House of Plantagenet
The House of Plantagenet was a royal house which originated from the lands of Anjou in France. The name Plantagenet is used by modern historians to identify four distinct royal houses: the Angevins, who were counts of Anjou; the family held the English throne from 1154, with the accession of Henry II, until 1485, when Richard III died in battle. Under the Plantagenets, England was transformed – although this was only intentional; the Plantagenet kings were forced to negotiate compromises such as Magna Carta. These constrained royal power in return for military support; the king was no longer just the most powerful man in the nation, holding the prerogative of judgement, feudal tribute and warfare. He now had defined duties to the realm, underpinned by a sophisticated justice system. A distinct national identity was shaped by conflict with the French, Scots and Irish, the establishment of English as the primary language. In the 15th century, the Plantagenets were defeated in the Hundred Years' War and beset with social and economic problems.
Popular revolts were commonplace. English nobles raised private armies, engaged in private feuds and defied Henry VI; the rivalry between the House of Plantagenet's two cadet branches of York and Lancaster brought about the Wars of the Roses, a decades-long fight for the English succession, culminating in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, when the reign of the Plantagenets and the English Middle Ages both met their end with the death of King Richard III. Henry VII, of Lancastrian descent, became king of England; the Tudors worked to centralise English royal power, which allowed them to avoid some of the problems that had plagued the last Plantagenet rulers. The resulting stability allowed for the English Renaissance, the advent of early modern Britain. Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York, adopted Plantagenet as his family name in the 15th century. Plantegenest had been a 12th-century nickname for his ancestor Geoffrey, Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy. One of many popular theories suggests the common broom, planta genista in medieval Latin, as the source of the nickname.
It is uncertain why Richard chose this specific name, although during the Wars of the Roses it emphasised Richard's status as Geoffrey's patrilineal descendant. The retrospective usage of the name for all of Geoffrey's male-line descendants was popular during the subsequent Tudor dynasty encouraged by the further legitimacy it gave to Richard's great-grandson, Henry VIII, it was only in the late 17th century. Angevin is French for "from Anjou"; the three Angevin kings were Richard I and John. "Angevin" can refer to the period of history in which they reigned. Many historians identify the Angevins as a distinct English royal house. "Angevin" is used in reference to any sovereign or government derived from Anjou. As a noun, it refers to any native of Anjou or an Angevin ruler, to other counts and dukes of Anjou, including the ancestors of the three kings who formed the English royal house. There is disagreement between those who consider Henry III to be the first Plantagenet monarch, those who do not distinguish between Angevins and Plantagenets and therefore consider the first Plantagenet to be Henry II.
The term "Angevin Empire" was coined by Kate Norgate in 1887. There was no known contemporary collective name for all of the territories under the rule of the Angevin Kings of England; this led to circumlocutions such as "our kingdom and everything subject to our rule whatever it may be" or "the whole of the kingdom which had belonged to his father". The "Empire" portion of "Angevin Empire" has been controversial as these territories were not subject to any unified laws or systems of governance, each retained its own laws and feudal relationships. In 1986 a convention of historians concluded that there had not been an Angevin state, therefore no "Angevin Empire", but that the term espace Plantagenet was acceptable. Nonetheless, historians have continued to use "Angevin Empire"; the counts of Anjou, including the Plantagenets, descended from Geoffrey II, Count of Gâtinais, his wife Ermengarde of Anjou. In 1060 the couple inherited the title via cognatic kinship from an Angevin family, descended from a noble named Ingelger, whose recorded history dates from 870.
