Valençay, in Indre, main town of the canton that shares its name, is a small, charming town of 3122 inhabitants, nestling around the château. The town is situated 42 kms to the north of the county town of Châteauroux and 55 kms to the south of Blois.
Arriving from Blois through the lovely Gâtine forest, a straight road leads into one of the 2 courtyards at the château, called the " cour des Ronds " (Courtyard of Circles).
From Châteauroux, and across the Berry plains, visitors come to a high point, overlooking the Nahon river. Crossing the gently flowing river, they arrive at the towering château, which stands at the top of a hill.
A feudal castle stood on the site in the 13th C.
Following a marriage, the Chalons-Tonnerre became the owners.
In 1451, Robert II d'Estampes purchased the château. The d'Estampes family remained the owners for nearly another three centuries. During this time, major changes were made to the château.
In 1509, Louis and his son Jacques d'Estampes razed the ancient feudal manor to the ground. They built, from around 1520/1530, the current château in a Renaissance style, following the plans of an unknown architect. The crediting of the design to Philibert Delorme is in error.
Dominique d'Estampes built the west wing, opposite the grounds, and the east wing, on the Valençay side, in the early 17th C. A wall of arches, enclosing the " cour d'honneur ", links the two wings.
Mademoiselle de Montpensier, also called the " Grande Mademoiselle ", came to Valençay in 1653. She wrote that Valençay is an " enchanting house " in her memoirs.
At the end of the 17th C, the d'Estampes family lost their glory. Financial problems forced the widow of Henri Hubert d'Estampes to sell the estate in 1719, to the banker-speculator John Law. This sale was then cancelled due to his bankruptcy.
Finaly, after having passed into the hands of the Chaumont de La Millière family, the farmer-general Charles Legendre de Villemorien became the eventual buyer of the estate in 1766. Shortly afterwards, with the aid of architect Joseph-Abel Couture, he carried out some important modifications: demolition of the east wing and arches, and modifications to the west wing, in particular the building of the Tour Neuve (New Tower).
His son, the Comte Legendre de Luçay, put the finishing touches to his work and sold the château to Talleyrand in May 1803.
" Monsieur de Talleyrand, I want you to purchase a good property, one where you can receive diplomats and other notable foreigners. Guests whom we wish to send to such a place as a reward to the ambassadors of sovereigns that I would like to remain content... " explained the Premier Consul, who contributed a very large part towards the acquisition of the château.
In May 1808, the Spanish Princes, captured at Bayonne, were put in guarded accomodation at the Château de Valençay. They stayed there until March 1814, after the signing of the treaty of Valençay on December 11th 1813. The treaty gave the Spanish throne to Prince Ferdinand, despite the reserves expressed by the Cortès.
It was only in 1816, after eight years of absence, that Talleyrand returned to Valençay. He then came nearly every year for a stay, accompanied by his niece, the duchesse de Dino. On May 17th, 1838, the Prince de Talleyrand died in Paris. On September 5th his remains were interred in a chapel near to the château, following a last hommage by a united people in the funeral cortege.
It was his great-nephew, Napoléon-Louis de Talleyrand-Périgord, duc de Valençay, who inherited the estate. With the latter's death, in 1898, his grandson, Boson, succeded him until his own death in 1952. The sole inheritor, and last individual owner, M. Jean Morel, sold the château to an Association Départementale (County Association) on December 15th 1979.
Saved from the Second World War, and in spite of the destruction caused to the village itself on August 16th 1944, the Château de Valençay has kept a large part of the furniture and items with which the prince liked to surround himself.
With thanks to Mssrs André BEAU and Philippe Maillard for their valuable advice.