We decided to visit one of the best know castles in the valley first. The Château de Chenonceau is an
architectural mixture of late Gothic and early Renaissance, Château de Chenonceau. It receives around 1,300,000 million visitors a year.
The people who kept the castle safe:
Katherine Briçonnet (ca. 1494–1526) was a French noblewoman, who was influential in designing the Château de Chenonceau between 1513 and 1521, taking important architectural decisions while her husband was away fighting in the Italian wars.
In 1547, Henry II offered the château as a gift to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, who became fervently attached to the château along the river. In 1555 she commissioned Philibert de l'Orme to build the arched bridge joining the château to its opposite bank. Diane then oversaw the planting of extensive flower and vegetable gardens along with a variety of fruit trees.
After King Henry II died in 1559, his strong-willed widow and regent Catherine de' Medici forced Diane to give up the Château. Queen Catherine then made Chenonceau her own favorite residence, adding a new series of gardens. As Regent of France, Catherine would spend a fortune on the château and on spectacular nighttime parties. The grand gallery, which extended along the existing bridge to cross the entire river, was dedicated in 1577.
Henri IV obtained Chenonceau for his mistress Gabrielle d'Estrées by paying the debts of Catherine de' Medici, which had been inherited by Louise and were threatening to ruin her. In return Louise left the château to her niece Françoise de Lorraine, at that time six years old and betrothed to the four-year-old César de Bourbon, duc de Vendôme, the natural son of Gabrielle d'Estrées and Henri IV. The château belonged to the Duc de Vendôme and his descendants for more than a hundred years. The Bourbons had little interest in the château, except for hunting. In 1650, Louis XIV was the last king of the ancient régime to visit.
In 1864 Marguerite Pelouze , a rich heiress, acquired the château. Around 1875 she commissioned the architect Félix Roguet to restore it. He almost completely renewed the interior and removed several of Catherine de' Medici's additions.
José-Emilio Terry, a Cuban millionaire, acquired Chenonceau from Madame Pelouze in 1891. Terry sold it in 1896 to a family member, Francisco Terry. In 1913, the château was acquired by Henri Menier, a member of the Menier family, famous for their chocolates, who still own it to this day.
After some damage in both world wars, the Menier family entrusted the château's restoration to Bernard Voisin, who brought the dilapidated structure and the gardens back to a reflection of its former glory.