My History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times
The Earldom of Richmond and the Duchy of Brittany - The History of Richmond, Part 2
The Earldom of Richmond and the Duchy of Brittany were still connected during the rule of Henry III, which led to problems because the duke of Brittany owed allegiance to the king of France, while the Honour of Richmond was a fief held from the king of England. Since the two kings were at cahoots most of the time, the position of the duke of Brittany / earl of Richmond was often precarious. Moreover, the lands belonging to the Honour of Richmond had sometimes been split and given to several nobles (1).
Keep seen from outside
In 1223, the Honour was split between the Earl of Chester and Duke Peter de Dreux of Brittany, acting as regent for his son John (2). Peter forfeited his part for joining the King Louis VIII of France in an attack of the English Poitou and Gascony. But Peter would have prefered Brittany to be independent of the French king, and Henry III needed his support in the war, so the Honour - obviously the complete one - was restored to Peter but a year later. When Louis died, Peter led a rebellion against his son Louis XI and his mother Blanche of Castile, but the revolt eventually failed, and he had to make his peace with the king of France. That, of course, led to the second forfeiture of the earldom of Richmond on 1234.
It would take until 1268 for his son John of Brittany to receive the earldom (3). His son, another John, married Henry's daughter Beatrice and succeeded his father as Duke of Brittany and Earl of Richmond in 1286. John II had the usual problems of divided allegiances when King Edward I fought in Gascony. He lost Richmond for a time, but was received back into the good grace of the king in 1304 (4).
Scollard's Hall, interior facing west
Both Henry III and Edward I made some minor alterations to Richmond Castle during the times when the honour had fallen to the Crown. Edward renovated Scollard's Hall, extending its adjacent range, and added the vault to the keep.
Scollard's Hall, interior facing east
John's son Arthur succeeded him as Duke of Brittany, but Edward chose to grant Richmond to his second son, another John (1306). It was a first attempt to separate the ties between duchy and earldom - John had been educated in England and proved to be a loyal vassal of Edward I and Edward II. He was captured by Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Byland Moor in 1322 where he led the English host, and only released upon a hefty ransom two years later. While John stood with Edward II through the first crisis of the Lord Ordainers in 1310, he sided with Isabella in 1325 (5). He lost Richmond, of course, but it was restored to him by Edward III upon the abdication of Edward II. Yet John prefered to spend his last years on his French estates. He died childless and was succeeded by his nephew, yet another John. *sigh* John III had already been Duke of Brittany since 1312 and became 5th Earl of Richmond in 1334; he remained a supporter of King Edward III.
Remains of the 12th century house, interior
John died without heirs as well and the claim to the duchy was disputed. The Breton Heritage War became part of the Hundred Years War. Edward supported Jean of Montfort, another son of Arthur II with his second wife Yolande of Dreux, Countess of Montfort (she was the widow of King Alexander III of Scotland). The other contestant was Joanna of Penthièvre, a daughter of one of Arthur's sons from his first marriage. Joanna and her husband Charles of Blois had the support of the French king.
There is something odd going on here: It seems that King Edward granted Jean of Montfort the earldom of Richmond upon the death of John III, but when Jean was captured by the French king during the fight for the duchy of Brittany, the earldom was confiscated and never restored to him even when he escaped from French captivity and fled to England. Why would Edward do such a thing (6)?
Jean's wife Joanna of Flanders continued the fight, and Jean returned with English troops. After several years of war and shifting fortunes of the combattants, the duchy of Brittany was finally given to Jean IV of Brittany, a son of Jean of Montfort and the fierce Joanna of Flanders, in 1365 (7).
Keep, interior of the basement
When Edward III put the Honour of Richmond 'behind the shield of England' in 1342, he granted the earldom to his son John of Gaunt who surrendered it in favour of Jean IV of Brittany in 1372. But it seems Jean forfeited the earldom when the Breton war flared up again. At this time, it was finally disconnected from the duchy of Brittany which eventually lost its independence.
The title went to John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford (earl 1414-1435), a son of King Henry IV. He died childless. The next high ranking noble to hold the title was Edmund Tudor, a half-brother of the unlucky King Henry VI. His son would become the first Tudor king as Henry VII. During the War of the Roses, the earldom of Richmond went to members of whatever family was on the rise, among them the Duke of Gloucester and future King Richard III.
