Video: Château de Fontainebleau, France • A Walk through the History of French Chateau

While we visit many fascinating sites aboard our classic cruise through the Upper Loire and Western Burgundy, our favourite could just be the Chateau de Fontainebleau, a monumental royal residence that dates back to the twelfth century. Located in the heart of a 42,000 acre forest, the Palace of Fontainebleau was one of the residences of the sovereigns of France. It was home to almost 30 kings over eight centuries from Louis IX to Napoleon III. Starting as a 12th century hunting lodge, Fontainebleau saw many additions and renovations over the centuries. However, it was during the Renaissance that the palace underwent its most spectacular transformation. Francois I (1494 – 1547) brought together extremely diverse collections of art work and made Fontainebleau an artistic centre, attracting people from across Europe. It is world-renowned for its extraordinary Italian Renaissance art and architecture.

The Kings of Old at Château de Fontainebleau

The Chateau de Fontainebleau, now a national museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the largest royal chateaux in all of France, and served as a sovereign residence for eight centuries. It began as a hunting lodge for the kings; it wasn’t until the sixteenth century that it was transformed into the home we recognise today. Over the years, it has been a popular base among much of the French royalty, including King Henri II, King Henri IV and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Château de Fontainebleau - An Architectural Marvel

As Chateau de Fontainebleau has belonged to so many different royals in its time, it features many varying architectural styles – in fact, the palace is a great place to get a survey of French architecture from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries all in one spot. King Francis I (1494-1547) was the first to make a major alteration: he was the one who facilitated the change from hunting lodge to royal residence.

Henri IV (1553-1610) also left his mark architecturally – perhaps the only ruler to almost match Francis I. This monarch was responsible for much of the opulence the chateau boasts, including the construction of many additional buildings and a canal, the renovation of the courtyard and gardens and, of course, the lavish decorations. Other influences came from royalty such as Louis XV, Louis XVI and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Whether your interest lies in history or architecture, Chateau de Fontainebleau is a great addition to any barge cruise in France. Join us on our classic cruise as we visit this fascinating and opulent royal residence, as well as many other unmissable French sites.

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