The Château de Chenonceau is my personal favorite of the Loire Valley as it is built over a river, is absolutely stunning, and there is a whole soap opera around it! Many, many, many moons ago, King Henry II gave the chateau to his mistress Dian de Poitiers – who had kissed him when he was 7 and she was in her mid to late 20’s. This is the second Chateau that he would give Diane. She loved the place and was the unquestioned mistress of the castle, but ownership remained with the crown until 1555, when years of delicate legal maneuvers finally yielded possession to her. Henry’s wife, Catherine de’Medici, was not real pleased (as one wouldn’t be). The King had also given Diane the Royal Jewels too, so when he died Catherine forced Diane to exchange it for another chateau. Catherine spent a fortune on it and spectacular nigtime parties. These parties almost forced her into bankruptcy. When Catherine died she left it to Louise de Lorraine. When Louise’s husband King Henry III was assasinated she painted everything black, put up somber black tapestries stitched with skulls and crossbones, wore black and fell into a deep depression. There is so much more to know about this grand Chateau but I will leave it to you to read if you so wish HERE.
During World War I Gaston Menier, who bought the chateau in 1913, set up the gallery to be used as a hospital war. During the Second War the château was bombed by the Germans in June 1940. It was also a means of escaping from the Nazi Occupied Zone on one side of the River Cher to the “free” zone on the opposite bank. Occupied by the Germans, the château was bombed by the Allies on 7 June 1944, when the chapel was hit and its windows destroyed.
In 1951, the famous French chocolate making Menier family, entrusted the château’s restoration to Bernard Voisin, who brought the dilapidated structure and the gardens (ravaged in the Cher River flood in 1940) back to a reflection of its former glory.