After the war, the Honour of Richmond became a Tudor fief, and the new title of Duke of Richmond was created. Its first holder was Henry FitzRoy, an illegitimate son of the (in)famous Henry VIII.
View from the cockpit garden to the castle
The castle of Richmond was no longer used as fortress by the end of the 14th century. In consequence, repairs were no longer undertaken, and the castle was reported as being partly in ruins in a survey from 1538.
Curtain wall with remains of domestic range
1) An older but detailed history of Richmond can be found in: 'The honour and castle of Richmond', in A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 1, ed. William Page (London, 1914), pp. 1-16. British History online
2) Jure uxoris - the title came from his wife Alix of Thouars, and Jean would inherit it upon maturity, no matter whether Peter was still alive.
3) King Henry had meanwhile given the Honour of Richmond to Pierre of Savoy, an uncle of his wife Eleanor of Provence, who gave him no reason to take it away, so there were a lot of negotiations about recompensation going on.
4) Obviously, the French king was in no position to retaliate by confiscating the Duchy of Brittany in turn, because John continued to rule there.
5) About the Lord Ordainers see the post about Scarborough Castle.
6) All sources agree in the fact, none offers an explanation. If Edward thought that the oath of fealty to the French king due for the duchy of Brittany interfered with loyalty owed him for Richmond, why continued he to support Jean's claim to the duchy?
7) The peace proved short-lived, but that is not part of this essay.
Gibraltar of the North - A Virtual Tour through Luxembourg City
The historical centre of Luxemburg lies on a rocky plateau that is surrounded on three sides by the rivers Alzette and Pétrusse which have carved out a forty metres deep valley. A settlement at the Alzette, today known as Grund, dates to the 11th century. Today, the town has spread along the rivers and to the hills on the other side of the valley, which in turn is spanned by a number of bridges. That particular situation, together with the fortifications that have been built on and into the rocks during several centuries, earned Luxembourg the nickname 'Gibraltar of the North'. The town is part of the UNESCO Cultural Heritage since 1994.
Luxembourg - a city on different levels
Sightseeing in Luxembourg City means a lot of walking uphill and downhill, either on stairs or steep lanes. There are also two elevators which lead from the valley quarters Grund and Pfaffenthal to the Upper City. The payoff are an abundance of great vistas, esp. when the weather is playing nice - sunny with some interesting cloud formations - like I did when I visited the town.
View from Grund and the Alzette to the Haute Ville
During Roman times, two road crossed on the plateau; they were protected by a watch tower and a fortelet. The rise of Mediaeval Luxembourg began with Count Siegfried of the Ardennes (whose grandmother Oda of Saxony was a cousin of Otto the Great). He acquired the lands in a exchange treaty with the the abbey of St.Maximin in Trier in 963 and built the first castle, named Lucilinburhuc
, the 'little castle'.
The foundations of the first castle
During the following centuries the city expanded westward to the area where the Cathedral of Our Lady and the Grand Ducal Palace are now situated. Duke John the Blind, of Crécy fame (he fought in that battle despite his blindness, and was killed), built a wall around the upper city in 1340 which would remain until the 19th century. It was the time when the dukes of Luxembourg were also Kings of Bohemia and Holy Roman emperors - quite a rise since Count Siegfried first set his foot on that promontory.
The Bock Fortifications
The duchy and town of Luxembourg were often involved in wars due to its strategically importance, and conquered by several other countries: Burgundy, Spain, France, Austria and Prussia. They all left their additions to the fortifications over the centuries - some of those were made by general Vauban whom I mentioned in my post about Strasbourg
during the time of King Louis XIV. (A more detailed post about the history of Luxembourg will follow; I have plenty of photos left.)
Casemates in the Bock Fortifications
The Bock Fortifications were added by the Austrians in 1745 at the site of the first castle. Both the Bock and Pétrusse (dating to the Spanish occupation about 1640) fortifications are run through with a system of casemates partly cut into the bedrock under the town, both serving as refuge and defense with their storage rooms and openings for canons. There once had been 23 kilometres of those, 14 kilometres are left, and part of those can be visited (the entrance is in the Bock Fortifications).
View from 'the Bock' to Grund and the Corniche (right)
The 'Bock Rock' offers some really pretty views to the districts of Grund and Pfaffenthal. The photo above shows the loveliest of the lower quarters, Grund, and - to the right - the Corniche
, the balcony-like structure built above a fortification wall that expanded the natural rock defenses. It is called Europe's longest balcony - a popular place with tourists and Luxemburgians alike.
