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Castle of Rambouillet: the ancient residence of Kings and Presidents of France




The castles in France are an endless opportunity to study history at its different stages. Kings, princes, dukes, nobles and just rich businessmen lived here. Each of them had their own interests and preferences, which we can trace today in refined and luxurious interiors. Situated in the heart of the forest, the Castle of Rambouillet is a reminder of how the royal families loved hunting. One can visit it with a guide, or just walk through the huge French-style park and explore the outbuildings.

The Castle of Rambouillet
Chateau de Rambouillet. Photo: Trougnouf (Benoit Brummer), via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Castle of Rambouillet
Bird’s eye view of the castle. Photo: Ash Crow, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Built in 1345, the castle was once a royal residence in the heart of a giant forest, and later became the presidential residence. Today it still hosts heads of state. Some rooms of the palace keep a special history. For example, Francis I died in one of them, Napoleon I spent his last night in France in another, and the third majestic room with magnificent wooden decoration is Marie Antoinette’s boudoir.

The Castle of Rambouillet
The Castle of Rambouillet. Photo: François Philipp / flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The Castle of Rambouillet
Castle tower. Photo: Gilles Messian / flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Castle of Rambouillet owes its fame to the rich game forest in the very heart of which it was built. The former medieval fortress was gradually transformed into a holiday residence. Renowned owners, including the d’Angennes and Toulouse-Penthièvre families, Louis XVI, Napoleon I and the Presidents of the Republic, contributed to the design of the interiors

The Castle of Rambouillet
Interior of the castle. Photo: Gilles Messian / flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The Castle of Rambouillet
Interior of the castle. Photo: Gilles Messian / flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In the Middle Ages, Rambouillet was a fortified outpost. After the death of Francis I of France, some of the greatest figures in French history lived in the Castle of Rambouillet at different times: the Count of Toulouse, Louis XVI, Napoleon I.

The Castle of Rambouillet
Interior of the castle. Photo: Gilles Messian / flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The Castle of Rambouillet
Interior of the castle. Photo: Gilles Messian / flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Count of Toulouse, a passionate hunter, made the castle of Rambouillet his residence in the 18th century and turned it into a real palace, which during the reign of Louis XVI became the residence of kings

The Castle of Rambouillet
Interior of the castle. Photo: Zakarie Faibis, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Castle of Rambouillet
Interior of the castle. Photo: Chatsam, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Since the end of the 19th century, the presidents of France lived here, who turned the territory into a prestigious hunting estate.

The Castle of Rambouillet
Interior of the castle. Photo: Gilles Messian / flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The Castle of Rambouillet
Interior of the castle. Photo: Gilles Messian / flickr (CC BY 2.0)

In order to ennoble the area surrounding the castle, which was essentially a flat wetland, a 740 m long channel was dug, which made it possible to probe the territory: a geometric quincunx was laid to the west, from which the only in Europe avenue of Louisiana cypresses was planted to the east.

The Castle of Rambouillet
The Castle of Rambouillet. Photo: Département des Yvelines / flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
The Castle of Rambouillet
Canal near the castle. Photo: Gilles Messian / flickr (CC BY 2.0)

At the request of Louis XVI, a real dairy farm was built for Marie Antoinette. Here you can see the statue “Amalthea and the Nymph” by Pierre Julien

The Castle of Rambouillet
Household buildings near the castle. Photo: Gilles Messian / flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The Castle of Rambouillet
Dairy farm. Photo: Gilles Messian / flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The second, transverse, channel opened a view of the forest and the horizon. In the trapezium formed by these channels, there were two islands, one of which contained a grotto dedicated to François Rabelais. An emerald lawn separated the canals from the edges of the Rambouillet Forest.

The Castle of Rambouillet
Castle park. Photo: Pline, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Castle of Rambouillet
Castle park. Photo: Gilles Messian / flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Given its proximity to the capital, Rambouillet Castle is a great place for a day trip from Paris.

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The Castle of Rambouillet on map: