France is home to some quite brilliant castles. As well as being magnificent to look at, these castles also bristle with history, from playing host to damsels in distress, to being the place where Kings die.
Below, I go on a journey around three Chateaux in the Haute Vienne region of France. Read on to find out what I learnt!
The first castle on our tour was the most fairy tale like and best preserved of the three. When Disney think of castles, they generally think of castles like this – all turrets and spires and tiny windows for locked away damsels in distress.
Legend tells that Chateau Jumilhac actually was home to a locked away damsel. Back in the early 1600’s the lady of the castle, Louise de Hautford, was locked away in a room for twenty years, with a spinning wheel her only company.
Her husband, the lord of the castle, was apparently the jealous type, and while he was off fighting wars and drinking ale, he kept her locked up. Sounds like a lovely chap.
Chateau Lastours is in the sort of state that you find the majority of British castles to be in – crumbly. Some sort of defensive building has been in place on this spot for over a thousand years, although these defences did originally take the form of mounds of earth.
Mounds of earth not being entirely the sort of place one would want to entertain, an actual castle of the Norman style was built here during the thirteenth century. Which is probably why it looks so English.
Sadly, after a bit of neglect, and a long period of time pretending to be a stone quarry for the locals, the castle lost some of its former glory. Today though, it is in the process of being looked after and restored. There are even re-enactments of life in medieval times. Presumably everyone dies young.
Just next to the castle is a lovely little church, dedicated to the life of a prominent crusader. I don’t know much more about it, other than the fact it is very pretty.
This region of France, Aquitaine and surroundings, is, I have noticed, a bit obsessed with the life and times of Richard the First, better known as Richard the Lionheart.
It turns out that this is because he lived here for the majority of his 42 years. As well as ruling England, (which he managed despite not being able to speak English) he also had responsibility for running a number of other parts of the world, including the Duchy of Aquitaine, which sits adjacent to all the castles on this page.
Of course, he was most famous for being involved in the third Crusade, which was where, with my tenuous grasp of European history, I had always assumed he had met his end.
As it was, it turns out that he actually died at Chalus-Chabrol Castle, which was, by all accounts of the time, fairly puny and poorly defended. Still, the siege didn’t go entirely as planned, and one crossbow bolt later, England was looking for a new King.
Chalus Castle is famous now for both being where the Coeur de Lion was fatally wounded, and as being the resting place for his entrails, and is open for wanderings of the ruined sort. The town is also good for an explore, not least to take in all the trappings of being associated with the death of a King. Richard the Lionheart doorknockers anyone?