During the 10th and 11th centuries, power struggles occurred between rulers in northern and western France including those of Anjou, Brittany, Blois and the kings of France. In the early 12th century Geoffrey of Anjou married Empress Matilda, King Henry I's only surviving legitimate child and heir to the English throne; as a result of this marriage, Geoffrey's son Henry II inherited the English throne as well as Norman and Angevin titles, thus marking the beginning of the Angevin and Plantagenet dynasties. The marriage was the third attempt of Geoffrey's father, Fulk V, Count of Anjou, to build a political alliance with Normandy, he first espoused Alice, to William Adelin, Henry I's heir. After William drowned in the wreck of the White Ship Fulk married another of his daughter
Departments of France
In the administrative divisions of France, the department is one of the three levels of government below the national level, between the administrative regions and the commune. Ninety-six departments are in metropolitan France, five are overseas departments, which are classified as regions. Departments are further subdivided into 334 arrondissements, themselves divided into cantons; each department is administered by an elected body called a departmental council. From 1800 to April 2015, these were called general councils; each council has a president. Their main areas of responsibility include the management of a number of social and welfare allowances, of junior high school buildings and technical staff, local roads and school and rural buses, a contribution to municipal infrastructures. Local services of the state administration are traditionally organised at departmental level, where the prefect represents the government; the departments were created in 1790 as a rational replacement of Ancien Régime provinces with a view to strengthen national unity.
All of them were named after physical geographical features, rather than after historical or cultural territories which could have their own loyalties. The division of France into departments was a project identified with the French revolutionary leader the Abbé Sieyès, although it had been discussed and written about by many politicians and thinkers; the earliest known suggestion of it is from 1764 in the writings of d'Argenson. They have inspired similar divisions in some of them former French colonies. Most French departments are assigned a two-digit number, the "Official Geographical Code", allocated by the Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques. Overseas departments have a three-digit number; the number is used, for example, in the postal code, was until used for all vehicle registration plates. While residents use the numbers to refer to their own department or a neighbouring one, more distant departments are referred to by their names, as few people know the numbers of all the departments.
For example, inhabitants of Loiret might refer to their department as "the 45". In 2014, President François Hollande proposed to abolish departmental councils by 2020, which would have maintained the departments as administrative divisions, to transfer their powers to other levels of governance; this reform project has since been abandoned. The first French territorial departments were proposed in 1665 by Marc-René d'Argenson to serve as administrative areas purely for the Ponts et Chaussées infrastructure administration. Before the French Revolution, France gained territory through the annexation of a mosaic of independent entities. By the close of the Ancien Régime, it was organised into provinces. During the period of the Revolution, these were dissolved in order to weaken old loyalties; the modern departments, as all-purpose units of the government, were created on 4 March 1790 by the National Constituent Assembly to replace the provinces with what the Assembly deemed a more rational structure.
Their boundaries served two purposes: Boundaries were chosen to break up France's historical regions in an attempt to erase cultural differences and build a more homogeneous nation. Boundaries were set so that every settlement in the country was within a day's ride of the capital of a department; this was a security measure, intended to keep the entire national territory under close control. This measure was directly inspired by the Great Terror, during which the government had lost control of many rural areas far from any centre of government; the old nomenclature was avoided in naming the new departments. Most were named after other physical features. Paris was in the department of Seine. Savoy became the department of Mont-Blanc; the number of departments 83, had been increased to 130 by 1809 with the territorial gains of the Republic and of the First French Empire. Following Napoleon's defeats in 1814–1815, the Congress of Vienna returned France to its pre-war size and the number of departments was reduced to 86.
In 1860, France acquired the County of Nice and Savoy, which led to the creation of three new departments. Two were added from the new Savoyard territory, while the department of Alpes-Maritimes was created from Nice and a portion of the Var department; the 89 departments were given numbers based on the alphabetical order of their names. The department of Bas-Rhin and parts of Meurthe, Moselle and Haut-Rhin were ceded to the German Empire in 1871, following France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. A small part of Haut-Rhin became known as the Territoire de Belfort; when France regained the ceded departments after World War I, the Territoire de Belfort was not re-integrated into Haut-Rhin. In 1922, it became France's 90th department; the Lorraine departments were not changed back to their original boundaries, a new Moselle department was created in the regaine
French Wars of Religion
The French Wars of Religion were a prolonged period of war and popular unrest between Roman Catholics and Huguenots in the Kingdom of France between 1562 and 1598. It is estimated that three million people perished in this period from violence, famine, or disease in what is considered the second deadliest religious war in European history. Much of the conflict took place during the long regency of Queen Catherine de' Medici, widow of Henry II of France, for her minor sons, it involved a dynastic power struggle between powerful noble families in the line for succession to the French throne: the wealthy and fervently Roman Catholic ducal House of Guise and their ally Anne de Montmorency, Constable of France versus the less wealthy House of Condé, princes of the blood in the line of succession to the throne who were sympathetic to Calvinism. Foreign allies provided financing and other assistance to both sides, with Habsburg Spain and the Duchy of Savoy supporting the Guises, England supporting the Protestant side led by the Condés and by the Protestant Jeanne d'Albret, wife of Antoine de Bourbon, King of Navarre, her son, Henry of Navarre.
