Less than an hour’s drive from Paris, 23 minutes by train, is one of the most dazzling castles in France. It lives in a 19,275 acre forest in the department of Oise, Picardy and has had a long and distinguished history…
Like something in a story book, the Chateau is elegant and quite stunningly beautiful and if those walls could talk, they would certainly have stories to tell. King Henry VI (1553 – 1610) said of the Chateau of Chantilly that it was “the most beautiful house in France” and he may well be right.
Dazzling Chantilly Wows…
Eight centuries of life, love and history have left their mark on the Chateau de Chantilly.
Royalty has shaped the destiny of this building since the Middle Ages but it suffered greatly during the French Revolution and one man above all others has ensured that today we too can enjoy the Chateau that is considered the second most important museum in France after the Louvre in Paris.
The Duke d’Aumale was the fifth son of Louis Philippe of Orleans, the “Citizen King” and last King of France. Banished by Napoleon III he secretly organised for the Chateau de Chantilly to be bought and held for him, pending his longed for return to France. In 1871, he finally returned to Chantilly and set about spending his considerable fortune restoring the castle, albeit with a few mod cons such as heating, gas lighting and hot running water!
The Duke had no heirs to leave the chateau to so he willed it to the “Institut de France” leaving very precise instructions. The works of art can never leave the castle or ever be moved from where he placed them. Since his death in 1897, at the age of 75, his will has been strictly enforced.
The Gardens and hamlet of Chantilly
Originally a rather dour fortress in the 15th Century the castle was transformed into a Renaissance beauty in the 16th Century and that look is very much still in evidence. Andre le Notre, France’s most famous gardener, the creator of the Versailles Gardens, was commissioned to design the landscape and with 285 acres, there was much scope for his inimitable touch. The gardens today are romantic and feature a hamlet with fantasy rural houses which inspired those you see at the Queens Hamlet at Versailles. Wonderful statues and sculptures adorn the grounds and they are perfect for a posh picnic stop or enjoy a meal in The Hameau, one of those pretty rural houses is now a restaurant.
Kitchens of Chateau de Chantilly
It’s here in the kitchens of Chantilly that one of the most famous and infamous episodes of French culinary history took place. When in 1671 Louis XV, the great Sun King, announced he was coming to stay, the Chateau staff set about helping to make his visit memorable. For the Chef in charge of the kitchens, one Francois Vatel, this meant ensuring perfection from the kitchen. Alas Vatel took it so seriously that when the fresh fish he had ordered looked like it would be late arriving and not be ready in time for the banquet, the exhausted Vatel committed suicide, unaware that the fish arrived shortly afterwards and the dinner was a huge success.
Yes, the famous vanilla scented cream takes its name from this chateau and of course, every opportunity is taken to serve it with desert at the castle restaurants!
Read about the history of Chantilly cream and a simple authentic recipe…
When you visit Chantilly, you’ll think there are two chateaux because the stables are so splendid that they look like a castle too. In fact, other than Versailles, these are the biggest stables in France. They can (and did) house 240 horses and 500 dogs. They were commissioned by a Prince of Condé who believed that he would reincarnated as a horse – and presumably he had every intention of living in these stables!
13,000 books and 700 manuscripts are held in the magnificent library at Chantilly, an astonishingly well-preserved room.
Chantilly video shows just how glorious it is:
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Vaux-le-Vicomte – the castle that drove a king to jealousey