France // The Loire //

Château de Langeais

Twenty-three kilometres west of Tours, the small riverside town of Langeais huddles in the shadow of its forbidding château, which was built to stop any incursions up the Loire by the Bretons. This threat ended with the marriage of Charles VIII and Duchess Anne of Brittany in 1491, which was celebrated in the castle, and a diptych of the couple portrays them looking less than joyous at their union – Anne had little choice in giving up her independence. The event is also recreated in waxworks in the wedding hall. The main appeal here is in the way that the interior has resisted modernization, to give a genuine sense of what life would have been like in the fifteenth century. There are fascinating tapestries, some rare paintings, cots and beds and a number of chaires (seigneurial chairs). The banqueting hall has a large U-shaped table, piled high with imitation food, while in the huge marriage chamber, the gilded and bejewelled wedding coffer of Charles and Anne is carved with a miniature scene of the Annunciation and figures of the apostles, the wise and foolish virgins depicted on the lid.