Fontainebleau is not just one monarch’s palace, it belonged to them all, a “family home” for the kings of France, passed down from generation to generation from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
While the medieval origins of the castle are still visible in the former keep – which dominates the Oval Courtyard – it was Francis I, seduced by the site and the forest teeming with game, who in 1528 commissioned spectacular redevelopments. He had the medieval palace completely rebuilt and turned it into a large Italianate palace, as a reflection of the power of a learned and art loving king. To this day the château retains significant vestiges of the decoration and ornamentation from the French Renaissance, the principles of which were imported by Italian artists invited to Fontainebleau by Francis I (such as Rosso Fiorentino and Primaticcio.
The successors of Francis I continued his work: as the favourite château of Henri IV who revived its heyday, the birth of the future Louis XIII in the King’s apartment would make it the cradle of the Bourbon dynasty. The young Louis XIV asserted his absolute power there, while Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, on the eve of the French Revolution, created enchanting spaces to get away from it all far from the pomp of Versailles.
Having become the Imperial palace after the Revolution, Fontainebleau bears the mark of the renovations by Napoleon I and is home to the only Napoleonic Throne room still in existence. The place where Pope Pius VII was held captive between 1812 and 1814, Fontainebleau became the stage for the fall of the First Empire in April 1814. The young Louis XIV asserted his absolute power there, while Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, on the eve of the French Revolution, created enchanting spaces to get away from it all far from the pomp of Versailles.
“True home of kings, house of ages“, as Napoleon I liked to call it, the château would continue to be where French monarchs liked to visit until the last one, Napoleon III, offering an incomparable insight into several centuries of French history, power, taste and the arts.
The chateau is open every day except Tuesday, January 1st, May 1st and December 25th.
From October to March: 9.30 am to 5 pm (last access at 4.15 pm).
From April to September: 9.30 am to 6 pm (last access at 5.15 pm).