There is one King who appears very little at Blois, and yet it was he who built the most splendid portion of the whole castle, as we know from the ” salamanders ” which figure on the great staircase. It was probably too small and old-fashioned a residence for Francis I. He needed a Chambord. Twelve years Chambord took to build, though 1800 workmen were employed. It is an unsatisfactory palace to visit, far less interesting than the other castles of the Loire. Even Francis I. himself seems to have been disappointed with it; and the Kings who came later occupied it very little. Louis XIV., it is true, spent some time here; it was at a fete given at Chambord in honour of Mademoiselle de la Valliere that Moliere’s ” Bourgeois Gentilhomme ” was performed for the first time.
Chambord was built on the site of the old hunting-lodge of the Dukes of Orleans, and was said to be haunted by no one less than his satanic majesty himself, who, dressed in black, mounted on a black horse, followed by black dogs, and black-habited servants, used to gallop about’ through the black night, filling the woods with shouts and cries. ” Le chasseur noir ” he was called, and it was death to meet him. Francis I. must have been a bold man to pull down the devil’s own lodge to make room for the castle.
I wonder if he and his sister, the Queen of Navarre, used to hear the sound of the ghostly hunt, and if that is the reason the great palace has never become popular like the other chateaux.