Moderates associated with the French Valois monarchy and its advisers, tried to balance the situation and avoid open bloodshed. This group put their hopes in the ability of a strong centralized government to maintain order and harmony. In contrast to the previous hardline policies of Henri II and his father Francis I, they began introducing gradual concessions to Huguenots. A most notable moderate, at least was the queen mother, Catherine de' Medici. Catherine, however hardened her stance and, at the time of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572, sided with the Guises; this pivotal historical event involved a complete breakdown of state control resulting in series of riots and massacres in which Catholic mobs killed between 5,000 and 30,000 Protestants over a period of weeks throughout the entire kingdom. At the conclusion of the conflict in 1598, the Protestant Henry of Navarre, heir to the French throne, converted to Catholicism and was crowned Henry IV of France, he issued the Edict of Nantes, which granted Huguenots substantial rights and freedoms though this did not end Catholic hostility towards them or towards him, personally.
The wars of religion threatened the authority of the monarchy fragile under the rule of Catherine's three sons and the last Valois kings: Francis II, Charles IX, Henry III. This changed under the reign of their Bourbon successor Henry IV; the edict of Nantes was revoked in 1685 with the Edict of Fontainebleau by Louis XIV of France. Henry IV's wise governance and selection of able administrators did leave a legacy of a strong centralized government and economic prosperity that has gained him the reputation as France's best and most beloved monarch, earning him the designation "Good King Henry". Along with French Wars of Religion and Huguenot Wars, the wars have been variously described as the "Eight Wars of Religion", or the "Wars of Religion"; the exact number of wars and their respective dates are subject to continued debate by historians: some assert that the Edict of Nantes in 1598 concluded the wars, while the ensuing resurgence of rebellious activity leads some to believe the Peace of Alès in 1629 is the actual conclusion.
However, the agreed upon beginning of the wars is the Massacre of Wassy in 1562, the Edict of Nantes at least ended this series of conflicts. During this time, complex diplomatic negotiations and agreements of peace were followed by renewed conflict and power struggles. Humanism, which began much earlier in Italy, arrived in France in the early sixteenth century, coinciding with the beginning of the French Protestant Reformation; the Italian revival of art and classical learning interested Francis I, who established royal professorships in Paris, equipping more people with the knowledge necessary to understand ancient literature. Francis I, had no quarrel with the established religious order and did not support reformation. Indeed, Pope Leo X, through the Concordat of Bologna increased the king's control over the French church, granting him the power of nominating the clergy and levying taxes on church property. In France, unlike in Germany, the nobles supported the policies and the status quo of their time.
