Find out the mysteries and secrets of these Loire Valley castles.
The Loire River area, “Land of Castles”, has more than 300 chateaux to explore and many have intriguing mysteries and dastardly deeds in their dark pasts. Park your bikes and discover the secrets of France’s Loire Valley castles.
Here are our 5 favourites and the skeletons in their closets!
1 / Amboise – Chateau of 1200 Depraved Murders
A chateau with a murderous past is the chateau of Amboise, only 20km bike ride from Tours. A Loire castle fortress, it is where many French kings were born, lived and died and famous historical figures stayed, including the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. It was in this very fashionable French Court, where Boleyn lived for 7 years as a lady-in-waiting, she learnt the effective ways of seduction and allure. Subsequently, these later intoxicated King Henry the 8th and led to her beheading.
SHOCKING CHATEAU PALACE DEATH OF A KING
Very early on, conspiracies plagued this Loire Valley castle and one of the chateau’s big mysteries, was the sudden death of a Royal. King Charles VIII, was a charming active 28 year old monarch. One afternoon in 1498, running to a tennis game, he violently struck his head on a low door lintel, and fell unconscious. Charles never awoke. A shocking and curious death caused by a slight head trauma and his height; a mere 152cm (4’11”)! Surely modern-day crime scene investigators would have something to say about this accident.
Secrets of Loire Valley Castles
It may also intrigue you to know, that the uber famous Leonardo da Vinci was brought from Italy to work here for 16th century, King Francis I. For 4 years from 1515, Da Vinci lived and created works at the nearby Château du Clos Lucé, mysteriously, connected to Chateau d’Amboise via a secret underground tunnel. Upon Da Vinci’s death, the heartbroken King buried him in the chateau chapel. He was later interred in the lovely Chapelle St-Hubert with its porcupine like spiky spires.
Chateau Slaughter in the Name of Religion
In the tumultuous 16th century, the castle was home to King Henry II, his wife, Catherine de Medici and daughter-in-law Mary Stuart, (known later as doomed Mary Queen of Scots beheaded, at Queen Elizabeth I’s request). It was during this time, an attempt by local Protestants to kidnap the King’s young son was made. So offensive to the ruling Catholics, that the powerful House of Guise enacted murderous revenge on almost 1200 local Protestants. Subsequently, the capture, torture and executing of these residents by disembowelment, beheading and or hanging from gibbets off the walls of Amboise Chateau and around town, was bloody. The resulting sickly smell of death as so bad, that the court left Amboise for some time.
Secret Morbid Pasts of Loire Valley Chateaux
Certainly, another grim chapter in this beautiful chateau’s life, is that it also served as a prison from the 17th century onward. Surely, it can be expected that more pain and suffering certainly ensued there. Hard to believe when you visit this most elegant French chateau today.
Mysteries of the Loire Valley’s Castles
2 / CHAMBORD – Ghostly soldiers in a haunted Chateau
Chambord puts the grand in grandiose. Started in 1519 by King Francois 1, he kept 1800 builders and artists at work solidly here for 15 years. Ironically, although Francois I had a long reign of 32 years he spent less than 70 days here in total and so it stood in the Loire countryside, a lonely but powerful symbol of Kingly right.
However, when the sky darkens, remember that this chateau was once place of anguish, misery and death. Being a field hospital during the terrible gory 1870 Franco-Prussian War, it is said, that it is consequently, haunted. Still supposedly wandering the castle, are the souls of those suffering battlefield soldiers.
Mystery architect of Chambord
Curiously, the real mystery of this Loire Valley Chateau de Chambord, is, who was its architect? No actual building plans exist for the massive castle and the double Helix staircase is an example of a great mind. Certainly, the castle has a highly unusual design, and consequently, debate has continued for ages. Could it possibly be Leonardo Da Vinci, who was in the area, creating kingly inventions? Moreover, a clue to this great Loire Valley castle mystery was only hinted at in 1990, when an investigation underground, showed a sophisticated sewage system. Curiously, it looks very familiar to a sketch Da Vinci left in one of his notebooks.
Loire Valley Chateau Mystery Resolved?
10 years later, it was found, that one of the towers had gyrated 90 degrees, something Da Vinci, had flirted and obsessed with in his drawings and plans of gyroscopes and spirals. A true conundrum to this great Loire castle. Another peculiar Loire Valley connection is that on the 28th of August, 1939, several thousands of wooden crates arrived at Chambord. Their priceless contents included the world’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, sent to the chateau for safe keeping due to Nazi threats.
