Chateau de Maintenon is a lovely castle situated in the community of Maintenon, 65 km from the centre of Paris. The first Castle dates from around 1105 and records from the 13th century mention that it was property of the Lords of Maintenon.
The Chateau is best known for its most famous inhabitant, Madame de Maintenon, the mistress of Louis XIV, and secretly, his second wife. Her story did not start like a fairy tale.
Madame de Maintenon, born as Françoise d'Aubigné (27 November 1635 – 15 April 1719)
Born as Françoise d'Aubigné into a poor family and becoming an orphan at age 16, Madame de Maintenon got married at the age of 17 to the much older poet Paul Scarron. He died in 1660, leaving her as a widow with only depths and no kids at the age of 25.
In 1669 she was offered a position as a governess to the illegitimate children of Louis XIV and his mistress of the time, Madame the Montespan. Madame the Montespan was a friend of her and recommended her to the King.
The, at that time illigetemate, children lived in a secret house in Paris. The Sun King would visit his children and that is where he first met Francoise. At first he did not like Francoise very much, but that would change. In 1673, the children were legitimised by the king and therefore could be moved to court. Francoise went with them.
She bought the Château de Maintenon in 1674. The large income she received for taking care of the royal children made this possible. Her idea was to move there in retirement when she would grow older, but she never got there.
In 1678 the King gave her the title Marquise, or Madame de Maintenon, after her estate. It was probably in this period that she became his mistress. Madame the Montespan eventually left court around 1680 and gave way to her former friend who became the new mistress of the Sun King.
In 1684 the King and Madame de Maintenon were secretly married, but she would never become the official new Queen of France.
The marriage was a so-called morganatic marriage, a practice that was used more often by royalty.
The Husband’s title and privileges could not be inherited by the wife (and children, if any), since the marriage was not recognized in French law.
After het marriage, Madame the Maintenon was referred to as just 'Madame'.
The marriage was, however, recognized by the Church, which was very important for the Sun King. In his old age he became very religious and afraid of going to hell (he was 46, considered old at that time). He would, however, live for another 32 years, and he staid married, and presumably faithful, to Madame de Maintenon until his dead in 1715. The couple had no children, which was no surprise since Francoise was already 49 when the marriage took place.
After the dead of the King, Madame de Maintenon retired at Saint-Cy, the school for poor, but noble girls which she founded. She did not retire at the Chateau de Maintenon as she intended.
Château de Maintenon
Château de Maintenon
The Château de Maintenon is a lovely Castle. On the left side you still see the old tower from the 12th century.
Andre Le Notre, the landcscape-architect and gardener of Louis XIV, designed and created the beautiful French garden in 1681. The most striking aspect of the garden is the aqueduct at the far end, which was designed by the Marquis de Vauban. This project was built to deliver water to the numerous fountains at the gardens of Versailles. Water was diverted from the Eure river, 160 km away from Versailles.
In 1689 the war of the League of Augsburg began. This prevented the works completion since more than 20.000 soldiers were engaged in the construction of this project.
Self-guided visit: €7,50
Self-guided visit with audio guide: €9
Guided tour: €9
Child visit (7 to 18 years): € 3
Children under 7 years are free of charge.
From April to August: from 10:30 to 18.00
From 2 September to 1 December:
weekdays, except Tuesdays, from 14h to 17h,
Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 am to 18pm.
Special opening: 14, 15, 21 and 22 December from 10:30 to 16:00
The palace is closed on Tuesdays!