History

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the court of France was based in Amboise

The arrival in Bourges of Charles VII (1403- 1422-1461) and his wife Marie of Anjou (1404- 1463) marked the beginning of the French kings’ residence in the Loire Valley. However, the latter preferred the Châteaux of Loches and Chinon to the fortified Château of Amboise.

As for their son, Louis XI (1423- 1461-1483), he resided in his château at Plessis-Lès-Tours (in La Riche). However, he chose Amboise as the residence for the queen, Charlotte of Savoie (1441/ 1461/1483), and the heir apparent – the future Charles VIII (1470- 1483-1498) – born in Amboise in 1470. He had a new loggia and an oratory built, the latter resting against the southern surrounding wall, on the site of the future St. Hubert Chapel.

 
View of the castle during the reign of Louis XI

View of the castle during the reign of Louis XI

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Charles VIII (1470- 1483-1498) and his wife, Anne of Brittany (1477/ 1491-1498/1499-1514), left a lasting mark on Amboise. The king’s ongoing attachment for the château of his childhood certainly influenced his desire to transform the former medieval stronghold into a sumptuous Gothic palace. Charles VIII was also the château’s great architect, since he ordered the successive construction of the two ceremonial loggias and a chapel on the site of the oratory built by his father. In addition, he ordered the construction of the two exceptionally large cavalry towers (a third was never finished). These enabled horses and carriages to go back and forth between the town and the château’s terraces 40 metres above it. These exceptionally extensive building works were funded by the royal treasury and continued despite the military campaigns on the Italian peninsula.

Innovative techniques were even used to heat the stones and to stop them freezing in winter so that work could continue. The king called upon French masons, Flemish sculptors, and then on his return from Italy, Italian artisans: carpenters, gardeners and architects. At that time, the château had 220 rooms.

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The king’s emblems and monograms – the flaming sword – and queen Anne of Brittany’s ermine (1477/ 1491-1498/ 1499-1514), visible in the château’s rooms bear witness to the royal couple’s presence.

François 1er en 1515  par Jean Clouet
François 1er in 1515
by Jean Clouet

However, the premature death of Charles VIII, at 28 years of age, prevented him from seeing his great project completed.

Since Charles VIII died without a male heir, his cousin, the Duke of Orléans, succeeded him under the name of Louis XII (1462- 1498-1515). In order to keep the Duchy of Brittany in the French fold, Louis XII had to marry the dead king’s widow. Thus, Anne of Brittany (1477/1491-1498/ 1499-1514) became the only woman in French history to hold the title of queen twice.

The new king mainly lived in his stronghold in Blois, while his young cousin and heir apparent, François of Valois-Angoulême, the future François Ier, was educated at Amboise.

Louis XII continued the building projects initiated by his predecessor and completed the Heurtault Tower in the perpendicular wing of his predecessor’s Loggia.

After his childhood at the château and his accession, on 1st January 1515, François Ier (1494- 1515-1547) left France for Italy and won the Battle of Marignan in September of that year. However, he did not forget Amboise, which he embellished. He enhanced the château’s Louis XII wing and decorated the dormer windows in the “Italian style”.

 

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François Ier’s fascination for literature and the arts made him a great Renaissance patron king. He invited numerous Italian artists to Amboise, like Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) who resided there from 1516 to 1519.

As for Henri II (1519- 1547- 1559), François Ier's son, he was behind the construction of a building parallel to the Louis XII wing (no longer in existence) in which he created apartments for the French royal children. After his death, his wife Catherine de Medici (1519-1589) assumed the kingdom’s regency.

Le Château d'Amboise par Léonard de Vinci 1517©Coll. Photo de la collection Windsor

The Castle of Amboise by Léonard de Vinci 1517
© Photo of the Windsor Collection

View of the castle in the time of Catherine de Medici

View of the castle in the time of Catherine de Medici

The three sons of Henri II and Catherine de Medici, François II (1544- 1559-1560), Charles IX (1550- 1560-1574) and Henri III (1551-1 1574-1589) successively held the French throne.

Under François II’s short reign, Amboise was the backdrop for the Amboise conspiracy. After this tragic episode, Catherine de Medici had the château’s east defences reinforced and gave orders for the construction of a bastion.

Then, under Charles IX and Henri III, royal visits to the Château became less frequent. As such, Amboise progressively stopped being the seat of the French court.

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