Queen Eleanor's Chateau de Chinon Castle

 

Chinon Castle - Public Domain Picture

The Château de Chinon is a castle in the heart of ancient Aquitaine.

Standing on a rocky outcrop above the Vienne river, Château de Chinon has natural defences on three sides and a ditch dug along the fourth. Writing in the 12th century, the chronicler William of Newburgh commented that even before Château de Chinon came under the control of Henry II "its strength was such that nature seemed to vie with human art in fortifying and defending it". That said, in the 12th century Henry II and Queen Eleanor undertook a project of rebuilding the castle and much of the extant remains dated from this period. The stone used to build the castle was quarried on the site.

Geoffrey rebelled against his older brother, Henry, in 1152. Henry negotiated with the castellans of the castles of Chinon, Loudun, and Mirebeau to surrender before laying siege to Château de Montsoreau. Following the loss of Montsoreau, Geoffrey surrendered to his brother. By 1156 Chinon, Loudun, and Mirebeau were back under Geoffrey's control. That year he readied them for war as he rebelled against Henry a second time. In the intervening years, his brother had been crowned King Henry II of England at the end of a long-running civil war. Henry besieged and captured Geoffrey's castles in the summer of 1156 and kept them under his control, giving Geoffrey an annuity of £1,500 in compensation. The presence of a treasury and one of Henry II's main arsenals marked Chinon as a particularly important castle in the 12th century. It was a primary residence of Henry II and Queen Eleanor, duchess of Aquitaine who was responsible for construction of almost all of the massive castle.

In 1173 Henry II betrothed his youngest son, Prince John, to the daughter of Count Humbert, an influential lord in Provence. John had no land, but as part of the arrangement Henry promised him the castles of Chinon, Loudun, and Mirebeau. Henry II's eldest son, also called Henry, had been crowned King of England alongside his father but had no land of his own and was angered by the situation. His discontent grew and Henry the Young King demanded some of the land promised to him be handed over, claiming to have the support of the English barons and his father-in-law, King Louis VII of France. While the king was at Limoges he was informed of a conspiracy involving his wife and sons to overthrow him. Choosing to keep his eldest son by his side, Henry II set off north to Normandy, ensuring along the way that his castles in Aquitaine were prepared for war. En route they stayed at Chinon; under the cover of darkness Henry the Young King escaped and set off to Paris to join the court of Louis VII. Two of Henry the Young King's brothers, Richard and Geoffrey, joined him in rebellion along with the barons of France and some in England. War followed, lasting until 1174, and Chinon, Loudun, and Châtellerault were key to Henry II's defence.

The Hundred Years' War in the 14th and 15th centuries was fought between the kings of England and France over the succession to the French throne. The war ended in 1453 when the English were finally ejected from France, but in the early 15th century the English under King Henry V made significant territorial gains. The Treaty of Troyes in 1420 made Henry V the heir apparent to the French throne but when the French king, Charles VI, and Henry V died in the space of two months in 1422 the issue of succession was again uncertain. The English supported Henry V's son, Henry VI who was still a child, while the French supported, recognised Charles VII, the Dauphin of France. Between 1427 and 1450 Château de Chinon was the residence of Charles, when Touraine was virtually the only territory left to him in France, the rest being occupied by the Burgundians or the English.

On 6 March 1429 " Joan of Arc " arrived at Château de Chinon. She claimed to hear heavenly voices that said Charles would grant her an army to relieve the siege of Orlêans. While staying at the castle she resided in the Tour du Coudray. Charles met with her two days after her arrival and then sent her to Poitiers so that she could be cross-examined to ensure she was telling the truth. Joan returned to Chinon in April where Charles granted her supplies and sent her to join the army at Orlêans.

 

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