We stumbled on the Garden Festival completely by accident which is the way we find most of the things we see.
On our very first trip to France (eons ago) we leased a car and after three days in Paris, we took off with our tent and map to see France. Along the way we spotted our "first" chateau. It was really exciting. We stopped the car, hopped out and took pictures and continued on our way. Got home and developed the pictures (I said it was eons ago.) and saw this beautiful chateau above the Loire and had no idea where it was nor which chateau. So sad . . .
Years later we were driving along the Loire with our youngest daughter on vacation. As we drove along the D751, we spotted our goal du jour, the Chateau Chaumont, stopped, hopped out of the car and took pictures. This time we were digital and I knew what I was looking at. It was Chaumont!
. . . so Chaumont is the very first chateau we ever saw in France. It took a long time to discover this.
We parked and walked up to the Chateau, bought our tickets and started to explore. We toured the chateau proper, visited the stables and then headed for the garden, still not suspecting the treat in store for us. We crossed a walking bridge looking down at fog in the little gulley, continued up a path through the woods noting interesting sculptures along the way . . . and then found the 28 gardens of that year. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring each one and having a grand time. That year there was a garden of bamboo tubes you could walk through and make ring like wind chimes; a garden of giant colored balls you could bat around above the greenery; a water garden with a path through it on unstable stepping stones thus endangering your dry feet; a garden for children to perform on stage. It was amazing and we became Chaumont fans.
Information for 2013:
Theme for 2013 is Gardens of Sensations
Gardens open 24 April to 20 October
Evenings of Light: 10.00 pm to midnight.
Every evening except Friday from 1st July to 31 August
Every year is different so you always return and are surprised and delighted. Check the web site for special activities.
As finished in the early 16C, the chateau was four sided. In 1740 the owner at that time. one Nicolas Bertin, removed the north wing and built the terrace which provides one of the finest views of the Loire. The buildings themselves are not very outstanding from this side, but there is a pretty carved well. Balconies were added in the later 19C so that the residents could walk around and enjoy the view.
Catherine used the chateau extensively, mostly when she housed her personal astrologer , Ruggieri, here in the tower above. Here are a picture of Catherine and another of Dianna on display but I think they are copies. The second bed is in Ruggieri's stone walled room but I do not know whether it was Catherine's There are a few good examples of 16C stained glass in another first floor room.
The single most interesting site inside the chateau is the floor of the council board room. It is covered with hunting scenes and similar activities. It was made in the 17C in Salerno and was obtained by Prince Amadee de Broglie who lost his immense fortune and sold the chateau to the state in 1938.
There is a fine interior staircase between the wings. Here the moldings are done with sculpturing and in the wall such as fleur de lys and into more rooms with mantels and in places upon the walls are good examples of Aubusson tapestries.
In a near by room is the finest mantel in the chateau covered with Renaissance sculptural detail covering the upper front and lateral sides of the mantel with emblematic figures and as well as the figures seen on the outside portal and nearby walls. In the room are more carved furniture and on the wall are a group of 16C Dutch tiles in blue and white each with a bible story.
The furnishings are set out in museum fashion other than such important items as fireplaces. One with a porcupine is the first item seen, to represent King Louis XII. The room has a finely made beamed ceiling and some tall pieces of carved oak and a large ceramic plate all of the 16C. Nearby is a glass case of medallions created by Giovanni Nini.
As one approaches the draw bridge one must stop to look at the walls of the two entrance towers. The walls in this area on the northeast tower it is decorated with the coat of arms Coat of Arms of the Cardinal d'Amboise. Over the portal leading to the terrace is a field with the coat of Arms of France and many fleur de lys. On the other tower is a carving of a Pilgrim hat and a shell and in a frieze of of intertwined C,s alternating with flaming hills meaning chaud mont (hot-mountain).
One must first look at the outside walls of the of ex-fortress, now chateau. The walk to the draw bridge is impressive with its heavy walls and the impressive carvings as one approaches the draw bridge. When we visited, over 15 years ago, we had to park down near the town, close to the river and had to walk up to the park land with its ancient old cedar trees. As we approached we could see in some windows stone figures of ermines.