The emphasis of Renaissance Humanism on ad fontes, the return to the sources, had spread from the study and reconstruction of secular Greek and Latin texts, with a view to artistic and linguistic renewal, to the reading and translation of the Church Fathers and the New Testament itself, with a view to religious renewal and reform. Humanist scholars, who approached theology from a new critical and comparative perspective, argued that exegesis of Scripture must be based on an accurate understanding of the language and grammar used in writing the Greek scriptures and later, the Hebrew Scriptures, rather than relying on the Vulgate - a Latin translation of the Bible, as in the Medieval period. In 1495 the Venetian Aldus Manutius began using the newly invented printing press to produce small, pocket editions of Greek and vernacular literature, making knowledge in all disciplines available for the first time to a wide public. Printing in mass editions allowed theological and religious ideas to be disseminated at an u
Châteaux of the Loire Valley
The Châteaux of the Loire Valley are part of the architectural heritage of the historic towns of Amboise, Blois, Montsoreau, Orléans and Tours along the Loire River in France. They illustrate Renaissance ideals of design in France; the châteaux of the Loire Valley number over three hundred, including practical fortified castles in the 10th century to splendid residences built half a millennium later. When the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux in the Loire Valley, the nobility, drawn to the seat of power, followed suit, attracting the finest architects and landscape designers; the châteaux and their surrounding gardens are cultural monuments which stunningly embody the ideals of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Many of the châteaux were built on hilltops, such as the Château d'Amboise, while the only one built in the riverbed is the Château de Montsoreau. Many had exquisite churches within the château; as the wars of the 15th century wound down, Kings Charles VII, Louis XI, their successors preferred to spend the bulk of their time in the "garden of France" along the banks of the Loire.
In the late 15th century, Tours Blois, Amboise became the preferred locations of the French royal court. Many courtiers bought dilapidated castles built by the medieval Counts of Blois and Anjou, had them reconstructed in the latest Italianate fashion. Leonardo da Vinci and other Italian artists arrived to beautify these residences. By the middle of the 16th century, King François I had shifted his throne from the Loire back to the ancient capital of Paris. With him went the great architects, but the Loire Valley continued to be the place where most of the French royalty preferred to spend the bulk of their time. King Louis XIV in the middle of the 17th century made Paris the permanent locale for great royal châteaux when he built the Palace of Versailles. Nonetheless, those who gained the king's favour and the wealthy bourgeoisie continued to renovate existing châteaux or build lavish new ones in the Loire as summer residences; the French Revolution saw a number of the great châteaux destroyed and many ransacked, their treasures stolen.
The overnight impoverishment of many of the deposed nobility after one of its members lost his or her head to the guillotine, saw many châteaux demolished. During World War I and World War II, some chateaux were commandeered as military headquarters; some of these continued to be so used after the end of World War II. Today, the remaining owned châteaux serve as homes, a few open their doors to tourists, while others operate as hotels or bed-and-breakfasts. Many others have been taken over by local governments, the grandest, like those at Chambord, are owned and operated by the national government and are major tourist sites, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Though there is no universally accepted definition for the designation, the main criterion is that the château must be situated close to the Loire or one of its tributaries. Châteaux further upstream than Gien are not included, with the possible exception of the Bastie d'Urfé for its historical significance. Loire Valley portal List of châteaux in France Tuffeau, principal building material of the Loire Valley Media related to Castles of the Loire at Wikimedia Commons Châteaux de la Loire, Finest France
Saumur is a commune in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France. The historic town is located between the Loire and Thouet rivers, is surrounded by the vineyards of Saumur itself, Bourgueil, Coteaux du Layon, etc. which produce some of France's finest wines. Early settlement of the region goes back many thousands of years; the Dolmen de Bagneux on the south of the town, is 23 meters long and is built from 15 large slabs of the local stone, weighing over 500 tons. It is the largest in France; the Château de Saumur was constructed in the 10th century to protect the Loire river crossing from Norman attacks after the settlement of Saumur was sacked in 845. The castle, destroyed in 1067 and inherited by the House of Plantagenet, was rebuilt by Henry II of England in the 12th century, it changed hands several times between Anjou and France until 1589. Houses in Saumur are constructed exclusively of the Tuffeau stone; the caves dug to excavate the stone have become tunnels and have been used by the local vineyards as locations to store their wines.
Amyraldism, or the School of Saumur, is the name used to denote a distinctive form of Reformed theology taught by Moses Amyraut at the University of Saumur in the 17th century. Saumur is the scene for Balzac's novel Eugénie Grandet, written by the French author in 1833. Prior to the French Revolution Saumur was the capital of the Sénéchaussée de Saumur, a bailiwick, which existed until 1793. Saumur was the location of the Battle of Saumur during the Revolt in the Vendée, becoming a state prison under Napoleon Bonaparte; the town was an equestrian centre with both the military cavalry school from 1783 and the Cadre Noir based there. During the Battle of France, in World War II, Saumur was the site of the Battle of Saumur where the town and south bank of the Loire was defended by the teenage cadets of the cavalry school, to their great credit and for the Honour of France. In 1944 it was the target of Azon bombing raids by Allied planes; the first raid, on 8/9 June 1944, was against a railway tunnel near Saumur, seeing the first use of the 12,000 lb Tallboy "earthquake" bombs.
