Château de Carrouges is unusual in its combination of an austere fortress with a comfortable residence. Originally a Celtinc oppidum, or defensive hill town, located at the southernmost border of the Norman duchy of William the Conqueror, Carrouges was vainly besieged by the Plantagenets in 1136. It was destroyed by the English in 1367, at the beginning of the Hundred Years War. Jean de Carrouges a vassal of Pierre II, Count of Alençon, became famous as one of the combatants in the last judicial duel to be permitted in France, in 1386. Following his victory, he was appointed a knight of honor to Charles VI.
The heiress of Jean de Carrouges married Guillaume Blosset, and their son Jean Blosset was appointed grand seneschal of Normandy. He made advantageous marriages with two wealthy heiresses from Brittany, first, Marguerite de Derval, and second, Francoise of Chastel. These alliances gave Blosset the means of restoring and expanding the château, which had suffered great damage following its confiscation by Henry VI of England after the battle of Verneuil in 1424. Blosset built the north-eastern wing of the château, in which King Louis XI lodged on 11 August 1473.
Blosset died withough heir, and the château passed to his nephew Jean Le Veneur, Bishop of Lisieux. He became a cardinal in 1533 and constructed the Renaissance châtelet, known as the pavillon du cardinal Jean Le Veneur. At the time of the French Wars of Religion (1562–98), the château was again strengthened, with the construction of the western bastion, but during the following century the sumptuous grand apartments were built. In the 17th century, Tanneguy II Le Veneur (d.1652), was dispatched to England to negotiate the marriage of Henrietta Maria of France, sister of Louis XIII, to the future King Charles I. Tanneguy II lived on his estates at Tillières and left Carrouges to his brother Jacques, abbot of Silly.
In 1637, Jacques Le Veneur resigned his abbacy to devote himself entirely to Carrouges. He decorated the chateau and the park, starting from plans and drawings prepared by Maurice Gabriel, an architect from Argentan.At the end of the 18th century, Alexis Le Veneur, vicomte de Tillières (1746–1833), a soldier and progressive, was one of the supporters of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He was made a Count of the Empire by Napoleon Bonaparte. In total, the château remained in the La Veneur family for five centuries, until 23 April 1936, on which date Marie Gaston Tanneguy IX, comte Le Veneur de Tillières, sold the château into state ownership. It has been classed as a monument historique since 1927, and is now in the care of the Centre des monuments nationaux.
The Château de Carrouges is rectangular in plan, surrounded by a moat. The central courtyard opens on to a terrace to the south-west. Although elements survive from the 15th and 16th centuries, the majority of the architecture is in the Henri IV and Louis XIII styles. The frontage is constructed of red brick and granite, the roofs are of blue slates. The château also has a keep of the 14th century, two storeys high and topped by machicolations.The 16th century châtelet, or gatehouse, comprises four circular turrets, and was probably built by Jean Le Veneur. It is constructed of red and black bricks.
The ground floor of the east wing contains the service areas, while the first floor contains the state apartments. The apartments are decorated in Renaissance and traditional styles. The 'Louis XI room' contains a bed with fabric imitating Hungarian point stitch. The chimney breast in the antichambre d'honneur is decorated with a hunting scene. The dining room is furnished with a grantite chimney piece, with Corinthian capitals. Furniture is of the Louis XIV and Restoration styles. The Salon des Portraits contains portraits of the lords and owners of Carrouges. The Grand Salon occupies one corner of the building, the straw-coloured woodwork dates from the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century. The main staircase, with its pink brick vaults, rests on four piles laid out in a square.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.