Catherine de Medici and the chateau of Chenonceau
« I got the girl without a dowry! » complains François the 1st 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 François the 1st, Henri of Orleans (the future Henri the 2nd).
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 François the 1st in 1547, Catherine, wife of Henri the 2nd became Queen of France.
Chaumont and Chenonceau!
Besides her active role at the Court of France and her pregnancies, Catherine de Medici also dealt with the vast domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire. After the death of her husband, King Henri the 2nd, 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 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, 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.
A great celebration was organised in honour of the young king François the 2nd and his wife Mary Stuart in 1560 after the failed conspiracy by the Protestants (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 the 9th. It was a way to celebrate peace established between the Catholic and Protestant 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 wanted to show that her third son, King Henri the 3rd 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.