I definitely should have made more of an effort to visit Châteaudun in France when I was writing my biography of one of its best known residents – Marie de Guise, who was chatelaine of the château during her first marriage to the Duc de Longueville, but to my shame, I only managed to get there a couple of years after my book was published and even then it was quite by chance. It was actually my boyfriend’s idea to quickly stop off and see Marie’s former home while we were driving down from Normandy to the Loire Valley and I am really glad that he suggested it as it turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip.
Although we were visiting the area in order to view some of the better known and arguably more impressive châteaux, we both really loved Châteaudun, which has its own quiet charm and beauty. I had actually expected it to be more ruinous in appearance but a surprising amount was still intact – including the glorious chapel with its Mediaeval statues and the ducal apartments, which were once inhabited by Marie and her first husband.
For me, who had grown to truly love Marie de Guise while writing about her, it was a very moving experience to walk in her actual footsteps and finally see for myself a place that she loved and remembered with great fondness for the rest of her life, even though her own time there was relatively brief. Although she is best known for her second marriage to James V, which produced her daughter Mary Queen of Scots, I believe that her first husband, Louis was in fact the love of her life, even though their marriage was prematurely cut short after only a few years. After his early death, she would almost certainly have happily lived out the rest of her days at Châteaudun, overseeing the estate for her son and enjoying a quiet and very comfortable widowhood – had not her hand almost immediately been sought by both Henry VIII and James V.
Although I am loath to share Châteaudun with anyone else, especially as it gets hardly an visitors in comparison to the better known sites (and you know how much I hate a crowd), I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting the area.