Pretty houses at the Alzette
The settlement of Grund dates to the 11th century. It was the quarter for craftsmen and manufacturers. Today the situation along the river makes for pretty vistas, but the flooding of the Alzette has long been a problem. The main church in Grund was dedicated to St.Peter who obviously protects from floods (not always successfully, though modern flood management has improved the situation).
Neumünster Abbey, seen from the upper town
The best way to see the entire abbey is from above. The orignal 11th century abbey had been destroyed by the French in the 15th century, but was re-established by Benedictine monks in 1600. It was rebuilt again in the 1680ies after another French attack. After the secularisation, the buildings have been used for various purposes, i.a. as hospital and prison. Today the buildings are used for exhibitions and other cultural purposes.
The old bridge across the Alzette
The bridge over the Alzette with the remains of watch towers and walls with arrow slits is part of the town fortifications that were begun by John the Blind (see above) and continued by his grandson Wenceslaus IV 'the Lazy' of Bohemia, King of Germany. Wenceslaus was dethroned in 1400 by the four Rhenish electors (the archbishops of Mainz, Cologne and Trier, and the Count of the Palatinate) because he proved to be useless as king. Well, at least he gave his name to that part of the town fortifications which are called Wenzelsmauer
. (Wenceslaus' Wall).
Houses at the Alzette, with the Upper Town in the background
We're leaving Grund (this time by elevator) to take a closer look at the Haute Ville
, the Upper Town. Its historical and present centre is the Grand Ducal Palace. The palace is a combination of the old town hall from 1572, built in the style of the Renaissance - interestingly withoug the usual steeped gable - and the weighing house of the town, dating to 1741. There had not been a ducal palace until 1890, because at first the rulers still lived in the castle and then mostly resided in Prague as Kings of Bohemia. When the House Luxembourg died out in the male line in 1437, town and land were ruled by governors of its various conquerors.
The Grand Ducal Palace
The grand ducal family lives in the castle when they are in town; they also have their offices there, as do some members of the main administration. There are also guest rooms and great halls for official events. The grand duke must have been in residence while I was there, because two guards were parading in front of the palace, instead of one.
Grand Ducal Palace, detail
When King William III (House Orange-Nassau), King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg, died in 1890, his daugher Wilhelmina succeeded him as Queen of the Netherlands, but in Luxembourg, female heritage was only possible when there was no male heir; so the duchy passed to the cadet branch, to Adolphe of Nassau-Weilburg. His son had only daughters, so Charlotte became Grand Duchess. She married Felix of the House Bourbon-Parma and had - among other children - a son, Jean, His son Henri is the present Grand Duke of Luxembourg, of House Nassau-Weilburg in the cognatic, and of House Bourbon-Parma in the agnatic line.
A narrow lane in the upper town
The quarter around the palace and the Fishmarket is the oldest, and the fish market was the first market in town. Already the Roman roads crossed here. The place is just a few steps from the first castle, now the Bock Fortifications. You can also see how confined the space on the plateau is, leaving little space between the houses.
A pretty corner at the Fishmarket
All those wars resulted in a lot of damage; few houses date as far back as the Renaissance; a lot are Neoclassical. The main place, Place Guillaume
in Luxembourgish, is a grand sight. Unfortunately, there was the annual Octav Celebration in honour of the Holy Virgin going on, and a lot of carousels and booths had been put up on the place - not good for photographing.
St.Michael's Church, interior
St.Michael is the oldest church in Luxembourg City, situated close to the castle. The first building dates to the 10th century, but various damages led to rebuilding and repairs in a more 'modern' style, therefore the present church, dating mostly to the 16th century, is a mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque elements.
The cathedral Notre Dame
The cathedral dates to the late Gothic (1621) with an additional choir in the Neogothic style which was added between the World Wars. The towers date to that time as well.
When Luxembourg was declared a neutral state in 1867, part of the fortifications had to be razed (actually, it should have been all of it, but that proved impossible) and oddly, the church towers as well. Therefore, the town lacked a landmark. The towers of the cathedral are today the 'crown of the old town'. Though I could not get inside the church due to the Octav celebrations.
