Kings and lord knew the value of art. Medieval monarchs had spent vast amounts supporting the church, giving away huge swathes of land, endowing religious orders and, most spectacularly of all, helping pay for the construction and embellishment of churches and cathedrals. These edifices were the spiritual counterpart of the king’s great castles. But they were also things of beauty, jewels of artistry and extravagance.
Renaissance kings preferred to show off their magnificence by building palaces.
Henry VIII of England owned perhaps 55 palaces, more than any English monarch before or since.
I’m not sure if he ever visited all of them, certainly he spent most of his reign in the south of England only venturing north once. Many of these great palaces are still standing and can be visited. Others are decayed, in ruins or have disappeared.
The most famous of his palaces are Hampton Court Palace, Greenwich Palace, the Tower of London, Whitehall and Nonsuch Palace. Go here http://onthetudortrail.com/Blog/2010/11/28/king-henry-viiis-palaces-royal-houses/ for more information or check out Simon Thurley’s book: The Building of England. How the History of England has shaped our buildings (William Collins, 2013).
The King of France, François 1 was an almost exact contemporary of Henry. They were sometimes allies, more often enemies and the greatest of rivals. But in the grandeur and ambition of his palace building François outdid even Henry.
He embellished his childhood home, Château d’Amboise, and brought Leonardo da Vinci to live there. He renovated Château Royal de Blois for his wife, Queen Claude, rebuilt the Palais du Louvre on the banks of the Seine and, when he got tired of that, built the Château de Boulogne to the west of Paris. He spent prodigious amounts on his favourite palace, the Château de Fontainebleau.
But he is perhaps best remembered for the glorious Château de Chambord.
It’s the largest château in the valley of the Loire and took twenty-seven years to build, although it was never actually completed. What is perhaps even more astonishing is that Chambord’s function was as a hunting lodge and François spent little more than two months there in total.
As Mel Brooks says in History of the World: Part 1 – “It’s good to be the King.” (Whether that King was François 1, Henry VIII or Brooks’s Louis XVI.)