Chenonceau – Pristine grandeur in France castle of ladies
Chenonceau, the ladies castle of the Loire valley. Just imagine. Imagine as you are walking down this long alley bordered on either side by majestic trees. Your hair waves in the gentle breeze. The morning rain has left behind this wonderful smell of fresh cut grass associated with spring.
As you move forward, on the horizon appears this otherworldly chateau. One that is often associated with tales of princes and princesses. Welcome to Chenonceau. The castle hailed as one of the most beautiful castles in Europe.
The month of may is famous for its capricious showers. Drizzle one minute and shower the next. Sure enough it begins to drizzle. Our plans to cycle down the Loire à vélo route are on hold as we reach for the car. As we cruise from Blois to Chenonceau, a few sun rays greet us. It does not take us long to pass through the farming fields before we reach our destination.
So far on our road trip we have encountered beauty and sophistication. As a result we have high expectations. What we have before our eyes though is quite ethereal. The ladies castle of the Loire valley seems to majestically be floating over the river Cher.
Ethereal beauty of the ladies castle of the Loire valley
We are walking down the tree lined scenic alley towards the chateau. That clean woody right-after-rain smell wraps us. The sun rays filter through the foliage and cast a soft glow on the grass bordering the alley. We are not alone though. I didn’t expect so many people. Heavily crowded places and I are not the best of friends.
We reach the end of the alleyway and there stands the castle. Elegant and graceful. Floating over the river. It is in sharp contrast surrounded by grounded yet sophisticated gardens. Extensive woodlands complete the impressive picture. Such a beautiful sight. The heavy crowd is somehow just a small detail for now.
In short, Chenonceau is built on the foundation of a medieval fortress and a mill. It is burned down in 1414 as a punishment to his owner for sedition. Later it is rebuilt, then again partly demolished and again rebuilt. I am seriously starting to think that its real name is phoenix and not Chenonceau.
Wives and mistresses
So why the name “the ladies castle of the Loire valley”?
Mostly because the chateau has a strong relationship with women. It is saved, inhabited and built by the latter. Above all, two powerful women, Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medicis cement this relationship.
Firstly, King Henry II is married to Catherine de Medicis.
Secondly, he gives the chateau as well as a duchess title to his mistress Diane de Poitiers.
Thirdly, Diane is a political shrewd. She is 20 years older than Henry II and remains his mistress for a whopping 25 years! Blimey! Moreover, she uses her power to change the appearance of the chateau. To do so, she enlarges the formal gardens and adds the gorgeous arched bridge over the river.
Hell hath no fury like a scorned woman
As a result, when the king dies, his widow Catherine de Medicis becomes queen. She kicks Diane de Poitiers out and reclaims Chenonceau. She wants to erase Diane’s presence in the castle. Might is right! She changes the bridge into a massive ballroom and adds an Italian garden opposite Diane’s.
In addition, she puts her own portrait above the fireplace in Diane’s former bedroom. Ouch, revenge is sweet! Catherine is ruthless and leads gruesome events. When she dies, her daughter-in-law Louise of Lorraine takes over the chateau.
Later on, a french noble Louise Dupin saves the chateau from destruction during the French revolution. She does so by producing historical documents to prove the castle is privately owned.
The ladies castle of the Loire valley is a chateau that lives up to its name
From the windows, the sweeping views across the grounds are glorious. We are in awe. We take in the beautiful landscape in the garden and gaze at all the blooms. Standing at the edge of the formal gardens couldn’t be more rewarding. We stare at this mesmerizing construction floating effortlessly over the river.
The inner child in us indulges itself in the maze. On a less drizzle-bound day, exploring the forest surrounding the chateau even further is well worth indulging in.
In short, Chenonceau is the kind of place you just don’t want to leave. Every step you take is elegance and grandeur. A wander through history. And it’s not just the chateau. It’s a castle in a picture-perfect setting. A place you happily feel like exploring all nooks and crannies. Beauty. Uniqueness. History.
Just like Blois and Chambord, this castle stole our hearts. Can’t wait to explore Cheverny.
xox M. Let’s share our inspiration