In the 12th century, relations between the English monarchy and the kings of France were hostile. Although both forces fought together in the Holy Land on the Third Crusade, the alliance fell apart upon their return when Philip II, King of France, betrayed Richard the Lionheart by taking back part of Normandy.
To protect his rich and strategic lands, the English king decided to build an impregnable castle to bar the route along the Seine, thus asserting his supremacy in Normandy.
The kingdom had to be protected at all costs, and there was no time to lose. Construction began in October 1197, and in less than two years, his men had completed a huge fort on the banks of the Seine using innovative architecture. This colossal project took up a quarter of the annual budget of the English crown.
Looking at the finished structure, King Richard used the French word “Gaillard” to describe the castle’s strength. With its monumental dimensions, the building acquired the name which would send a shiver down the spine of more than one enemy.
Yet only four years later, France’s King Philip besieged the site at the head of an army of 6,000 men, determined to take control of this stone monolith, despite its incredible defenses.
But how would they manage to topple the impregnable fortress?
A great architectural adventure and gripping account of war, The Daunting Fortress of Richard the Lionheart is the story of an amazing feat of medieval military construction.
Direction: Thomas Risch
Production: ZED for RMC Découverte