Châteauneuf-sur-Epte Castle

Châteauneuf-sur-Epte Castle

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The ruined castle of Châteauneuf-sur-Epte is in the commune of Château-sur-Epte in Normandy, France. Construction started around 1097 by William Rufus, King of England, to reinforce the frontier along the Epte river.

The castle occupied a site on the border between the Duchy of Normandy and the Kingdom of France. It was reinforced by the Plantagenets in the 12th century and again during the Hundred Years’ War. In 1119, it was besieged by Louis VI of France. It was restored and reinforced by Henry II of England in the 12th century, while further works were carried out in the 14th century.

The castle’s role declined in the 16th century and it was ordered to be dismantled in 1647. Today the ruins are private property. It has been listed since 1926 as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.

Sauvons le château qui a vu naître la Normandie !

Normandy was founded in 911 AD, in sight of the castle. It's less than 1500 meters away that the Viking chief Rollo and the Frankish king, Charles III, met. From their parley, they agreed to sign the Saint-Clair-sur-Epte treaty, the document that created the duchy of Normandy.

Drawing of the castle as it was in the 12th century

Historians are still arguing about what the castle looked like back then.

Was there already a wooden protective wall or just the hill where Rollo would build the first Norman defenses in 911?

Whichever the case, the location of the castle is not coincidental: from this hill, overlooking the Epte valley (the Epte is a tributary of the Seine), the fortress stands as a guardian of the duchy's eastern frontier.

Standing right between Paris and Rouen, the Norman capital, any invasion by land or water can be seen from its walls.

In 1097 AD, preparing for war against the French kingdom, William II, king of England and regent of the duchy of Normandy for his brother (who had left for the Crusades) decided to heavily fortify the castle, transforming it in an impressive stone sentry.

While Normandy is in theory a vassal of the French kingdom, the duchy is more and more in conflict with Paris.

It is while leading an invasion of French lands that William the Conqueror died, with his son by his side.

For centuries, this stronghold was a strategic asset during the wars between the French and Norman (then Anglo-Norman), contested by both powers for its strategic location.

Romantic engraving of the castle keep, ruined

After the Middle Ages, the castle was less and less useful, until the cardinal Mazarin , Louis XIV first minister, ordered its dismantling in 1647. Since then, abandoned and forgotten, the fortress fell bit by bit to ruin, under the assault of men, nature and time.

But, in 2015.

A small organisation to save a piece of history who nearly disappeared

Overrun by vegetation, stones missing, rooftops full of holes or totally collapsed, towers and walls partially collapsed. That's how we discovered the fortress when we entered it for the first time, in 2015. Our organisation, Héritage historique (Historical heritage), aim to save and protect historical heritage could'nt remain unmoved by the castle ruin.

Inside of the castle, collapsed after a fire in 1973

A massive fire and numerous years of neglect by its former owners had left the castle in a tragic state of disrepair. In some parts, nature had even took over again, damaging the masonry and speeding up its ruin.

Since then, our volunteers, all history lovers, have worked hard to slow down and repair the damages of time. Our first battle was against the invasive vegetation. The two courtyards, the ditches, the residential quarters. everything was overrun. Trees were even growing high on the walls, destroying the ancient stonework with their roots.

Like a medieval army, ivy was assaulting the towers, the ramparts, the exterior walls, infiltrating everywhere, loosening the stones and weakening the masonry. Implacable, patient, every year the damage spread further. From all the sieges the castle had seen, this one is by far the most dangerous.

The gate and the keep as we found them in 2015

Our first task was to save the fortress from this deadly assailant. Thanks to our volunteers efforts, we have salvaged the courtyards, the towers, the walls and the living quarters from the ravages of this invading enemy.

And with the support of our valiant goat division, they're is no coming back for the vegetation!

Once this important work was done, we were finnaly able to see the walls and make a real assessment of the castle's condition.

Since 2015 we have repaired more than 200 square meters of
to protect the masonry. We have done dozens of
small but essential repairs
to avoid further collapse and to
repair the most fragile parts. But we are well aware that for
the castle to be reborn,
much more substantial work
needs to be done

Drawing of the castle courtyard after our first work of deforestation and roof repair

Today, we need your help to keep protecting the forgotten sentry.

By your side, a first step toward the castle's restoration

Our volunteers in 2018, working on the portcullis needed to
consolidate the eastern gate

Like every year, summer is the time of work and repair in the castle. It's the season where our workers (all volunteers) can give the most of their time to be here.

This year, we have schedule two work periods. The first one, in July, with our regular volunteers, and the second one in August.

The latter will be realised in partnership with a local employment aid organization, and we'll welcome a group of young people reintegrating into the workforce to help us with the castle's restoration.

The castle's goat unit is very efficient to prevent
the cleared vegetation coming back

But, for the first time since 2015, we will now work on a large scale and repair whole parts of the castle's structure.

It's our most ambitious project but also the most necessary work we'll have done since we decided to save the castle.

In fact, the general condition of the castle is so bad in some areas that they are inaccessible without this summer's reconstruction.

Obviously, this prevents any public visit, but also hinders their restoration. The slit windows and walkways for example can't be repaired until we have stabilised several walls, currently partially collapsed.

Aerial picture of the castle as it is today

This is both a good news and a new challenge for us: this is the proof that we are making progress and that our efforts to save the castle are fruitful.

But this new chapter of our work involves substantial cost, and it will be difficult for our small organization to afford them.

Not to mention the cost of the architectural studies, we must invest in professional tools and equipment to successfully complete this summer's projects. In total, this equipment is worth 20 000 €, a sum of money our small association isn't able to pay yet.

That's why we are asking for your help and your generosity: we need your donation to help us fund the restoration of the castle.

An ambitious project, made possible because of you :

This summer's work will focus on several parts of the fortress's structure, substantially decayed by the centuries and the elements.

This stage of our project is crucial for the castle's restoration: if we succeed in our work, the castle's destruction will be stopped and not just slowed down!

Let me explain in detail what our objectives are in this important task:

- Main objective : Restore the master tower-gate:

It's the most important and ambitious part of our summer campaign, but also the most expensive. We're not sure we'll be able to complete it this summer.

Partially collapsed since 2001, a significant crack split the tower from the top to middle. The wall has also collapsed at its base, and was totally overrun by the ivy, destroying the mortar and weakening the building.

To start the work on this part of the castle we must first set up important security measures, especially a rock screen roof and a shoring equipment (as in the picture above).

Our goal is to make the masonry repairs on the part of the building we will be able to access thanks to the shoring. This will allow us to stabilise the wall and delay its erosion.

The scaffold, will allow us to work on the upper part of the wall, the shoring equipment preventing any risk of collapse.

The aerial bucket, will allow us to repair the whole crack, without putting our volunteers at any risk.

- Secondary objective : Save the West outer wall :

It is one of the most severe threats for the castle. The western wall's base is seriously damaged at three points where the vegetation dislodged mortar and stones. A massive crack also runs through the center of the wall. This significantly weakened the whole rampart.

- Bonus objective Stop the South tower gate's lintel collapse :

One of the arrow slits in the southern tower-gate has greatly suffered from erosion, many stones are missing on the sides and the lintel is very close to collapse.

This is particularly worrying. If this arrow slit were to fall down, the stability of the entire wall is threatened.

What will your donations be used for ?

To complete this important work we have no other choice than to ask for your help. As I said before, our small organisation can't afford to buy all the professional equipment we need to save the castle.

