March 1547, by a moonless night… King of France François I was dying in the castle of Rambouillet. By his side, Jacques d’Angennes, his loyal servant and owner of the estate, surrounded by a big part of the Court. François came here to hunt in the neighbouring wood, but he had a sudden weakness.
Aaah, historians speculated a long time about the sickness which killed the giant king. Syphilis, maybe? Hey, François was fond of ladies and had numerous mistresses, so, why not… In fact, not at all: he probably died of a septicaemia, because of a fistula.
Now, let me introduce Charles d’Angennes and his wife Catherine de Vivonne: the owner in the 17th c. Catherine held a salon in Paris, she was the queen of Précieuses! And she hosted all her friends in Rambouillet, in Summer.
The famous French chronicler Tallemant des Réaux wrote in his Historiettes that, at the bottom of the castle, we had a nice meadow with a circle of big rocks and trees. One day, Catherine brought one bishop friend to see these rocks: through the leaves, he saw ladies in short skirts, dressed as sexy nymphs! The marquise pretended she saw nothing. As for the bishop, completely turned on, he often came back in Rambouillet, after that...
Catherine also liked jokes: one day, her friend the count de Guiche spent few days in Rambouillet. He ate lots of mushrooms, his favourite meal. Meanwhile, his butler shrunk all his clothes! So, the next morning, his clobber didn’t fit any more… worried, he finally slipped on a dressing gown for the rest of his sojourn...
The young king Louis XV often came in Rambouillet to hunt and to see the owner, his uncle the count of Toulouse. Louis was 22, he was handsome… and already married. Rambouillet was a real puff of fresh air in his life! The countess held her salon, here, and sexy ladies came.
Among them: the countess de Mailly. He was a real shy guy, anything but not a seducer! But she was his first extra-marital relationship… not the last one, since the 3 sisters Mailly will become his mistresses!
Count of Toulouse’s son, duke of Penthièvre, raised the Shell cottage for his daughter-in-law, the princess of Lamballe. Then, Rambouillet fell to king Louis XVI, in 1783. Famous painter Hubert Robert laid out a landscaped garden and Thévenin built a dairy for Marie-Antoinette.
King Louis wanted to exploit the big estate: so he raised a sheepfold. Merino sheeps were bought (it cost a small fortune!) from the king of Spain: they moved in Rambouillet in October 1786, after 4 months of travel. Merino wool from Rambouillet became very popular!
In the reign of Napoleon I, the emperor redecorated apartments in the western wing with a bathroom and a study. Yes, he came here to study, but… not only! He hunted and made strolls on the canal, on a Venetian gondola! Here, in Rambouillet, on March 29th 1830, the empress Marie-Louise and their little son, the king of Rome, turned up, running away from Paris. It was the end for Napoleon, and the escape in Austria for the empress…