Château de Maintenon and the Whims of Louis XIV

Château de Maintenon and the Whims of Louis XIV
Maintenon is an ideal day trip from Paris. It is less than an hour by train from Paris’s Gare Montparnasse, and provides all the mix of nature, culture and history one might seek on a short break away from the city.  The stunning Château de Maintenon is the most famous landmark here. With strong Renaissance influences, the chateau played an important role in French history. What’s more, one of the most remarkable treasures is hidden beyond the well-manicured gardens: the 70-meter Aqueduc de Maintenon.  The stories contained here belie the calm and sophisticated splendor of the château. The aqueduct and the Château de Maintenon, painting by François-Edmée Ricois in the 19th century. Wikimedia commons Château de Maintenon. Photo credit:: Pronoti Baglary A Little History The Château de Maintenon was once a defensive fortress, and records indicate that it can be traced back to the 13th century. Gradually the property was converted into a splendid residence fit for aristocrats, as successive occupants implemented various renovations and transformations. Perhaps the most remarkable person to live at Château de Maintenon was Françoise d’Aubigné. She was employed as the governess to the children of King Louis XIV and his mistress, Marquise de Montespan. In 1675, on the advice of the marquise, the king paid her enough to buy the land from Jean Cottereau, and she became the Madame de Maintenon. In 1683, she went on to marry Louis XIV in secret, pulling the Château de Maintenon from its fate as an obscure little castle into the glitz and glamour of the royal court, with the Sun King himself becoming a frequent visitor, solidifying its importance as a geographical location of royal importance.  The period after Françoise d’Aubigné’s acquisition of the château, and the subsequent marriage between her and Louis XIV, saw the Château de Maintenon transform extensively. Later owners, such as Duke Paul de Noailles, also left their mark on the property by modernizing it. The Château de Maintenon. Photo credit: Pronoti Baglary Louis XIV’s Aqueduct King Louis XIV employed his celebrated royal gardener, André Le Nôtre, the mastermind behind the gardens of Château de Versailles, to reimagine the gardens of Château de Maintenon. The gardens you can view today have been recreated to resemble the original plans drawn up by Le Nôtre, and his stamp is unmissable: from his love for symmetry to the geometric patterns, and of course the dominance of water as a central design element. Most importantly, as previously mentioned, there is a lesser known, yet remarkable facet of the château grounds: an aqueduct that forms a extraordinary backdrop to the gardens of Le Nôtre.

Lead photo credit : Chateau de Maintenon. Photo credit: Pronoti Baglary

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Pronoti is a freelance writer and photographer based in Paris. When she is not writing or learning French, she spends her time exploring Parisian oddities and delights. A sociologist by training, she is interested in everything related to society and culture including food, language and architecture. She shares photographs and tid-bits about her life in France on her Instagram @paris_shuffle and on her blog The Shuffle.