During the prime years of its use, Fontainebleau was located in the heart of a 42,000 acre forest. Much of that forest is gone now but most of the large garden area remains. It was once one of the privileged residences of the sovereigns who ruled France. They used it primarily as a hunting lodge. Over the years, several improvements were made to it through additions or new decorations. This resulted in the large number of courtyards and buildings as well as many architectural and decorative styles.
There was a fortified castle on the site in the twelfth century, but the spectacular additions were started in the 1400s. In addition, Francois I brought together a vast collection of art work at Fontainebleau. It included paintings by Leonardo da Vinci (including the Mona Lisa) and Raphael as well as sculptures, tapestries, and many other works of art. Most of this collection is now in the Louvre.
Louis XIV (1638-1715) scheduled the court's residence at Fontainebleau every autumn for the hunting season. After the revolution, Napoleon (1769-1821) found the château to be completely empty. He set up a military school there from 1803 to 1808 and started to refurnish it in 1804. He used it to receive the Pope, and it later became one of his favorite residences.
This is now the main entrance courtyard. It once was the site of a convent that François I annexed to the palace. The present staircase was built between 1632 and 1634 to replace the original one that was in disrepair.
Louis XIII was born in this room, Louis XIII Salon. It was redecorated after the birth and was used primarily as the king's study where he worked and gave audiences.
Chapelle de la Trinitê (Trinty Chapel) was built in the sixteenth century. During services, the king and queen usually sat in the gallery seen in the picture on the right. Most of the decor dates from Henri IV and Louis XIII.
The ballroom is a very ornate room. The large fireplace included two bronze satyrs that were sculpted in François I's time. They were melted during the revolution and recast in 1966. At the balls, the king would stand on a platform with his back to the fireplace.
The First Saint Louis Room and Second Saint Louis Room were the king's rooms during the Middle Ages until the sixteenth century, with the second room being the king's bedchamber. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, they were used to serve meals to the king when he ate in public. The original bas relief in marble of Henri IV (circa 1600) over the fireplace in the First Saint Louis Room was destroyed during Louis XV's reign. This bas relief was installed in 1836.
The king's bodyguards that monitored entry into the Sovereign's State Apartments resided in the Guardroom. The fireplace included a bust of Henri IV (circa 1600). The room was used in later years as a dining room.
Even the staircase to the Sovereign's State Apartments is quite elaborate.
Henry IV had Diana's Gallery built for his queen. It is devoted to the myth of Diana and the king's victories. Napoleon I had the room reconstructed. It's a little over 262 feet long and 23 feet wide. Napoleon III converted it to a library. It contains nearly 16,000 volumes from the library of Napoleon I. The globe was made for Napoleon I in 1810 and was used by him at the Tuileries Palace (the Louvre).
François I Salon was the queen's bedroom in the sixteenth century. It became an antichamber around 1565 and was later used as a dining room. The present furnishings are from the reign of Louis XIV. Notice the tapestries on the walls and the rug.
The Tapestry Salon was used as the queen's guardroom for a long time. It was transformed into a salon during the reign of Louis-Philippe (1773-1850). Notice the rug in this room too.
The Emperor's Bedchamber and adjacent rooms were constructed for Louis XVI. Later the rooms became Napoleon I's Imperial Apartment. This photo isn't very good but it will give you an idea of splendor of the room.
The Emperor's Private Room (also known as the Abdication Room) is where Napoleon decided to abdicate on April 6, 1814.