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Fit for Royalty: Château Cheverny in the Loire Valley of France

Updated on July 8, 2017
FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway welcomes the opportunity to travel both stateside and abroad and especially enjoys documenting her fun through photography.

Classic French Architecture in the Beautiful Loire Valley

The south facade demonstrates rigid symmetry that is characteristic of the classical Louis XIII style.  It is softened somewhat by different roof styles -- including domes and bell towers.
The south facade demonstrates rigid symmetry that is characteristic of the classical Louis XIII style. It is softened somewhat by different roof styles -- including domes and bell towers. | Source

Château Cheverny: A Site to Behold in the French Countryside

If I died tomorrow, just send me to the Château Cheverny in the Loire Valley of France. Well, to be honest, Versailles in Paris would be my first pick, but the droves of tourists would quickly get on my nerves.

On a recent trip to Paris, my family and I took a day trip to four châteaux, traveling via high-speed train across the French countryside to the city of Tours. It is located less than an hour northeast of Tours by car.

Ahh, the Library

The library features First Empire furniture and 2,000 books, including complete collections.
The library features First Empire furniture and 2,000 books, including complete collections. | Source

The History of Châteaux in the Loire Valley

The land mass surrounding the Loire River has been called "The Garden of France," and it is dotted by more than 1,000 châteaux.1

Their spires, domes and massive walls of stone stretch to the heavens. For just a moment they can make you imagine you've stepped into a fairytale.

French châteaux were predominantly built between the10th and 17th centuries. While there is no official listing of French châteaux, some are more prominent than others for historical, architectural, or ownership reasons.

Those that were built later in this time frame often exemplify the ideals of the Renaissance and Age of Reason.

This craftsman-signed Louis XIV chest is inlaid with wood, brass, and red tortoiseshell.
This craftsman-signed Louis XIV chest is inlaid with wood, brass, and red tortoiseshell. | Source

Château Cheverny: Less than an hour from Tours, France

A markerCheateau de Cheverny, Cheverny, France -
Château de Cheverny, 1 Avenue du Château, 41700 Cheverny, France
get directions

Paris Becomes the Center of Influence

The Loire Valley was the center of power in France until the mid-1500s, when King Francis I began to shift it back to the city of Paris.2

However, most of the noble born remained in the Loire Valley until King Louis XIV ascended the throne and began to personally rule in 1661.3

The Sun King expanded the Palace of Versailles in Paris and gradually moved the court there, leaving the Loire Valley as primarily a summer retreat for the well-heeled and politically connected.

Even as the center of influence shifted to Paris, some wealthy Frenchmen continued to build expansive châteaux in the countryside. Unfortunately, the radical social and political turmoil of French Revolution would later see many of them ransacked by rioting peasants as part of the Great Fear of 1789.4 Peasants sought to destroy legal papers and other indications of the age-old feudal system.

The Apprenctices' Garden: The North Facade of the Château

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The north side faces the Apprentices' Garden and the Orangery.An ornamental garden was added in 2006 where a formal French garden once was.  It joins the Château and the Orangery.Tourists can enjoy the expansive grounds by foot or by renting a golf cart.  The design of Château Cheverny was inspired by the Luxembourg Palace in Paris.The Apprentices' Garden features a variety of colorful flora.A bee on an allium rosenbachianum (an ornamental onion).
The north side faces the Apprentices' Garden and the Orangery.
The north side faces the Apprentices' Garden and the Orangery. | Source
An ornamental garden was added in 2006 where a formal French garden once was.  It joins the Château and the Orangery.
An ornamental garden was added in 2006 where a formal French garden once was. It joins the Château and the Orangery. | Source
Tourists can enjoy the expansive grounds by foot or by renting a golf cart.
Tourists can enjoy the expansive grounds by foot or by renting a golf cart. | Source
The design of Château Cheverny was inspired by the Luxembourg Palace in Paris.
The design of Château Cheverny was inspired by the Luxembourg Palace in Paris. | Source
The Apprentices' Garden features a variety of colorful flora.
The Apprentices' Garden features a variety of colorful flora. | Source
A bee on an allium rosenbachianum (an ornamental onion).
A bee on an allium rosenbachianum (an ornamental onion). | Source

Château Cheverny: Fit for Royalty, Inhabited by Lesser Men

The lands that are now part of Château Cheverny were acquired by Henry Hurault from his father, Philip. The elder Hurault served as chancellor for two kings: Henry III and Henry IV.5

Henry Hurault subsequently served as a viscount to King Louis XIII, helping to oversee public spending and financial matters.6

Classic Cheverny elegance: 19th century solid oak sideboard in the dining room.
Classic Cheverny elegance: 19th century solid oak sideboard in the dining room. | Source

A Crime Against the State

The property that is now Cheverny held an 11th century castle-fort. (Parts of the old structure are still visible on the grounds today; they are part of the outbuildings and are used for upkeep of the existing castle.)

Unfortunately, that land and the ancient castle upon it were seized by the Crown due to Hurault's fraud of the State. The property was then gifted to Diane de Poitiers, mistress of King Henry II.

The lady, however, preferred the newer 16th century accommodations of Château de Chenonceau. The Hurault property was therefore sold back to Philippe.

In 1599, when Philip died, his son Henry Hurault acquired it.

The scandalous part of the story involved the situation that led to the construction of the 17th century château.

This beautiful tree is over 400 years old.
This beautiful tree is over 400 years old. | Source

Early Scandals: Why Château Cheverny Was Built

In 1588, himself only 13, Henry Hurault married Françoise Chabot when she was merely 11 years old. (This was not uncommon at the time.) Then, he quickly went off to battle.7

Upon inheriting the ancient castle-fort from his father in 1599, the younger Hurault kept his bride at the old property, hoping to keep her faithful.

However, as the years wore on the young lady developed a crush on a page boy (a male attendant). The cuckold husband eventually caught his wife in the arms of her lover. (By this time, she was 25 years old.)

The page boy attempted to escape by jumping from a window, breaking his leg in the process. Hurault finished him off with his sword, then turned to his wife, Françoise. He offered her an ugly choice.

Gilded Gold

The Neo-Renaissance style fireplace is gilded in gold and features a bust of King Henry IV.
The Neo-Renaissance style fireplace is gilded in gold and features a bust of King Henry IV. | Source

Forced Choice

The murdering husband offered his adulterous wife a forced choice of "suicide" by poison or by a sword. Believing it the lesser of the two evils, Françoise chose poison.

As punishment, Hurault was banished from the city of Blois, and he lived in exhile at Cheverny.

The Grand Salon: Elegance Defined

The Grand Salon features family portraits, artwork, an 18th century harp that still works, and furniture signed by the cabinetmakers to royalty.
The Grand Salon features family portraits, artwork, an 18th century harp that still works, and furniture signed by the cabinetmakers to royalty. | Source

He Got the House

Hurault later remarried, and in an attempt to erase the past he had the 11th century castle-fort torn down. The present building — the beautiful Château Cheverny — was constructed in its place between between 1624 and 1630.

So there you have it: Château Cheverny was built because a young wife was caught cheating on her husband. She lost everything. He got the house.

Keeping the Château in the Family

The newly built Cheverny was passed down through the Hurault family until 1802. At the height of the French Revolution, the family sold the château. Then, in 1824, when the aristocracy was once again in vogue, they bought it back again.

It has remained in the family since. Today Cheverny is owned by the Marquis de Vibraye, a direct descendant of the original owners. It is one of only a few privately owned châteaux in the region.

In 1922, they opened its doors to the public, one of the first châteaux to do so. It is one of the most popular châteaux in the Loire Valley for tourists.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The 1994 wedding dress of the current owner is on display in the Bridal Chamber.The first rocking horses from the time of Napoleon III can be found in the Nursery.The NurseryThe Birth Chamber features a mahogany empire-style cradle.
The 1994 wedding dress of the current owner is on display in the Bridal Chamber.
The 1994 wedding dress of the current owner is on display in the Bridal Chamber. | Source
The first rocking horses from the time of Napoleon III can be found in the Nursery.
The first rocking horses from the time of Napoleon III can be found in the Nursery. | Source
The Nursery
The Nursery | Source
The Birth Chamber features a mahogany empire-style cradle.
The Birth Chamber features a mahogany empire-style cradle. | Source

Château Cheverny's Classic Architecture

The architect behind Château Cheverny's elegance was Jacques Bougier (Boyer). He used soft stone from the Bourre Quarries of the Cher valley. This stone has the unique property of becoming much stronger and whiter with age.8

Bougier also used rigid symmetry of the classical Louis XIII style, softening the design somewhat through the use of contrasting roof styles — including domes and bell towers.

The use of various styles of roofing give Château Cheverny a look that is distinctive from other castles in the Loire Valley. The tendency towards visual symmetry later became synonymous with classic French architecture.

Wool and Silk Tapestry

The château boasts this beautiful 17th century wool and silk tapestry depicting the rape of Helen of Troy.  Expensive tapestries line many of the walls from floor to ceiling.
The château boasts this beautiful 17th century wool and silk tapestry depicting the rape of Helen of Troy. Expensive tapestries line many of the walls from floor to ceiling. | Source

Château Cheverny's Furnishings: Eye Candy

Cheverny is filled with original art work, family portraits, and furniture signed by the prominent craftsmen. The interior is true eye candy.

Some of the highlights include:

  • A Dutch 18th century solid bronze silverplated chandelier that weighs more than 220 pounds (100 kg)
  • A Nursery filled with the first rocking horses of the era
  • 17th century floor-to-ceiling Flemish tapestries
  • An 18th century harp and a regulator clock from the Louis XV period — both of which are still fully functional
  • 34 painted wooden panels that illustrate the story of Don Quixote.

The Kennels of Cheverny

Cheverny is also known for being an important hunting venue. From April through September 15, tourists can witness the ritual 5 p.m. feeding of 100 or more hounds. The dogs are half English foxhound and half French Poitou. They are specially bred for stamina and large feet.

Piles of raw meat are brought in front of the dogs for their once-a-day feeding. The hounds wait patiently for the trainer's command to begin their free-for-all. During the rest of the year (September 16 - March 31), the feeding follows a different schedule.9

Although the dogs were beautiful, I don't like the idea of fox, deer, or wild boar hunting, so I tried to stay away from the spectacle.

The Famous Hunting Dogs of Cheverny

Hunting dogs of Cheverny are half English foxhound and half French Poitou.
Hunting dogs of Cheverny are half English foxhound and half French Poitou. | Source

Château Cheverny: The Connection to Tintin

Hergé, the Belgian creator of the cartoon The Adventures of Tintin, used the château as inspiration for Marlinspike Hall, the home of Tintin's friend, Captain Haddock. His drawings omit the outermost domed portions of the building.

There is a permanent exhibition on site which honors the connection between Tintin and the chateau.

During WWII, this gal hid from the Nazis at Château Cheverny in the Orangery.
During WWII, this gal hid from the Nazis at Château Cheverny in the Orangery. | Source

Château Cheverny Fun Fact: Mona Lisa Was Once a Guest

During World War II, the Mona Lisa was hidden on the property of Château Cheverny, along with other famous works of art.10 The priceless painting was moved six times total before her homecoming to the Louvre in June 1945.

The Louvre dismantled its esteemed collection of paintings, sculptures and other works of art and scattered them to châteaux throughout the French countryside. Château owners volunteered to host the masterpieces to prevent the Nazis from plundering the nation's art collection. Nazis plundered museums in European capitals that they occupied, such as Warsaw and Prague.

Average Temperatures in the Loire Valley

(click column header to sort results)
Month  
Average Temperature  
Average Rainfall  
January
4 C / 38 F
62.1 mm / 2.4 in
February
5 C / 40 F
50.8 mm / 2.0 in
March
6 C / 43 F
51.7 mm / 2.0 in
April
10 C / 49 F
44.6 mm / 1.8 in
May
14 C / 56 F
54.4 mm / 2.1 in
June
16 C / 61 F
41.2 mm / 1.6 in
July
18 C / 64 F
43.8 mm / 1.7 in
August
17 C / 63 F
44.9 mm / 1.8 in
September
15 C / 59 F
52.2 mm / 2.1 in
October
12 C / 53 F
59.6 mm / 2.3 in
November
7 C / 45 F
64.5 mm / 2.5 in
December
4 C / 39 F
63.4 mm / 2.5 in

As If You Were There: Take a Video Tour of Château Cheverny

Notes

1Wikipedia. "Loire." Accessed July 11, 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loire_River.