View to the Beck Fortifications and the Pétrusse Valley
We go back to the still impressive fortifications. The Beck Fortifications date to the Spanish occupation around 1644. To the left you can see the Place de la Constitution
with the Gëlle Fra
(the Golden Lady; left) on the huge pillar, and more booths due to the Octav. To the right you can glimpse the Passerelle
, the viaduct bridge across the Pétrusse valley connecting the upper town with the station quarter; it dates to 1860.
The Golden Lady was erected after WW1 in commemorial of the fallen. It was hidden during WW2 and and is now a monument for peace.
Holy Spirit Citadel
The Holy Spirit Citadel is situated near the confluence of the Pétrusse into the Alzette, at the entrance to Grund. It is part of Vauban's work (see above). There had been a nunnery on the site since 1234, then still outside the fortifications. It was later included in the walls John the Blind built. I could not figure out when the nunnery was abandoned - likely at the time the bastions were added - but I found out that the remains of the building were dismantled in the 18th century. They obviously had been used as barracks during Vauban's time.
Towers on the Rham Plateau
The Rham-Plateau opposite the 'Bock Rock' had been included in the city walls during the time of King Wenceslaus in the early 15th century (who may have been a lazy king, but not so bad at commissioning walls). The impressive half-towers date to the time of Vauban who built defenses and barracks there in 1684. The towers had been razed, but were recently restored.
The 'Hollow Dent' Tower
The 'Hollow Dent' is a fortification tower that has been only partly razed, giving it the impression of a Mediaeval ruin. The Luxemburgian middle finger to the razing order. ;-)
Clouds over the European Quarter
The Kirchberg had been a little village until the 1960 when new space was needed for buildings of the EC administration. Those developed into the modern tower buildings of the European Court of Justice, the European Commission, the Court of Auditors and the European Investment Bank with their glass facades.
View towards Grund
I'll leave you with a final view over Luxembourg City from a different angle. I hope you liked the little tour.
Here's a little picture post to tide you over while I'm sorting through all those Luxembourg photos to prepare a city tour post.
I caught that wee chap on the meadow behind our appartment building. He was busy nosing through the grass in search of tasty morsels, and for a brief moment looked up to check what was about. Then he went back to food hunting.
I met with the acrobatic squirrel climbing a wall in an artificial ruin in the Park at the Ilm
in Weimar. Red squirrels are still common in Germany, and this was a particularly pretty specimen in all its bushy-tailed glory.
Pretty Houses and a Famous Minster – A Virtual Tour through Strasbourg
Strasbourg is a pretty town and even prettier in sunshine. But since I visited the place on a sunny Sunday in late April, there were more tourists than in Bruges. It was almost impossible to get photos without people standing in front of the vistas.
The Minster in Strasbourg, westwork
Strasbourg is best known for the famous Minster (Cathedral of Our Lady). Its construction began in the 12th century, but it would take until 1439 to finish the building - and only the north tower was erected to its intended hight of 142 metres. At that time, the Minster of Strasbourg was the tallest building in the known world, surpassing the pyramids of Gizeh.
The Minster, interior
You see what I said about people? On Sundays, the times when tourists can visit the interior are limited due to the religious activities going on in the church, and then they stream in all at once. I had planned to arrive at Saturday early afternoon to avoid this problem, but a strike in France obliged me to spend five hours on trains instead of the two hours I had planned, therefore I arrived in the evening.
The Minster, exterior
Although the construction began at a time when the Romanesque style was still prevalent, the Minster today looks like a purely Gothic building, and a splendind one at that. Particulary the westwork of red sandstone (see above) with its statues and ornaments is stunning.
Palais Rohan, the river side
The Palais Rohan directly behind the minster was commissioned by a cardinal, member of the House Rohan . It was finished in 1742, a fine example of Baroque architecture. Today it houses several musuems, among them the Musée Archaéologique.
The Musée de l'Œvre Notre Dame
dates to the 13th century - with 17th century extensions - and hosts the Museum of the History of Arts. The double-gabled building also is the seat of the cathedral workshop since the Middle Ages (from whence the name 'Work of Our Lady').
The Maison Kammerzell
The House Kammerzell at the place in front of the minster is the finest timbered house in Strasbourg. It was built in 1427 and altered in 1589; the most spendid example of late Gothic secular timber architecture in the former Holy Roman Empire. The facade displays carving of mythological and Biblical figures.
The photo shows the timbered upper floors; the basic storey is made of stone, but there were those ugly stalls that sell tourist kitch in front of it.
