Château de Montpoupon: Downton Abbey in the Touraine

Montpoupon vintage postcard

Bienvenue au Château de Montpoupon

When you live in the Loire Valley visiting châteaux comes with the territory. In the “Valley of a thousand châteaux” there’s always a new adventure to embark on, new stories to be told.

At the start of a new road trip we can only hope the Château large or small, public or private, famous or not will meet (or exceed) expectations. Like other lovers of French history and heritage I enjoy learning the big story about each place I visit.

Once on site we meet kings and queens of yore. We hear about love stories, thwarted political ambitions, lavish parties, treason, occasional massacres and doomed marriages. After a while some of the old monarchs and their leading ladies (wives, mistresses, favorites) become familiar names as we bump into them here and there, here with a symbol carved in the white “tuffeau” (tuffa) façade, there with a spectacular garden, a painting or an ornate trunk.

Indeed, like itinerant tour guides like modern day travelers, kings and queens of France espoused nomadic lifestyles for decades with the Loire Valley as a home base.

A few days ago I headed south of Tours to Céré-la-Ronde and the Château de Montpoupon. With about 30,000 visitors a year Montpoupon does not qualify as a Star Château “à la Chenonceau” located nearby. Maybe that’s a good thing.

It’s been on my list for a while. Still, after I heard the Château had been featured (however briefly) in the third season of “Emily in Paris” I decided to wait a while until the Emily Fan Club would move on or forget about Montpoupon altogether. They would have had to find the estate first. You can’t reach this one by train and most visitors in the area head to Château de Chenonceau.

Their loss?

As châteaux go Montpoupon knows how to make an entrance. Located in a former strategic location on the road to Spain, overlooking expansive valleys and forests, the château sits on the side of the road and comes into sight suddenly as unsuspecting drivers’ jaws drop.

Chateau de Montpoupon by the road

Bienvenue à Montpoupon

Montpoupon: Predictable beginnings as a medieval fortress

In feudal societies fortresses were essential for survival, protecting local lords and those who served them. They were also status symbols and displays of power. As such they popped up all over the country in the early Middle Ages, construction peaking from the 11th through the 13th centuries as stone buildings and defensive systems became more and more sophisticated. Fortresses played a major part during the Hundred Years’ War (14th-15th centuries.) Some like Montpoupon did not survive it. Today a medieval keep built in the 13th century remains (far left in the above photo.)

The Château was rebuilt during the heyday of the Loire Valley a time period known as “the French Renaissance” by a man who served several kings including the famous François 1er (Francis 1st) who commissioned the mighty Château de Chambord. In fact François 1er visited Montpoupon at least once. In most châteaux in the area the so-called “king’s room” was always at the ready – just in case.

When Montpoupon was rebuilt the main purpose was not protection against intruders anymore but comfort and enjoyment with large windows and elegantly decorated rooms. The inspiration? Italian “palazzi,” lavish residences French kings had discovered across the Alps during military campaigns. For the French leaders fresh out of the Hundred Years’ War the temptation proved too hard to resist. They wanted to enjoy the same lifestyle at home and made it happen. Build it, and they will come. We still do today.

As we visit the property we learn Montpoupon changed hands often until the “de la Motte-Saint-Pierre” family purchased the estate in 1857. This was the Second Empire and Napoleon III ruled France.

Montpoupon has remained in the same family since. As such it is one of many privately-owned châteaux in the Loire Valley and a labor of love.

Montpoupon: falling for the small story

“La Petite Histoire dans la Grande.”

The Château and grounds have been open to the public since the early 1970s a decision by the owner at the time, Solange de la Motte Saint-Pierre. Born in 1918 while her father Bernard was still fighting on the frontlines during World War I and an only child, Solange would manage Montpoupon for decades. She passed away in 2005 at the age of 87.

Along the way we come to admire Solange: Educated (she was the first woman to be awarded a B.A. in Law in France then went on to study at the Louvre Art School,) athletic (a skilled rider she followed the hunt – a family tradition – for the first time at age 2) and a skilled manager who led the Montpoupon estate into the 21th century.

Montpoupon succeeds where other local châteaux may fail, by captivating visitors and making former residents (and their lives) more relatable. Here we travel back in time to the 1920s when Solange’s father (who survived the war) modernized Montpoupon in a way that would have impressed Renaissance kings.

Look at that dish washer – one of the first of its kind in 1901 – in the kitchen.

As we make our way through the property from the “rez-de-chaussée” (ground floor) to the top floors we hear a conversation between a young girl (Solange) and her father. He tells her stories about life at Montpoupon and the rooms we come across. Motion detectors turn lights and voices on magically when we walk in. Solange and Bernard fall silent again as we leave. So we learn about the château and get to peek into the lives of its owners, a privilege since the private apartments upstairs have only been open to the public since 2016!

