Monday, January 28, 2008

Renaissance Ghost Town?

I apologize for the lag time between posts—I’m heavily into researching my next book. Thank God for interlibrary loan! I can hardly find my laptop amidst the piles of library books on my desk. I love reading old histories written in French during the 1920’s and ‘30’s—what they lack in documentation and objectivity they more than make up for in evocativeness and flair. For those of you interested in a modern history of the French court, I highly recommend Renaissance Warrior and Patron: The Reign of Francis I by R. J. Knecht (Cambridge UP, 1994), a very thorough yet readable account of the first half of the century. I’m learning all sorts of fascinating details about events and personalities of the day.

For example, François I built the immense château de Chambord, the 218-room castle reminiscent of those in the illuminations of the Très Riches Heures of the Duc de Berry, from scratch over twenty years at tremendous cost to the crown. Yet the stunning château was inhabited only a few times while the king hunted in nearby forests; the court, as a whole, resided at Chambord only about forty days during François’ entire thirty-year reign. Thanks to his ambitious architectural program, the king and his traveling court had many lodgings to choose from along the route. The château de Fontainebleau, located in prime hunting territory yet closer to Paris, ultimately became François’ preferred seat (and the setting for my new novel). Chambord, which stood in empty splendor during the Renaissance, became a favorite lodging of Louis XIV and is a must-see destination for millions of tourists today.


Jennifer said...

Hi Julianne --

I'm so clueless about everything French, most especially Renaissance France, which is why I'm so looking forward to reading your book. Not only will I get to enjoy the great story, I'll have my education improved in the process. And I'm delighted to hear you're so happily immersed in research for the next book!

You may have noticed from my picture that I now have a blogger account. I've also decided to give my long languishing blog another shot, so if you get a chance feel free to pop on over and take a look.


P.S. I totally enjoyed Spymaster's Lady, too.

Julianne Douglas said...

Hi, Jennifer. I hope you will be able to read my book some day. Wish I could tell you when...

I'll pop over and check out your blog. Thanks for letting me know about it!


Catherine Delors said...

Hi Julianne,

Glad to read a post from you again. I, for one, LOVE Chambord. A complete masterpiece, and the grand staircase was allegedly designed by Leonardo himself. Does Da Vinci appear in your new book?

Julianne Douglas said...

Salut Catherine,

No, Da Vinci died near Amboise in 1519, near the beginning of Francois's reign. My book will be set in the late 1530's and will deal with other artists who came from Italy at Francois's invitation to embellish Fontainebleau.

Da Vinci had no direct participation in the actual building of Chambord since he died before construction began, but, as you say, there are sketches that link the idea for the double-spiral staircase to him. The king's architects and master masons later incorporated Da Vinci's structure into the design of the chateau.

Chambord was originally surrounded by a moat, which has since been filled in. Can you imagine how beautiful the chateau must have looked rising up from and reflecting off the water, especially on a moonlit night?

Rachel said...

Hi Julianne,

That link to Fontainebleau is brilliant! My MS is set in 19th century France, mainly Paris and Epernay, but my MC will (when I write it) enjoy a memorable jaunt to Compiegne, following the court of Louis-Napoloen. I badly wanted her to go to Fontainebleau, but the time of year she sets off is when the Emperor is definitley in Compiegne(sigh). But I can't really complain - all the royal chateaux are fabulous, opulent settings for a story.

Happy researching!

Susan Adrian said...

Hi Julianne!

I had a weird experience while visiting Chambord. I was young--with a highschool group--and on a usual tour. We'd seen tons of castles and chateaus by that point, and they were starting to blur. But the soon as I stepped inside, I felt a powerful sense of having been there before. More, of having belonged there, somehow. I wandered off on my own for a while, and climbed up the steps to the walkway, at the very top.

And I could hear the hunt. Just for a moment--I could see them too, the pack of men on horses riding across the vast lawns around the Chambord, heading for the forest. I was someone else, anxious for one of the people I was watching below.

Then I was a highschool kid again, the vision gone. The only other place I had a feeling as strong as that was in Brittany. :)

Julianne Douglas said...


Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you liked the link. The official website for Fontainebleau is rather disappointing; I think this one has more evocative photographs. I hope I'll be able to do justice to this amazing place in words.

I'm really looking forward to reading your book. Best of luck with the writing!

Julianne Douglas said...


What an amazing experience! You've got the seed for a perfect time-travel book there, if you ever decide to come back to historical fiction. [s] I had a similar moment at Chenonceaux (the one that spans a river). Maybe that will become book three.

Was there a particular place in Brittany you felt drawn to, or just the province in general? I've never been to the western coast of France, as much as I've wanted to go.