2Wikipedia. "Châteaux of the Loire Valley." Last modified February 22, 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chateaux_of_the_Loire_valley.

3Steingrad, Elena. "Biography." Louis XIV - the Sun King: Louis XIV - the Sun King. Accessed July 11, 2013. http://www.louis-xiv.de/index.php?id=31.

4World History Project. "The "Great Fear" - WorldHistoryProject.org." Accessed July 11, 2013. http://worldhistoryproject.org/1789/7/20/the-great-fear.

5Wikipedia. "Philippe Hurault de Cheverny." Last modified March 21, 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippe_Hurault_de_Cheverny.

6Travora Networks. "Cheverny Facts." NileGuide. Last modified 2013. http://www.nileguide.com/destination/cheverny-france/overview/local-info.

7Broadhurst, Ken. "Living the life in Saint-Aignan: Cheverny's sordid past." Living the life in Saint-Aignan. Last modified April 2, 2012. http://ckenb.blogspot.com/2012/04/chevernys-sordid-past.html.

8Chateau de Cheverny. "The Tour." Official Pamphlet of the Chateau Cheverny. English translation. No date.

9Dawn Advertiser. "The Secrets Of Marlinspike Hall." The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser. Last modified January 5, 2012. http://dawnadvertiser.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/the-secrets-of-marlinspike-hall-2/.

10Barchfield, Jenny. "Exhibit reveals how the Louvre kept 'Mona Lisa,' other masterpieces safe during WWII." USA TODAY. Last modified July 9, 2009. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2009-05-06-louvre-war-exhibit_N.htm.

Suits of Armor and Weaponry

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A 16th century suit of parade armor weighing 55 pounds (25 kg).The Arms Room displays several suits of armor from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.In the 19th century, the largest rooms in large estate homes were typically devoted to weapons.
A 16th century suit of parade armor weighing 55 pounds (25 kg).
A 16th century suit of parade armor weighing 55 pounds (25 kg). | Source
The Arms Room displays several suits of armor from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.
The Arms Room displays several suits of armor from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. | Source
In the 19th century, the largest rooms in large estate homes were typically devoted to weapons.
In the 19th century, the largest rooms in large estate homes were typically devoted to weapons. | Source

© 2013 FlourishAnyway

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image
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      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      JamaGenee - Thank you for the kind comment and for sharing. It was a gorgeous place to visit.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 3 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      What a gorgeous place to visit (or be buried in)! Great photos!

      But enough with the exclamation points. I knew the Louvre had spirited away its art to secret locations ahead of the Nazis, but wasn't aware of the specific locations where Lady Lisa - "mona" means "lady" in Italian - was hidden. How interesting!

      Upped and shared! ;D

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Crafty - Thanks for reading and commenting. It was a beautiful place, and the history really came alive for us once I did the research for this hub (so I knew what I had been looking at in context).

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      What an interesting and beautiful Hub. I love the tapestries from that time period. That's so neat to see all of those dogs getting along with one another in such a tight space.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      DDE - Thank you for taking the time to comment and to read. Cheverny was a beautiful place to visit indeed. Have a great day!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Château Cheverny in the Loire Valley of France looks stunning and sounds a great place to visit, you have created such an interesting hub voted up and useful,

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      ChristinS - Thanks for visiting. It is a fantastic place, eye candy indeed! Hope you get to visit one day.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 4 years ago from Midwest

      Wow, stunning. Your hubs are beautiful and so informative. I want to visit this place now :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      KoffeeKlatch Gals - Thanks for reading and commenting. It was such a beautiful place, but like you I do feel sorry for cheating Françoise.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 4 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Amazing article. The history of this castle is fascinating. Poor girl, I think I would have chosen poison too.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Peggy - Thank you for readinding, sommenting and sharing. I'd love to go to Germany too. This recent trip made the travel bug so much worse!

