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Chateau de Chantilly

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There was heavy rain the day we ventured out to Malmaison and Chantilly (not unusual for Paris in late October), but by way of serendipity the weather turned to a light drizzle everytime we left the car.

Photo credit: Norma Thiessen

Somehow, the gray, leaden skies added to the aura around this dramatic French Renaissance Revival “Castle of Princes,” with its long and notable histoire…built in 1560, the original “Petit Chateau” was destroyed during the French Revolution. In 1830, Henri d’Orleans, Duc d’Aumale, son of the last king of France, Louis-Philippe, inherited Chantilly from his godfather, Prince of Conde. He would go on to distinguish himself as a man of letters, military leader, politician, and an exceptional art collector. It was he who rebuilt and considerably enlarged the original footprinf of Chantilly (now referred to as the “Petit Chateau” and “Grand Chateau”) from 1875-1882. Chantilly was ultimately bequeathed to the French state in 1889 as the price for the return of the Duc from political exile. Chantilly and its significant art collection were left to the French nation in 1897 upon the Duc’s death.

Chantilly has much to commend it — a storybook Royal Hunting Estate amid an expansive artificial lake, magnificently landscaped with gardens designed by Andre’ Le Notre; its prestige as the 2nd largest repository of French and Italian Old Masters in France, (after the Louvre Museum); one of the most important libraries in France (after the National Library), in terms of rare editions and illuminated manuscripts known as the Conde Museum; and lest we not forget, the legendary Chantilly racecourse with grand Louis XV-style stables, built 1721-1735, prior to the Chateau that we see today!

As we exited Chantilly, one last look back assured me that we had made the right decision in heading off from Paris, rather than staying in a cozy cafe.’ I made a promise to myself that I would return in the spring/summer to capture, specifically, Le Notre’s brilliant garden plan. Given Chantilly’s abundant supply of water, he seized upon this element for its decorative value throughout, employing the great terrace below the Chateau’s east front as the fulcrum of his creation.

Chantilly has been a museum open to the public since 1898; I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity. It will be a memorable day! Au revoir…

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

6 thoughts on “Chateau de Chantilly

  1. Your photography is beautiful! Though not the same shape, the photo of the staircase reminded me of the famous heart-shaped staircase in Newport.

  2. Bettie, another magical tour of your adventures. Looking forward to your next excursion in the spring. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Truly (as we called it in my youth) a “Picture Book!!!” Thanks for the escape!! franki

  4. Can’t believe you saw two of my most favourite places in one day. Yes, you definitely need to make another visit to Chantilly and make a whole day of it, as it warrants a considerable amount of time to fully appreciate. In my opinion, one of the most beautiful chateaux in France. It has a dream-like quality that I have never encountered anywhere else.

  5. Bonjour, Merci pour la visite 🙂
    Never having been to Chateau Chantilly before it was a great promenade.
    Always amazing to see these ancient buildings sitting by water and centuries later
    still looking strong.
    Merci pour le reportage. A bientôt. Cat

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