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Chambord: A Short History

The spiral grand staircase at Chambord castle in the Loire Valley.Ascending to the throne in 1515, Francois I immediately set out to reconquer the Italian province of Milan. The province was lost to the Italians by his predecessor Louis XII. The ambitious young King found military success easily in northern Italy. Upon his return to France he began to build the Chateau of Chambord.

Oddly enough, it was the Renaissance architecture in Italy that most influenced the design of Chambord. The chateau still resembles a medieval stronghold (a central keep flanked by four large towers, two wings, a curtain wall enclosing it all), but, many Italian ideas are incorporated into Chambord's design such as loggias, an ornate terrace, pilasters and horizontal moldings decorating the facades.

Chambord castle on a sunny day in the Loire Valley, France..

King Francois I was just 25 years old in 1519 when he initiated the huge enterprise of building the Chateau of Chambord.

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Chambord was first intended as a hunting lodge, in reality it is an extravagant chateau over 156 metres long and 56 metres tall with 77 staircases, 282 fireplaces and 426 rooms. Of the materials used in its construction, there were many, it is the tufa that really catches the eye; although employed at most Loire Valley sites, it is definitely at Chambord that this calcareous stone, soft and pliable, was worked with the greatest virtuosity.

Francois I reigned for 32 years, during which he spent only 72 days at Chambord; he never saw his grand project completed for on his death in 1547 only the keep and the royal wing had been finished. It was his son, Henry II, and Louis XlV, both likewise very fond of hunting, who were responsible for making Chambord look the way it stands today.

Chambord's famous figures and intermittent residents

  • Francois I (1494-1547) King of France, ordered the chateau to be built.
  • Caston d'Orleans (1608-1660) Louis XIII's brother, stayed at Chambord and Blois from 1634 to 1643 and 1652 to 1660.
  • Louis XIV (1638-1715) King of France, stayed at Chambord nine times between 1660 and 1685.
  • Stanislaus Leszczynski (1677-1766) exiled King of Poland and Louis XV's father­in-law, lived here from 1725 to 1733-.
  • The Marechal de Saxe (1696-1750) was given the estate by Louis XV and for two years threw sumptuous parties here.
  • The Duke de Bordeaux, Comte de Chambord (1820-1883) Charles X's grandson, received the chateau by public subscription in 1821. The French government bought the chateau from the Comte de Chambord's heirs in 1930