    • rose-the planner profile image

      rose-the planner 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario-Canada

      I suppose there could have been better ways of acquiring the house, lol! This was an amazing article and it is definitely HOTD material! It is so insightful and informative. I found the historical facts fascinating. Your images are truly awesome. This is one place we did not visit when we were in France, perhaps next time. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up)

      -Rose

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hit all the up votes on this except funny. Wow! What an amazing place! Thanks for detailing the history and showing us so many beautiful photos. The video was worth the time to watch also. I may never visit in person but now because of your hub have an idea of what this Chateau looks like. The richness and elegance of living like that is hard to imagine. I saw several castles in Germany that were also grand and so beyond our normal way of living today. Thanks for this detailed look! Sharing and pinning.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Nell - So glad you enjoyed this. O the double standards. Poor Francoise -- sure hope that page boy was worth the dear price she paid for her indiscretions. Poison is a slow and tortuous death whereas stabbing may have been quick at least. It would be justice if she would haunt it now. Thank you for readiing, commenting and sharing.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

      Hi, Wow! what a great hub! fascinating history too, typical male, he got the house! lol! what did he expect after all those years? he should have come back to his wife earlier! lol! voted up and shared, nell

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Elias - Thanks so much for reading, voting, and sharing. It is a lovely place to visit with a bit of sinister history that makes things even more intriguing.

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 4 years ago from Athens, Greece

      Wonderful place to visit and an fascinating tour! The history of the Château was really interesting and your pictures very beautiful. Voted and pinned.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Thanks, Bill. The chateaux are utterly worth the train ride to visit them. I just wish we had had more time to see even more of them. I especially appreciate the kudos on the photos. My 13 year-old daughter is a budding photographer and took some of them. Thanks for reading, voting and sharing.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Crystal - thank you for reading and commenting. It was a truly beautiful chateau that I wish we could have spent even more time at. A very memorable trip indeed.

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      Looks like a great place to visit, absolutely breathtaking. Thanks for sharing.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Wow, just stunning. Will have to add this to my list of places to visit in France. Loved the history with the Mona Lisa, fascinating. Wonderful photos. Voted up, shared, etc...

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Deeda - I'm glad you agree. Thanks for reading and commenting. Vive la France!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Dawa - Thanks for the encouragement. It indeed is a splendid place, one well worth the trip. I'm glad you found my representation accurate and inspiration enough to want to return.

    • profile image

      Dawa 4 years ago

      A beautifully written and informative account of a magnificent palace and gardens. You captured the natural and architectural beauty of the chateau, making it come to life with the personal and political history of the time. I've been to Chateau Cheverny, and it is every bit as enthralling as you say it is. Makes me want to return!

    • profile image

      Deeda 4 years ago

      I think my favorite chateau - touring de France!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      europewalker - I'm so glad you enjoyed this. I hope you are able to visit it one day. We enjoyed the high speed train experience out to Tours, too. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • europewalker profile image

      europewalker 4 years ago

      I would love to visit this chateau. The photos are beautiful, really enjoyed the video. Interesting read, voted up.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      purl3agony - Thank you for taking a look. It was so very beautiful, and I am so intrigued by the story behind it. Versailles is definitely by comparison more over-the-top, dripping with elegance, but you'd expect that being the royal stomping grounds. I do hope you are able to visit both someday!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      pstraubie48 - Thank you for taking a look. It was a splendid place indeed. That little morsel of sordid history was oddly left out of the official brochure. Huh. Hiding murder and forced suicide? Poor Francoise.

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 4 years ago from USA

      Wow, the Château Cheverny looks beautiful and has a very interesting history. I love your photos of the garden. I have to put this on my list of places I dream of visiting :) Thanks for sharing this. Voted up!!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image
      Author

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      Mhatter99 - Thanks for reading and commenting. It is a beautiful place to visit.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Eye candy indeed...thanks for sharing this lovely adventure you had. Even though I know of some of the bizarre, is there a better word, things that happened in the far distant past I still am amazed to reread...a choice of suicide?? O, my.

      Thanks for sharing. Angels are on the way ps

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for the informative tour.