Already at the time of the Celts, Amboise was the capital of the Turons, after whom the province Touraine still has gotten its name, even in our days. In the year 1214 the King of France, Philipp-August, conquered the Touraine and turned Amboise into a fiefdom. In 1431 Louis de Amboise was accused of a conspiracy and condemned to death. Later he was pardoned, but his castle became confiscated. King Charles VII accomodated here part of his troops. When Louis XI got crowned after him, he made Amboise his domicile. That happened in 1461, when the Hundred Years War had stopped just about a decade ago.
The castles all still were constructions for defence, which Louis even fortified. But he ordered other changes in the building as well, as to make it a worthy living-place for his family. Charles VIII was born here and he was still connected to his birthplace, when he became king - even if his father had preferred a somewhat Spartan way of life. Charles now built a wing to the castle as well as he let build the chapel of St. Hubertus. Hubertus is the Saint of the hunters. Charles VIII had an accident at only 28 years of age, when he hit his head at the upper part of a doorway, which cost his life only a couple of hours later.

To the left the windows on the roof still are Gothic, in the wing to the right they are already inspired by the Renaissance.
His successor, Louis XII, ordered another wing to be built, but lost interest in that and continued building at the Castle of Blois. The next king, Francis I, finished the wing at Amboise, but his big interest was the erection of the Castle of Chambord. You can notice the change in architectural style even by comparing the wings. While the wing of Charles VIII still is built in late Gothic style, the other one definitely is inspired by the Renaissance. Francis I persuaded even Leonardo da Vinci to come to France and made him a gift - the Chateau du Clos Lucé, situated only a couple of hundred meters from Amboise Castle.
This universal genius spent his last couple of years in France and wanted to be buried in the chapel of the Castle of Amboise.

The Tumult at Amboise in the year 1560 was the first sign of the religious wars to come, when the Protestants tried to abduct the young King Francis II. But the rebellion was put down in a very cruel and bloody way.
Francis II died at the age of only 16 years due to the aftereffect of an otitis. Nevertheless he had been married for two years with - another of history's tragic characters - Mary Stuart. Those both had been elected for each other, when Francis had been only 4 years of age. Of course the ulterior motive had been, that France through this marriage first would be able to get onto the Scottish throne, and as a consequence of this even would have claims for the English one.
But now back to the history of the castle. In the 17th century it served as a jail, later it was passed on by Louis XV to Choiseul, who was the favorite of Madame de Pompadour. Louis XVI bought it back, but even sold it again, so that the castle after several detours came back into the property of the House of Orléans, whose possessor it still is today.
If you approach the castle from the south, from the parking place, when visiting it, you shall first see the robust Heurtault-tower, which makes you aware of how strong the defence of the castle was. To get to the entrance you have to climb a long ramp, because the castle ist built on a large rock. The first view after you have entered is the Hubertus-chapel, the next sight are the big green areas between the buildings.
A bust of da Vinci dominates the central part of the park, behind it you can see the bushes of boxwood, cut into perfect spheres, and the old wall of the fortress, which is rather ramshackled on the east side. But to the north the wall drops down very steeply to the Loire and you have a wonderful view over the bridge, that leads to the northern part of the city.


During the tour through the castle the visitors are supposed to follow arrows, showing them the right direction. This is not only very easy, but also practical, as there won't be any crowding. I have even seen, that a guard wouldn't let pass anyone in the "wrong" direction, which actually is the reason for the arrows. The brochure of reference, which one gets at the entrance is very detailed and not only explains which room you are in, but also the different items of the exposition, and for the furniture the approximate date of when it was built.

The tour starts in the Gothic part of the castle, in the Guards' Room. Besides the ribbed vault, which you should notice, there is a collection of swords, shields and halberds, as well as a suit of armour from the 16th century. Even the chests and the dining table are from that time. This room served of course mainly for control, because not everyone had access to the royal chambers.
By passing a battlement, from which one could overlook and control the Loire, one comes to the room of the Noble Guard. Even this room has a ribbed vault, which is carried up by a sole central pillar. This was the second spot of control, because from here one can come to the upper floor - into the private rooms of the souvereign.
Here the kings had their room of furnishing, a store room for furniture not in use. The royal court at that time wasn't living in one place only, but moved from castle to castle - and often the furniture was taken on the road as well.

In the Drummer's Hall there is a Gothic raised chair with the emblem of Cardinal Georges de Amboise, who, a good half millennium ago, espoused King Charles VIII to Anne de Bretagne. It is quite clear, that such treasures not exactly were treated as if they had been some IKEA-furniture. On the wall there is a Flemish tapestry, showing an event, that took place another seventeen hundred years ago. The picture shows, how the wife and the daughter of the Persian King Darius ask Alexander the Great to spare the King's life.

The Council Chamber, the biggest room in the castle, was heated be means of two fireplaces, of which one still is Gothic style, whereas the other already was built in Renaissance style. The apartments of the king are also furnished in Renaissance style. In the following room of the Cupbearer you can see those Italian tables - which can be enlarged by drawing out a board - which have substituted the large Gothic oaktables. Furthermore the fork came into use during the Renaissance, even if it at first did not become very common.
Through even more Renaissance chambers, like the sleeping room of Henry II and the Hall of the Franciscans one comes to the apartments of Louis-Philipp.

Louis-Philipp became king in 1830, but to avoid quarrels about the succession to the throne, he didn't become the King of France, but the King of the French. Interestingly enough it was the Bourbones, who between themselves fought for the royal dignity. When Charles X resigned in the year 1830, he did it to help his grandson Henry of Chambord onto the throne, because he came from the elder line of the Bourbones. But Louis-Philipp supported the liberal ideas of that time and by doing this he got the support of the people. But before he became king, he managed to beget children all over Europe, from northern Finland all the way down to Italy. Maybe that was an influence of the liberal ideas ...?
The music chamber of Louis-Philipp

From the chambers of Louis-Philipp there should be mentioned a painting, showing the Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. She was the spouse of Duke Ferdinand-Philipp of Orléans, who in his turn was the son of Louis-Philipp. Or, in other words, she is the daughter-in-law of the King, with the Count of Paris, the King's grandson, on her arm. It was she, who introduced the German tradition of a Christmas tree in France.

Abd el Kader, Emir of Mascara, capitulated at the French subjugation of Algeria in 1847 and was led to Amboise castle, where he had to live four years as a prisoner. But one shouldn't imagine that confinement as too bad - he was allowed to bring 80 of his minions to the castle ... And with this episode the last major chapter of the history of the castle was written.

Bernhard Kauntz, Wolvertem 2008

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last update: 20.8.2008 by