"Château Royal de Blois: A Must-See" Top 5 Page for this destination Blois by von.otter
Blois Travel Guide: 99 reviews and 325 photos
“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.
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