History

Portrait of the Duke of Aumale - François Jalabert©RMN
Since the medieval ages, the Chantilly Estate has belonged to the great Prince families of France. This illustrious heritage serves as a stepping stone, today, for the fame of this important French heritage element, in which it holds a very special place, alongside Versailles, Fontainebleau, Ecouen, Vaux-le-Vicomte, etc.

In the High Middle Ages, Chantilly is the property of the Le Bouteiller de Senlis family. 

 

From 1386 to 1897, the estate is inherited by different branches of the same family, without ever being sold.

 

The Orgemont family in the Middle Ages

The chancellor of Orgemont requests the construction, in the fourteenth century, of a château-fort in the middle of the swampy valley of la Nonette. In 1484, Pierre of Orgemont, left without a heir, leaves Chantilly to his nephew Guillaume de Montmorency. Of the former medieval fortress of Orgemont, only the basis of the seven towers remains, drowned in the Chateau's moat.

 

Constable Anne of Montmorency (1493-1567), a comrade in arms of Francis I in Marignan, plays a distinguished political role under Francis I and Henri II, who often visit Chantilly. 
Architect Pierre Chambiges renovates the medieval chateau. Around 1560, he entrusts the work of La Capitainerie or Small Chateau (the oldest portion of Chantilly) to Jean Bullant who is already the architect of his Chateau of Ecouen. Chantilly harbors numerous art objects brought from Ecouen, among which forty-four stained grey glass windows representing the love of Psyche and Cupid (1542-1544, gallery of Psyche), a series of ceramic pavements of Rouen owed to Masseot Abaquesne (honor hall), the altar, the panels and the stained glass windows of the chapel representing the Constable Anne of Montmorency's son and daughters.

Anne of Montmorency also decides to renovate the terrace on which her equestrian statue - created by Paul Dubois (1886) -  stands today and requests the reconstruction of seven chapels, three of which still remain. 
His grandson, Henri II of Montmorency (1595-1632), commissions Sylvie's House, in the park. In rebellion against King Louis XIII, he is decapitated in Toulouse in 1632. Louis XIII then decides to confiscate Chantilly.

 

 

The Condé family (1643-1830)

The Grand Condé during the Great Century

In 1643, Chantilly is restituted to the Condé family. Louis II of Bourbon-Condé ( 1621-1686 ), otherwise known as the Grand condé, transforms the Estate and obtains that André Le Nôtre (future gardener of Versailles) design the park. Le Nôtre channels the Nonette River to create the Grand Canal ( 1671-1673 ), designs the French parterres in the North of the chateau, asks Daniel Gittard to build the Grand Degré and creates the current perspective going from the Honor Gate to the terrace.

 

 

The Grand Condé turns Chantilly into a place of celebrations and a literary circle, where La Fontaine, La Bruyère, Bossuet (the bishop of Meaux who will write the funeral oration of the Grand Condé), Madame of La Fayette and Madame de Sévigné cross paths.

In their honor, both of the parallel isles framing the parterres of Le Nôtre are called the "isles of the philosophers ".

Molière plays Tartuffe in Chantilly. The Grand Condé gives balls and fireworks in this enchanting site.

 

 

The Grand Condé's son, Prince Henri-Jules ( 1643-1709), asks Jules Hardouin-Mansart to rebuild the grand chateau, works which will be completed under Jean Aubert. Louis-Henri, Prince of Bourbon-Condé ( 1692-1740 ), Prime Minister of Louis XV from 1723 to 1726, has Jean Aubert build the Great Stables, a masterpiece of the eighteenth century. He also decorates the Small Chateau apartments, he creates the porcelain factory of Chantilly and, to decorate those apartments apartments, he calls upon painters such as Oudry, Desportes, Huet, Nattier.

 

His son, Louis-Joseph, prince of Bourbon-Condé ( 1736-1818 ), brings to life the Jeu de Paume in 1756 and the chateau of Enghien, a long classic building located to the right of the Honor Gate, built by Jean-François Leroy from 1769 till 1772. In 1774, he decides to have the English-Chinese garden designed and, in 1775, builds the Hameau, a group of five country houses which inspired the Hameau of Queen Marie-Antoinette at the Trianon. He develops a natural history cabinet at the far end of the historic apartments which will host not one but two visits from King of Sweden Gustave III. Strongly against the Enlightenment ideas, he emigrates as soon as the Bastille is taken. He is the founder of the emigration army known as the "army of Condé" in 1792.

 

 

The Revolution :

Chantilly Collections are seized as emigrant property and transported to the Louvre. The Chateau serves as prison. In 1799, buildings are sold to demolition workers who demolish the Grand Chateau all the way down to the terrace; the park is ravaged, severed in two and allotted: it is never to regain its surface of origin, with part of the town of Chantilly developing on its western zone (rue des Cascades, rue des Potagers).

 

The Restoration :

After 1815, Prince Louis-Joseph, returning from emigration, decides to restore the apartments and obtains the restitution of portions of the collections held at the Louvre. He asks architect Victor Dubois to design the English Garden in 1817 and to fill the gap separating both chateau.

 

The Orléans family in the nineteenth century

Louis-Henri-Joseph, Duke of Bourbon ( 1756-1830 ), left without a lineal heir since the execution of his son, the Duke of Enghien, in the ditches of Vincennes in 1804, bequeaths his belongings in 1830 to his great-nephew and godchild, Henri of Orléans, Duke of Aumale (1822-1897) and fifth son of king Louis-Philippe. He is then 8 years old,

 

The Duke of Aumale starts his military career in 1840, in Algeria. He draws attention to his feats in May 1843 during the battle of the Abd el-Kader Smalah and becomes the general governor of Algeria. Under the July Monarchy (1830-1848), he has his private apartments decorated by Eugène Lami, asks the architect Duban to build a wooden gallery to access them and plans to rebuild the Grand Chateau before being forced to leave France after the 1848 Revolution.

 

Exiled between 1848 and 1870 in Twickenham, near London, he gathers the collection which can be now seen in Chantilly.

He combines the collection today exhibited in Chantilly during his exil to Twickenham, near London from 1848 until 1870.

When he returns, after 1871, a widower and morning the loss of his two sons aged 18 and 21, he convinces the architect Honoré Daumet to rebuild the Grand Chateau (1875-1885) to present it his collections.

 

The Duke of Aumale, a French Institute member since 1871, leaves Chantilly to the Institute in 1886 under the sine qua non condition that, after his death, the Condé Museum be open to the public, its presentation protected and the collections not be lent. The Condé Museum will open to the public less than a year after his death, on April 17th, 1898.

 

According to the Duke of Aumale's wish, the resources of the Estate ensure the daily functions, maintenance and restoration of this huge heritage: the chateau, the Condé Museum, but also the Great Stables, which have hosted the Live Horse Museum since 1982, and the park with diversifying activities.

 

* The French Institute was created in 1795 and includes Five Academies: the Académie Française, the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres (academy of registration and great literature), the Academy of Science, the Academy of Beaux-Arts and the Académie des sciences morales et politiques (academy of moral and political sciences).

Portrait of Anne of Montmorency-Corneille de Lyon©RMN
Portrait du Grand Condé- Juste d'Egmont©RMN
Portrait of the Duke of Aumale-François Jalabert©RMN
Portrait of the Duke of Aumale-Léon Bonnat©RMN