The original fortress was destroyed by Louis XI in the mid-fifteenth century in revenge for the part its owner, Pierre d’Amboise, played in the “League of Public Weal”, an alliance of powerful nobles against the ever-increasing power of the monarch. But Pierre found his way back into the king’s favour, and with his son, Charles I of Amboise, built much of the quintessentially medieval castle that stands today. Proto-Renaissance design is more obvious in the courtyard, which today forms three sides of a square, the fourth side having been demolished in 1739 to improve the spectacular views over the river. Inside, the heavy nineteenth-century decor of the ground-floor rooms dates from the ownership of the Broglie family, but a few rooms on the first floor have been remodelled in Renaissance style. The large council chamber is particularly fine, with seventeenth-century majolica tiles on the floor and its walls adorned with wonderfully busy sixteenth-century tapestries showing the gods of each of the seven planets known at the time.
Catherine de Médicis forced Diane de Poitiers to hand over Chenonceau in return for the Château de Chaumont, 20km downstream from Blois. Diane got a bad deal, but this is still one of the lovelier châteaux.