In the early part of the 1200s, King Philippe II made Saumur part of his royal domain but his son, King Louis IX (Saint Louis) was responsible for the chateau's rebirth. It changed hands several times until 1589 when the Protestant King Henri IV (of France and Navarre) gifted the chateau to Duplessis-Mornay.
In 1621 the chateau was converted into an army barracks then into a state prison under Napoleon Bonaparte. The chateau has a dungeon and watchtower, and houses the Musée de la Figurine-Jouet, a collection of very old toys and figurines of soldiers, kings of France, and clowns.
In the first part of the 20th century, the city of Saumur acquired the chateau and began a restoration program to house the museum of the decorative arts. In line with the Saumur area's equestrian tradition and its famous “Cadre Noir”, the chateau also serves as a Museum of the Horse.