Strange! A pagoda, near Amboise? Sure! Do you know its history? Chanteloup was mentioned since the 16th century. At that time, the castle’s orchard was pretty famous: the pears, especially, were just delicious…
After the city of Amboise annexed Chanteloup, Jean Bouteroue d'Aubigny, great Master of Waters and Forests, owned the estate in 1710. Famous architect Robert de Cotte raised him a castle, in 1713. A gorgeous and huge main building flanks by two detached houses.
Here, in Touraine, in this vast estate, an exile man turned up… a minister who fell from grace… who? Duke de Choiseul! Minister of Foreign Affairs, protected by La Pompadour (king Louis XV’s mistress), he was the best of the best! The hard plunge arrived, after La Pompadour’s fall… Shoo, Choiseul! A plot suddenly overthrew him… and it was the exile, in Chanteloup.
The minister spent a fortune here! He raised main courtyards worthy of a palace, fit out apartments with an unequaled luxury, with precious furniture and parquets everywhere. Chanteloup became a kind of little Versailles!
Dufort de Cheverny wrote in his Memories: ″You can’t imagine the luxury here. When you arrived at night, it was like entering in Versailles, because of the munificence of the lights, outside and inside. And I needed 20 minutes to cross all the corridors, from my bedroom to the abbot Barthelemy’s apartments.″
Choiseul raised and embellished… what was his craziest plan? The pagoda! About 40 metres high, with a big golden bowl at the top… he raised it between 1775 and 1778, based on plans by Louis-Denis Le Camus. Dufort de Cheverny wrote: ″It’s a kind of Chinese obelisk, with a staircase inside. We can see a marble plaque, with the names of people who visited it.″
And to raise this pagoda, Choiseul used stones from the neighbouring castle of La Bourdaisière! The legend also says that Choiseul, angry with Voltaire, put a weathercock at the top of the pagoda… a weathercock with Voltaire’s head!
Like in its rival Versailles, they had fun in Chanteloup! First, the hunting: although Choiseul hated hunting, he spent a fortune, each year, for his crew… more than 60 000 livres! Then, Choiseul hosted guests galore. Friends came to see him, here. And what did they do? They played the brand new game, the billiard, until the end of the morning.
Then, they had lunch until 4PM. And at 8PM, shoo, everyone gathered to play chess or cards. The other guests chatted. They had diner from 9 to 10PM, whereupon they had game of cards until midnight. At 1AM, everyone went to bed! Except the duke and the duchess… who stayed here chatting until 3AM.
Choiseul was nicely settled here. He had several stoves in winter. At lunch time, the table linen was perfect! Dufort de Cheverny wrote in his Memories: ″Every table cloth, towels or sheets were ironed: besides, the laundry where domestics ironed was a curiosity, in this house.″
Hey, he even had mosquito nets! Dufort added: ″The duchess de Grammont’s apartments was the most magnificent and luxurious thing on earth. Windows were covered with a canvas frame, a kind of sieve, to prevent the flies and mosquito from entering in.″
At the end, Choiseul spent all his fortune. Hey, with all those parties, all these great feasts… He even ruined his own wife. One day she was strolling next to Chanteloup, she met a peasant.
He said: ″-Do you recognize me? My name is Pierre, you know, I was the chap who picked up the manure on the road of Chanteloup. You always asked me: Do you need something? Are you happy? I told you I only needed a donkey and a cart. You gave them to me, and it helped me a lot. Now I’m rich, very rich. What about you, Madame? People say you’re penniless, now. Hey, that’s not true! Because what is mine is yours, since you gave me the cart and the donkey. Well, now, I give them back to you.
Madame de Choiseul never forget this encounter. She payed all her husband’s debts and withdrew in a convent for the rest of her life...