A visit to the Loire region in France would not be complete without visiting a few of the many castles along the river. Chambord is the largest amongst them. It was built under the order of King François I between 1519 and 1547. This renaissance masterpiece has 426 rooms, 77 staircases and 282 fireplaces and vast gardens. About 1,800 craftsmen and builders were employed during its construction. The name of its architect has been lost, but it is believed that some of the details, like the castle's famous double helix staircase, can be attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, who had been brought to the French court by François 1 a few years earlier.
It is believed François I only spent 72 days in all in his humble abode, coming just for a few days at a time to hunt. After his death, it was neglected by subsequent kings. In 1659, Louis XIV visits Chambord for the first time. He returns in 1660 with his new wife Marie-Thérèse of Austria. Under his orders, several improvements are made to the castle and new royal apartments are added in 1684.
In 1725, Louis XV's father-in-law, the dethroned and exiled Polish king Stanislas Leszczyński is given the use of the chateau by the king. He soon finds out Chambord's biggest drawback... Since it was constructed on marshland, mosquitoes are a constant problem. He flees the place in 1733.
During the French revolution, local peasants decimate the park's animals, cut down the majestic trees, and steal the furnishings in the castle. Doors and windows and gutters are ripped out and taken. After the revolution, Napoléon gives Chambord to one of his army commanders, the Maréchal Berthier, but he does not have the means to keep it up. In the 1830's it is occupied by one of the descendants of the Bourbon family.
It becomes the property of the French government in the 1930's.
During World War II, Chambord becomes the biggest clandestine museum in Europe, when the French moved priceless works of art from the Louvre museum to the castle's chapel in order to protect them from the enemy. Amongst the works were Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa.