Château de Chantilly

A French Jewel – Château de Chantilly

The Château de Chantilly is iconic in every sense, being one of the finest castles in all of France. There are a plethora of delightful château’s all throughout France, however, Château de Chantilly is somehow different in many ways. It has a lot of wow factor that will leave you without words and will simply take your breath away.

While there are many of these beautiful castles around, some of them are quite a lot more eloquent than others, and Château de Chantilly, which is only a short journey from the centre of Paris, is certainly one of the more popular ones.

Château de Chantilly
Château de Chantilly. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The history of Château de Chantilly

The château’s throughout France seem to have one large reoccurring similarity, and that is that not many of them have an overly thorough or detailed history behind them (that we know of). The French have always been known for their mystery and charm, so perhaps their castles also follow those guidelines. One of the most enticing things about this castle is perhaps the fact that many, many castles actually stood on the grounds far before Château de Chantilly ever did.

For centuries upon centuries, the grounds have been occupied by different castles as well as tenants and have played home to many people. Surrounded by lakes, forests, and beautiful wildlife, it is almost impossible to understand how this enchanting structure is based only 55km from the centre of Paris. Beneath the surface, there is so much more to know about this stunning château, let’s take a look!

The early history

While there may have been many previous fortifications where Château de Chantilly now stands, the history of them isn’t particularly well known. They existed centuries before Château de Chantilly ever entered the picture, but the last known fortification to stand before Château de Chantilly was only a small fortified building that was made from rock. It was smack bang in the middle of the marshlands of the Nonette river valley which controlled the road from Paris to Senlis.

Statue of French master mason Pierre Chambiche. Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to a few sources, the site is comprised of two buildings. One being the Petit Château which was built in around 1560 as well as the Grand Château which was later destroyed during the French Revolution and then rebuilt sometime in the 1870s. The original structure of the castle, (the first mansion) was built between 1528 and 1531. It began as a grand mansion though it is no longer in existence as it was replaced by the Grand Château which was mentioned above.

It was built for Anne de Montmorency by Pierre Chambiges and the Petit Château was also built for him in around 1560 but this time it is said to have been built by Jean Bullant. When Henri II de Montmorency passed away back in 1632, it all passed over to his nephew the Grand Condé who had inherited it through his mother Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency. It was here that Molière’s play, Les Précieuses ridicules, received its first performance.

Madame de Sévigné also says in her memoirs that when King Louis XIV of France decided to visit the castle in 1671, François Vatel, who was the maître d’hôtel to the Grand Condé, committed suicide when he found out that the fish may be served late.

The French Revolution

The original mansion was completely destroyed in the French Revolution. Louis Henri II, Prince of Condé, then consequently repaired it in the most modest way possible, unfortunately, it was then confiscated from the Orléans family between the years of 1853 and 1872. During the time it was confiscated, it was owned by Coutts which was an old English bank.

The French Revolution. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Château de Chantilly was then, once again, completely rebuilt between the years of 1875 and 1882 by Henri d’Orléans, duc d’Aumale which further added to the intense history of it. It was made quite similarly to the designs of Honore Daumet and it is said to be almost a mirror image of what they had in mind during the design process. Unfortunately, while it had turned out to be everything they had hoped for, the completed château was met with very mixed reviews from a variety of people.

One comment about the completed project was made by Boni de Castellane who said: “What is today styled a marvel is one of the saddest specimens of the architecture of our era — one enters at the second floor and descends to the salons”. It was widely loved and adored during the 19th century, however, unfortunately, Duc d’Aumale fell ill and died. Upon his death in the year 1897, he bequeathed the illustrious property to the Institut de France as he knew it would be forever loved and taken care of just as it had been in his care.

The Château de Chantilly Art Gallery

One of the main things that people choose to travel for is the stunning art gallery within Château de Chantilly.

It is completely eye-catching and is certainly a sight to see when you choose to visit France. The Duke of Aumule designed this all by himself and it certainly turned out to be one of the most amazing rooms within the already gorgeous castle. It is still, to this day, the second largest collection of antique paintings in France, second only to the magnificent Louvre.

If you are an art enthusiast, this is one of the places that you will need to add to your bucket list if you plan to travel throughout France. Here, some of the most amazing paintings to ever exist are featured, even from Grade-A painters such as Botticelli to Raphael, Van Dyke and Watteau, Delacroix and Titian.

Even if you are an aspiring artist looking for a place to become inspired, the art gallery in Château de Chantilly will be the best place for you considering how awe-inspiring it is. Another seriously cool factor of the art gallery is the fact that in order to accommodate the Duke of Aumule’s wishes, it has been left in the exact same order it was put in by him and it has remained this way (untouched) since the 19th century.

The Château de Chantilly art gallery. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The present day at Château de Chantilly

The wonderful Château de Chantilly was included in the 1998 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund which helped to bring attention to water infiltration and high humidity in the Galerie des Actions de Monsieur le Prince. Once again, in the 2002 World Monuments Watch, it was once again brought to their attention due to the precarious condition of the entire estate. American Express and the Generali Group helped thoroughly with the funding and the restoration of this stunning building.

There was also an appeal that helped to restore the château that proved very successful €40 million was very nicely donated by the Aga Khan and that alone accounted for over half of the €70 million that the Institut de France needed to completely finish the restoration.

You may enjoy reading our article about the ruins of Tours de Merle.

Château de Chantilly’s timeline

  • 1528 to 1531- The first structure is built
  • 1632- Everything passed over to the Grand Condé who had inherited it through his mother Charlotte Marguerite de Montmorency
  • 1671- King Louis XIV of France decides to visit the castle
  • 1853 to 1872- The castle was then confiscated from the Orléans family
  • 1875 to 1882- Château de Chantilly is then, once again, completely rebuilt by Henri d’Orléans, Duc d’Aumale who further added to the intense history of it
  • 1897- The illustrious property is bequeathed to the Institut de France
  • 1988- Named as a historic monument
  • 2008- The restoration of the Grande Singerie is completed

Interesting facts about Château de Chantilly

  • Château de Chantilly is very well-known for its fine lacework and beautiful porcelain
  • The château is built on a small rocky island in an artificial lake
  • It has been rebuilt several times
  • The 18th-century stables are built to house 240 horses and more than 400 hounds
  • Chantilly is one of France’s principal horse-training centres

Featured in TV and Film

  • The Young Lions (1958)
  • The Longest Day (1962)
  • Angélique et le roy (1966)
  • Trap for the Assasin (1966)
  • Two for the Road (1967)
  • Ma femme s’appelle reviens (1982)
  • A View to Kill (1985)
  • EastEnders (1985)
  • Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story (1987)
  • L’été de la révolution (1989)
  • Beaumarchais l’insolent (1996)
  • La dernière fête (1996)
  • Vidocq (2001)
  • The Statement (2003)
  • Arsène Lupin (2004)
  • Marie Antionette (2006)
  • Farewell, My Queen (2012)
  • Haute Cuisine (2012)
  • Manon Lescaut (2013)
  • Alone (2017)

Books on Château de Chantilly

  • A Day at Château de Chantilly by Adrien Goetz, Mathieu Deldicque, and Bruno Ehrs (2020)

Who owns Château de Chantilly?

Château de Chantilly is now owned by the Institut de France. The Institut de France is a French learned society, grouping five académies, including the Académie Française.

Visiting Château de Chantilly

Everyone knows France is simply gorgeous! In fact, just in Paris, some people could see themselves staying a lifetime. Getting out of the city can sometimes prove scary considering that Paris is as far as most people venture, however, Paris isn’t very far from many things. Paris really isn’t far from Château de Chantilly where you can enjoy some fresh air and glance at the stunning gardens.

You can venture from Paris to the Château for only a day trip, but if you’re wanting to stay longer and explore, there is plenty to see. Although the castle is the main place of interest, you should also explore Chantilly town while you are here.

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