CHATEAU (from Lat. castellum, fortress, through O. Fr. chastel, chasteau), the French word for castle (q.v.). The development of the medieval castle, in the 15th and 16th centuries, into houses arranged rather for residence than defence led to a corresponding widening of the meaning of the term château, which came to be applied to any seigniorial residence and so generally to all houses, especially country houses, of any pretensions (cf. the Ger. Schloss). The French distinguish the fortified castle from the residential mansion by describing the former as the château fort, the latter as the château de plaisance. The development of the one into the other is admirably illustrated by surviving buildings in France, especially in the châteaux scattered along the Loire. Of these Langeais, still in perfect preservation, is a fine type of the château fort, with its 10th-century keep and 13th-century walls. Amboise (1490), Blois (1500-1540), Chambord (begun 1526), Chenonceaux (1515-1560), Azay-le-Rideau (1521), may be taken as typical examples of the château de plaisance of the transition period, all retaining in greater or less degree some of the architectural characteristics of the medieval castle. Some description of these is given under their several headings. In English the word château is often used to translate foreign words (e.g. Schloss) meaning country house or mansion.
For the Loire châteaux see Theodore Andrea Cook, Old Touraine (1892).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)