The hastily organized night raid was to stop a planned German Panzer Division, travelling to engage the newly landed allied forces in Normandy. The panzers were expected to use the railway to cross the Loire. No. 83 Squadron RAF illuminated the area with flares by four Avro Lancasters and marked the target at low level by three de Havilland Mosquitos. 25 Lancasters of No. 617 Squadron RAF, the "Dambusters" dropped their Tallboys from 18,000 ft with great accuracy. They hit the approaches to the bridge, blocked the railway cutting and one pierced the roof of the tunnel, bringing down a huge quantity of rock and soil which blocked the tunnel, badly delaying the German reinforcements moving towards Normandy 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich; the damaged tunnel was dug out to make a deeper cutting, resulting in the need for a second attack. On 22 June, nine Consolidated B-24 Liberators of the United States Army Air Forces used the new Azon 1,000 lb glide bombs against the Saumur rail bridge, they failed to destroy the bridge.
During the morning of 24 June, 38 American Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses with conventional bombs attacked the bridge. The bridge was damaged; the town of Saumur was awarded the Croix de Guerre with palm for its resistance and display of French patriotism during the war. Saumur is home to the Cadre Noir, the École Nationale d'Équitation, known for its annual horse shows, as well as the Armoured Branch and Cavalry Training School, the officer school for armored forces. There is the national tank museum, the Musée des Blindés, with more than 850 armored vehicles, wheeled or tracked. Most of them are from France, though some come from other countries such as Brazil and the Soviet Union, as well as axis and allied vehicles of World War Two; the annual military Carrousel takes place in July each year, as it has done for over 160 years, with displays of horse cavalry skills and modern military vehicles. Amongst the most important monuments of Saumur are the great Château de Saumur itself which stands high above the town, the nearby Château de Beaulieu which stands just 200 metres from the south bank of the Loire river and, designed by the architect Jean Drapeau.
A giant sequoia tree stands in the grounds of Château de Beaulieu. The Dolmen de Bagneux is on the old road going south; the architectural character of the town owes much to the fact that it is constructed exclusively of the beautiful, but fragile, Tuffeau stone. The wine industry surrounds Saumur, many utilising the tunnels as cellars with the hundreds of domaines producing white, rosé and sparkling wines. Visits to producers and the annual Grandes Tablées du Saumur-Champigny is a popular annual event held in early August with over 1 km of tables set up in Saumur so people can sample the local foods and wine. Saumur has a famous weekly market; every Saturday morning with hundreds of stalls open for business in the streets and squares of the old town, from before 8am. Its skyline has been compared with that of the capital of Slovakia. Saumur was the birthplace of: Anne Le Fèvre Dacier and translator of classics Jeanne Delanoue, made a Roman Catholic Saint in 1982 François Bontemps, General of the French Revolutionary Wars.
Charles Ernest Beulé, archeologist Coco Chanel, fashion designer Yves Robert, composer, writer, producer Jack le Goff, equestrian Fanny Ardant, actr
Château de Chambord
The Château de Chambord in Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France, is one of the most recognisable châteaux in the world because of its distinctive French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. The building, never completed, was constructed by King Francis I of France. Chambord is the largest château in the Loire Valley; the original design of the Château de Chambord is attributed, though with some doubt, to Domenico da Cortona. Chambord was altered during the twenty-eight years of its construction, during which it was overseen on-site by Pierre Nepveu. With the château nearing completion, Francis showed off his enormous symbol of wealth and power by hosting his old archrival, Emperor Charles V, at Chambord. In 1792, in the wake of the French Revolution, some of the furnishings were sold and timber removed. For a time the building was left abandoned, though in the 19th century some attempts were made at restoration. During the Second World War, art works from the collections of the Louvre and the Château de Compiègne were moved to the Château de Chambord.
