A pleasant cycle ride from Blois, the little-visited Château de Beauregard, 7km south of Blois on the D956 to Contres, lies in the Forêt de Russy. It was – like Chambord – one of François I’s hunting lodges, but its transformation in the sixteenth century was one of beautification rather than aggrandizement. It was added to in the seventeenth century and the result is sober and serene, very much at ease in its manicured geometric park.
The highlight of the château is a richly decorated, long portrait gallery, whose floor of Delft tiling depicts an army on the march. The walls are entirely panelled with 327 portraits of kings, queens and great nobles, including European celebrities such as Francis Drake, Anne Boleyn and Charles V of Spain. All of France’s kings are represented, from Philippe VI (1328–50), who precipitated the Hundred Years’ War, to Louis XIII (1610–43), who occupied the throne when the gallery was created. Kings, nobles and executed wives alike are given equal billing – except for Louis XIII, whose portrait is exactly nine times the size of any other.
It’s worth strolling down through the grounds to the sunken Jardin des Portraits, a Renaissance-influenced creation by contemporary landscaper Gilles Clément, who was responsible for Paris’s futuristic Parc André Citroën. It could be better tended, but the garden’s formal arrangement – by colour of flower and foliage – is fascinating.