The terrible tragedy of Charles’ death threw a pall over the Château and the town. Anne was only twenty-one. Already heartbroken having lost seven children to early deaths, she was devastated. She couldn’t wait to leave Amboise and went home to her beloved Brittany.
Alas. When you are high born your destiny is mapped out. She had to go through a second marriage with a cousin of Charles who reigned as Louis XII.
It was also Louis’ second marriage. Because France needed Brittany for security reasons his first marriage was annulled so that he could marry Anne. She, understandably, refused to live in Amboise which held too many sad memories for her so she and Louis lived in Château Blois.
Not only did Louis marry Charles’ widow, he carried on with the improvements at Château Amboise which Charles had begun. He also carried on Charles’ claim to Naples. Like Charles he became, for a short while, King of Naples.
Louis and Anne had four stillborn sons and two daughters. Anne died in 1514. Louis followed her a year later. At her marriage to Charles age 14, Anne was described as a young, rosy-cheeked girl. By the time of her marriage to Louis, aged 22, after seven pregnancies with no surviving children, she was described as pale-faced and wan. By the end of her life, at 36, she had been pregnant 14 times, from which only two children survived. Their elder daughter, Claude, married Louis’ cousin and heir, François of Angoulème. Brought up in Amboise, François retained a lifelong affection for his childhood home.
He reigned as François I. A cultured, intelligent, man he spoke Hebrew, Italian, Latin and Spanish. He loved dancing, music, archery, falconry, riding, hunting, jousting and tennis, He studied philosophy and theology and was fascinated with art, literature, poetry and science.
Before François, the royal palaces had only a few paintings and no sculptures. France’s magnificent art collection now at the Louvre began with him.
Determined to gain a foothold in Italy, François promised Pope Leo X authority over the Catholic Church in France in return for his authority over Naples.
Leo’s nephew Lorenzo II de’ Medici married Madeleine de La Tour d’Auvergne, Duchess of Urbino, Countess of Boulogne, a relative of François in Château Amboise. It was a double celebration. His wife Claude, daughter of Anne of Britany and Louis XII, had just given birth to a son named François.
Like Charles VIII, François was obsessed with all things Italian. His fascination with the Renaissance meant he was a generous patron of the arts and famously persuaded Leonardo da Vinci to leave Italy and live in Amboise. He refurbished one wing of Château Amboise and decorated the windows in the Italian style.
It was from Amboise that François set out to conquer Italy and achieved victory at the Battle of Marignano. He was twenty-one. Ten years later, he was not so successful at the Battle of Pavia and was taken prisoner. His second son Henri II would finally renounce France’s claims on Italy.
This was the age of Martin Luther who protested against the teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church of Rome. Protestants were called Huguenots in France. François was fairly tolerant of them until the night they managed to access his private apartments in the Château and nailed their grievances to his bedroom door just as Luther had nailed his on the door of his local church. François ordered brutal reprisals be carried out on the Huguenot Leaders but their punishments paled in comparison to what happened in 1560 when his grandson was on the throne.
François, like Charles VIII, wanted a palace like Alfonso’s. Instead of spending more time and money tinkering with Château Amboise he built new, grand, Renaissance Châteaux at Chambord and Fontainebleau after which he spent less time in Amboise although it remained an important staging post for royalty.
Francois I died in 1547. He was succeeded by his second son Henri II who married Catherine de Medici. It was her parents, Lorenzo II de Medici and Madeleine de La Tour d’ Auvergne, who got married at Château Amboise.
It was at the Château their children were raised with Mary Stuart, the child Queen of Scotland.
Henri II, like Charles VIII, died before his time in a tragic accident.
In 1560, his son King François II was sixteen years old. The previous year he had married Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. The Protestants, to air their grievances, planned to abduct the young couple from Château Amboise but the plot was foiled. The conspirators were executed in public and their corpses were hanged from the Château walls. The carnage was shocking. An understandable pall fell over the town and the Château fell out of favour with royalty. It was used a prison for a while. A huge part was destroyed by French Revolutionaries in the early 1800s.
Louise-Marie-Adelaïde, Duchess of Orleans, great-granddaughter of King Louis XIV (The Sun King) inherited Château Amboise in 1815. She gave it to her son, Louis-Philippe, when he became King in 1830. A cousin of the murdered King Louis XVI he left France in 1793 to escape the Terror and roamed Europe for twenty-one years. His father, who refused to leave France, paid with his life.
Louis-Philippe bought and demolished houses built against the castle walls to clear the ramparts and began restoring the Château intending it as a holiday home for his family. His study, bedroom and music room are still there.
Louis-Philippe somehow managed to survive seven assassination attempts. It would be romantic to think that the tunnels under the Château (one runs to the writer’s house) were excavated on his order in case more were to come.
It was the King’s son, the Duke of Aumale, who led the invasion of Algeria and took its leader, Emir Abdel Kadir prisoner in 1847. The Emir lived in honourable captivity in the Château for four years with his mother, wives, brothers, children, their tutors, caliphs and servants; in total, eighty-eight. Members of his entourage are buried in the gardens of the Chateau. The Emir was personally liberated by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte in 1852 and died in Damascus in 1883.
Louis-Philippe fell out of favour with the public when the economy deteriorated. Forced to abdicate following the Revolution of 1848, he lived in exile in England as an honoured guest of Queen Victoria in one of her Grace and Favour homes. Château Amboise was confiscated by the government. Until 1950, a law passed in 1886 banned all heirs of formerly reigning French dynasties from entering France. Heirs of Louis-Philippe were later given back control of Château Amboise and made a major effort to repair it.
During the German invasion of WWII, the Château suffered more damage. After the fall of Paris, Amboise witnessed a stream of refugees fleeing the enemy and French soldiers retreating. The Red Cross served 50,000 meals a day in Amboise.
French Resistance fighters who set up camp in the Château blew up the bridge between the Isle d’Or and the foot of the castle to prevent Germans crossing the Loire. Germans built a pontoon bridge which was replaced by a wooden bridge and a ferry. They set up camp on the island and bombarded the Château. When they managed to cross the Loire, despite the gun battery stationed between the Town Hall and the Loire and fierce resistance, they took the town which suffered severe damage.
German troops had also invaded the farm of Girardière and broke the roof tiles to install a machine gun. French soldiers, shot as they crossed the vineyards, are buried in the local cemetery. The Germans occupied the farm and stayed there a few days before entering the Château. They took the remaining Resistance Fighters as POWS.
The Château today is just one fifth of how it looked when Charles VIII lived there. It now belongs to the Saint Louis Foundation, presided over by His Grace, the Count of Paris, Henri d’Orleans, a fifth generation descendant of Louis-Philippe, the last King of France (King of the French). He is recognized as the legitimate claimant to the throne by French royalists.
Join us on a photography tour or masterclass. Click the link below for more details.