The Place Gutenberg
The Gutenberg Place is named after the famous printer who lived in Strasbourg 1434 - 1444. It is framed mostly by Renaissance buildings, among them the former town hall. The Gutenberg statue dates to the 19th century.
Strasbourg has more than one church, of course. St.Thomas' Church took several centuries to complete (1196 - 1526). The five-naved hall church shows a mix of Romanesque and Gothic elements. It proved much quieter and a lot less tourist-y than the minster.
Mediterranean flair - houses in the Grand Rue
The Grand Rue is the main street of the old town. It already was the main road of the Roman fort at the site. Most of the houses we can admire today were built by artisans and craftsmen in the 16th to 18th centuries.
Half-timbered houses in Petite France
- Little France - is the name of the quarter which in Mediaeval times housed the workshops and living places of tanners, butchers, fishermen and other smelly and less savoury occupations. Later it became the site of brothels and cheap pubs. The name 'Little France' comes from the French disease (syphilis) which could easily be contacted there.
The Tanners' Street in Petite France
Nowadays the pretty half-timbered houses in the typical style of the Rhineland, dating mostly to the 16th and 17th centuries, have been renovated, and the Petite France has become one of the tourist attractions of Strasbourg. There are a lot of small winstubs
(wine houses) and gift shops.
More pretty houses in Petite France
The old town of Strasbourg is located on a isle between two branches of the river Ill shortly before it confluences into the Rhine. The Roman fort was located on the island, later the Mediaeval town developed at the site which is known as Grande Île. The entire 'Grand Island' was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1988.
Petite France seen from the boat
With so much water about, boat tours around the Grand Island and the river Ill leading to the European Quarter are offered on a regular schedule. In fact, they are so popular that it is best to book a few hours in advance. On a sunny evening, such a tour is a lovely way to explore the town.
The navigation lock
With the construction of the Barrage Vauban
, the Vauban Dam (photos see below) in 1690, the water level changed and made a navigation lock neccesary. Its passage is part of the boat tour.
More pretty houses, this time at the lock
The lock is situated in the French quarter. You can see the boat coming up in the foreground, and some more lovely half-timbered houses in the background.
The Ponts Couverts
Most famous among the many bridges connecting the Grand Island with the rest of the town are the Ponts Couverts
, once bridges covered by roofs as shelter for bowmen. They are part of the 13th century town fortifications. The four towers that protected the bridges are still intact, but the roofs of the bridges have been removed in the 18th century.
Ponts Couverts, seen from the boat
A system of sluices and timber screens under the bridges allowed a controlled flooding of parts of the town in case of defense. Later, the Vauban fortifications would take over the main line of defense.
The Barrage Vauban, seen from the boat
The Vauban Dam worked pretty much the same way as the Ponts Couverts; it could be closed by shutters under the archs to rise the water level, which meant that the Petite France would be partly flooded - one would sacrify a poor quater to defend the more important areas around the minster and the Place Kléber.
The Vauban fortifications
The dam is named after the famous French general and military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban (1633 - 1707). His most importat works - more than 150 in all - were constructed during the reign of King Louis XIV and included town or sea fortifications in Luxembourg, Calais, La Rochelle and Arras. Vauban became Marshal of France in 1703, aged 70.
Pretty houses at the Ponts Couverts
The morning sun, the fresh green of spring, and those nice old houses in half-timbered style or coloured roughcast make for lovely photos. I picked just a few out of some 250 I took in Strasbourg for this post.
Chestnut trees in bloom along the Ill
The boat tour includes a turn to the European Quarter, else I would not have bothered to walk out there and look at lots of glass. The passage on the Ill along the chestnut alley is really lovely in spring.
Strasbourg is one of the official seats of the European Parliament. The building dates to 1999 and includes more than a thousand offices, 18 great halls, restaurants, hairdressers and lots of other amenities. During the session weeks, a whole trek of politicians, bureaucrats and administration members travels from Brussels to Strasbourg, including a score of trucks full of files.
European Court of Human Rights
The aluminium complex (1994) of the European Court of Rights is supposed to look like the scales of justice from above. The angle from the river gives an idea of that though it is not perfect. The main court room covers 860 square metres with 260 seats; there are ten more courts and meeting rooms.
Pretty houses behind the Minster
Those typical Rhineland style half-timbered houses, often with pretty decorations, can be found the in the quarter around the minster as well. My hotel was in that street, but impossible to photograph because the street is so narrow.