The château is now open to the public, receiving 700,000 visitors in 2007. Flooding in June 2016 damaged the grounds but not the château itself. Châteaux in the 16th century departed from castle architecture. Extensive gardens and water features, such as a moat, were common amongst châteaux from this period. Chambord is no exception to this pattern; the layout is reminiscent of a typical castle with a keep, corner towers, defended by a moat. Built in Renaissance style, the internal layout is an early example of the French and Italian style of grouping rooms into self-contained suites, a departure from the medieval style of corridor rooms; the massive château is composed of a central keep with four immense bastion towers at the corners. The keep forms part of the front wall of a larger compound with two more large towers. Bases for a possible further two towers are found at the rear, but these were never developed, remain the same height as the wall; the château features 440 rooms, 282 fireplaces, 84 staircases.
Four rectangular vaulted hallways on each floor form a cross-shape. The château was never intended to provide any form of defence from enemies; some elements of the architecture—open windows, a vast outdoor area at the top—borrowed from the Italian Renaissance architecture—are less practical in cold and damp northern France. The roofscape of Chambord contrasts with the masses of its masonry and has been compared with the skyline of a town: it shows eleven kinds of towers and three types of chimneys, without symmetry, framed at the corners by the massive towers; the design parallels are Leonardesque. Writer Henry James remarked "the towers, the gables, the lanterns, the chimneys, look more like the spires of a city than the salient points of a single building." One of the architectural highlights is the spectacular open double-spiral staircase, the centrepiece of the château. The two spirals ascend the three floors without meeting, illuminated from above by a sort of light house at the highest point of the château.
There are suggestions that Leonardo da Vinci may have designed the staircase, but this has not been confirmed. Writer John Evelyn said of the staircase "it is devised with four entries or ascents, which cross one another, so that though four persons meet, they never come in sight, but by small loopholes, till they land, it consists of 274 steps, is an extraordinary work, but of far greater expense than use or beauty."The château features 128 metres of façade, more than 800 sculpted columns and an elaborately decorated roof. When Francis I commissioned the construction of Chambord, he wanted it to look like the skyline of Constantinople; the château is surrounded by a 52.5-square-kilometre wooded park and game reserve maintained with red deer, enclosed by a 31-kilometre wall. The king's plan to divert the Loire to surround the château came about only in a novel. In the novel the château is referred to as the Palace of Firm Isle. Chambord's towers are atypical of French contemporary design in that they lack spires.
In the opinion of author Tanaka, who suggests Leonardo da Vinci influenced the château's design, they are closer in design to minarets of 15th-century Milan. The design and architecture of the château inspired William Henry Crossland for his design of what is known as the Founder's building at Royal Holloway, University of London; the Founder's Building features similar towers and layout but was built using red bricks. Who designed the Château de Chambord is a matter of controversy; the original design is attributed, though with several doubts, to Domenico da Cortona, whose wooden model for the design survived long enough to be drawn by André Félibien in the 17th century. In the drawings of the model, the main staircase of the keep is shown with two straight, parallel flights of steps separated by a passage and is located in one of the arms of the cross. According to Jean Guillaume, this Italian design was replaced with the centrally located spiral staircase, similar to that at Blois, a design more compatible with the French preference for spectacular grand staircase
Château de Blois
The Royal Château de Blois is located in the city center of Blois at the Loir-et-Cher département in the Loire Valley, in France. The residence of several French kings, it is the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English from Orléans; the Château of Blois controlled the town of Blois and comprises several buildings. Construction of these buildings ended in the 17th century. There are four architectural styles represented at the Chateau of Blois which include: 13th-century Medieval fortress, The Louis XII Gothic wing, The Francois I Renaissance wing, the Gaston of Orleans Classical wing, it has 75 staircases although only 23 were used frequently. There are 100 bedrooms, with a fireplace in each. In 854 the Castle of Blois, known as Blisum castrum, was attacked by Vikings. In the 10th and 11th centuries; the Counts of Blois and landowners from Chartres and Champagne joined together to rebuild the fortress. Thibaud le Tricheur raised the “big tower” and by the end of the 12th century, the Counts contributions were finished by building the Saitn-Sauvuer.
