Located in the heart of seventeen thousand hectare forest, the palace of Fontainebleau was once one of the privileged residences of the sovereigns who ruled France. The love of the hunt made it into a regularly visited residence., and all of its occupants had their hearts set on improving it through new buildings or new decorations. This resulted in the present profusion of courtyards and buildings with different decorative and architectural styles.
Only one tower remained of the original 12th-century castle. This tower was probable the location of the bedchamber of the kings .
Almost eight centuries of French history was affected by this chateau - from 1137, the year of the coronation of Louis VII, to the fall of the Second Empire in 1870.
It was in the Renaissance, however, that the castle underwent its most spectacular transformation. Francois I (1494-1547) He built the entrance, the Ballroom and Saint Saturini Chapel. He also constructed the buildings encircling the current White Horse Courtyard, and the Francois I Gallery to link the two groups of buildings. His son, Henri II and later his wife Catherine de Medici continue the work. With the arrival of the Italian artist, the First Fontainebleau School was founded. Part of this splendid work can still be seen in the Galley of Francis I, in the ballroom and in the bedchamber where the frescoes still remain.
Under Henri IV, the palace became more of a king's house and the home of the dauphins. Henri IV (1552-1610) also played an important role in Fontainebleau's history, He was responsible for the brick and stonework wing facing Diana's Garden. The Second Fontainebleau School dates from this period with the arrival of the Flemish artists.
With Louis XV, the need to provide lodgings for the court led to the remodeling of the south wing of the White Horse courtyard and the construction of the Great Pavilion. He also is responsible for the installation of the King's Staircase.
The kings of France in the 16th. Century has so many castles that it was normal practice for them to move from one another dragging in their wake the thousands of people that made up the court and carts loaded with furniture, tapestries, rugs, silverware and furnishings for the new residence. Once the stay was over, all was packed back into the chests and the empty rooms returned to silence, perhaps for years.
Louis XVI, wishing to enlarge the royal apartments, doubled the size of the Francois I Gallery on Dian's Garden. His wife, Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) had her suite of three apartments redecorated in keeping with the taste of the times.
After the Revolution, Napoleon (1769-1821) found the palace completely emptied of its furnishings. so he refurnished the entire palace, first to receive the Pope, that had come to crown him in 1804, and later to make Fontainebleau into one of his favorite residences. The throne room is the most spectacular room in the apartment, with silks and brocades enriched with precious decorations of gold bee and other Neoclassical symbols.
Napoleon, from his last exile at St. Helena recalled Fontainebleau fondly : " here was a true home of kings, the best furnished and most happily situated ancient house in Europe".
Today the museum dedicated to Napoleon in the house brings his epic career to life thought small objects that were part of the daily life that he shared with his brothers and sisters, the monarchs of half of Europe.
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