Gilles Berthelot, state treasurer of François I and mayor of Tours, began building on this already-fortified site, that was partly his wife's inheritance. However, it was she, Philippe Lesbahy, who directed the course of the works, including the novel idea of a central staircase (escalier d'honneur) that is Azay's greatest innovation. When Berthelot was suspected of collusion in embezzlement he was forced to flee from incomplete Azay-le-Rideau in 1528; he never saw the château again. Instead, the king confiscated the property and gave it as a reward to one of his high-ranking soldiers.
Over the centuries, it changed hands several times until the early part of the twentieth century, when it was purchased by the French government and restored. The interior was completely refurbished with a collection of Renaissance pieces. Today, the château is open to public visits.