Le Lude Castle overlooks the pleasant Loir valley with its four powerful round towers. Despite the apparent regularity of its quadrilateral plan, the castle has known several successive states and many modifications which even made its 180° orientation in the 18th century.
In the 10th century, the primitive fortress, the « Lusdi castellum » belongs to the Counts of Anjou. Because of its position, it was used to defend Anjou against the invasions of the Normans, then the English during the 100-year war. In the 13th century, a new fortress erected its six towers near the primitive castle. It belongs to the Vendôme family in 1378. Taken by the English in 1419, it was delivered by Gilles de Rais, the legendary Bluebeard, in 1427, at the end of a victorious fight. Gilles de Rais takes over again before joining Jeanne d’ Arc in Orléans. There are some remains of this fortress in the northeast tower and in the basements.
Twenty years later, the Daillon military family appeared.
The Daillon, master of Le Lude.
The chamberlain and childhood friend of Louis XI, Jehan de Daillon born in Bourges in 1423, takes possession of the estate of Le Lude in 1447. The estate remained in his family until 1685.
Jehan de Daillon became attached to Charles VII in 1453 after abandoning the Dauphin party, the future Louis XI. But, when he became king, Jehan de Daillon had to take refuge in a cave in the valley of Maulne to escape the royal wrath: he would have lived there for 7 years. Louis XI finally granted him his forgiveness and Daillon reached the highest destiny: King’s chamberlain.
From 1456 onwards, Jehan de Daillon transformed the fortress into an elegant pleasure house, which his descendants would embellish for 2 centuries. The Renaissance facade in Italian style and the courtyard of honour are due to the marble slabs.
In the service of King Louis XI, Jehan de Daillon was also in contact with King René’s entourage and entrusted the reconstruction of the castle to Jean Gendrot, master mason of the Duke of Anjou, who was in charge of the « works of the sire du Lude ». From this period, the north wing was essentially rebuilt later.
Jehan de Daillon, then governor of the Dauphiné, died in 1482. Le Lude returns to his son Jacques, who fought in the Italian wars. Jacques de Daillon continued the work in the northern main building and the north-eastern tower, and he raised another main building and two towers to the south, where the new ornamental repertoire appeared. It is necessary to imagine the Renaissance castle oriented differently, with a general U-shaped plan, arranged around a trapezoidal courtyard, simply closed to the east by a fence wall. On this side and below, there was a forecourt, with each side wing ending in a tower.
The defensive system is purely ornamental, both in the north-eastern tower where the round path is too narrow to be effective, and in the southern towers where a double dormer interrupts the decorative machicolations. A Gothic filling, characteristic of the late 15th century, adorns the parapet of the north-east tower, while that of the south towers receives medallions that echo those of the façade. The south facade belongs largely to the 16th century, with some alterations and restorations of the 18th and 19th centuries. It is entirely checkered by the pilasters along the bays and by the horizontal mouldings. Huge medallions occupy the overmantels. This colossal organization continues in the two towers, where the medallions are not placed in the centre of the trumeaux but close to the window, to appear from the front. The stylistic progression indicates that the work began with the right-hand bay of the façade. On the right, the pilasters’ capitals still have a very compact shape, with little separation between the tailpiece and the basket, and little overhanging corner figures, in a way that blossoms around 1510. In addition, all the windows of the span are crowned with a shell pediment that occupies the lightened window above, as in the castle of Gaillon’s entrance shortly before 1510. In the central and tower bays, the capitals stretch in width, with a more developed tailpiece and corner figures rising out of the basket, and the shell pediments are limited to dormers, all signs of a more evolved style. Finally in the left span, the capitals are clearly articulated in depth with a basket clearly separated from the tailpiece, as they were found in the 1520-1530s. The sculpture is refined, with finer and more nervous foliage in the left bay.
In the first quarter of the seventeenth century, around the broad moat, the old fortified area was razed to the ground floor for the construction of a large terrace lined with an elegant stone balustrade over 200 m long. At that time, the courtyard was regularized on the one hand, the west main building was doubled and the old off-work staircase tower, which overflowed into the south-west corner, on the other hand the thickness of the north wall was reduced.
The modifications of the architect Barré.
In 1751, Le Lude became the property of Joseph Duvelaër, head of the board of the Compagnie des Indes. His niece, the Marquise de La Vieuville, began a new campaign of works. This is carried out under the direction of the architect Barré who distinguished himself a few years earlier in Montgeoffroy. Barré removed the front courtyard, replaced the west main building with the current portico and built the classic Louis XVI style wing. He thus gave the castle a new orientation.
To the east, Barré masks the towers with lateral pavilions whose roofs are higher than those of the central pavilion, which appears to be lowered all the more as it is crowned with a flattened pediment. The tripartite composition of the facade, with its strong lateral pavilions, curiously gives the eastern wing a somewhat archaic appearance that avoids the architectural rupture with the elevation of the courtyard, which was built in the 17th century.
From french Revolution to the present day
The Marquise de La Vieuville defended the Château during the Revolution. Its descendants, the Talhouët-Roy, undertook extensive restoration work throughout the 19th century.
For 250 years in the same family, the Lude has been owned by the Count and Countess Louis-Jean de Nicolaÿ, who continue the tradition of restoration and embellishment, notably through the creation of new gardens.
The richness and diversity of the styles that characterize Château du Lude are also reflected in the interior decoration and furniture.
The apartments offer the intimacy and life of inhabited residences. One can still see in the south-east tower a remarkable painting cabinet, realized by the Raphael School for the Duchess of Lude. This cabinet was commissioned in the 1560s by Guy de Daillon. A decor of grotesques covers the vaults while historic panels adorn the walls. This room was reduced by about a third at the end of the 18th century, so the decoration of the new west wall dates from the 19th century.
In the basement, the old vaulted kitchens have been in use since the 15th century, while the communal areas are home to the stables and the wheat attic with its remarkable framework.
The historical park of the Lude extends on several levels between the Castle and the courtyard of the Loir, It is decorated with beautiful marble vases of the 18th century. and a remarkable 17th century group of white marble, Hercules and Anteus.
The lower gardens, along the river, were originally used as vegetable gardens, before being transformed in the 19th century by Edouard André into French gardens. Flower beds and basins follow one another, while a collection of shrubs with perfumed flowering (chimonanthus, lilac, seringats, calycanthus.) underlines the wall. At the same time, the vast meadows on the opposite bank of the river were converted into agricultural parks.
The spring garden makes the transition to the wooded park. Perennial spring perennials (hellébores, euphorbias, hostas.) surround the rockery elements built in the 19th century: kiosk, cave and pier.
The 2 hectare vegetable garden was designed by Edouard André in 1880. With several greenhouses, an orangery and layers of seedlings, it is still in use today. Rare rows of fruit trees, flowers and vegetables occupy the 3 terraces that compose it.
Finally, the garden of the spur, redesigned in 1997, extends to the feet of the Louis XVI façade. The hedges of trimmed yew trees underline the stronghold’s hold and frame a maze of boxwood and a rose garden. There is a collection of Chinese roses, tea and tea hybrids such as Mutabilis, Old Blush, Louis XIV, Irène Watts.
House of Architects.
Near the entrance of the castle, this elegant Renaissance house (occupied by the post office) would have been built by the owners who worked in the François 1er wing of the castle.