Château de Chenonceau is located near the small village of Chenonceaux in France and is one of the best-known chateaus of the Loire valley. It is special as it is built over the Cher River which appears to be a lake on calm days. It is also known for another speciality that it was built, maintained, protected, loved and fought for by a succession of women and it is popularly knowns as “the ladies’ chateau.”
Château de Chenonceau was built in the early 16th century by Thomas Bohier, Chamberlain to King Charles VIII of France, who had purchased the site and demolished an older castle that had stood there. His wife, Katherine Briçonnet supervised the construction. The castle was seized by King Francis I as a payment of unpaid debts but died shortly after acquiring it and it was passed on to his son Henry II.
The chateau was gifted by Henry II to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. She was a woman of taste and luxury and built a bridge across the River Cher and added the formal gardens. Henry II was killed in an accident in 1559 and his widow Catherine de’ Medici used to opportunity to drive his mistress out of the chateau.
She spent a fortune expanding and renovating the chateau. It was her that added the famous Italian Renaissance style two-story gallery that tops the bridge built by Diane. When Catherine died in 1589, the Château de Chenonceau went to her daughter in law, Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont, wife of King Henry III. The king was assassinated the same year and his widow transformed the chateau into a tomb and roamed around in mourning clothes.
She left the chateau to her niece who was only six years old at the time but was already betrothed to the four-year-old son of Henri IV and his mistress, and the future Duke of Vendôme. For the next hundred years, the chateau fell into decay as the Bourbons had little interest in the chateau.
The estate was then acquired by a wealthy squire named Claude Dupin. His wife, Louise Dupin used the chateau and founded a literary salon which attracted brilliant minds of the era including Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Fontenelle, the naturalist Buffon, and the playwright Marivaux. The mob almost destroyed the Château de Chenonceau during the French revolution and Louise Dupin was only able to save it by reminding the mob that it was the only bridge across the river for many miles.
In 1864 the chateau was acquired by a rich heiress Marguerite Pelouze. She began to restore it and completely renewed the interior. She spent so much money on the restoration and renovation that she found herself in such dire need of cash that she had to sell the estate. It was acquired by Henri Menier of the Menier family in 1913 and they still own it to this day.