Place François 1er, Parc François 1er, Parcours du Roy, Château Royal de Cognac. These are all placenames referring to the famous Renaissance king. Many people are unaware that François de Valois was born in Cognac on 12th September 1494 and this is still a major source of pride for the town!

Visiting the Château de Cognac

The Château de Cognac has been rebuilt and revised many times since the first primitive castle in the 10th century. The De Villebois family founded a dynasty in Cognac and built a wooden castle surrounded by a wall.
The first written mention of the castle dates from 1016. At the beginning of the 13th century, the lordship of Cognac passed by marriage to English domination before reverting to the hands of the Lusignan family and then the Valois of Angoulême.
During the Hundred Years’ War, the castle was abandoned and left to deteriorate until the return of Jean de Valois, grandfather of François 1st who decided to make it his main residence. The castle was then rebuilt and the town regained its lustre with Charles, the king’s father, continuing its embellishment. The château then became a residence and its defensive function faded with time.

Olivier Wonguy

The Château de Cognac

François 1st decided to build the façade overlooking the river in 1517, while respecting nevertheless the constructions of his predecessors. He created the Renaissance window called the king’s balcony, decorated with two salamanders and medallions.

He also enhanced the chapel looking onto the great courtyard. It was adorned with an enamelled altarpiece sculpted by Girolamo della Robia acting under the king’s orders. This is now preserved in the museum of Sèvres.

Theo Schuman
The King's Apartments, room in the Château de Cognac, the birthplace of François 1st

It was the king who created the gardens to the north, with a notable plant maze. Apartments known as the Duke of Alençon’s were created for his ruined sister Marguerite in the eighteenth century.
The château was once again abandoned in the 17th century and sold as a national asset in 1795 to a trading house.

Nutrisco et extinguo 'I nourish and extinguish.'

The statue of François 1st

The population of Cognac sent a petition to Napoléon III asking for permission to erect a statue to honour the king who had been born there on 12th September 1494. An imperial decree granted the privilege on 1st December 1860. A well-known Parisian sculptor, Antoine Etex, made the statue that was mounted on a marble plinth on 28th September 1864. It was inaugurated on 3rd October 1864, complete with fireworks, music and illuminations.

Old postcard of Place François 1st
Destination Cognac
Equestrian statue of François 1st on the Place François 1er in Cognac

It shows the king on horseback overcoming two enemies at the battle of Marignan in 1515, an Italian and a Swiss flag-bearer.

Eight bas-reliefs illustrate episodes from his life:
His birth in the shade of a tree
The king made a knight by Bayard
The king asleep under a canon
The king and artists at Fontainebleau
The Field of the Cloth of Gold with King Henry VIII of England
The king, captured in Pavia, imprisoned in Madrid
An assembly of worthies in 1527
Charles Quint and François 1st at Saint-Denis

François 1st, a giant of his time

If you can believe the armour he owned, François 1st was 1.98m tall.

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