The Chateau de Chantilly is a beautiful Chateau located just 50 km North of Paris. The perfect destination for a day gateway, in the charming countryside of Picardy. Come along for a visit of the Chateau de Chantilly!
As usual, in my ‘visit’ post, I am starting by giving you some historical background, my little pinch of history. This is to help you understand the context of the place we are visiting. You can skip this of course, and go straight to the numerous pictures but hey… you might learn a thing or 2 in this first part, or here, in these 2 first parts!
As often, I also provide you, down below, with some further reads. These are affiliated links, so if you decide to buy one of the books I’m linking to, I will get a small commission at no extra cost to you.
A pinch of historical background
France, in the 19th century, was fairly unstable. In terms of politics, 3 republics, 2 monarchies and 2 empires alternated. Some of the bloodiest revolutions took place, although these did not become as ‘famous’ as the one of the previous century (you know, the one from 1789!). Several major wars were fought in Europe and colonisation was one of Napoleon III’s major goal. Despite the turmoils, France followed Great Britain in the industrial revolution which transformed the World.
Despite this, the 19th century is also known for the abolishment of slavery, universal vote for men, incredible advancements in science, new literature & other arts mouvements like Romanticism, Symbolism & Realism… amongst many other things. And Gothic revival masterpieces! But this will be for another article!
The last king, France has known was Louis Philippe I. He actually was King of the French, and not King of France, which is an interesting little change. Louis Philippe I ruled from 1830 to 1848 and had 10 children. Amongst those 10 children, there was Henri d’Orléans or the Duke of Aumale.
The Duke of Aumale and the Chateau de Chantilly
The story of Chantilly actually starts in the Medieval times. You can check the history timeline provided on the official website as, here, we are going to focus on the 19th century part.
In 1830, Louis Henri, Prince of Condé, who had lost his son (at least his only legitimate one), chose his grand-nephew the Duke of Aumale, as his heir.
Note, that the Prince of Condé is a title (Duke of Aumale as well obviously). Such title originated in the 16th century and was the title given to a cadet branch of the House of Bourbon (the house which gave France many Kings like: Henry IV, Louis XIV, Louis XV, Louis XVI).
As you can imagine, being of Royal linage, the Prince of Condé was extremely wealthy. At the age of 8, the Duke of Aumale therefore inherited a huge fortune which included, amongst other properties, the Domaine of Chantilly.
Being of such young age, he took a real interest in Chantilly a bit later in his life.
In 1845, he decided to decorate the ground floor of the Petit Chateau. In 1847, the Fellix Duban Gallery was built. Around that time, The Duke of Aumale also planned to reconstruct the Grand Chateau. But if you go back up a little bit, you will notice that things were about to change in France. His father reign was about to end. Louis Philippe I abdicated in 1848 and fled to England. His family followed, including the Duke of Aumale.
The French revolution of 1848 started the short lived 2nd Republic and the reign of Emperor Napoleon III (1852 to 1870). Napoleon III was the nephew of Napoleon I, the most famous Napoleon!
Under the Empire, the Duke of Aumale had to sell Chantilly and did so to an English Bank but with a secret retrocession clause! When he was able to come back in France in 1971, he was finally able to resume his reconstruction projects.
The reconstruction of the Grand Château took place from 1875 to 1882. It took 3 more years to complete the interiors decoration of what would become a beautiful showcase for the Duke’s impressive collections.
The Duke of Aumale had come back from exile a widower and without any heir. He therefore decided to give the entire domain and collections to the Institut de France. The conditions, which can be read at the entrance of the Chateau, state that the domain should be opened to the public, the layout preserved and that the collections may not be loaned.
On 17 April 1898 the Chantilly domain opened its doors to the public and the Condé museum was born.
The Condé Museum
If you skipped the history summaries above, you still need to know this:
The Condé Museum is the work of a passionate man. The Duke of Aumale, son of the last King of France, rebuilt the Chateau de Chantilly, in the 19th century, to showcase his fabulous collections of precious books, manuscripts, paintings and decorative art objects.
If you have browsed around RTatW, you will know this: my love is for Roman and Gothic architecture and Medieval times. This is where I have most, of my still small, expertise. I appreciate the 19th century Neo-Gothic movement, for it probably saved many Gothic castles from destructions. However, I am still trying to fully appreciate neoclassic architecture.
