Catherine de Medici and the chateau of Chenonceau
« I got the girl without a dowry! » complains Francis I when Pope Paul III refused to pay the dowry which had been promised by the previous Pope Clément VII for the wedding of Catherine de Medici with the second son of Francis I, duke of Orleans (the future Henry II).
Catherine de Medici: an Italian Queen of France
As Catherine was the heir of the powerful Medici family from Florence, she became part of a strategic alliance for a reconciliation between France and Italy. After the death of Francis I in 1547, Catherine, wife of Henry II, became Queen of France.
Chaumont and Chenonceau!
Besides her active life at the Court of France and the birth of her children (Francis II, Elizabeth de France, Claude de France, Louis de France, and also Charles IX, Henry III, Marguerite de France…), Catherine de Medici also dealt with the vast domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire. After the death of her french husband, King Henry II, she decided to take the chateau of Chenonceau from Diane de Poitiers, the king’s mistress and rival to Catherine.
Diane was at the origin of the building of the Renaissance style chateau and had a garden created (named “the garden of Diane”). Later, Catherine de Medici decided to have a gallery built over the river making this chateau unique and delightful. Another garden was added to the first one (named “Catherine’s garden”). Two other buildings were completed during that period of time.
Catherine also expanded the vineyards around the estate, which is now a famous AOC wine (Touraine Chenonceaux). Wine tasting is possible at the chateau inside the cellar (cave des domes) or in the wine estate nearby (la cave du Père Auguste).
The festivities organised by Catherine de Medici at the chateau of Chenonceau
Catherine de Medici, regent of the kingdom and Queen Mother was an essential character during the religious wars. The three main festivities she organised were strategic and had a political objective, linked to the heavy task ok keeping the Valois Monarchy on the throne.
A great celebration was organised in honour of the young king Francis II and his wife Mary Stuart in 1560 after the failed conspiracy by the Huguenots (hanged at the balustrades of the royal chateau of Amboise… ) to overthrow the young king.
The second celebration took place in 1563, once the new garden of Chenonceau was completed, to honour Catherine’s second son King Charles IX. It was a way to celebrate peace established between the Catholic and Huguenot parties at that time.
“The naked breast ball”
The third party is known as….”the naked breast ball!” It took place in 1577 inside the newly built gallery over the Cher river. The 60 most beautiful women of the court arrived simply draped with a transparent veil. Catherine de Medici wanted to show that her third son, King Henry III was not only interested in his entourage of young men but also in women…. The party was grandiose but the king did not seem attracted to the feminine beauties.