Built in the middle of the town, the chateau at Blois comprises several buildings constructed from the 13th to the 17th century around the main courtyard. The medieval castle became a royal residence and the political capital of the kingdom under King Louis XII. At the beginning of the 1500’s, the king initiated a reconstruction of the chateau and the creation of a renaissance garden. (In 1890 the construction of the Avenue Victor Hugo destroyed the gardens.)
When François I took power, his wife Queen Claude had him refurbish Blois with the intention of moving to it from the Royal Chateau at Amboise. King François I initiated the construction of a new wing and created one of the period’s most important libraries in the chateau. 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 Chateau Fontainebleau where it was used to form the “Bibliothèque Nationale” (National Library).
King Henri III, driven from Paris during the French Wars of Religion, lived at Blois and held the general State convention there in 1576 and 1588. It was during this convention that the king had his arch-enemy, the Duke of Guise, executed. After this, the chateau was occupied by King Henri IV, the first Bourbon monarch. On Henri’s death, it became the place of exile for his widow, Marie de Medici.
In 1626, King Louis XIII gave the Chateau at Blois to his brother Gaston d'Orléans as a wedding gift. In 1635 there was another attempt to develop the chateau but on the death of Gaston in 1660, the chateau was abandoned. By the time of the French Revolution the immense chateau had been neglected for more than one hundred and thirty years, and the revolutionaries, determined to wipe out any symbol of the old nobility while enriching themselves, ransacked the Chateau and stole many of its precious statues, royal emblems and coats of arms. In a state of near total disrepair it was scheduled to be demolished but was given a reprieve as the residence of the military.
In 1841, under the direction of King Louis-Philippe, Chateau Blois was classified as a historic monument. It was restored and turned into a museum. On view for visitors to the castle, are the poison cabinets of Catherine de Medici. Owned by the town of Blois, today it is a major tourist attraction.