To completely finish our summer work, and maybe even get ahead on a future campaign, we need a total of 20 000 €.

- First tier goal : 5 000 € - we can start our summer work

- Architectural studies : cost 3 000 €
- Insurance and materials : cost 2 000 €

- Second tier goal : 10 000 € - we can work on the walls

Without equipment, it's impossible to access the top of the tower

Purchase of a professional scafolding
Cost : 5 000 €

- Third tier goal : 15 000 € - we can work on the top of the tower

Purchase of a professional aerial bucket (second-hand). Cost : 5 000 €

- Fourth tier goal : 20 000 € - we can get ahead on next year projects

Purchase of a mini excavator (second-hand). Cost : 5 000 €

Your donation can make a difference and allow us to save, repair and rebuild this witness of Europe's history which has stood here for nearly a thousand years. We are relying on you, Thank you in advance for your generosity.

You can help us by donating:

- on line with a credit card on this page after creating an account on Dartagnans

- by a bank transfer after creating an account on Dartagnans

- with a cheque with your email adress on the back, made out to the order of "Association Héritage Historique", and sent to the following address:

Dartagnans Campagne Châteauneuf sur Epte 15 rue de Milan 75009 PARIS

Thanks for your generosity!

With your help, we will rebuild Châteauneuf sur Epte!

For any specific questions, don't hesitate to send an email to: [email protected]

You can learn more about the castle's history and our organisation's work on our website : (English version coming soon)

You can also support us and keep in touch with a like on our Facebook page!


To show our gratitude :
- an original drawing of the castle on paper
- a public thanks on social media

The tax deduction is only applicable if you pay your taxes in France.

To show our gratitude :
= previous thanks
+ your name amongst our benefactors on our web site

As a gift :
+ one free pass to visit the castle during the European Heritage Days of 2019

The tax deduction is only applicable if you pay your taxes in France.

To show our gratitude :
= previous thanks

As a gift :
= previous gift
+ you'll receive a museum quality replica of sterling silver coin as it was minted by the vikings in the 10th century

The tax deduction is only applicable if you pay your taxes in France.

To show our gratitude :
= previous thanks

As a gift :
= previous gift
+ one free pass to visit the castle during the European Heritage Days of 2019
+ one private invitation to visit the castle volunteer work camp this summer
+ a nice bottle of locally brewd beer and a medieval glass will be given to you at the end of your visit

The tax deduction is only applicable if you pay your taxes in France.

To show our gratitude :
= previous thanks

As a gift :
= you are invited to the privately held benefactors medieval banquet
+ a nice bottle of locally brewd honey and spices flavoured medieval wine will be serve to you during the banquet

The tax deduction is only applicable if you pay your taxes in France.

To show our gratitude :
= previous thanks

As a gift :
= invitation to the medieval banquet (as above)
+ a nice calligraphy set or, if you prefer, a bottle of locally brewd honey and spices flavoured medieval wine and an elaborated medieval glass will be given to you at the end of your visit

The tax deduction is only applicable if you pay your taxes in France.

To show our gratitude :
= previous thanks
+ a personalised original drawing of the castle on paper to your name

As a gift :
= invitation to the medieval banquet (as above)
+ a very original wax seal set inside a small romantic stone box OR, if you prefer, a bottle of premium brewd honey and spices flavoured medieval wine and two medieval glasses will be given to you at the end of your visit

The tax deduction is only applicable if you pay your taxes in France.

To show our gratitude :
= previous thanks

As a gift :
= invitation to the medieval banquet (as above)
+ a bottle of mead (traditionnal fermented honey alcohol) with its handmade leather pint glass OR, if you prefer, a wonderful leather notebook wiht its feather pen will be given to you at the end of your visit

The tax deduction is only applicable if you pay your taxes in France.

To show our gratitude :
= previous thanks

As a gift :
= invitation to the medieval banquet for 2 (as above)
= enjoy a unique VIP experience : come live one day as a medieval person in costum during a traditional celebration
= an object made especially for you : you can choose between a traditionnal handmade scarf using medieval technics or the replica of a medieval knife handmade by a swordsmith

The tax deduction is only applicable if you pay your taxes in France.

To show our gratitude :
= previous thanks

As a gift :
= invitation to the medieval banquet for 2 (as above)
= a unique VIP experience (as above)
= an handcrafted object made especially for you
+ your name will forever be part of the castle : written on a piece of parchment, it will be scealed in a lead coffer inside the medieval walls of the gate tower during the renovation work.

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Châteauneuf-sur-Epte Castle - History

From: "Privateers" [email protected]>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 10:10:14 +0100

The single royal rival of medieval English kings in the Britain lay in the Lion of the North. The kings of the Scots were the heirs to a line of more than 100 royal forebears, rulers of a society unconquered by invaders. Rival insistences for land and power dictated about 1300 onward relations between the two kingdoms in Britain in the north of Britain. These claims energized sporadic war for almost 400 years.

After the rough definitions of both kingdoms in the 9th century, Anglo-Scottish relations rested on an equalization between an English wish to bring Scotland into its national trajectory, and Scottish territorial initiatives in northen England. These aspirations had by the 11th century encouraged Scots expansion from its heartland. north of the Forth. The annexation of Strathclyde and of the English settlements Lothian identified Scotland as an aggressor scheming for Cumbria and Northumberland. After 1058, Scotland, unlike the other Celtic kingdoms, was ruled by a single royal dynasty the Canmores cast aside other claimants and moved from being kings of a boisterous federation to be dominators. Kings of the Scots territory.

The Normans recognized this situation and there was no Norman conquest of Scotland. Instead the Norman kings sought to increase their influence with the Canmores. David I (1124 1153), as brother-in-law and vassal of Henry I of England, was part of the Anglo-Norman world. The politics and culture of twelfth century Scotland were transformed by the arrival of the personnel and practices of Norman nobility, church, government, and trade, If change was not entirely peaceful, in Scotland it did not sweep away native power.

The Canmores used the new techniques of war and administration to increase central authority. King David I, although influenced heavily by their powerful neighbour did not became vassal rulers nor did his successors from 1124 to 1 286, designs on northern England were still pursued and English claims to be lords of Scotland still resisted.

In the last decades of the 13th century, at the end of the Canmore dynasty and Edward I of England's search for real influence in Scotland combined to sweep away the balance between English claims and Scottish independence. From 1296 until 1560 war was the normal state of relations between the two kingdoms.

English aims varied between the destruction of the Scottish kingdom and its reduction to a vassal-state. The greatest efforts to achieve these goals came in the half-century up to 1346, but claims to overlordship were never abandoned. English kings continued to press these claims and from 1544 union based on war was revived in the 'Rough Wooing' of Scotland by Henry VIII.

The demands of a war for survival shaped late medieval Scotland. The language of resistance to Edward I and his heirs stressed the existence of Scotland as a community whose rights were under threat. The usurpation of Robert the Bruce 1306 harnessed effective royal leadership to this sense of grievance. Bruce's military success against English forces was exploited to create a bond between his kingship nd the aristocratic community. This was cemented by the rise of Anglo-Normand families. The Bruce family, now kings in Scotland, were Anglo-Norman. The local Celt nobles had been displaced one by one by Anglo-Normans. They replaced the local aristocrats at the edges of Royal authority. At the unruly areas became established the family St. Clair.