The "Salle des États Généraux", built in the beginning of the 13th century, is one of the oldest seignoral rooms preserved in France, is the largest remaining civilian Gothic room. The room was used as a court of justice by the Counts of Blois and was used in 1576 and 1588 for the "États Généraux"; the medieval castle was purchased in 1391 by Louis I, Duke of Orléans, brother of Charles VI. It was inherited by their son, Charles d'Orléans the poet, taken prisoner at Agincourt in England. After twenty-five years as a hostage in England, Charles d'Orleans returned to his beloved Blois and helped rebuilt the chateau as a more commodious dwelling, it became the favourite royal residence and the political capital of the kingdom under Charles' son, King Louis XII. At the beginning of the 16th century, King Louis XII initiated a reconstruction of the entry of the main block and the creation of an Italian garden in terraced parterres where Place Victor Hugo stands today; this wing, of red brick and grey stone, forms the main entrance to the château, features a statue of the mounted king above the entrance.
Although the style is principally Gothic, as the profiles of mouldings, the lobed arches and the pinnacles attest, there are elements of Renaissance architecture present, such as a small chandelier. When Francis I took power in 1515, his wife Queen Claude had him refurbish Blois with the intention of moving from the Château d'Amboise to Blois. Francis initiated the construction of a new wing and created one of the period's most important libraries in the castle. After the death of his wife in 1524, he spent little time at Blois and the massive library was moved to the royal Château de Fontainebleau, it is this library that formed the royal library and the backbone of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. In this wing, the architecture and ornamentation are marked by Italian influence. At the centre is the monumental spiral staircase, covered with fine bas-relief sculptures and looking out onto the château's central court. Behind this wing is the façade of the Loges, characterised by a series of disconnected niches.
Driven from Paris during the French Wars of Religion, King Henry III lived at Blois and held the Estates-General convention there in 1576 and 1588. During the December 1588 convention the king had his arch-enemy, Henry I, Duke of Guise assassinated; the following day, the Duke's brother, Louis II, Cardinal of Guise was assassinated. After this, the castle was occupied by the first Bourbon monarch. On Henry's death in 1610, it became the place of exile for his widow, Marie de' Medici, when she was expelled from her son's court, Louis XIII. In 1626, King Louis XIII gave the Château of Blois to his brother and heir, Gaston duc d'Orléans as a wedding gift. In 1634, Gaston embarked on building a new castle in Blois; the task of developing this new castle was given to François Mansart. The rear of the courtyard is where Mansart began this ambitious project building with a main dwelling house; this house should have been the first building in a large-scale reconstruction project. The project was stopped in 1638 when Gaston's nephew was born, future Louis XIV.
With Louis XIV birth, Gaston was no longer eligible for financing. This wing makes up the rear wall of the court, directly opposite the Louis XII wing; the central section is composed of three horizontal layers where the superposition of Doric and Corinthian orders can be seen. By the time of the French Revolution the immense castle had been neglected for more than a hundred and thirty years; the content, many of its statues, royal coats of arms of the palace were removed. In a state of near total disrepair, Château of Blois was scheduled to be demolished but was given a reprieve as a military barracks. In 1840, the initiative of Prosper Mérimée placed the Chateau of Blois on the list of historical monuments; this allowed state funds to be used in the preservation. It was restored under the direction of the architect Félix Duban; the chateau is now used as a public museum. On view for visitors are the supposed poison cabinets of Catherine de' Medici. Most this room, the "chamber of secrets", had a much more banal purpose: exhibiting precious objects for guests.
Today, the château is a tourist attraction. Châteaux of the Loire Valley Gardens of the French Renaissance List of castles in France Château de Blois - official site Château de Blois - The official website of F