19th and 20th centuries: abuses and the historic monument’s restoration

Tableau de Gustave Noël. Le château d'Amboise au XIXe s

Painting by Gustave Noël. The Château of Amboise in the 19th century

The Consulate (1799-1804) and the Empire (1804-1814/1815) opened a new chapter in the Château’s life. In 1803, Amboise was given to Senator Roger Ducos (1747-1816), a former member of the Directory. The First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte (future Napoléon Ier) (1769-1799/ 1804-1814-1815-1821) wished to thank the Senator for his help in seizing power. To ‘renovate the Château’, from 1806, the Senator ordered the destruction of the ‘useless or ruined’ buildings (the Loggia of the Seven Virtues and neighbouring buildings). Most notably, he destroyed the Henri II wing and the St. Florentin Collegiate Church (an 11th century building) and the canon’s house. The garden was also redone. All the works were completed in 1811.

In 1814, during the first Restoration, the Château was given back to the Duke of Penthièvre’s heir, Louise-Marie-Adelaide de Bourbon, Duchess of Orléans (1753-1821), returned from her Spanish exile. After having temporarily – during The Hundred Days – returned to its fortress/prison role, Amboise was definitively returned to the Orléans family in 1815.

Buste Louis-Philippe. Château d'Amboise©FSL
Bust of Louis-Philippe

AOn her death, the duchess passed on the domain of Amboise to her son Louis-Philippe (1773- 1830/1848-1850), future king of the French. He undertook renovations to transform the château into a 'holiday' destination. These works were entrusted to the renowned architect Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853) and his student, Pierre-Bernard Lefranc (1795-1856). King Louis-Philippe Ier, an ardent defender of French heritage, supported the classification of monuments that were emblematic of the nation’s history, and Amboise, classified in 1840, was one of the top ranking.

The 1848 Revolution led to the exile of Louis-Philippe Ier and the château was sequestered. Once more, it became a detention centre for a prisoner of note, Emir Abd el-Kader (1808-1883), the deposed leader of the Algerian uprising, who was incarcerated at Amboise with his retinue from November 1848.

The promise made to the Emir during his surrender to transfer him to an Islamic country, was only honoured four years later, by the Prince-President Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (1808-1848/1852-1873), who came to inform him of his liberation in Amboise in October 1852.

The Emir left France for Bursa, Constantinople (Turkey) then Damascus (Syria). However, he left behind sincere friendships formed with Amboise residents and the memory of the 25 members of his retinue who died and were buried at the Château. The residents of Amboise thus contributed to the building of a mausoleum on one of the château’s terraces in 1853 (the ‘Garden of the Orient’, created by Rachid Koraïchi in 2005, is located on the same spot as the graves and mausoleum).

The fall of the Second Empire (1852-1870) and the advent of the 3rd Republic (1870-1940) marked the domain’s return to the Orléans family. A vast restoration programme began, on the initiative of Philippe (1838-1894), Count of Paris and grandson of Louis Philippe Ier. Since Amboise was listed as an historic monument, the State appointed an architect to lead the works. The architect in question, Victor-Marie-Charles Ruprich-Robert (1820-1887) and his son Gabriel after him, were both inspectors of historic monuments. They achieved remarkable restoration work on the St. Hubert Chapel, Charles VIII Loggia and the Minimes Tower (1874-1879), then the Renaissance wing (1896- 1897) and the Heurtault tower (1906).

The Duke of Aumale (1822-1897) commissioned the works. He died three years later and in 1901 the château, which already housed a hospice, was transformed according to his wishes into a clinic for former staff from his family’s household. The Château of Amboise was included in the ‘Société Civile du domaine de Dreux’ (Dreux Domain Civil Heritage Society), created in 1886 to manage the House of France’s historical heritage.

The final tragic episode for the Château and the town of Amboise occurred during the Second World War. From 4th September 1939, the château was requisitioned. Until 22nd May 1940, tourists were still able to visit the chapel and the Heurtault Tower’s rampart walkway.

In June 1940, the French army was routed and progressively withdrew south of the Loire. From 4th to 15th June 1940, the château’s royal loggia was thus the temporary HQ of the Air Ministry, which then fell back to Bordeaux

On 18th and 19th June 1940, a Senegalese infantry regiment resisted, with remarkable bravery, the German troops’ entrance to Amboise. There was considerable damage (about a hundred shells fell on the château) affecting the Chapel, and the Garçonnet and Minimes Towers. After its evacuation, the château suffered for 15 days from the uncontrolled influx of refugees and German troops. Then, it was used by the occupying troops as an arms depot and a post for aerial communications and detection.

In July 1944, the château was bombed by the Allies, which damaged the loggia façades and the St Hubert Chapel’s stained-glass windows and roof. On 1st August 1944, the last German army units left the château.

The inventory of the damage was carried out a few days later. The State assisted with the restoration campaign that began in 1952.

In 1974, the ‘Société Civile du Domaine de Dreux’ (Dreux Domain Civil Heritage Society) was transformed into the Fondation Saint-Louis, thanks to the development of legislation concerning management of cultural assets. As owners of the property, the Foundation launched a significant programme to restore and add value to the monument.

>> Visit the official website of the Fondation Saint-Louis