If we look at a Norman expansion map that earlier marges of the Norman Kingdom were occupied by fortified towns with the name of St. Clair. Sustained war in Scotland from 1329 on blunted the power of the king and increased the power of the local lords. I have become more and more to believe that Sinclair was the title used for the guardians for the edges of the Norman Empire. One of those Sinclairs who can trace their ancestry directly back to the Sinclairs of Caithness may be directly related. This theory could account for the unrelated Sinclairs of Argyle. The connection between Roslyn and the Jarldom of Orkney would show a man, Prince Henry, serving two masters: the King of Norway and the Anglo-Norman Scots. We find that on the southern end of modern day Germany strong Sinkler influence. In the middle ages, the original basket hilt sword was developed in this area— it is called a Sinclair.

A Travellers History of Scotland - Andrew Fisher (The Windrush Press 2nd Edition 1997)

Home Under the Clans - George Way of Plean (Harper Collins, Glasgow 1998)

Europe, A History - Norman Davis (BCA, Oxford 1996)

Violence, Custom and Law: The Anglo-Scottish borderlands in the later middle ages - Cynthia Jane Nevell (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 1998)

Micropedia British History - Professor Eric Evans (Paragon, Bath 1999)

Micropedia Scottish History - Dr James Mackey (Paragon, Bath 1999)

Hutchison Illustrated British History - Various (Helicon, Oxford 1995)

The Lion in the North - John Prebble (Penguin, London 1973)

The Middle Ages - H.R. Hoyn (Thames and Hudson, London 1989)

State Paper Office - State Papers, Scotland Inc. Bords, Transcripts

Anglo-Scottish Relations 1174-1328 - E.L.F.G Stones (Oxford University Press, Oxford 1965)


The name Sinclair derives from the hermit Saint Clair, who lived on the edge of what is now Normandy. We are not descended from him.

We are descended from Rollo the Viking, who first formally obtained the territory now known as Normandy from the King of France.

Chronology of Vikings in France

From: "Privateers" [email protected]>
Date: Mon, 7 Jun 1999 17:27:26 +0100

Les Andelys and towns named St. Clair

>Isn't les Andelys on the Seine, not the Epte?

From the ruin the Seine is on one hand, 2/3 m away, Epte on the other. The ruin stands about 1000 meters from the Seine it is clearly visible from the Epte.

As you cross the Epte river, there are magnificent ruins of the fortress of Andelys. This is the gateway to Normandy. It was in this fortress that Richard Coeur de Lion was held captive [actually, Richard built it]. A fortified castle, which apparently predates the arrival of Saint Clair at Cherbourg in Normandie. Coutintin he arrived in approximately 867.

There are six towns with the name simply "St. Clair" in France. There is a "Mount St. Clair" in the south of France near Montpelier. There is "St. Clair-d'Arcey" in the Eure. There is a "St. Clair d'Halouze" in Calvados (Fine apple brandy is produced in this region of Normandy. ). There is a "St. Clair de la Toure" in the mountains near Chanbery. There is a "Saint Clair de Marque" in Savoi. There is a "St. Clair de Rome". There is a "Sinclair-sur-Jalaure". There is a "St. Clair sur L'Elle". There is a "St. Clair sous Monts".

The Borders of Normandy

From: "Privateers" [email protected]>
Date: Sun, 6 Jun 1999 22:40:03 +0100

Today is a fete in France. D-Day.

For my Canadian cousins I came back to London via Dieppe the monument to the Hamilton Light Infantry stand proudly on the Beach and states if you will excuse my translation

The boxes bear British, American and Canadian flags.

St Clair sur Epte is not in Normandy it is in the Isle de France.

From: "Privateers" [email protected]>
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1999 10:14:14 +0100

  1. 1066 Conquest of England by William of Normandy
  2. 1042-1194 Norman kingdom of Sicily founded by the descendants of Tancrede de Hauteville.
  3. 1099 Principality established near Antioch during the First Crusade by Bohemond. son of Robert Guiscard. whose descendants remained until 1287.
  4. 1364 Little Dieppe (Petit Dieppe) on the coast of Guinea (now Sierra Leone) founded by men from Dieppe

Norman Discoveries

From: "Spirit One Email" [email protected]>
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 19:40:17 -0700

I have been reading the description of Richard the Lionhearted's imprisonment in the book Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy Kelly. This gives almost a day by day discription of the events and at no time was Richard in French territory. Richard was moved from Trifels to Hagenau. Then Emperor Henry Hohenstaufen sent for him to be brought to Worms. There followed a long negotiations that involved many countries, the Pope and even Eleanor, Richard's mother came.

``All wept. Henry of Hohenstaufen condescended grandly the captive's fetters were unloosed the ransom was conveyed the hostages were given over, among them the Archbishop of Rouen, who had been the queen's stay in so many crises, her protector on so many journeyings and the queen herself, worn with labor and anguish, fell weeping into the arms of Coeur-de-Lion. She wa, as she had sritten to Pope Celestine, "worn to a skeleton, a mere thing of skin and bones, the sap consumed in her veins, tears all but dried in the fountains of her eyes.' All the bystanders let their tears flow at the spectacle of this aged woman, the most astute and venerable soverign in Europe, still at seventy-two a figure of significance in the counsels of men, raining her tears on the bosom of her glorious son. There may have been in that concourse some patriarcal bishops who remembered her as the young Queen of France getting herself and her baggage wains over the Rhine in this very city of Minz a half-century before on her way to the Holy Land, for she too had been signed with the cross for the hyounger generation the mere sight of her would evoke the airs of troubgadours' and minnesingers' sons that had kept her name alive in all the intervening time with malice or with praise.''

``The queen and her son accepted the invitation of the Bishop of Cologne to spend the end of the week in the capital of his diocese on their way down the Rhine to the sea. In Cologne the prelate did hs best with suptuous banquets and valley wines. From Cologne. it is related that after Richard had passed out of Swabia, Henry Hohenstaufen, stimulated anew by pressures from Philip of France, repented him of having so lightly delivered his captive and sent followers to pursue and overtake him and that Philip cooperated in this plan by placing ships in the Channel to intercept the royal party. However this may have been, the king and queen avoided all these traps and came at last to Antwerp. Richard's admiral, Stephen of Turnham, received the travelers on the famous ship Trenchemer. they made their way among the islands by day. and by night for greater comfort and security lay upon a great galley that came out from Rye. On March 12 . the ships bore into the harbor of Sandwich.''

You are correct my hurried translation was in error. "Au somme d'une falaise abrupte se dressent les ruines de Chateau-Galliard, forteresse edifiee par Richard Coeur de Lion au retour de croisade (1196-1197)."
Guide de La Route Selection de Reader's Digest S.A Paris 1997

[At the summit of a sheer cliff rise the ruins of Castle Petulant, fortress built by Richard Lionheart on return from crusade (1196-1197).

The Angevin genius for building stirred mightly in Coeur-de-Lion as he reconnoitered this matchless site. From the days of his earliest memory he had prowled about the massy ancient piles reared by Foulques the Black, William the Conqueror, Henry Beauclerc, Geoffrey the Fair and Henry Fitz-Empress (Richard's father) on the heights of Loches, Falaise, Chinon, and many another dominating lookout. In the Latin Kingdom he had explored with Amazement and delight the newest military construction of the TEMPLARS and hospitallers at least in Margab and Acre, Ramleh and Ascalon.

The town of Gisors is nearby and this is said about it. ``Gisors, where once the vast elm had marked the place of parley between Capetian kings and the Norman dukes.''

Fraud, Affairs and Cover Ups

View of the World&aposs Fair Hotel but also known as the &aposMurder Castle,&apos on W. 63rd Street in Chicago, Illinois, mid 1890s. The structure was designed by serial murderer Herman Webster Mudgett, better known by his alias H.H. Holmes.

Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

Holmes was involved in a variety of fraud schemes, and it was actually his involvement in a horse swindle in Texas that led police to arrest him in Boston in 1894. Investigators soon began to suspect him of murdering his scammer associate Benjamin Pitezel in an insurance scheme, then murdering three of Pitezel’s children—who were roughly seven to 14 years old—in an attempt to cover it up.

After Holmes’ arrest, newspapers began printing lurid stories about his alleged Chicago “Murder Castle,” claiming he𠆝 outfitted it with trap doors and secret rooms to torture and kill guests. According to Harold Schechter, author of Depraved: The Definitive True Story of H. H. Holmes, Whose Grotesque Crimes Shattered Turn-of-the-Century Chicago, these sensational details can be attributed to yellow journalism, the practice of exaggerating or simply making up news stories that flourished in the 1890s.

“It’s my belief that probably all those stories about all these visitors to the World’s Fair who were murdered in his quote-unquote �stle’ were just complete sensationalistic fabrication by the yellow press,” he says. 𠇋y the time I reached the end of my book, I kind of realized even a lot of the stuff that I had written was probably exaggerated.” (His book was originally published in 1994 as Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America&aposs First Serial Killer.)

Without any evidence, newspapers claimed Holmes used his building’s chute to transport bodies to the basement (the fact that he had a chute was not unusual, since many buildings had laundry chutes connected to the basement). These stories turned Holmes’ building into an elaborate torture dungeon outfitted with gas pipes to asphyxiate victims and soundproof rooms to hide their screams.

𠇊ll these myths—which to some extent I myself, I think, helped perpetuate a little bit—grew up around Holmes,” Schechter says.

Norman Castles

The Normans were originally Viking raiders, primarily from Denmark, who gained land in northern France at the beginning of the 10th century. Scandinavian warbands had been using the French river system to travel inland in the late 9 th century, even attacking Paris in 885 and 886.

It was the defeat of the Viking leader Rollo in 911 by the future Robert I of West Francia, that paved the way for the Norman settlement of northern France.

Under the new peace deal known as the treaty of Saint-Clair-Sur-Epte, agreed between Rollo and King Charles III ‘The Simple’ of West Francia, the Viking leader converted to Christianity and was granted the newly established Duchy of Normandy.

More Scandinavian settlement followed in the decades after, and this mixture of settlers and native Frankish peoples led to the development of a new ‘Norman’ cultural and ethnic identity.

The Viking settlers included Danes, Norwegians, Anglo-Danes, Orkney Vikings and even Norse-Gaels – these settlers abandoned their old Norse religion and language in favour of Catholicism and the dialects of the local population, leading to the creation of the Norman-French language.

Notably, the Normans also embraced the feudal system, which was becoming increasingly widespread throughout France, including castles which were developing during the 10 th century.

Origins of Norman Castles

The earliest castles were motte-and-bailey fortifications, consisting of a large earthwork hill (the motte) with a wooden keep constructed on top, and flanked by a compound surrounded by a wooden palisade (the bailey).

It appears that these castles initially originated in France – specifically Anjou in the 10 th century. The powerful counts of Anjou, Fulk III (970-1040) and Geoffrey II (1006-1060), constructed many of them during their reigns, such as the fortifications at Langeais and Loches.

What is more, while these castles began as simple wooden motte-and-bailey fortifications, they were soon upgraded to feature free-standing stone keeps or donjons (Loches, in particular, is a good example).

It seems likely that the Normans adopted the castle from neighbouring Anjou, including the early use of stonework to construct free-standing keeps, for Norman castles are overwhelmingly built in this style.

It was the Norman conquest of England in 1066 that brought these castles to Britain. William, Duke of Normandy, claimed the English throne through his relationship to the childless King Edward the Confessor, who had been succeeded by Saxon nobleman Harold Godwinson in January 1066.

William pressed his claim, invading in late September of the same year, and defeating Harold’s forces at the battle of Hastings on 14 th October 1066.

Although William was crowned King of England, regional resistance to his reign remained for some years after, in particular in 1069 when large scale rebellions in Northumbria and Western Mercia flared up, assisted by Welsh allies.

In such a volatile political climate, the conquering Normans used castles to great effect to secure their new territories, not only by militarily dominating the landscape but also by impressing their subjects with a display of wealth and power.

As a result, the distinctive rectangular Norman tower could be found across England, both in major urban centres and in the country.

Description of Norman Castles

Norman castles were primarily based around their large, free-standing stone keeps, also known as donjons. England’s new conquerors regularly took advantage of existing mottes and other earthworks, or else constructed enormous new mottes to build imposing stone keeps on top of – the motte at Norwich castle is a fine example.

Norman keeps were rectangular in design those built in England tended to be square, whereas the ones in Normandy or France were often barlongue – meaning that their length was twice that of their width.

These keeps would generally be several stories high and had extremely thick walls from which they derived their great defensive strength. Generally, these walls were around 3-4 metres thick but could be up to 7 metres thick, making them almost impossible to breach until the development of counterweight trebuchets in the late 12 th century.

Norman castles in England were sometimes constructed using rag-stone, a kind of hard-wearing limestone that was quarried in small pieces. The thick walls of Norman keeps also helped to keep the building cool in summer, as well as retaining heat effectively in winter.

Like other stone keep castles, Norman keeps were usually divided up internally into smaller rooms – depending on the size of the keep, these rooms could be very large and include all kinds of domestic or military quarters such as halls, kitchens, and bed chambers.

Smaller keeps, such as the one at Goodrich castle, would have simply had one large room on each floor of the building. Norman keeps also customarily had raised entrances, to make access much harder for attackers.

Usually, the door to the keep was placed on the second storey and was accessed by a wooden or stone staircase that could be lowered in the event of a siege.

As castles developed, these staircases were often also encased in stone to form a protective outbuilding – Castle Rising in England has a highly decorative example.

Architecture of Norman Castles

There were also several distinctive architectural elements which are closely associated with Norman castles.

Firstly, they feature crenellated towers, a rampart around the top of the tower with gaps (known as crenels) to allow defenders to fire missiles – the solid portions of rampart are known as merlons and afforded the garrison some protection from enemy missiles.

Sections of curtain wall in Norman castles also tend to be crenellated in the same style. In addition to this, Norman keeps usually have buttresses. A buttress is a kind of architectural structure, built up against or projecting from a wall, in order to reinforce it, primarily against the lateral pressure that the weight of the roof would exert on the walls.

Norman keeps have many pilaster buttresses – that is, buttresses that are purely ornamental. As the walls of these castles were so thick and so strong, they did not really need additional support, and as a result, the buttresses added to them were primarily for show.

Furthermore, Norman castles often have visible plinths at their base, and can feature large numbers of relatively small windows – the White Tower in London is a good example, as it has many smaller windows to light corridors and stairways, as well as slightly larger windows to light bigger rooms and halls.

Perhaps the most marked characteristic that sets Norman castles apart is their Romanesque decorative style. Romanesque architecture originated in Normandy in the 11 th century and is characterised by rounded arches and grand proportions.

The Romanesque arch is semi-circular in form and usually supported by large columns – in early examples, the edges of the arch are simple and square, but later on, this developed into more decorative rounded or zigzag moulding.

Doorways in this style are usually crowned with a set of receding arches, decorated using zigzag or chevron patterns. Romanesque windows are typically small and narrow and were often decorated with arches.

