Henry ll

The Loire Valley, the garden of France, once graced by the French royalty of a past age.

Many monuments still stand impressively tall along the banks of the Loire. There is one however which doesn’t look over the last wild river of Europe but instead guards the medieval town of Chinon overlooking the Vienne. It is not a Château but a mighty Fortresse, a powerful reminder of a King that ruled from there in the 12th Century. Henry ll, Henry Plantagenet, who created an interesting and intriguing conjoined history between England and what is now known as Western France which, at the time, came to be known as the Angevin Empire.

Henry was born in Le Mans in 1133 and died in 1189 during that time he created the great kingdom of Angevin due to his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, the former wife of Louis VII, and by rightfully claiming all the land that belonged to her.

The France that we see on the map today is very different from the 12th Century. The area of land being controlled by the French King was much smaller and mostly east of Blois to include Paris. Further areas were dominated by the Duchies of Brittany, Normandy, Gascony and Toulouse while King Henry reined over his Angevin Empire.

After his illustrious reign Henry was buried at Fontevraud-L’Abbaye, not far from Chinon, along with his wife Eleanor and later by Richard the Lion heart, their son and successor to his throne, here you can still see their sarcophagus in the Abbey.

Very many years later as we look up from the cobbled streets in Chinon to the Fortresse the history of this powerful King evokes many images from where and when he reigned and we can see for ourselves the remains of his dynasty that is so romantically remember to this day.

Who is Cardinal Richelieu?

You probably all know the story of the Three Musketeers, Porthos, Aramis and Athos and of course d’Artagnan ‘Musketeers of the Guard’ in King Louis Xlll’s Court.

The Red Cardinal
Armand Jean du Plessis Duke of Richelieu

The book, written by Alexander Dumas, plays out the story of many fictional characters and is set in the 17th Century, but some in his book were real life characters. Cardinal Richelieu was one of these, born in 1585, he went on to become one of the most powerful and richest men in the known world of its time. He was appointed as Foreign Secretary in 1616 after becoming a Consecrated Bishop in 1607 and later a Cardinal in 1622. Perhaps becoming a Cardinal would not have been his choice, but one chosen by his Mother, this was to protect an important income from an ecclesiastical source for the family. His rise to power was one of court intrigue, with plots and counter plots. The death of the King’s favourite, the Duc de Luynes allowed Armand Jean du Plessis Duke of Richelieu to rise to be the most powerful man in France.

What is his connection with the Loire Valley?

In the National Park, 22 km south of Chinon, lies the small and historical walled town of Richelieu which was constructed under the watchful gaze of the Cardinal. The vast open park next to the town was once the site of the Cardinal’s Palace just few buildings are now left of this magnificent building.

This picture is in the museum in Richelieu
depicting the now demolished palace

Some years earlier, 1343 to be exact, salt became a State monopoly and was subsequently taxed via the Gabelle tax. The ‘Great Gabelle’ area encompassed sixteen special tribunals or ‘salt grannaries’ including Richelieu. The wealth of the Cardinal enabled him to buy the village of his ancestors and proceeded to, in 1631, commission the construction of his new model town and which was completed in 1642. The town still stands today but the Chateau was destroyed in 1835.

The main square in Richelieu today

This brief history and life of the Cardinal Richelieu and of the town of Richelieu can be expanded upon by following on of the links below or by booking some time here in the Loire Valley with us.

Richelieu is one of the towns we visit on are cycling experience holidays. We also visit Chinon, Candes st Martin, Fontevruad l’Abbaye and many others in the region. You will stay in a single centre for your entire weeks holiday. For more details follow the link to our cycling holidays.


For places to stay with us here in the Loire Valley




For more information follow the links below

Richelieu, Indre-et-Loire – Wikipedia

Cardinal Richelieu – Wikipedia