The Chateau de Chaumont-sur-Loire is stunningly pretty, reminiscent of Disney’s fairy tale castle in Sleeping Beauty. Nestled on the banks of the River Loire In Loire et Cher, it is unique for its presentation of art and the international garden festival that’s held here annually.
History of the Chateau de Chaumont
The original fortress was built here 1000 years ago, but over time it was destroyed and rebuilt and given a Renaissance facelift. It was bought in 1550 by Catherine de Medici, wife of Henri II. She ceded it to her husband’s former mistress Diane de Poitiers when Henri died. Diane had previously lived in the Chateau de Chenonceau but Catherine evicted her hated rival.
Chaumont Chateau was sold and changed hands in ensuing centuries before being bought by an orphaned 17-year-old sugar heiress called Marie Say in 1875. When she married Prince Henri-Amédée de Broglie three months later, the pair restored and modernised the chateau and landscaped the gardens. They held festivals and shows and hired the Ballets de l’Opéra de Paris and the troupe of the Comedie-Francaise from Paris for entertainment. It cost a fortune, but then the young woman was one of the richest women in France. An elephant roamed the grounds, a gift from the Shah of Persia and the castle was a hive of fun and frivolity. King George V of Great Britain and royalty from around the world visited.
When her beloved Prince died, Marie re-married. At 72 years old, her new husband was only 43 and keen to help her spend her fortune. She was compelled to sell much of her art and property and ended her days in Paris staying at the Ritz and the George V hotels.
Chateau de Chaumont today
Nowadays the castle is owned by the region and is open to the public. Inside the chateau there is an annual art exhibition. Some of the rooms are furnished and homely, they make you feel that the eccentric Marie might be out in the garden picking flowers. Other rooms are full of incredible art works, ethereal and fabulous.
It’s a bit like Chelsea Flower Show meets Kew Gardens and utterly gorgeous. There are temporary show gardens for the festival and all year-round gardens for general visits.
The International Garden Festival takes place from April to November each year.