This style of architecture can clearly be seen in Norman castles, such as Colchester and Norwich. Norwich, in particular, an exquisite example and is highly decorated – it features thick buttresses, crenellations along its parapet, as well very narrow Romanesque windows.

It also has incredible blind arcading along its outer walls, above which can clearly be seen Romanesque arches.

Function: Military Strength or Statement of Power?

A great deal of debate exists concerning the function of Norman castles. It is undeniable that these structures were extremely effective defensive fortifications – their raised entrances and crenellated battlements presented enormous obstacles to attacking forces, and their vastly thick walls were effectively impregnable (unless by undermining, which was rarely practised) until advances in siege technology were made in the late 12 th century.

In England, Norman castles were built up and down the length of the country in order to station troops and prevent rebellions – for example, William the Conqueror built three castles at Windsor, Oxford, and Wallingford in order to establish control over the Thames valley.

Castles proved extremely useful when it came to combatting rebellion. This was clear in the uprisings of 1069 when a raid by Northumbrian rebels was defeated by the garrison of Lincoln castle, while rebels from Devon and Cornwall were prevented from advancing towards London by the strategically placed Exeter castle until a Norman relief force could arrive.

However, there are also many elements of Norman castles which have almost no military usage, or that are actually counter-productive from a defensive perspective.

Buttresses and Romanesque arches served no military purpose, and actually hindered defences of the castle in some cases – at Norwich castle, for example, there is a large gate and entranceway which would have allowed great numbers of besiegers to attack the castle simultaneously.

It would seem, therefore, that many aspects of Norman keeps were included for decorative and symbolic purposes. However, this is not to say that the decoration did not serve a purpose at all.

It is true that Norman castles subdued the newly conquered English population through military force, but they also achieved domination through statements of power and prestige.

Projecting an image of legitimacy was key to feudal authority, and impressively decorated castles helped the Normans to achieve this.

Thanks to their distinctive and highly fashionable Romanesque architecture, Norman castles left no doubt in the minds of the local Saxon population about who held sway in England.

This symbolism was not limited to the style of the castle itself either. The very material they were made of was a statement of power since the stone was highly expensive to build with – it not only required skilled craftsmen and masons who would need to be paid a salary, but the stone itself would need to be transported from quarries to the building site.

In some cases, the costs involved were enormous, and the more expensive the castle, the more prestige it could potentially bring to its owner. Norwich Castle (and later the cathedral in the city) was constructed entirely out of White Limestone from Normandy, an incredibly powerful statement of Norman political domination.

Not only was this new castle built in a new and elegant Norman style, but it was built of Norman stone too.

Furthermore, the location chosen for these castles could by symbolic of their control over the local population: In Norwich, Lincoln and Cambridge, hundreds of local Saxon houses were destroyed to make way for the new stone keeps.

Spread and Decline of Norman Castles

As the Normans spread around Europe, so too did their castles. As discussed earlier, the conquest of England in 1066 brought Norman castles to the country, and hundreds of them were built in the years following the conquest to pacify the population.

You might want to check out: Norman Castles in England.

Norman ‘Marcher Lords’, nobles appointed to guard the Welsh border, also began to build castles in Wales as they expanded their influence.

Norman castles proliferated in France too, as part of the great increase in construction of stone keep castles during the 11 th and 12 th centuries.

Norman adventurers also arrived in Southern Italy in the early 11 th century – they conquered southern Italy and Sicily under Robert Guiscard in the second half of the 11 th century.

They also built Norman castles, such as the one at Adrano, although the style was slightly different, being influenced by Italian and Saracen architecture.

Many Normans also participated in the First Crusade. Bohemond I, the Norman prince of Taranto, was able to set up the independent Principality of Antioch (one of the Crusader States) following the capture of the city in 1097.

As siege technology developed, and the counterweight trebuchet became more common in the late 12 th century, castle design evolved.

Particularly in the Crusader States, huge concentric castles became the norm, many-layered fortifications designed to resist the strongest siege engines and to draw attacking troops into carefully planned killing zones.

Against more powerful trebuchets the rectangular Norman castle design was theoretically more vulnerable, being unable to absorb blows very well (the corners of Norman castles were especially at risk of shattering if targeted).

Rounded towers became increasingly popular in the late 12 th and 13 th centuries, not only because they could absorb blows from missiles more easily, but also because they represented a fresh style – a good way for a lord or king to stamp his authority on a landscape (King Philip II of France built a series of round keeps in the late 12 th and early 13 th century).


The exact location of the castle is impossible to determine. Being an entity of chaos, it has the ability to reemerge in different places whenever it revives. Still, the vast majority of times it has reappeared was in Europe, in Transylvania.

If one takes into account the events from the original 1897 novel that inspired the series, as well as real historical landmarks where Vlad III Drăculea was known to inhabit, that may be indication that the castle from the series was at some point located somewhere in Transylvania or in northern Wallachia, where one of the voivode's real castles, Cetatea Poenari, is located.

Nevertheless, due to its supernatural nature as symbol of Dracula's magic and its ability to revive in different regions, the castle in the series cannot be considered the same as the historical landmarks. It does not exist in the earthly plane but is, in fact, a spiritual world atop another dimension. ΐ] Α] Β] Owing to this, whenever Dracula himself is killed, the castle generally ends up collapsing and leaving no trace behind, the only known exception being when Simon Belmont confronted Dracula in 1691 up to 1698, where only the keep portion of the castle collapsed while the outer areas up to the wall remained relatively intact.

The appearance of the castle also varies in artwork for the original Castlevania it appears to be on top of a mountain, while in Symphony of the Night it is located off the shore of a lake, and in Curse of Darkness it resides by the ocean (maybe the Black Sea). [citation needed] In Symphony of the Night, Maria Renard remarks the castle is different from how she remembers it (she had fought in it five years earlier during the events of Rondo of Blood). Alucard, who had probably once lived there, notes the castle is "a creature of chaos", hinting at the castle's origins and explaining its constantly changing nature.

It is possible the castle originally belonged to Walter Bernhard. His castle had the familiar strange keep structure present in Dracula's Castle. If this was the case, the castle dates back to at least the 11th Century. In 1094, the castle appeared more like a traditional medieval castle than the more elaborate Gothic architecture seen elsewhere. One factor in favor for Walter's castle being Castlevania is that, in Curse of Darkness, the abandoned castle is the place where only a Belmont's blood can gain access to the infinite corridor. Seeing as Leon Belmont was the first Belmont proclaimed at Walter's castle, the abandoned castle could be Walter's original castle.

A factor against the theory of Walter's castle becoming Castlevania is that at the end of Lament of Innocence, Mathias Cronqvist (Dracula) leaves the castle in the form of a bat and it is not known where he went, or if he ever returned. The Japanese instruction booklet for Castlevania: The Adventure outright states Dracula to have built his castle himself at the outskirts of Transylvania. Γ] Koji Igarashi has also expressed that one of the reasons for the change of the franchise's Japanese title from "Akumajō Dracula" to "Castlevania" was due to there being no Dracula, nor his castle, on a given game, indicating that the castle seen in Lament of Innocence might indeed not be the same castle that Dracula uses later down the chronology. Δ]

Following Dracula's defeat in 1999, the castle was sealed into a solar eclipse. It was later visited by Soma Cruz in 2035, although it was ultimately destroyed when Soma rejected Chaos, and by extension, his destiny of becoming Dracula. In 2036, Celia Fortner and her cult built a castle immensely similar to Dracula's to foster the growth of a new Dark Lord. As her plan was left in ruins, the castle completely collapsed. The castle ultimately returned due to Olrox effectively taking over as the Dark Lord, until Death put an end to him.

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These sagas provide Niven Sinclair with further clues as to the clan's journey from Viking raiders to Scottish lords. It is a long and complicated trip that begins to pick up around the time of William the Conqueror.

A St Clair descendant, Wildernus, married a daughter of Richard, the fifth Duke of Normandy, father of William the Conqueror. One of Wildernus's sons, William St Clair, fought alongside his relative at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. And so the Sinclairs arrived in Britain.

Whilst this earlier French period of St Clair history may not be entirely accepted, we can be more certain about the St Clair lineage once they step foot in Scotland. Here we find the same William St Clair who fought at Hastings acting as cupbearer to King Malcolm Canmore's bride Margaret Atheling (whose family had been contenders for the English throne and exiled after the Norman invasion.).

But if the St Clairs did well out of Norman land grants in England, they went on to do even better by turning their allegiance to the Scottish king.In the reign of David I (Malcolm Canmore's son) St Clairs held the Barony of Roslin and Pentland and were powerful landowners. A century later, another William St Clair was one of the most powerful men in Scotland, as sheriff of Edinburgh, guardian of the heir to the throne and governor of Edinburgh Castle.

"If you peppered Scotland with dots across Lothian and Caithness in medieval times," says writer and Scots historian Ashley Cowie, "chances are you'd land within ten miles of a Sinclair property."

Cowie has spent a decade researching the family and has discovered that if you follow a straight line from Rosslyn directly due north you end up at the Castle of Mey, which was built in the 16th Century by the 4th Earl of Caithness, George St Clair. Ravenscraig and Keiss castles (also St Clair built) are on that grid line and so is Balmoral Castle, which has at its core another castle built in the 14th Century by William Drummond (married to a St Clair.) This same line passes Holyrood – named after the sacred relic of the True Cross, or Holy Rood. This was said to have been guarded on its journey from Hungary to Scotland by William St Clair, cupbearer to Margaret Atheling.

Dozens of other St Clair castles and strongholds are alleged to follow a connecting geometric pattern involving the re-usage of ancient megalithic and druidic sites. This is used to demonstrate St Clair connections to the Knights Templar – who could have introduced them to the teaching of sacred geometry.The remains of William St Clair, great-grandfather of the founder of Rosslyn Chapel, are said to be buried in Rosslyn, Templar style, with crossed leg bones placed beneath skull. Many believe the Chapel to be a Templar shrine and its position on the worldwide stage as a place of historical intrigue relates in part to this. Robert Cooper, curator of the Grand Lodge Museum and Library in Edinburgh, does not believe the church is necessarily adorned with Templar motifs.

"As the Knights Templar were in reality a Western Christian order originally sanctioned by the Roman church, it's hardly surprising that their symbolism was used in a pre-reformation church by the St Clairs of Rosslyn."

Even without any Templar influence William de St Clair led an interesting life. He was killed alongside Sir James Douglas while taking the heart of Robert the Bruce to the Holy Land. His grandson Henry St Clair (created Earl of Orkney through the family's Norse links) is said by some to have travelled to America 100 years before Columbus.

The building of Rosslyn Chapel by William St Clair, the third Orkney Earl, has to be the family's greatest claim to fame. On his death, the settling of his estates on his sons split the Earldoms of Caithness and Roslin. The Caithness Earls began to use the name Sinclair and the spelling came into general use, though the Earls of Roslin still use the older spelling.

The St Clair Family

Rosslyn Chapel has been in the ownership of the St Clair family since its foundation in 1446.

In 1995 the present Earl of Rosslyn established the Rosslyn Chapel Trust to oversee the continuing programme of conservation and became Chairman of its Trustees.

The Countess of Rosslyn chairs the Trustees’ Management Committee, which assists the Trustees with strategic management of the conservation and business plans, working with the Director who has day-to-day responsibility for the site.

The family are descended from:

The first St Clair to live at Rosslyn. Knighted by King David I and made a privy councillor, he was sent by King William the Lion as ambassador to Henry II of England, to reclaim from the English king the disputed territory of Northumberland. He fought at the Battle of Northallerton in 1138 and was rewarded with the gift of Cardain in 1153, thereafter being known as Cardain Saintclair.

Assisted King Alexander III in the capture of the Western Isles

Appointed as ambassador to France, he was captured in the Battle of Dunbar in 1296 and died in the Tower of London in the following year.

Fought with his two sons John and William at Bannockburn. The king, Robert the Bruce, rewarded him for his bravery with the gift of Pentland Moor. He was one of the Scottish nobles who in 1320 signed the Declaration of Arbroath, which proclaimed to the Pope Scottish Independence from England. Henry’s brother William was made Bishop of Dunkeld and displayed great valour in 1317 when he repelled an invasion of the English who had landed on the Fife coast while the King was in Ireland. Thereafter the King referred to William as ‘the fighting Bishop’.

After the death of Robert the Bruce, Sir Henry’s two sons, William and John, were chosen along with Sir James Douglas and Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig to carry the King’s heart to Jerusalem and deposit it in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They never reached their destination during a fierce battle with the Moors at Teba in Spain in 1330, William, his brother John, and Douglas were killed. The Moors were so impressed by the courage of the Scottish Knights that they allowed the survivors to take their dead – and Bruce’s heart – for burial back home.

Married Isabella de Strathern, daughter of Malise, Earl of Caithness, Strathern, and Orkney. Malise had no male heirs and after William’s death, his and Isabella’s son Henry was recognised as 42nd Earl of Orkney in 1369 and ten years later as the first St Clair Prince of Orkney. In addition to the titles inherited from his father, Henry also became Lord Shetland, Lord Sinclair, Lord Chief Justice of Scotland, Admiral of the Seas, Great Protector, and Keeper and Defender of the Prince of Scotland.

Married Egida, daughter of Sir William Douglas, thus acquiring the lordships of Nithsdale, the wardenship of the three marches, and six further baronies. He was guardian to James I of Scotland during his minority. In 1406 the 12-year-old Prince was sent to the French court for education and safety and was accompanied by Sir Henry. Captured by the English off Flamborough Head, both were taken to the Tower of London. The heir to the Scottish throne remained in captivity for eighteen years, returning home to Scotland in 1424 and then only in exchange for £40,000, a sum described as a bill for the upkeep and education of the young prince. Sir Henry obtained his own freedom in 1407 by payment of a ransom.

Founder of Rosslyn Chapel.

He first married Margaret Douglas, daughter of Archibald, 4th Earl of Douglas and 1st Duke of Touraine, and widow of the Earl of Buchan. By this marriage he had one son William and four daughters. Margaret died in 1452 and he married secondly Marjory, daughter of Alexander Sutherland of Dunbeath, by who he had five sons, Oliver, William, David, Robert, and John.

The founder of the Chapel held vast territories and influence. His power was seen by King James II as a threat, the more so since Sir William’s sister Catherine was married to the King’s brother, the Duke of Albany. Relationships between the King and his brother were difficult and at one stage James imprisoned Albany in Edinburgh Castle.

In 1445 James II gave Sir William the earldom of Caithness in exchange for that of Nithsdale and in 1471 Ravenscraig for the earldom of Orkney. James II had acquired Orkney by his marriage to Queen Margaret of Denmark, and it was formally annexed to the Scottish Crown by Act of Parliament in 1471.

During his lifetime Sir William divided his estates between his three eldest sons: William, from his first marriage, and Oliver and William, from his second. By far the best portions of the estate went to Oliver and thus his eldest son, known as ‘William the Waster’ was effectively disinherited. He received from his father only the barony of Newburgh in Aberdeenshire. Rosslyn, Pentland and the more prestigious land went to Oliver. William the Waster disputed his brother’s claim to Rosslyn and a subsequent contract between them was agreed, which confirmed Oliver’s right to the estates at Rosslyn. But Oliver ceded to William other lands in Midlothian, together with the castles of Ravensheugh and Dysart in Fife. William was also afterwards declared by Act of Parliament chief of the St Clairs with the title of Baron Sinclair.

To the second son of his second marriage, also called William, Sir William had given in 1476 the earldom of Caithness

Thus by the time of the founder’s death in 1484, his vast possessions had been divided amongst three branches of his family: the Lords St Clair of Dysart, the St Clairs of Rosslyn and the Sinclairs of Caithness.

The Barony of Rosslyn passed to Oliver who married a daughter of Lord Borthwick and had four sons, George, Oliver, William, and John. The last became Bishop of Brechin and performed the marriage ceremony between Mary Queen of Scots and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, at Holyrood on July 29th, 1565.

Further endowed the Chapel with land for dwelling houses and gardens.

Appointed Lord Chief Justice of Scotland by Queen Mary in 1559.

Brother of the former Baron who made significant additions to Rosslyn Castle. He built the vaults, the great hall and the clocktower, as well as the great turnpike of Rosslyn – the large stone staircase, four feet wide, leading up from the basement to the top floor of the Castle.

Was granted the charters of 1630 from the Masons of Scotland, recognising that the position of Grand Master Mason of Scotland had been hereditary in the St Clair family since it was granted by James II in 1441. The original charters had been destroyed in a fire. William continued his father’s work to the Castle, building over the vaults up to the level of the courtyard. He died in 1650.

Held out for a time when the Castle was besieged in 1650 by Cromwell’s troops under General Monk but was eventually captured and sent to Tynemouth Castle, only returning to Rosslyn shortly before his death in 1690.

Brother of the previous Baron. He had two sons, the eldest of which, James, was killed at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, leaving the son of his younger brother Alexander to succeed.

The last male heir of the Rosslyn branch of the St Clairs. Was considered by Sir Walter Scott, who knew him well, to be a Scottish laird of the old school and he described him thus:

‘The last Rosslyn was a man considerably over six feet, with dark grey locks, erect and graceful, broad shouldered, athletic, for the business of war or chase, a noble eye of chastened pride and undoubted authority, and features handsome and striking in their general effect though somewhat harsh and exaggerated when considered in detail. His complexion was dark and grizzled and we schoolboys crowded to see him perform feats of strength and skill in the old Scottish games of Golf and Archery, used to think and say amongst ourselves, the whole figure resembled the famous founder of the Douglas race. In all the manly sports which require strength and dexterity, Rosslyn was unrivalled, but his particular delight was in archery’

He was four times Captain of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers and on three occasions, the last at the age of 68, won the Silver Club, which from 1744 was awarded in open competition by the town of Edinburgh. He was also a brigadier of the Royal Company of Archers, the Queen’s Body Guard for Scotland.

Having no male heir, he resigned his office as hereditary Grand Master Mason of Scotland to the Scottish Lodges at their foundation in 1736. The Lodges then appointed him as the first non- hereditary Grand Master Mason of Scotland at their meeting on St Andrew’s day of the same year.

In his funeral oration in 1778 it was said that:

‘Descended from an illustrious house, whose heroes have often bled in their country’s cause, he inherited their intrepid spirit, united with the milder virtue of humanity and polished manners of a gentleman… non sibi sed societati vixit (he did not live for himself but for his community).

He had married Cordelia, daughter of Sir George Wishart, baronet of Clifton Hall, by whom he had three sons and five daughters. But all died young except his daughter Sarah, through whom the succession then passed.

Sarah married Sir Peter Wedderburn of Chester Hall and they had a son Alexander and a daughter Janet. Janet was married to Sir Henry Erskine, 5th Baronet of Alva.

Alexander Wedderburn St Clair did much towards the preservation of the Chapel. He was also, in turn, Member of Parliament for the constituencies of Ayr Burghs, Richmond, Castle Rising, and Oakhampton. He became Solicitor General in 1771, Attorney General in 1778, Lord Chief Justice in 1780, and Lord Chancellor in Pitt’s government of 1793, a post he held until 1801.

In 1780 he was created Baron Loughborough of Loughborough in the county of Surrey. Although twice married, he had no children and in 1795 he was created anew Baron Loughborough of Loughborough, this time in the county of Leicester and with provision for the title to be passed to his nephew. In 1801 he was created 1st Earl of Rosslyn in the county of Midlothian, with a similar provision for the succession.

When he died in 1805 he was succeeded by his nephew, his sister Sarah’s son, Sir James St Clair-Erskine.

At various times Member of Parliament for Castle Rising, Morpeth, and Kirkcaldy, Director General of Chancery in Scotland, Lord President of the Council, and Grand Master Mason of Scotland.

He married Henrietta Bouverie, daughter of the Hon. Edward Bouverie. When he died in 1837, he was succeeded by his son James Alexander.

Master of the Buckhounds and under-Secretary of State for War in 1859. He married Frances Wemyss, daughter of Lt. General William Wemyss of Wemyss Castle in Fife.

He instructed the architect David Bryce to carry out restoration work at the Chapel. The carvings in the Lady Chapel were attended to and stones were relaid in the sacristy and an altar established there. The Chapel was rededicated on Tuesday April 22nd 1862, by the Bishop of Edinburgh.

Together with his title, he inherited from his father an estate in Fife of more than three thousand acres, worth over nine thousand pounds in rents and coal-mining royalties. He was Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on four occasions and captain of the Corps of Gentleman at Arms. In 1870 he held a Grand Masonic Fete at Rosslyn attended by over one thousand freemasons and the following year he was elected sixty-ninth Grand Master Mason of Scotland. When he indicated in the summer of 1871 that he did not wish to be considered for re-election, a petition of seven thousand signatures raised by the Lodges persuaded him to reconsider.

He married Blanche Adeliza in 1866, second daughter of Henry Fitzroy and widow of the Hon. Charles Maynard.

The 4th Earl was a poet of some substance and there is reason to believe the tradition that he would have been made Poet Laureate in succession to Tennyson but for his death in 1890. He was the author of a volume of Sonnets (1883) and Sonnets and Poems (1889), which included a Jubilee Lyric entitled ‘Love that lasts forever’. Written in 1887, it was dedicated to Queen Victoria and published at her command.

He was Ambassador Extraordinary to Madrid on the occasion of the marriage of Alfonso XII to Mercedes de Bourbon in January 1878, and when Alfonso’s eighteen-year-old bride died in June of the same year, he wrote an elegy in her memory.

He added an apse to the Chapel to serve as a baptistery with an organ loft above. The work is by Andrew Kerr. The Earl also filled the baptistery arch with the handsome oak tracer, which you see today, decorated with his crest.

He died in 1890 and was buried at his own request in the south-west corner of the Chapel gardens, the first of the Earls of Rosslyn to be buried outside the chapel. A handsome monument to his memory and that of his wife, who died at the age of 94, can be seen there, carved in red sandstone by W. Birnie Rhind.

