Amboise is located outside the city of Tours. It was the home to many kings such as Charles VIII and Louis XI. Amboise was at first the site of a former Roman camp. Atop of the camp, a feudal fortress was built. Louis d' Amboise, the last landlord of the fortress, was caught in a conspiracy act and lost all property. The fortress property was annexed to the Crown in 1434 by Amboise and Chateau Gontier. Charles VII renovated certain parts of the castle and added the clock tower. Then he sent his son, Louis XI, to live there. Here Louis XI ruled with his wife, Queen Charlotte of Savoy.
Louis XI's son, Charles VIII, also ruled France from the castle of Amboise accompanied with his wife, Anne of Bretagne. Charles VIII wanted to make his court one of the best in the world. Both Charles and Anne truly appreciated the arts. Poets, painters, etc. were often invited to stay at the castle. In addition to these guests, courtiers, guards, government and court servers, and many more also stayed on castle grounds. This lead Charles VIII to expand his castle. He hired the absolute best architects. Raymond de Dezest was in charge of the work. Colin Biart, Guillaume Senault, and Louis Armanjart were the master masons. They had an additional 170 masons and 90 workmen working on the expansion. Corneille de Neve and Cassin d'Ultrecht sculpted the stone lacework in the chapel. They based their work on the tales of Saint Habert and Saint Christophe. When this was all finished, the castle looked magnificent. There were skylights with decorated pinnacles and beautiful views of the chapel and forests. The castle, however, had no Italian influence until Charles VIII journeyed to Naples. He admired the Italian style significantly and hired Dom Pacello to create a palace garden. When Charles VIII returned to Amboise, he was accompanied with over 87,000 pounds of art, jewels, marble, etc. to decorate his castle. On February 7, 1498 Charles VIII suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died.
The heir to Charles VIII was Louis XII. The new king, however, did not want to reside in Amboise but instead in Blois. He did build the long gallery and the balcony on the side of the Minimes convent in memory of his father. After 1499, Louis XII offered Amboise to Louise de Savoie and her two children, one of which was to inherit the throne (Francois d'Angouleme).
When Francis I occupied the throne, he was a social ruler. He lavished Amboise. He held balls, feasts, tournaments, etc. He also persuaded Leonardo da Vinci to take up residence in a nearby manor, Clos Luce. When Leonardo da Vinci died on May 2, 1519, he left three works of art to the monarch, which included the Mona Lisa, a painting of Saint Anne, and a painting of Saint John the Baptist. Leondardo da Vinci was buried in the Saint Florentin College on the castle grounds.
After the reigns of Francis I and Henry II, both which made minor architectural adjustments, the country of France went through many civil wars. Finally after Louis XIV came to power, Versailles became the palace of absolute monarchy. By this time, Amboise was a mere castle of exile for noteworthy prisoners.
1. Armel De Wismes, Baron, The Loire Castles: English Edition, Artaud Freres Publications,