Administrative centre of Loir-et-Cherdépartement in central France, situated on the River Loire 55 km/34 mi southwest of Orléans; population (2005 est) 47,900. It is the seat of a bishopric and has a historic château. Industries include the manufacture of porcelain, jewellery, footwear, and chocolates. There is a strong trade in wine, timber, and grain, and the town is a major tourist centre of the Loire valley.
History Blois was founded in the 6th century; by the Middle Ages the counts of Blois were among the most influential feudal lords in France. In the 14th century, Blois became the seat of Louis, duc d'Orléans, grandfather of Louis XII. In 1498 the town passed to the French crown, and during the 16th century Blois was considered by many to be the second capital of France.
Château The original château was built in the 13th century, but in the 16th century it was rebuilt by Francis I with some Renaissance style-features. Later additions included Gothic and baroque features, and it became one of the great buildings of France. It was a royal residence from the 15th to the 17th centuries, and saw the births of Duke Charles of Blois and Louis XII (1462); the murder of the 3rd Duke of Guise (1588), who directed the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre of the Huguenots in 1572 (and was plotting with Spain to overthrow Henry III of France, who had him killed); the death of the French queen Catherine de' Médici (1589); and the imprisonment of Marie de' Médici by her son, Louis XIII, after two years of which she finally escaped.
Other buildings Although many ancient buildings were destroyed in World War II, some Gothic and Rennaissance buildings remain. The former abbey church of St-Nicholas is a fine building of the 12th century.