A Fireplace At Chambord.
"Souvent femme varie, Fol qui s'y fie."*
Another castle of Touraine that well repays a visit is Chenonceaux. The lovely site of this chateau, beside the river Cher, seems to have been appreciated and enjoyed ever since the days of the Romans, but the edifice itself dates from the early part of the sixteenth century, about the time when Chambord and a part of Fon-tainebleau were built. King Henry II, son of Francis I, gave this estate to his beautiful favorite, Diana of Poitiers, whose name is more closely associated with it than that of any other woman who has been its chatelaine. Her beauty, like that of this chateau, seems to have triumphed over time, for Brantome, who saw her in her old age, declared that she was then "as lovely, fresh and amiable as at the age of thirty." Fair Mary Queen of Scots has also left at Chenon-ceaux some mementos of her youth and beauty, when she resided here as the bride of her first husband Francis II. How little could she dream of the tragedy the future held in store for her, as she looked down upon this peaceful river gliding beneath the castle walls! As little as the stream itself recks of the fearful storms that sweep the ocean whither it is inevitably moving on.
* Another version reads:
"Toute femme varie, Mal habil qui s'y fie."
Castle Of Chambord.
Chenonceaux And The River Cher.
Castle Of Chenonceaux.
Other chateaux of France have more historical associations than fair Chenonceaux, but few possess more beauty or are more eloquent of sentiment. For this, like Petit Trianon, was built for love; and wine, women, and song were the chief affairs of the life that slipped away here, swiftly and smoothly, like the river Cher. The interior of Chenonceaux is well preserved and has been carefully restored. It is especially fortunate in having escaped the devastation of the Revolution, and it still retains much of its ancient furniture, cabinets, china, glass, and tapestry. Among the relics of its former splendor is the mirror which once reflected the lovely features of Mary Queen of Scots. It is interesting, too, to remember here that Chenonceaux, in the latter part of the last century, became a rendezvous for the distinguished literary men of France, invited hither by the owner of the castle at that time, the witty and attractive Madame Dupin. Among them, Voltaire, Rousseau, Buffon, and Diderot were her frequent visitors.
A Fireplace At Chenonceaux.
The Donjon Of Chenonceaux.
It would be a mistake, in studying the history of France to ignore the influence which women have exerted there. In explanation of how many political events might be uttered the words: Cherchez la femme! Whether as native favorites or imported Queens, women have often governed France as really, if not as openly, as the reigning monarch. Even without going back to the Middle Ages, we find in the sixteenth century the Duch-esse d'Etampes, Diana of Poitiers, and Catharine de' Medici; in the seventeenth, Marie de' Medici, Madame de Montespan, and Madame de Maintenon; in the eighteenth, Madame de Pompadour, Madame du Barry, and Marie Antoinette; and in our time the influence of the Empress Eugenie on the reign of Napoleon III is incontestable. The French salon has always been a great political power in France; for as Napoleon dreaded the coterie of gossip and conspiracy patronized by Madame de Stael, so Richelieu was wont to say that the petit salon of Mademoiselle de Lafayette often caused him more anxiety than all the rest of Europe.
Chateau Of Azay-LE-Rideau.
Tomb Of Richelieu, Paris.
The castles of Touraine which still exist are few in number, compared with all the beautiful chateaux that once adorned this valley, for many such abodes of the nobility were either destroyed or abandoned when Richelieu had concentrated the national power in the hands of royalty, and had compelled the feudal lords of France to yield unquestioning obedience to the King. Still, though the time had come for them to disappear, those castles had performed a useful part in the process of national growth and civilization. The mediaeval fortresses of Europe should not be looked upon as merely the luxurious abodes of kings and nobles.