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.
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.