Official residence of Charles VIII, the Château d’Amboise is situated in a fabulous position on top of a hill overlooking the Loire. As heir to the throne, François I lived here and welcomed Leonardo de Vinci there in 1515, giving him the nearby mansion of Clos Lucé to live in and work.
This architectural masterpiece, residence of 7 French kings and 10 queens, contains an early 13th century feudal hall and wings built by different kings – Louis XII at the beginning of the 16th century and an Italian influenced style wing created by François I. Louis XIII’s brother commissioned a new wing by Mansart which was unfinished when he died in 1660.
When only half finished, a 16th century historian said this château, the largest in the Loire Valley, “excites admiration and rapture in anyone that sees it”. A private behind the scenes tour of the château takes us via many of the secret staircases (the château contains 77) and into the roof, where the number of the “apartments” allocated to courtiers during Louis XIV’s visits to Chambord are still visible.
The elegant “Queen’s castle” had been presented by Henri II to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. The Queen Catherine de Medici forced Diane out when her husband died. The next Queen was at Chenonceau when she heard of her husband’s assassination and remained there in mourning for the rest of her life. The black draped bed chamber is one of the many fascinating features of this furnished château.
THE LOIRE VALLEY
Apart from these royal residences, the Loire Valley offers a large variety of interesting châteaux.