The castle which transformed Françoise d'Aubigné into Mme de Maintenon
This castle is linked to a famous lady... madame de Maintenon, as known as François d'Aubigné! She married king Louis XIV after the death of his wife, Maria-Theresa of Austria, in 1693. The royal family and the Court hated her...
But our castle dates back to 1105: we found here a keep raised by lords of Maintenon, owned in 1509 by Jean Cottereau, kings Louis XII and François I's treasurer. He extended and embellished his estate, raising the Renaissance wing and the castle's church in 1521, dedicated to saint Nicolas.
Françoise d'Aubigné owned the estate in 1674; she was the governess of the king's children. Kids he had with his mistress the marquise de Montespan. She wrote:
The estate is a beautiful and noble one. It's a big castle in a small city, surrounding by meadows and with a river running in the ditches.
The lady talked so much about her castle, that the king himself started to nicknamed her "madame de Maintenon"!
In the little city of Maintenon, she founded schools, a hospital and factories. In 1684, architect Jean-Pierre Le Maistre put up the wing linking up the square tower to the main building, based on plans by Hardouin-Mansart.
Meanwhile, Louis XIV laid out the park with Le Nôtre, who dug the grand canal and raised the aqueduct. This one was built by Vauban. 30 000 workers worked here between 1684 and 1688. But it was too expensive and the plan was abandoned...
In the park, we had two alleys, Le Nôtre and Racine's alleys. This one owns its name from the famous French writer, Jean Racine, who often came in Maintenon castle and wrote for madame de Maintenon his tragedy about Esther and Athalie...
Françoise gave her estate to her niece, who married count d'Ayen, future minister of king Louis XV.