3 / BRISSAC – Bloody Loire Castle Murder
Unsolved and baffling occurrences in the Loire chateau of Brissac Castle, gives it the reputation of being one of the most haunted in the Loire Valley. Not far from Saumur and on the way to Angers, you find this elaborate chateau with its disturbing mysterious past.
Macabre Murderous secret past of this Loire Valley Castle
A bloody history, its story of its gory murder is enough to make you look over your shoulder more than once here. It was Jacques de Breze’s 14th century murder of both his unfaithful wife, Charlotte and her beloved lover, his stepbrother, who he found in flagrante, in the castle one dark evening, May 31st, 1477. Running them through with his sword, it is Charlotte’s ghost, which has been most often heard wailing in the castle chapel tower. Soon after, Jacques was imprisoned and the castle was sold, probably a good thing, as it was rumoured, he was terrified of ghosts and could not live in the castle another night after the murder. Charlotte, many people say, has continued to haunt the huge chateau and is known as the green lady, wandering the halls of this Loire castle, in a green dress.
4/ CHERVERNY – Loire Valley Murder and Court Intrigue
Close by, a 10km bike trip south of Chambord, is Château Cheverny, another lovely 17th century castle. It also has a gruesome story connected with it. As the tale goes, one of the 16th century owners of the Hurault family was at a party, visited by King Henri IV. Unfortunately, they saw, the laughing King, making the cuckolded sign behind his back. Degraded, he went home to Cheverny, only to discover his wife and lover. Crazed and enraged, he murdered her lover and forced his wife to choose poison or a bullet. In response, she chose poison and died that night too.
A tragic tale in such tranquillity.
“It is forbidden to kill;
therefore all murderers are punished
unless they kill in large numbers
and to the sound of trumpets.”
5 / CHENOCEAU – Loire Valley Castle Scheming and Jealousies
Have a big romantic on your Loire Valley Bike Tour? Take them to one of France´s most celebrated châteaux, Chenonceau, with its immaculate rooms of art, tapestry, and delicious fittings. In addition, it has the best rip roaring secrets and intrigue of the royal menage a trois lifestyle here. The walk up to the huge front doors through a peaceful shady avenue of trees is delightful but most captivating is the story of the power struggle between women here.
SECRETS OF THE LOIRE VALLEY CASTLE OF CHENONCEAU
The main portrait of a stern Catherine de Medici, (King Henri II’s wife) framed in granite looks down, having banished the former owner, Diane de Poitier (King Henri’s mistress).from this lovely place and moved in after he died). It is placed strategically and pointedly in the former bedroom of Diane.
Diane, had spent years of servitude as an educated lady in waiting, and had been chosen by Henri’s father to teach Henri courtly manners. Though 20 years separated them, their affair had been a long one and had given her much power with Henri even allowing her to write and sign official letters for him, using ‘HenriDiane’. What we would call a cougar now, was one of the most respected ladies of her time.
However, in 1533, Henri II married Catherine whilst still keeping Diane as his mistress. It is said that Catherine, truly loved him, and when Henri gave the coveted Chenonceau, to Diane, she quietly had to turn a blind eye. Diane, on her part, encouraged him to have children with Catherine, which they did.
.KINGLY DEATH & CHATEAU RIVALS
When Henri was killed in 1559, in a jousting tournament (wearing Diane´s colours), Catherine took a broken lance as her emblem, inscribed with the words “from this come my tears and my pain” and wore black in memory of Henry from that day on. When Catherine then inherited Chenonceau, she immediately erased Diane from it. She was not able to remove the many sets of entwined initials on the walls which testified to Henri’s relationship with Diane, so she emphatically added serif to the ends of the “D” to make “C”.
Grief and Death in Loire Valley Chateau Chenonceau
Rumours abound that Catherine later had extravagant balls with racy themes like, “living nymphs chased by Satyrs”. However, when her reserved daughter-in-law, Louise de Lorraine was awarded the Château after her husband’s murder, the palace became subdued and morbid. Consequently, when news of her husband’s brutal death reached the château, Louise took to this room painting it dark grey with symbols of death. She wore only white after that and all she said were prayers for eleven years of her life. She died there in 1601. It is the most mournful room that you´ll ever see in these places of light and beauty.
Visit these magnificent mysterious chateaux on your Loire Valley Bike Tour
Hopefully, these stories of morbid history and intrigue have not put you off visiting these castles! Certainly, around every corner will appear enchanting vistas, rather than ghostly apparitions.
If you do want to learn more about the secrets of the Loire Valley castles for yourself, try our delightful Loire Valley castles bike tour where these stories come to life.