A glorious riot of pattern, texture and color!
For lack of a better or official name for this place, I humbly call it a hallway in the Blois chateau. Some hallway, eh?! It's a feast for the eyes, all of these fabulous colors and designs. They work beautifully well together. Just don't try this yourself on such a grand scale at home, or you may end up with a living room which resembles the main casino at a Vegas resort!
Château Royal de Blois: Entertainers
“The Regency had retired to Blois. … The Ministers, the members of the Regency, Napoleon’s brothers, his wife and son arrived at Blois in disorder, swept away by the debacle: wagons, baggage-vans, carriages, everything was there; even the royal coaches.”
— from “Mémoires d’outre-tombe” by François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand (1768-1848)
In March 1814 as the Allied Forces arrayed against Napoléon rushed toward Paris to take the man and his capital, his second wife Marie-Louise (1791-1847), empress of the French, took her Regency Government to Blois. Leading a skeletal government, the empress resembled a fugitive rather than a sovereign, who was protecting a sovereign-in-waiting, Napoléon II, King of Rome.
Famous people born in Blois include Robert-Houdin (1805-1871), scientist, clockmaker and writer. He invented several electric clockworks which he named, such as the Horloge-Mère (Mother-Clockwork) and the Pendule Mystérieuse (Mysterious Clock), as well as Auguste Poulain, founder of the chocolate factory Poulain in 1848.
During our July 2008 visit from in front of the Gaston d’Orléans Wing a group of costumed actors/musicians entertained the crowd in the castle’s courtyard.
Château Royal de Blois: The Busts of Four Kings
“What blood shed! What murders! What evil council I have followed! O my God, forgive me! I am lost! I am lost!”
— Charles IX (1550-1574)
In the spring of 1574 the young and sickly king Charles blurted out the above anguished lament to his nurse, as he lay bedridden, hoarse, coughing up blood and hemorrhaging violently following the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacres.
Because Charles and his protective mother, Catherine de’Medicis, rightly believed that money purses and pouches also could be used to conceal knives and other weapons, their manufacture was banned by law. This self-serving statute caused much inconvenience leading to an annoyance amongst the populace; but it led to the development of tailor-made pockets!
The photos here were taken in a gallery of the François I Wing; this room is at the rear of this wing and it overlooks the street. I call it the Kings’ Bust Room (see photo #5) because a number of 19th-century busts of 16th-century monarchs are displayed. These men are all related, starting with the namesake of this wing of the château, François I (see photo #1); this king considered handsome in his day, can always be distinguished by his big nose! François’s second son, Henri II (see photo #2), plus two of his sons, Charles IX (see photo #3) and Henri III (see photo #4) can also be seen.
The busts of the last two kings of the Valois dynasty, Charles and Henri, are of patinated plaster. The bust of their father, Henri II, is a combination of bronze (the head) and plaster (the drapery). And the bust of their grandfather is bronze alone. It may be a stretch to read too much symbolism into this progression from the full use of a strong metal for a strong king to a more fragile material such as plaster for the young, weaker kings, but I will make the observation as it is.
Château Royal de Blois: A Must-See
“The Chateau de Blois is one of the most beautiful and elaborate of all the old royal residences of this part of France, and I suppose it should have all the honors of my description.”
— from “A Little Tour In France” 1884 by Henry James
Château Royal de Blois is wrapped in history. It has been home to several French kings, mainly from the Valois dynasty. In 1429, the Archbishop of Rheims blessed Jeanne d’Arc here, before she took off with her army to defeat the English at Orléans.
The château is built in Blois, a city of 50,000 inhabitants. A prominent city in the department of Loir-et-Cher, Blois sprawls across both sides of the River Loire. The area around Blois is one of the main centers in France for growing asparagus. The castle is made up of several wings built between the 13th and 17th centuries around a central courtyard. The castle became a royal residence during the reign of Louis XII, who began rebuilding the castle at the start of the 16th century. The Louis XII Wing is my favorite, with its red and black bricks laid out in ‘x’ patterns and trimmed with limestone. A wonderful Fine Arts Museum is housed within this wing; take some time to tour its galleries. Entrance to the castle is by way of the Louis XII Wing; you will pass under an 1857 reproduction of Louis XII on horseback (see photo #2); the original was destroyed during the Revolution.
François I was persuaded by his wife, Claude, to refurbish Blois with the intention of moving there from Château d’Amboise. François contributed a wing in the Renaissance style; it was used to house one of the most outstanding libraries of the early 1500s. Following Claude’s death in 1524, François did not pass much time at Blois and the library was moved to Château de Fontainebleau, from there it was used to form France’s National Library.
Henri III fled Paris during the French Wars of Religion; he took refuge at Blois, where he convened two Estates General gatherings, one in 1576, another in 1588. It was during the second meeting that the king ordered his rival, le duc de Guise, assassinated. Henri IV, the first king of the Bourbon dynasty, succeeded Henri III, but by the late 1500s the Loire Valley had been abandoned by the monarchy in favor of Paris. Henri IV’s widow, Marie de’Medici, spent two years here, exiled by her son, Louis XIII.
In 1626, Louis XIII gave the château to his brother, Gaston, duc d’Orléans as a wedding gift. In his enthusiasm to remodel the castle, le duc sadly destroyed part of the Renaissance François I Wing. The Neo-Classical Gaston Wing is the third architectural style of the castle; temporary exhibitions are held here. Gaston died in 1660 and the castle was abandoned for the next 130 years.
After the French Revolution swept the monarchy and the aristocracy from the land, Château Royal de Blois fell further into disrepair from disuse and worse, neglect. The revolutionaries plundered the castle’s riches. In 1841, Louis-Philippe, King of the French, designated Château Royal de Blois un monument historique and necessary restoration work was carried out to raise the standard of castle to royal level. Today this delightful, relatively tourist-free castle is a must on the Loire Valley château itinerary.