The Royal Château de Blois is located in the Loir-et-Cher département in the Loire Valley, in France. The residence of several French kings, it is also the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English from Orléans.
Built in the middle of the town that it effectively controlled, the château of Blois comprises several buildings constructed from the 13th to the 17th century around the main courtyard. Its most famous piece of architecture is the magnificent spiral staircase in the François I wing.
wing, with the main entrance.]] wing, with the chapel to the right.]]
The medieval castle was purchased in 1391 by Louis, duc d'Orléans, brother of Charles VI; after the duke's assassination, his widow, Valentine de Milan, retired to Blois. It was inherited by his son, Charles d'Orléans the poet, who was taken prisoner at Agincourt and spent twenty-five years as a hostage in England, before returning to his beloved Blois, which he partly rebuilt as a more commodious habitation. It became the favourite royal residence and the political capital of the kingdom under Charles' son King Louis XII. At the beginning of the 1500s, the king initiated a reconstruction of the main block of the entry and the creation of an Italian garden in terraced parterres that occupied the present Place Victor Hugo and the site of the railway station. In 1890 the construction of the Avenue Victor Hugo destroyed the remainder of the gardens.
This wing, of red brick and grey stone, forms the main entrance to the château, and features a statue of the mounted king above the entrance. Although the style is principally Gothic, as the profiles of moldings, the lobed arches and the pinnacles attest, there are elements of Renaissance architecture present, such as a small chandelier.
wing, facing over central Blois.]]
When François I took power, his wife Queen Claude had him refurbish Blois with the intention of moving to it from the Château d'Amboise. François initiated the construction of a new wing and created one of the period’s most important libraries in the castle. But, after the death of his wife in 1524, he spent very little time at Blois and the massive library was moved to the royal Château de Fontainebleau where it was used to form the royal library that forms the core now of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
In this wing, the architecture and ornamentation are marked by Italian influence. At the centre is the monumental spiral staircase, covered with fine bas-relief sculptures and looking out onto the château's central court. Behind this wing is the façade of the Loges, characterised by a series of disconnected niches.
King Henri III, driven from Paris during the French Wars of Religion, lived at Blois and held the Estates-General convention there in 1576 and 1588. It was during this convention that the king had his arch-enemy, the duc de Guise, assassinated by the king’s bodyguard known as "the Forty-five", when the duke came to the Chateau for a meeting with Henri. They also killed his brother Louis II, Cardinal of Guise the following day in the dungeons.
After this, the castle was occupied by Henri IV, the first Bourbon monarch. On Henri’s death, it became the place of exile for his widow, Marie de Medici, when she was expelled from the court of her son, Louis XIII.
wing, never completed.]]
In 1626, King Louis XIII gave the Château of Blois to his brother Gaston d'Orléans as a wedding gift. In 1635 there was another attempt to develop the castle but on Gaston's death in 1660, it was abandoned.