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The Château De Cheverny, A Concentration of Treasures to Admire

Posted by Michel on June 1, 2021

The castles of Blois and Chambord will undoubtedly be on your itinerary if you are planning a cultural vacation to Sologne shortly. A few minutes’ walk from these treasures is the Château de Cheverny, which will enchant visitors with its unique style. It is one of the best maintained Loire châteaux, having been in the same family for six centuries with only two interruptions. Returning to the history of the Grande Mademoiselle’s “enchanted palace.”

An essentially family story

Diane de Poitiers, King Henri II’s mistress, inherited the first stronghold built in the 16th century. She immediately sold it to the previous owner’s son, whose descendants, Henri Hurault and his wife, erected the current Château de Cheverny between 1624 and 1630. Jacques Bougier, an architect, supports them and barely leaves a few vestiges of the original ruins. The countess died in 1635, and Henri Hurault died in 1648, leaving the mansion in the hands of their two surviving daughters (out of the seven children conceived).

The interior decoration did not change until 1650, when Elisabeth, Marquise de Montglas, purchased her portion from her sister Anne-Marguerite and commissioned Blois painter Jean Monier to decorate the mansion. Many nobility who liked to go to Cheverny for lavish banquets at the time considered it a success. Note Elisabeth’s frequent visits from a friend, the “Grande Mademoiselle,” who is none other than Gaston d’Orléans’s daughter and who characterized Cheverny as a “enchanted mansion.”

Cheverny will be sold on a regular basis over the next century and a half, as Elisabeth’s offspring lose interest. Anne-Victor Hurault, Marquis de Vibraye, did not purchase her ancestors’ property until 1825, when Julien Guillot gave it to her. The castle, which was previously possessed by Jean-Nicolas Dufort de Cheverny during the Revolution, is saved.

Since then, the Château de Cheverny has remained the property of the Marquis de Vibraye, and it is no longer undergoing extensive renovations. It is still lavishly equipped and ornamented. With 300,000 tourists in 2013, it became one of the most popular Loire chateaux.

Elegant architecture

How could anybody miss the similarities between Cheverny’s castle and Moulinsart’s, which has sheltered the childhoods of all those who love Tintin’s adventures? It is sufficient to remove the two wings at the castle’s ends to produce a carbon replica of Captain Haddock’s house, which originally appeared in “The Secret of the Unicorn.” Thank you very much, Hergé!

Aside from this nice wink, the castle is made of Bourré stone, which comes from the Cher Valley’s eponymous settlement. Its unique property is that limestone hardens and whitens with age, which explains the whiteness of Cheverny’s façade.

The south front is embellished with “antique” busts of Roman emperors, a popular technique since the Renaissance. The castle’s overall design was influenced by the Luxembourg Palace in Paris, but its domed angles and stone embellishment in superimposed lines are a unique element of traditional French architecture.

To discover at the Château de Cheverny

The castle has been open to the public since 1922 and has numerous unique treasures. Here are a few examples:

  • The staircase leading to the apartments is in a classic style with a straight rise (and not in a spiral as in Chambord and Blois), under a barrel vault, and decorated with country sculptures (garlands, fruit) associated with warlike symbols.
  • The dining room, whose solid oak furniture is carved with the Hurault arms, as is Cordoba leather stretched over the upper part of the walls, is in a classic style with a straight rise (rather than a spiral as in Chambord and Blois), under a barrel vault, and decorated with country sculptures (garlands, fruit) associated with warlike symbols. There are also 34 painted wood panels (by Jean Mosnier) that tell the Don Quixote narrative. The magnificence of this room is completed by the colossal fireplace, which is topped with a painting of Henri IV.
  • The huge living room has nothing on the others and features several pictures, not only of the Hurault family but also of Anne of Austria, Gaston d’Orléans, Louis XIII, and Cosme de Medici.
  • The library houses almost 2,000 books, while the weapons room, the castle’s largest chamber, houses a remarkable collection of weaponry and armor, as well as the famed Gobelins tapestry. The furniture in these two rooms, including Regency armchairs, a trunk belonging to Henri IV, and a clock known as “with the three secrets,” will pique the visitor’s curiosity once again.

Similar wonders may be found in each room, each of which is worth a visit in and of itself. The French-style garden that adorns the 100-hectare park is also not to be overlooked, especially because it frames a six-kilometer-long roadway that leads to the castle!

The estate is further enhanced with an English garden, a vegetable patch, a trophy chamber with approximately 2,000 deer antlers, a kennel for approximately a hundred purebred dogs, and an orangery. Because of the creek that runs through it, you may explore it on foot or by boat, depending on your preference.

Your stay at the Château de Cheverny will undoubtedly be a happy memory of your holiday. Inside and out, there are several sites of interest, so plan on spending a whole day seeing them. With any luck, you’ll run with the Marquis and Marquise de Vilbraye, whose chambers may still be found in the castle’s right wing!

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