Castles are time immortal. Their seduction, stature and presence can not be ignored.
The most vulnerable part of a castle is the gate, which must be first approached via a flying bridge that was lowered over a moat.
Designed for multiple stages of defense, intruders first needed to pass through an entrance gatehouse with a portcullis.
Moats were the primary line of defense, making a castle cold and damp.
A castles sheer size and fortification was to deter attack and safeguard its people.
These magnificent structures boasts a wealth of period architectural features such as arrow slits, nine foot deep perimeter walls, murder holes, dungeons and towers with chimneys where inhabitants would have heated boiling oil to pour down on enemies.
The last bastion of defense was the bailey after the “killing fields” where the enemy was exposed while trying to scale the curtain walls around a keep or tower where the lord took refuge.
Walls were typically nine feet thick, housing small cities of soldiers, servants, farmers and artisans.
In France, in order for a castle to be castellated, the king would need to issue a license. Many unauthorized castles by headstrong nobles trying to gain power were either destroyed by the monarchy or simply confiscated.
One of the most famous castles, Chateau Gaillard, was built by Richard the Lionhearted King of England in 1198. Located on the banks of the river Seine, it is a well-designed, well-fortified castle remarkable for the three concentric circles for defense.
In 1203 King Philip massed his forces around the land and dug ditches for protection. He then mined a tunnel under the outer wooden wall of the castle, which breached the wall and the first phase of the siege was complete.
The second castle wall proved much more difficult, but a flaw in the design of the castle was discovered. The French found an unguarded toilet chute that lead right into a chapel within the second wall and took over the middle section of the fortification. After an eight month siege, the castle fell on March 8, 1204, whereby 20 knights and 120 men at arms surrendered to King Philip.
The siege of Castle Gaillard defines warfare was during the Middle Ages before gunpowder.
In 1946 the Kingdom of Italy came to an end and with it the House of Savoy, which was the world’s oldest reigning dynasty for almost a thousand years.
Although history has long recorded the battles, political power struggles and family dynasty’s that shaped the destiny of castles, they also had romance. Many a king gave his wife or mistress a castle as a gift of personal affection and devotion. Holding on to them was a little harder. One such cast is Chenonceau. Henry II presented the castle to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. Never to be bested, after the King’s death, his wife Catherine de Medici had the mistress thrown out.
Called one of the most beautiful castles in the world, Leeds castle in England has a fantastic history of Medieval Queens who have graced its halls: Queen Isabella, Anne of Bohemia, Joan of Navarre and Catherine de Valois.
Castle construction began around 1,000 ad and lasted for 500 years. With the advent of artillery cannon, castles could be destroyed and lost their primary role of fortification. Many castles were later converted into chateau or country manor houses.
Once proud, now landmarks for tourists to visit and pay tribute with cameras.
Where pleasure gardens now stand fields once stood to grow food for the village and the Lord of the Castle.
Calmer times require no such structure, which once gave shelter and home to many.
Around the world, castles represented symbols of strength and courage.
Their function and design unmatched in modern architecture.
Status and royal power have now given way to aristocrat family homes.
Many falling into ruin as family fortunes declined, swept away in times forgotten.
But for sheer value of recorded history, one needs look no further than the past lives of those who built, lived and died in castles.