Guest Blog

The Best Chateaux in the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley in its own right is a beautiful sight to behold. Nearly 300 kilometres in expanse in central France along the Loire River, the 800 or so square kilometres known locally as the Vallée de la Loire is famous for its wine-producing vineyards, among other agricultural products. Also bestowing the nickname the “Garden of France” are the farms that produce artichokes, asparagus, and orchards which produce cherries and apples, among other delicious fruity varietals.

Perhaps most notable about the region are the area’s amazing castles that span a huge variety of shapes and sizes. The spectacle of gothic architecture that date some 600 years back is enough that the UN added the region to its list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But which among the towering castles are deserving of extra attention? It is not easy to narrow down the best of Chateaux of the Loire Valley, but here is an honest attempt at a few to take a closer look at.

Amboise

The sleepy oat-meal town right on the River Loire pay tribute to the majestic beauty that is Amboise chateau. You have to see it to believe the former home of Kings Charles and Francois Louis, full of towers adorned with ramps that made horse-drawn carriage an adequate substitution when elevators did not yet exist.

Villandry

The chateau itself is, like all those on this list, lovely in its own rite. But the star of the show are the geometrically laid-out gardens, meticulously terraced in set squares. From a bird’s eye point of view, the gardens are perfect, looking like something out of a puzzle. This Renaissance estate is host to more than 350,000 visitors every year who walk around the gardens, and for good reason. You have never seen anything quite like these gardens.

Chenonceau

One of the most famous for its simply romantic setting, Chenonceau castle has the iconic arches over the River Cher. Also home to some incredible gardens where Catherine-de-Medicis threw some raucous parties back in the day, there is also world-class art for connoisseurs to take in.

Ussé

Chateau of Ussé is famous for providing the inspiration for none other than Charles Perrault’s castle in Sleeping Beauty. This was rebuilt in the 1400s to add on some Renaissance features to complement its medieval aesthetic, such as the dormant windows and gothic towers. The unforgettable chimneys are the proverbial cherry on top.

By Richard Greenwood

Looking for Richard Project: A Statement by David and Wendy Johnson

In February 2009 Philippa Langley launched the Looking for Richard Project. As close friends and fellow Ricardians we joined forces with Philippa to become the project’s founding members, working behind the scenes on documentation and guidance. Our principal objective was to recover King Richard’s remains and reinter them with the honour and dignity so brutally denied in 1485 following the battle of Bosworth. We now wish to correct a number of important misconceptions about the project and make clear why we are now actively supporting the campaign to inter King Richard’s mortal remains in York Minster.

Read More

John Ashdown-Hill from the Search for Richard Project

My first degree, at UEA in Norwich, was a joint degree – history and French. Subsequently I did an MA in linguistics and a PhD in history. So my life always had two focuses, and I enjoyed moving back and forth between them. For a number of years I taught languages, both in this country and abroad. But I always did historical research, and published papers and later books, and also gave talks on history. For the last twenty years or so I've been a freelance historian, and although I have wide interests in history - including an interest in Egyptology and – through my own Anglo-Indian background – in the history of the Raj, my focus in my writing and lecturing has always been on fifteenth-century England.

Read More

Yorkist Realm Photographer Rae Tan

Q1. What first got you interested in history?

A. It was seeing large posters of ancient classical sites in travel agents windows when I was around 7, I would ask them to save the posters for me when they took them down and I had them on my bedroom wall. About the same time I started to visit museums. Much to my Mother's annoyance I would be more interested in gazing around at the architecture of churches than the service. When I was still at school I worked on Roman Kiln digs at Doncaster and pot washed finds in the museum.

After saving money earned from Saturday jobs and walking dogs at 16 yrs I finally made it to Italy together with my classmate Susan to visit sites, a dream come true. 

Read More

Tomb Designers: David and Wendy Johnson

David holds a PhD in History; his thesis focused on the English Civil War, examining the collapse of the parliamentarian war effort during 1643. He is currently researching the political controversy surrounding Richard III’s accession in 1483. 

Wendy has an abiding fascination for all aspects of Medieval life. Although her particular field of interest is the fifteenth century, she is also interested in the Angevin kings of England, as well as the Civil Wars of the seventeenth century. 

David and Wendy met through a mutual interest in Richard III. 

Read More

Interview with historical novelist Sandra Worth

What period of English history attracts you the most?

A. The Wars of the Roses because it belonged to King Richard III. The hunchback version of Richard fascinated me as a child, and when I grew up and learned about the kind of man he was, the entire period of the Wars of the Roses came to dominate my interest. 

The Wars of the Roses has great drama and turbulence. It may surprise some that it is incredibly significant to world history, not just to England. That’s because the laws Richard III bequeathed us in his one and only Parliament flowered into modern Western democracy three hundred years later in the hands of the Founding Fathers of the U.S., and from there was transplanted all over the world. 

Read More

Interview with writer and historian David Santiuste

Q1. How did you first become interested in history?

A. I’m not exactly sure (I caught the bug early!), but my parents are both passionate about history so that must have helped. I was also very fortunate to grow up in a house full of books, and to have parents who encouraged my love of reading. By the time I was seven or eight I was a regular visitor to the local library (now sadly closed), which had an excellent children’s history section. When I was a little older I became an avid reader of a brilliant series of books by Harry T. Sutton (which used to be available in National Trust shops).

Read More