“Georges d’Amboise had, however, one darling ambition that was never realized. He had fixed his hopes upon the Papacy and, it was said, might have got it had he only been a little less confident.”
— from “The Chateaux of Touraine” 1906 by Maria Hornor Lansdale
Georges Cardinal d’Amboise was the uncle to Charles d’Amboise, who finished rebuilding the château mostly as we see it today.
In the castle’s pretty chapel, flooded rosy light from the stained glass windows, we see, as part of one of these windows, the disappointed cardinal’s red hat sitting above the gold and red striped coat-of-arms of his family (see photo #4). Another window shows a king, most likely Louis XII, with the royal coat-of-arms below him; the king carries a gold chest and has a knight kneeling beside him with his hands in prayer (see photo #2).
Built at the beginning of the 16th century, the chapel was restored in 1884 and 1885. The stained glass scenes are based on the designs of Jean-Paul Laurens; and they follow the history of the Chaumont-Amboise family, with the Last Judgment in the center window (see photo #3).
When Marie-Charlotte Say owned the château she dismantled the village church that was on the castle’s grounds. She didn’t need the church because she had her own chapel within the castle and her own priest, who waited patiently to hear the footsteps of the lady of house on the stairs before starting Mass when she slept late on a Sunday morning.
“Je veux ce château” (“I want this castle!”)
— Marie-Charlotte Say (1857-1943) her exclamation upon seeing Château de Chaumont
And she got it!
One day in 1875, the 16-year-old Marie-Charlotte Say passed the château shortly before her marriage to Prince Henri Amédée de Broglie, an aristocrat descended from scholars and military officers. A few days later, a check for two million francs sealed the deal. At the castle, this fabulously rich sugar beet heiress entertained Queen Isabella II of Spain; Edward, Prince of Wales; the Shah of Iran; Sarah Bernhardt; François Poulenc and the Maharajah of Kapurthala, who gave her an elephant. The beast, not very wild, quickly became a favorite attraction in the Loire Valley, adding to Marie’s notoriety in the area.
Marie organized water spectacles on the Loire, to be visible from the castle. The Paris Opera Ballet and the Comedie Francaise entertained the guests who attended Marie’s never-ending party. In 1905 her financial advisors insisted she economize; she agreed to give up foie gras at teatime but not to give up the elephant, whose feeding and maintenance were a major expense.
The princess was not well liked by the locals because she had the village church and cemetery moved from her property; the noise of funerals disturbed to her beauty rest she claimed. She replaced them with the pet cemetery, whose tombs were desecrated by disgruntled villagers. The houses and the church were rebuilt at the base of the hill. Eglise de St-Nicolas, seen in these photos, is the replacement church Marie built.
In 1930 Marie married a real royal and a real ne’er-do-well, Luis Fernando de Orléans y de Borbón, Infante de España, 31 years her junior; she was 73 when they wed. Ten years later the Infante had blazed through 70 million francs of his wife’s fortune. He served as one of the models for Marcel Proust’s Baron de Charlus
“Madame de Staël, having returned to France, went, in the spring of 1810, to live in the Château of Chaumont on the banks of the Loire, 120 miles from Paris, a distance determined by the terms of her exile. Madame Récamier joined Madame de Staël at Chaumont. The latter edited the proofs of her work on Germany; when it was almost ready for publication, she sent it to Bonaparte …”
— from “Mémoires d’outre-tombe” by François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand (1768-1848)
Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (1766–1817), known as Madame de Staël, was a French-speaking Swiss author who lived in Paris. She ran afoul of Napoleon about 1804 or maybe a few years earlier; she would not yield to the Emperor’s influence, especially in her writings. He had her spied upon, and then exiled. She traveled to Germany; upon her return to France she briefly took up residence at Château de Chaumont.
In 1550, Catherine de’Medici bought Château de Chaumont for 10,000 livres; she would stay there with her astrologers Cosimo Ruggieri and Nostradamus, delving into the future where only sad news greeted the queen. During this time, the château earned the nickname “Chaud Mont,” hot mountain. After the death of her husband, Henri II, the queen ordered his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, to give her the Château de Chenonceau in exchange for Chaumont.
Despite a portrait of Diana above one fireplace, she cared little for Chaumont and she rarely, if ever, visited. She owned other, much finer chateaux; she preferred the splendors of Anet, recently built for her by Philibert de 1’Orme, to an estate that reminded her of the loss of her treasured Chenonceau. Shortly after she took ownership, the Prince de Conde was imprisoned at Chaumont. This occurred after he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Dreux, in 1562; for Diane, a devout Catholic, to have loaned her chateau to serve as a prison for a Huguenot leader makes sense.
When Diane de Poitiers died Chaumont passed to her eldest daughter, Françoise de Brézé, Duchesse de Bouillon. And then there is a long list of owners; some came into possession by inheritance, but, more commonly, the estate was frequently sold. No one of great importance appears on the list, and after it passed from Catherine’s hands , Chaumont never again became a royal chateau. There have been notable visitors including, Cinq Mars who came to Chaumont with a few of his fellow courtiers shortly before he fell a victim to the vengeance of Richelieu, in 1642. And in 1700, the chateau was honored by a royal visit, Philippe, duc d’Anjou, on his way to Spain to become Filipe V.
“From near and afar, I can defend myself.” — motto of Louis XII (1462-1515)
Because George Cardinal d’Amoise, uncle to Chaumont’s owner, Charles d’Amboise, was Prime Minister to Louis XII, and Charles himself was in service to Louis, the royal crowned porcupine was incorporated in the castle’s decoration to honor the king.
Louis de France, duc d’Orléans, adopted the porcupine as his emblem in 1394. He chose the porcupine to warn his enemies, especially Jean, duc de Bourgogne, that he would, without fear, avenge any attack, just as the porcupine throws its quills, near and far, at any who attacks it. It was a common misconception about what this prickly creature would do when attacked.
Louis XII was duc d’Orléans before becoming king in 1498; Louis de France was his grandfather. (So many Louis’s, the head spins!) Louis XII inherited the porcupine emblem from his grandfather and kept its symbolism of invincibility, especially during his wars with Italy and his reconquest of Milan, where Charles d’Amboise was made governor. A problem arose with the use of the prickly porcupine as part of royal propaganda. It stood at odds with the image of a ‘père du peuple’ as Louis XII wished to portray himself beginning in 1506.
The Order of the Porcupine was established by Louis de France, duc d’Orleans in 1394 when his oldest son, Charles, was baptized. The number of knights was limited to 25, including the Sovereign, or Grand Master; and the Order’s motto was, Cominus et emitms, “From near and afar.” This Order continued to flourish until after Louis XII’s death, when it was set aside. The collar of the Order consisted of three gold chains, to which a gold porcupine pendent was attached.
“After changing hands several times Chaumont was sold in 1594 to Scipion Sardini, who had come a penniless adventurer to seek his fortune in France, and, under the protection of the Queen-mother, had quickly found it. He contrived to make himself indispensable to Henry III, and later on married the beautiful Isabelle de la Tour-Limeuil, one of Catherine’s gay maids of honor.” — from “The Chateaux of Touraine” 1906
by Maria Hornor Lansdale
The Queen Mother referred to here is Catherine de’Medici, mother of Henri III, and owner of Château de Chaumont at one point.
Some of the windows at Château de Chaumont are accented with stained glass. The colors and shapes of the panes make these practical elements of the building works of art. From a coat-of-arms with a lion rampant (see photo #3) to the combined coat-of-arms of Louis XII and his queen Anne, la duchesse de Bretagne (see photo #4), these windows celebrate and commemorate the king, the nation, and the nobility. They celebrate France!
The castle, with its wonderful views (see von.otter’s Chaumont Tip for its view) across the Loire Valley, and its grounds are owned by the local government. Every year the château hosts a Garden Festival from June to October, where the works of contemporary landscape artists are displayed on the hill above the castle.
This garden festival, with 30 small gardens designed by famous and aspiring landscape architects, has become a major attraction in the region. Each year a theme is chosen for the contestants to explore.
For food lovers, there are several choices on the château’s grounds, including Le Grand Vélum, Chef François-Xavier Bogard’s contribution to a lovely day’s outing au Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire.