The last of the Normans

Richard the Lionheart and Philip Augustus, Crusades at Château-Gaillard

The death of Henry II left Richard the Lionheart and Philip Augustus face to face. The King of England resumed control from his father of the main fiefdoms of the "Plantagenet State". In particular he was Duke of Normandy where war was quick to resume against the King of France.

Fortress of Château-Gaillard, erected by Richard the Lion Heart. Photo G. Coppola.Following the episode of the crusade of the two kings (1190-1191), Philip Augustus was able to take advantage of Richard's captivity (1192-1194) and the ambitions of Prince John. This brother of Richard wanted to seize Normandy and, in the face of the refusal of the Norman barons, John came seeking the support of Philip Augustus, formally abandoning to him a large tract of eastern Normandy and the castles of Vexin.

On his return from captivity Richard resumed his control of Normandy. John submitted to his brother and Normandy entered a period of almost five years of war, sieges and sorties marked by humiliating defeats of Philip Augustus at Fréteval (1195) and Courcelles (1198).

Fortress of Château-Gaillard, erected by Richard the Lion Heart. Photo G. Coppola.Richard had the loyalty of most of the Norman barons and managed to contain the King of France outside his Duchy. He then undertook the task of closing off access at the most commonly contested frontier, in Vexin. Richard undertook the construction of the huge fortress of Château Gaillard inspired by his experience of warfare obtained in the siege of the Holy Land.

Completion of Château Gaillard (1197-1198) and the victory of Courcelles placed Richard in a position to obtain a five year truce from Philip Augustus, but Richard was unable to turn this to his advantage. He died in Châlus in the Limousin region while besieging a rebel vassal's castle on 6 April 1199.

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