Married in 1890 Violet, daughter of Robert Charles de Grey Vyner. At their wedding the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, proposed the health of bride and groom. Harry was a close friend of the prince who later became godfather to his son. Like the 4th Earl, he was a keen racehorse owner. A particular favourite was Buccaneer, who won the Gold Cup at Ascot. But he was also a gambler, and on one occasion bet £15,000 on Buccaneer to win the Manchester Cup. The horse lost.

He gambled at the roulette tables of Cannes and Monte Carlo and recounted his exploits in his autobiography My Gamble With Life. Six years after inheriting title, properties, estate, colleries at Dysart, assets of £50,000, and a steam yacht of great splendour, he had lost everything and was declared bankrupt.

The family silver, gold and silver plate was sold at a three-day auction in Edinburgh.

On being made bankrupt he resigned his commission in the Fife Light Horse, and he was rebuffed when he attempted to rejoin the regiment at the outbreak of the Boer War. Anxious to travel to South Africa, he secured a job as a war correspondent for the Daily Mail. In this capacity he witnessed more of the campaign than he might have foreseen, taking part in the relief of Ladysmith and being taken prisoner on two occasions. He wrote about these experiences in his book Twice Captured.

Harry’s sister Millicent married the heir to the Duke of Sutherland but his own marriage to Violet ended when he was discovered by his father-in-law to have presented a £2000 turquoise tiara to a lady friend.

Before his divorce, Harry had joined with some friends to establish ‘Lord Rosslyn’s Theatrical Performances’. He now drew on that experience and joined a touring company.

It was during that acting career that he met and within a few days married his second wife, Georgeiana. She was an American actress. The marriage lasted two years, and in 1908 he married for a third time.

In 1917 he was reinstated as a director of the collieries at Dysart and he worked there until 1923, when they were leased to the Fife Coal Company.

His son died in 1929 and, on his death in 1939, was succeeded by his grandson.

Instructed significant programme of work to the Chapel in the 1950s when the sacristy roof was repaired and the interior carvings cleaned by hand over a period of years. In 1950 he added a first stained glass memorial window in the baptistery. The design of William Wilson, it is dedicated to his brother Pilot Officer The Hon. Peter St Clair-Erskine who died on active service in 1939, and to his stepfather, Wing Commander Sir John Milbanke, who died in 1947 from injuries also received during World War II.

In 1970 he added a second window dedicated to his mother, Princess Dimitri of Russia who died in 1969. The design and work are by Carrick Whalen. The Princess was a great animal lover and the window’s theme is St Francis of Assisi. He is surrounded by birds and butterflies, a squirrel, a rabbit, and, as a symbol of her Australian origins, a kangaroo. Both are works of great merit.

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Dragonstone is a volcanic island located a couple of hundred miles north-east of King's Landing. The island has a small port and a large castle on it, built by the Targaryens some 500 years ago when they settled Dragonstone as a trading outpost of the great Valyrian Freehold. When Valyria was destroyed in the cataclysm known as the Doom a century later, Dragonstone was the largest Valyrian stronghold to survive intact. The Targaryens refused to help the colony-states along the west coast of Essos maintain Valyrian rule. They would later become the Free Cities.

The Targaryens instead waited another century, building up their strength, then invaded and subdued Westeros three hundred years ago. They built a new capital at King's Landing, while Dragonstone became the primary holding of the King's heir (who was also named "Prince of Dragonstone"). After the deposing of King Aerys II Targaryen, Robert Baratheon appointed his brother Stannis as Lord of Dragonstone until his own son, Joffrey, became old enough for the office. This has caused a rift between the brothers, as Stannis feels that he should rightfully be commanding the ancestral Baratheon castle of Storm's End instead of their youngest brother, Lord Renly Baratheon. However, the lords of Blackwater Bay sworn to Dragonstone had been staunch Targaryen loyalists, and Robert felt Stannis was more suited to keeping them in line.

Dragonstone is the home port of part of the Royal Fleet. In addition, Dragonstone commands the loyalty of a number of smaller houses located on surrounding islands in the Narrow Sea and on nearby parts of the coastal mainland. Dragonstone is a cold, drafty, and harsh place. Lord Stannis and his family usually prefer to spend as much time as possible at court away from the island but have recently returned to Dragonstone to attend to business there just before the start of the series.

Dragonstone is one of the strongest castles in all of the Seven Kingdoms, due to its advanced Valyrian design, using strong stonemasonry techniques now lost to the world. Its isolated island location greatly enhances its already formidable defensive prowess: a vast fleet of ships would be required simply to transport troops and large siege weapons to its location, and even then they would be forced to make a risky amphibious landing while under fire from the castle's own catapults. The castle itself is not on the sheer scale of the greatest castles of the realm such as Storm's End or the Red Keep, but both of those castles can be assaulted by land armies. The entire point of building so strong a fortress on such an isolated island was to make the perfect refuge and redoubt for greater noble Houses from elsewhere: the indigenous "lands" of Dragonstone are just a few fishing villages and could never have supported the construction of such a powerful castle on their own.

Before Stannis sails to the Wall, he appoints Ser Rolland Storm as the castellan of Dragonstone. Stannis takes most of his troops, leaving a small garrison (it is not specified of how many soldiers) at Dragonstone.

In the fourth novel, Cersei orders Paxter Redwyne to transport 2,000 soldiers to conquer Dragonstone, which Stannis has left poorly garrisoned. He intends to take the castle bloodlessly by either starving the defenders out or creating a breach in the walls through mining and forcing the defenders to surrender. However, when the ironborn start attacking settlements on the coastline of the Reach following Euron Greyjoy's coronation as King of the Iron Island, Loras Tyrell urges Cersei to send the Redwyne fleet back to the Reach, as it is the only naval force capable of fighting the Iron Fleet. Cersei, unconcerned about attacks on lands controlled by the Tyrells and dismissive of the threat posed by the ironborn, insists that she will only allow the Redwyne fleet back to the Reach when Dragonstone is back in royal hands. Loras estimates it will take at least half a year to starve Dragonstone into submission and asks Cersei for the command, promising to take the castle within two weeks. Cersei agrees delightedly: knowing how rash Loras is, she expects him to get killed. Pycelle objects for the very same reason, but his protests fall on deaf ears.

Dragonstone is taken, but at great cost, due to Loras's rashness: about one thousand Lannister soldiers are needlessly killed, most of them loyal to Tommen, and the best and bravest knights and young lords. Loras, the first to invade the castle, is fatally injured by arrows, mace, and boiling oil. By the point the books reached, he is still lying near death. In the aftermath of the victory, Loras's men search the island but Mace reports to the Small Council they found no treasure, nor any sign of the fabled caches of dragon eggs said to be kept there. Kevan personally doesn't believe they looked very hard, but rather than start an argument between his allies and Mace's on the Small Council, concludes that if there was anything of value at Dragonstone, Stannis likely took it with him when he left the island to go north.

The fall of Dragonstone removes the last direct threat to King's Landing and causes severe damage to Stannis's cause, but it is doubtful whether he is aware of that, at his current position. 

The TV series has somewhat altered the design of Dragonstone. In the books, the entire castle is built of fused Valyrian stone, shaped to look like an entire nest of dragons perched on the cliffs, and decorated within with draconic imagery. The Great hall is shaped like a dragon lying on its belly, the kitchens like a curled up dragon, and many of its towers like dragons gazing over the sea or screaming at invaders. The TV-Dragonstone incorporates few of these sweeping architectural features, although it does follow the books in that there are carved dragon images literally everywhere in the castle.

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