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The Route Richard Coeur de Lion

Richard the Lionheart coat of arms

Discover mediaeval castles in this region once occupied by the Plantagenet kings

“An archipelago of royal Plantagenet stay-places in a hostile aristocratic ocean”

Historical Context to Richard The Lionheart and the Castles

Richard Coeur de Lion at the Siege of Acre
Richard Coeur de Lion at the Siege of Acre

It is important to understand Richard the Lionheart in historical perspective to understand the chateau trail: the “Route of Richard the Lionheart” or “Route Richard Coeur de Lion”. Richard was an Angevin king, a Plantagenet, the heir to the marriage of Henry Is daughter to Geoffrey Plantagenet, count of Anjou.

The resulting “sprawl” of lands from the Cheviots to the Dordogne was not some organically grown “empire”, but cobbled together by greed and genealogical accident.

By the time of Richard I this “empire” was under threat from two sources: Northeast from the expanding and centralising French monarchy under Philip Augustus. The second threat, South, from Rymond Count of Toulouse. On both fronts, Richard I of England’s orientation was away from England. Since Jerusalem had been recaptured by Saladin in 1187 both Raymond and Phillip were obliged to Crusade and Richard – at his accession – was forced to do likewise. His participation in the crusades were not some irresponsible whim, but a vital requirement. What we call the “Middle Ages” at the time were thought to be the “Last Ages” and that mankind was on borrowed time after the previous millennium. The crusades after the late 1000s were absolutely an attempt to ensure the Holy Land was in Christian hands by the time of the (belived imminent) second coming. All monarchs and nobles would have understood it to be a duty to participate: to see and be seen participating as a “player”. For Richard I, his awkward position in France between Phillip Augustus and Raymond of Toulouse made it doubly imperative: to get the better of Philip Augustus and Raymond count of Toulouse on Crusade and to settle old scores. Granted, in his pursuit of maintaining his lands, Richard I was absent from England all but 6 months of his 10 year reign, indeed considering England a bit like a chequebook for his other exploits.

His other problem – as for other kings of the time – was with powerful local nobles throughout his lands who needed to be kept on side. A relic of the split-up of the former Carolingian empire where tracts of land did not fall directly under the authority of a resident Count, these tracts of land therefore became “up for grabs” by such viscounts as were able to lay their hands on them. So for Richard, these Limousin viscounts’ allegiance was definitely “to play for”. Split between geographical allegiance to the Angevin King (Richard), but attracted to the confidence, power and new “nationalistic” French King Phillip they were fickle and were most likely to play to whoever promised to leave them alone.

And whilst noone at the time would have called this collection of castles the “Chateau route of Richard Coeur de Lion” – it is a modern day definition – it would have been true in the 1190’s that a chateau route at the crossroads of French Royal pressure from the north, and Toulousian threat from the South, across a propserous trade route that had existed between Switzerland and Bordeaux since early history, and the opportunity to influence the Limousin viscounts was strategically absolutely vital for Richard. These chateaux and churches formed an archipelago of Royal and Ecclesiastical stay-places for him, in this aristocratic ocean.

The castles, churches and towns of the Route Richard Coeur de Lion

*Chateau de Rochebrune, Etagnac.

An English castle which was allied to the Angevin (English) Kingdom against the Capetians (French). (* Small discount available for guests at La Croix Spa.)

Chateau de Rochechouart.

Due to earlier marriage between the House of Rochechouart and Angouleme, this chateau supported Richard the Lionheart in his struggle against the Capetian (French) king.

Chateau of Rochechouart
Chateau of Rochechouart, Stamp

The Curch of Les Salles de Lavauguyon

Built by the viscount of Rochechouart from 1049 – 1075 and presided over by the prior of Rochechouart and therefore pro-Angevin. Renowned for its beautiful paintings and in a beautiful setting at Les Salles.

The chateau de Brie. Oradour sur Vayres

Bastion of Limousin nobles the present chateau is not contemporary with Richard the Lionheart (built several centuries after his death).

Chateau de Montbrun.

Again, not absolutely contemporary with Richard Coeur de Lion, there was a former motte-and-bailey castle near by the site of the present chateau near the site of a former “Camp de Cesar” (and therefore aligned with a previous political balance!). However the square stone keep of the present chateau was constructed in the 12th century and would have been contemporary with Richard I. The Lords of Montrun were hostile to the Angevin kings and bore allegiance to Philip Augustus.

Chateau Chalus-Maulmont.

Not contemporary of Richard I, this castle was built retrospectively following a bequest of land by the viscountess of Limoges Marguerite of Burgundy to Geraud de Maulmont in the 1200’s following his advice and counsel (presumably following the break-up of the Angevin kingdom under John and their allegiance to the French King). Its significance as the place where Richard Coeur de Lion had died must have made it a significant political gift.

Chateau Chalus-Chabrol.

The place where Richard the Lionheart died, whilst laying siege against this bastion of the viscounts of Limoges. The Lord of Montbrun offered fierce resistance to Richard, who was wreaking vengeance on the viscounts of Limoges for their support of Philip Augustus and for having been imprisoned and heavily ransomed (at Engliush expense) on his return from the third Crusade. Richard was shot in the shoulder by a crossbow and died on gangrene from the resulting wound.

Chateau Les Cars

Overlorded by the Viscounts of Rochechouart in the 12th Century and therefore favourable to the English kings and subsequently occupied by them during the 100 years war. A classic chateau of the Twelfth Century Renaissance.

Chateau de Lastours

The site as a seat of power dates back to Neolothic times and by the 12th Century presided over by lords of the Limousin who built motte-and-bailey castles to strengthen their hold on their land and thus establishing a difficult relationship with any overlord (French or English) who presided over them. The Lastours princes fought in the first crusade where the feats of Guy de Lastours were recounted in the epic “SOng of Antioch” as the “Chevalier au Lion”.

Chateau Nexon

One of the chateaux of the Lastours family above this chateau became famous as a stud for anglo-arab horses.

Abbey of Le Chalard

A rich abbey on the ancient gold-road in the Dordogne (where gold seams were mined), this abbey was fortified and defended itself and the local village against Richard the Lionheart.

Chateau de Jumilhac

Also part of France’s Gold Route and a prize to be sought both by Philip-Augustus as much as by Richard Coeur de Lion. It was deserted and destroyed before being rebuilt in 1289.

Saint-Yrieix La Perche

12th Century church built on the former site of the monastery of St Yrieix (St Aredius). The local community withstood the attentions of both the viscounts of Limoges and the King and saw themselves as vassals only of the vatican.

Chateau Bonneval

Home of the counts of Bonneval. Guillaume de Booneval went on the 3rd crusade and was contemporary of Richard the Lionheart.

Segur le Chateau

A beautiful mediaeval town – formerly part of the duchy of Aquitaine but captured from the Plantagenets in 1177 and pillaged on the death of Richard the Lionheart. It is probably worth remembering that upon his death, there were probably numerous bands of soldiers formerly in Richard’s pay (or service) who were now not only master-less, but un-paid and would therefore have gone on the rampage locally until brought under control or dispersed.

Chateau of Pompadour

Historically significant seat of power since Roman times, the fortress owned by the Lastours family was burned down in approximately 1200 following the death of Richard the Lionheart.

See also the official site of the Route: Richard Coeur de Lion.

Publisher: La Croix Spa

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The Chateau trail: “Route Richard Coeur de Lion” by Richard Martin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
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The Chateau Route of Richard the Lionheart is a collection of castles, churches and towns in the heart of Richard Coeur de Lion’s Angevin kingdom. Whilst not a contemporary term in Richard’s time (it was a label created to bring history and tourism together in the 1980s) the concept of royal – ecclesiatical stay-places is certainly accurate and a political necessity in Feudal times. With pressure from Philip Augustus and Rayond Count of Toulouse and fickle Limousin barons, Richard would certainly have spent time and effort keeping on top of this clutch of castles. Indeed he died laying siege to Chalus-Chabrol.