge roles in transforming the château, hence its elegant and romantic feel. The six women of Chenonceau included:
- Catherine Briconnet, wife of the first owner Thomas Bohier, was responsible for transforming the medieval Chenonceau into Renaissance style. The couple put in the turreted pavillion and Catherine also set the trend by creating one of the first straight staircases in France. So, blame Catherine if you don’t like straight staircases!
- Diane de Poitiers, lifelong mistress of Henri II, added the formal gardens and the arched bridge over the river
- Catherine de’ Medici changed Diane’s arched bridge into an Italian-style gallery following her husband’s death. She also evicted Diane from the palace and forced her to move to Château de Chaumont.
- Louise de Lorraine inherited Chenonceau in 1590, when her husband Henri III passed away. As a mark of bereavement, she painted the ceiling of her bedchamber black and white, the color of royal mourning. Henri III was Catherine de’ Medici’s third and favorite son.
- Madame Dupin, an 18th century chatelaine saved Chenonceau from destruction during the Revolution. She was a cultured and educated lady and turned Chenonceau into a salon for writers and philosophers.
- Madame Pelouze bought Chenonceau in a dilapidated and ruined state and undertook a total restoration in 1863. It is thanks to Madame Pelouze that we have the good fortune today of seeing Château de Chenonceau in its original state.
More on Chenonceau and the Châteaux of the Loire Valley later….