The Chantilly castle as we can admire it today is a reconstruction dating from the 19th century on the site of a medieval fortress.

Chantilly was indeed in its early times a fortress with seven towers, surrounded by moats and owned by the Bouteillers de Senlis family. The fortress was sold once in its history (it was subsequently inherited) in 1386 to the Orgemont family and passed, for lack of descendants, to a nephew, Guillaume de Montmorency in 1484.

The Montmorency family owned Chantilly from the 15th in the 17th century, but it was the Constable Anne de Montmorency who left the strongest mark on the estate: he had the fortress renovated in 1528, had the terrace on which his equestrian statue currently stands built in 1538, had the Little Castle built in 1551 and had the first gardens of the estate laid out.

Chantilly was confiscated by King Louis XIII when Henri II de Montmorency revolted against royal authority and was executed in 1632, but the estate was eventually returned to one of Henri II de Montmorency’s sisters, Charlotte, who was Henry II of Bourbon-Condé’s wife.

This is how the Chantilly estate passed into the house of Condé, the younger branch of the Bourbon house.

Their son, named the “Grand Condé” because of his numerous military victories, opposed Mazarin and the young King Louis XIV by participating in the “Fronde” noble rebellion. And in fact, the estate was again confiscated by the royal authority in 1652 but was returned to the “Grand Condé” in 1659.

The “Grand Condé”, in royal disfavor because of his involvement in the “Fronde” rebellion, lived in Chantilly which he never ceased to beautify. He had the park designed by André Le Nôtre, had the Grand Canal and the Grand Degré created. The parties were sumptuous and the food was refined under the aegis of the well-respected majordomo François Vatel – who will commit suicide there in 1671. Vatel was indeed responsible for a somptuous banquet for 2,000 people hosted in Chantilly to celebrate the reconciliation between the “Grand Condé” and King Louis XIV. When Vatel understood that the seafood intended to be served to the royal entourage would not be delivered on time, he killed himself with his sword, because he would rather die than disappoint the King and the “Grand Condé” and dishonor his culinary art. The seafood delivery arrived eventually.

During the French Revolution, the Chantilly castle was confiscated and looted. Sold in 1799, the new owners undertook to demolish it in order to sell the stones before losing ownership of the estate: the Little Castle and the Great Stables were saved.

In 1830, on the death of the last Prince of Condé, Chantilly passed to the son of King Louis-Philippe, the Duke of Aumale. From 1876 to 1882, the Duke of Aumale had the castle rebuilt on the old foundations, according to the plans of the architect Honoré Daumet (this part of the castle is now called the New Castle). He installed his impressive collections of paintings, drawings and old books there.

Widowed and childless, he died in 1897 and bequeathed Chantilly to the Institut de France.

Once past the Herse bridge, the “Cour d’Honneur” (the courtyard) is amazing, with its chapel and covered gallery.

Picture by Maurice Schair Ron

The Reading Room

The apartments, which are located in the Little Castle, were fitted out as ceremonial rooms by the Duke of Aumale.

The Duke d’Aumale, on his death, bequeathed incredible collections to the Institut de France: the Condé museum brings together the second largest collection of ancient paintings in France after the Louvre museum. Mainly made up of French and Italian works, the collection includes three Raphaëls, three Fra Angelicos, seven Poussins, four Watteaus and five Ingres. The loan of artworks being prohibited by the legacy of the Duke of Aumale, all of these collections are only visible in Chantilly.

Picture by Maurice Schair Ron

The Chantilly park, which covers 115 hectares including 25 hectares of water, was one of Le Nôtre’s favorite creations. French flowerbeds, ponds and statues adorn the French-style gardens.

Picture by Maurice Schair Ron

Picture by Maurice Schair Ron

Picture by Maurice Schair Ron

Very lively during Summer, the Chantilly estate is perfectly peaceful in Autumn and the water-filled moats that surround the castle give it a wildly romantic aspect.

Picture by Maurice Schair Ron (well, let’s talk about Maurice. And Gary. I met Maurice via Instagram. Maurice is a Venezuelian gentleman living in the US and he is in love with Europe. Gary is Maurice’s husband. They regularly visit Europe and when they visit France, we take one day dedicated to the three of us: a somptuous castle to discover, nice drinks to savor and a fine dinner to share – my kids are involved and it’s a funny mess. What I love about Maurice is Gary and what I love about Gary is Maurice. But also, what I love about Maurice is Maurice and what I love about Gary is Gary. You see what I mean)

Chantilly website

November 4, 2022