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Blois is the préfecture (capital) city of the Loir-et-Cher département of France on the banks of the lower river Loire between Orléans and Tours. The city has a population of approximately 51,832 (1999).

The famous Château Blois, a rennaissance château once occupied by King Louis XII, is located in the center of the city, and an 18th century stone bridge spans the Loire. As Blois is centered on a pair of steep hills, winding and steep pathways run the the city, culminating in long staircases at various points. To the west of town, the Forêt de Blois is a remainder of the heavy woods that once covered the area.


Though of ancient origin, Blois is first distinctly mentioned by Gregory of Tours in the 6th century, and was not of any importance till the 9th century, when it became the seat of a powerful countship (see below). In 1196, Count Louis[?] granted privileges to the townsmen; a commune, which survived throughout the middle ages, probably dated from this time. The counts of the Châtillon line resided at Blois more often than their predecessors, and the oldest parts of the château (from the 13th century) were built by them. In 1429, Joan of Arc made Blois her base of operations for the relief of Orleans. After his captivity in England, Charles of Orleans[?] in 1440 took up his residence in the château, where in 1462 his son, afterwards Louis XII, was born. In the 16th century Blois was often the resort of the French court. The Treaties of Blois[?], which temporarily halted the Italian Wars, were signed there in 1504-1505.

The city's inhabitants included many Calvinists, and in 1562 and 1567 it was the scene of struggles between them and the supporters of the Catholic church. In 1576 and 1588 Henri III, king of France, chose Blois as the meeting-place of the statesgeneral, and in 1588 he brought about the murders of Henry, duke of Guise, and his brother, Louis, archbishop of Reims and cardinal, in the château, where their deaths were shortly followed by that of the queen-mother, Catherine de Medici. From 1617 to 1619 Marie de Medici, wife of King Henri IV, exiled from the court, lived at the château, which was soon afterwards given by King Louis XIII to his brother Gaston, duke of Orleans, who lived there till his death in 1660.

The bishopric dates from the end of the 17th century. In 1814 Blois was for a short time the seat of the regency of Marie Louise, wife of Napoleon I.

Blois was occupied during World War II by the German army, which took the city on June 18, 1940. The city was liberated by American soldiers during the last two weeks of August, 1944. On both occasions, the city withstood several days of bombing.

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