So when it comes to visits of places like the Chateau de Chantilly, I do appreciate the beauty but I tend to be overwhelmed. Hence the fact that I will keep this article short (ok it’s already quite long!) Instead I will let you discover the Chateau de Chantilly through the below pictures. If you want to know more, do check out the 2 books linked below.
Your visit will start in the Grand Apartment of Monsieur le Prince (of Condé). The rooms here are en enfilade as it was common in the previous centuries.
The first room is the antechamber, displaying, amongst other things, antique porcelaine.
Access to the library is on the left.
15th century manuscrit are displayed in the center of the library.
As well as other drawings like the one below.
Next is the bedchamber of Monsieur le Prince which was converted into a drawing room. (this explains why there is no bed)
The Grande Singerie is amongst the most beautiful rooms of Chantilly.
The wood panel paintings represent monkeys doing humans activities accompanied by Chinese style figures. A style popular in the 18th century.
The Gallery of Actions of Monsieur le Prince is stunning but there were a lot of people and as, I don’t like having people on my pictures, I’m only showing you the ceiling and the glorious chandeliers!! Do check the official website to see how beautifully furnished it is. You will also see the painting of the Great Condé battles.
Next, and in the other aisle of the Chateau, you will get to the see the painting Gallery which displays treasures.
The painting are still hanged the way the Duke of Aumale chose to display them.
The collection can only be seen in the Condé Museum as the will of the Duke of Aumale stated that these can not be lent.
The portrait of Simonetta Vespucci by Piero di Cosimo – 1490 – is amongst one of the jewel of the collection.
The Three Graces by Raphael (1505) is located in the Santuario and is probably the most priced jewel of the collection. Sorry no picture!
The painting collection of the Duke of Aumale, is The second largest collection of antique paintings after the Louvre.
Below is a painting of Louis XV.
After the main gallery, you will access further smaller rooms which display more paintings of various size and period.
When going back in the main gallery, do raise your head to admire the ceiling of the Rotonde!
The Chapel is a lovely place to end your visit. Check out the short film below to see the 2 parts of the chapel.
The gardens of the Chateau de Chantilly
The Domaine of Chantilly is huge. In front of the entrance, lies the André-Le-Notre work (17th century), considered by many as is masterpiece. This Jardin à la Française, contrast greatly with the English Garden located on one side and the Anglo-Chinese Garden located on the other side. You you continue to stroll through such gardens to the Hamlet and the park. If you go far enough, you might find the kangourous!
The Great Stables of the Chateau de Chantilly
The Chateau de Chantilly is also famous for its horses, track and horse races. To me, this was not the best part. I’m not going to dwell on this here, as there is plenty of materials out there that you can find, to form your own opinion.
The Great Stables have their own museum dedicated to horses.
Our visit of the Chateau de Chantilly was a treat. You can truly feel the passion, not only of the Duke of Aumale, but also of the people who take care of such jewel now.
If you learn something from such a visit, it is that when doing something, do it well and… be patient!
The Technical bits
The official website: www.domainedechantilly.com
The audio guide is included in the price and is quite interesting. Guided tours are available.
Plan to stay the whole day. The gardens are perfectly charming. You can picnic and enjoy as much as you want as they are open until 8PM during summer.
Where to stay?
At the Auberge du Jeu de Paume of course! You can not stay any closer to the Chateau de Chantilly.
This is a 5 star hotel where you will feel at home. The service is extraordinary. The cuisine was delicate, fresh and specially made by the chef who prepared, just for us, some vegan delights. The hotel is beautiful yet the atmosphere is relaxing, the rooms are elegant and the 18th century country-style will prepare you for the visit of the Chateau.
You know I rarely recommend hotels, but this was an absolute treat so I had to tell you about it.
If you want to know a lot more, these 2 books are for you. The second one is an absolute bargain (less tan USD 5) at least at the time of publication of this article.
Those are the affiliated links I told you above.
There is also a special issue about the Domaine de Chantilly edited by Connaissance des Arts. However the link I just provided is for the French version. I know it exist in English since I have it (!!) but I can’t seem to find it online.
Connaissance des Arts has special issues on numerous castles, châteaux, museums, expositions and innumerable other interesting places in France and they are usually really good.
If you enjoyed this article, share it with your friends!
They might like it too