The Renaissance

Under Valois rule, the Saint Louis keep and the mediaeval estate were gradually transformed into a true palace. In the second half of his reign, Francis I showed a particular fondness for the Château de Fontainebleau, as evidenced by both the work he carried out on it and the amount of time that he spent on its premises.

Aerial view of the Château at the end of the Renaissance
Chimney breast decorated by Primaticcio (1534-1537) in the Francis I room - © Sophie Lloyd

The Palace of the Valois Kings

The Renaissance saw the first major changes to the Château de Fontainebleau. In addition to major building extensions, followed by extensive decoration by Italian artists, there were court visits. Francis I (1494-1547) often came to stay at Fontainebleau ; He liked the palace so much that when he spoke of visiting, he referred to it as “going home”. From 1528 onwards, the date of his first commissioned works there, the king particularly liked to spend the winter at Fontainebleau, hunting boar and other quarry in the forests. In December 1536, his future son-in-law James V, King of Scotland, came to visit him.

From 24 to 30 December 1539, Fontainebleau was famously host to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. His son Henry II of France was also a regular visitor, carrying out work on the palace’s premises. The Château de Fontainebleau was also where Catherine de Medici gave birth to six of their children. Francis II was born on 19 January 1544 and was baptised at Fontainebleau on 10 February of the same year ; Elizabeth (the future queen of Spain) on 2 April 1546 ; Claude (the future Duchess of Lorraine) on 12 November 1547 ; Edouard-Alexandre (the future Henry III of France) on 19 September 1551 ; Hercule (the future Duke of Anjou) on 18 March 1555 ; and Jeanne and Victoire, Princesses of France, on 24 June 1556.

In 1560, Charles IX called a meeting of various dignitaries in order to try and calm the religious conflicts which were raging in France, and it was at Fontainebleau that the French legislative assembly known as the States-General (États généraux) was revived. For the carnival of 1564, Catherine de Medici organised lavish festivities for her son Charles IX that were attended by the poet Ronsard.

In 1593, Henry IV of France reconvened his court at Fontainebleau, before returning to Paris, still in the grip of the Catholic League. 14 to 21 December 1599 saw the visit of Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy.

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