I particularly enjoyed the rooms once occupied by Solange and her parents, Bernard and Thérèse (originally from Chile and a descendant of Christopher Columbus) While listening to the voices of the father and his young daughter I took the time to look at each intimate memento displayed in the rooms feeling like I was introduced to the family, their way of life and slices of French history (like German occupation during WW2.)

Therese's bedroom

Thérèse’s bedroom

In the hallway leading to Solange’s room giant photos enable us to follow her through the years from a happy little girl to the young “châtelaine” who took over the management of the estate after WW2.

Her childhood room is delightful. So many mementos including toys, a puppet theater, class photos, and drawings!

Montpoupon: A château and so much more!

There is plenty to see inside the “logis” (main building) or later as we discover the exquisite 18th century chapel dedicated to Saint Martin de Tours and the library in the restored medieval Renaissance “châtelet” (the formal entrance into the courtyard housing the ticket office today.)

The visit is not over yet.

Solange did not have children. Her great nephew Count Amaury de Louvencourt took over when she passed and has been running Montpoupon since. He introduced an ambitious and comprehensive museum dedicated to the family’s passion for hunting, the renowned  “Musée du Veneur” in 1995. An entire section of the grounds is dedicated to the history of hunting with accurate reproductions of the staff’s living quarters, complete with a tack room, stables and a room all fashionistas will fawn over: It’s dedicated to Hermès and its iconic “carrés” (silk scarves, framed and on display) and renowned hand-made saddles.

One does not need to approve of hunting to learn from this section of the estate. It highlights a way of life once popular with French rulers and those who served them, a sport (“la chasse à courre”) that is still very much part of French life today including at Montpoupon.

As such it is worth investigating.

Plan to spend at least two hours on site (if you don’t walk the grounds) then head to the Auberge de Montpoupon nearby. It’s managed by the Lunais family and the food is delicious. Reservations recommended.

Will I return to Montpoupon?

Bien sûr.

Kir royal pêche, gougères

Apéritif time: Kir royal pêche, gougères maison


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  1. Melva Oconnor-rafuse on March 6, 2024 at 9:25 pm

    How very intriguing ! Wonder why she never married! A renaissance woman!

    • Véro on March 7, 2024 at 8:28 am

      I do not know MJ. Solange sounds like an impressive personality in many ways. I read somewhere she rode side saddle into her 70s!

  2. Debbie on March 6, 2024 at 11:36 pm

    Fascinating information, Véro! So many château are either empty or filled with Renaissance (or older) treasures. The more recent family history of this one puts a different light entirely on the château. A very enjoyable read.

    • Véro on March 7, 2024 at 8:21 am

      I agree Debbie. Montpoupon does feel different, more relatable interestingly (though of course my upbringing and life are vastly different from those experienced by Montpoupon’s owners.)

  3. Camilla Fennell on March 7, 2024 at 12:51 am

    Thank you for sharing yet another Chateaux. So nostalgic and definitely one I’m putting on my list for next visit.

    • Véro on March 7, 2024 at 8:18 am

      I am happy to hear it! You’ll need a car to get to this one.

      • Cathy Takayoshi on March 7, 2024 at 3:27 pm

        What a treasure! I would love to visit some day. Thank you for sharing.

      • Véro on March 7, 2024 at 5:49 pm

        I know you would love Montpoupon Cathy! You’d particularly like listening to Solange and her father.

  4. Janet Hellmann on March 7, 2024 at 2:15 am

    Fabulous as always thanks so much for sharing this lovely Chateau

    • Véro on March 7, 2024 at 8:19 am

      You’re welcome Janet. Thank you for reading Solange’s story.

  5. SharYn on March 7, 2024 at 6:05 am

    It looks lovely and elegant.
    Merci for taking us there!

    • Véro on March 7, 2024 at 8:17 am

      Avec plaisir Sharyn! Thank you for joining me on yet another road trip in La Belle France.

  6. Paula Wright on March 7, 2024 at 3:35 pm

    What a wonderful place! Thank you for sharing your visit. How do you pronounce “Solange”? And is the Father/ daughter commentary only available in French? What a special way to tour the château. Wish it was available by train!

    • Véro on March 7, 2024 at 5:48 pm

      The Father-daughter commentary is only in French but there are placards in English through the buildings so no one missed out. As for the pronunciation, try this:
      A bientôt Paula.

  7. Terri Ayala on March 7, 2024 at 3:51 pm

    As always, you bring me a moment of travel, education and wanderlust. Merci.

    • Véro on March 7, 2024 at 5:47 pm

      Thank you for your support Terri.

  8. Peggy Schmouder on April 13, 2024 at 2:19 pm

    Wow! Finally had a chance to read this story. What an interesting and inspiring woman Solange was! It sounds like a place well worth exploring. Mille mercis encore, Véro.

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