The 17th Century

The last major building expansion works at the château were carried out during the reign of Henry IV of France, who called it his favourite residence after the Louvre. Throughout the whole of the 17th century, the court visits were punctuated with key events.

Mathieu Jacquet, Henry IV on horseback - © Sophie Lloyd
The Grand Canal, 1200 metres long, dug between 1606 and 1609 - © Sophie Lloyd
© Château de Fontainebleau
© Château de Fontainebleau
© Château de Fontainebleau

The Royal Family at Fontainebleau

Whilst conflict raged between Catholics and Protestants, Henry IV (King of France from 1589 to 1610) visited Fontainebleau on 4 May 1600 for the public disputation between Monseigneur Du Perron, the Bishop of Evreux, and Protestant theologian Duplessis-Mornay, dealing with arguments made by the latter in his treatise on the Eucharist.

The first Bourbon king regularly visited the château, to which he added the new Cour des Offices and a grand entrance to the town, as well as numerous buildings. The canal was dug and new gardens designed and planted. Their visits to Fontainebleau covered some key moments in the royal family’s lives. Weddings there included that of Concini and Leonora Dori Galigaï, on June 12th 1601 ; while Caesar, Duke of Vendôme, the legitimised son of Henry IV and Gabrielle d’Estrées, married Henriette de Lorraine, daughter of the Duke of Mercoeur, on 7 July 1609. The château also witnessed the births of the future dauphin, Louis XIII, born on 27 September 1601 ; Élisabeth, future queen of Spain, on 22 November 1602 ; the Duke of Anjou, later known as Gaston, Duke of Orléans, on 25 April 1608, and the dauphin Louis, son of Louis XIV and Marie-Thérèse d’Autriche, on 1 November 1661.

Particularly memorable was the baptism of the dauphin and future King of France Louis XIII and his sisters Élisabeth and Chrétienne in the Cour Ovale on 14 September 1606.

Louis XIII spent a happy childhood at Fontainebleau, filled with activities such as hunting, tennis and frequent drawing lessons with artist Martin Fréminet. Later in his life he would come here to take the waters. Princes also died at Fontainebleau, foreshadowing the sad end of Louis XIV’s reign. Louis-Armand de Bourbon, Prince of Conti, the King’s son-in-law, died there on 9 November 1685, followed by Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé (also known as the Great Condé) on 11 December the following year.

Key Visits

In the political sphere, it was at Fontainebleau that Marshal Biron and Charles, Count of Auvergne were arrested on 14 June 1602 ; they were convicted of treason and Biron was decapitated in Paris on 29 July. Similarly, on 4 May 1626, Louis XIII had his brother Gaston’s governor Marshal Ornano arrested.

On 14 and 15 May 1633, 49 knights of the Order of the Holy Spirit were appointed, including Cardinal Richelieu. On 17 August 1661, travelling from Fontainebleau to a lavish party thrown in his honour by Fouquet at the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, Louis XIV decided to have his superintendent of finances imprisoned. In July 1664 the chambre de justice, the judicial body which dealt with financiers, held its session at Fontainebleau.The Edict of Fontainebleau, or the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, was signed in Madame de Maintenon’s office on 17 October 1685.

17th-century diplomatic history was also made at Fontainebleau when the ratification of the peace treaty between France and England was signed on 16 September 1629. Henrietta Maria of France, queen consort of England, Scotland and Ireland and wife of Charles I visited with her son the Prince of Wales, the future Charles II, between 19 and 23 August 1646.

Queen Christine of Sweden made two visits in the autumn of 1565 and the autumn of 1657. The second visit became sadly infamous when on 10 November 1657, in the Galerie des Cerfs (Hall of Stags) the queen had Monaldeschi, her Master of the Horse, executed.

On 29 July 1664, Cardinal Chigi, the papal legate to Pope Alexander VII, came to convey the Roman Pontiff’s apologies to Louis XIV for an unseemly fracas which had ensued in Rome in 1662 between the Corsican Guard and French embassy staff. During this visit, the legate expressed his admiration of Moliere’s play Tartuffe. Between the autumn of 1690 and the autumn of 1700, King James II, then former King of England, and his wife Maria of Modena made ten consecutive visits to Fontainebleau, at Louis XIV’s request.

On 5 November 1696 Princess Marie-Adélaïde of Savoy, the future Duchess of Burgundy, paid a visit. A number of alliances have been forged at Fontainebleau, such as the marriage between Ladislas IV, King of Poland, and Anna Maria Gonzaga on 25 September 1645 in the King’s Chamber. On 31 August 1679 the Chapel of the Trinity saw the proxy marriage of Charles II of Spain and Marie-Louise d’Orléans (or Mademoiselle d’Orléans to give her her birth title), the daughter of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans, and Princess Henrietta of England. During the same visit on 2 September 1679 a treaty was signed between France and Sweden on the one hand, and Denmark and the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp on the other. The 13 October 1698 witnessed the proxy marriage of Leopold, Duke of Lorraine, and Elizabeth Charlotte d’Orléans (or Mademoiselle d’Orléans), the daughter of Philippe I, Duke of Orléans (known as Monsieur), and Elizabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate.

Between 9 and 11 November 1700, Louis XIV held several meetings with Madame de Maintenon, resulting in his decision to accept the evidence of the King of Spain, making the Duke of Anjou his heir. It was not until a visit between 21 and 24 August 1712 that negotiations conducted with Queen Anne’s envoy, Viscount Bolingbroke, led to a peace settlement between France and England, and put an end to the War of Spanish Succession.

A year before the death of Louis XIV on 26 September 1714, the elector of Saxony Friedrich Augustus II was received under his then title Count of Lusatia. The future king of Poland, he was to reign under the title of Augustus III.

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