High above the Seine in Normandy stands the ruins of a fortress built in 1196 by Richard the Lionheart, aka King Richard I of England and Duke of Normandy (1157-1199), Chateau Gailliard.
Chateau Gailliard, les Andelys, Normandy
On a recent trip to France, I took the challenge of walking up this steep — I mean REALLY steep hill to the ruins of the Chateau Gailliard. I almost gave up when the paved path ran out and we had to negotiate several paths that were no more than pebble-filled dry gullies. But I kept going, taking a breather with many of the others trudging upwards.
Eventually we managed to reach the summit, breathless from the climb and from the fantastic view of the river below. This fortress was designed to be siege-proof and was amazingly expensive. According to Wikipedia’s entry on Richard I, it cost £15,000 to £20,000 in 1196-1198.
Statue of Richard I in front of London’s Parliament
Richard I (1157-1199) was the son of King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. As a side note, remember the great film Lion in Winter, starring Peter O’Toole as Henry and Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor? Originally a stage play by James Goldman, the film was released in 1968 with a young Anthony Hopkins as Richard. Portraying a Christmas meeting between the estranged Henry and Eleanor in 1183, the film won three Oscars and was nominated for four others. If you haven’t seen it lately, do yourself a favor and find a copy.
In his short lifetime of just 42 years, Richard I gained a worldwide reputation. He became the Duke of Aquitaine in 1171. As one of Henry’s three rebellious sons, Richard allied himself with Phillip II of France, and eventually defeated Henry II, who died a few days later in 1189. Richard became Duke of Normandy and was crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.
Richard LionHeart and Phillip led the Third Crusade, against Saladin, with mixed results. On his return to Europe in 1191, Richard was captured and imprisoned by the Duke of Austria and held by the Holy Roman Emperor. He was released in 1194 after payment of a large ransom.
View of the Seine from the Chateau
Romantic vision of Richard
Involved in many more battles with family, assorted enemies and former allies, Richard was shot by a young bowman. His wounds were fatal but he lingered for several days, settling his bequests and pardoning the bowman (who was nevertheless executed after Richard’s death)/.
After a 7-month siege, the Castle fell to Phillip of France in 1204. Once Gailliard was no longer a strong defense, the rest of Normandy fell to the French later that year. The fortress changed hands several more times during various wars, and though it has long been in ruins, one can still understand why it was such an important strategic location.
The panoramic picture below, from Wikipedia, gives a more complete view than I was able to catch either from below or above.