Château de Brie-Comte-Robert was built at the end of the 12th century, when Robert I of Dreux, brother of the king Louis VII, was lord of Brie. Archaeological clues, elements of decoration and the choice of construction techniques, suggest the architecture of this turning point in history.
The castle remained in the Dreux family until 1254, then passed to the family of Châtillon. Through successive dowries and inheritances, it came to Marguerite d'Artois and then her daughter, Jeanne d'Évreux. She became the wife of the last Capetian king, Charles IV the Fair. After his death in 1328, she profited from comfortable revenues (a royal dower of many fiefdoms in Brie and Champagne), which enabled her to devote important sums to the maintenance and the improvement of her own possessions, including Brie-Comte-Robert. She did important work to the castle, as her accounts preserved at the national archives attest.
The castle became a prestigious residence which the large lords of the kingdom, in particular the dukes of Burgundy, did not hesitate to visit. It was also the site, in 1349, of the marriage of Philip VI of Valois and Blanche d'Évreux, niece of queen Jeanne.
The lady of Brie made the siegneurial residence luxurious, particularly in the area located against the south-western and south-eastern curtains and, above all, in the north-east. She had a chapel built dedicated to Saint-Denis, joined to the Tour Saint-Jean (St John Tower), and laid out vast pleasure gardens. Jeanne d'Évreux died in the castle in 1371, aged 69.
At the end of the 14th century, the castle returned into the royal domain, then later to the Orléans family.
Louis I de Valois, Duke of Orléans led a sparkling life at the castle of Brie-Count-Robert (tournaments, receptions of great nobles), but, faced with growing insecurity, he strengthened the castle from 1405. Following his assassination by John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy, and the founding of the Armagnac Party in 1407, the castle passed under the control of the Burgundian Party, thus securing it as a safe stage on the road from Paris towards Burgundy.
In 1420, the passage of the English army, en route to Troyes, and the siege of Melun which followed, brought some disorder to the town, but did not affect the castle. It is from 1429 that the city was taken and retaken by the French and the English. The major event remains however the siege begun in September 1430 by the Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, who caused immense damage, in the town as well as to the castle. The place was repurchased by the French in 1434 and was returned to its rightful owner, Charles of Orléans. His son, the future king Louis XII, placed the castle in the royal domain.
In the middle of the 16th century, various families of Italian lords, close to Catherine de' Medici (Aquaviva, Pierrevive, Gondi), held the castle, but allowed the building to deteriorate, even causing the burning of the floors and some frames. A 1567 law passed by the Parliament was needed to put an end to this damage. At the end of the century, Balthazar Goblin, follower of Henri IV, made repairs to the castle.
In 1649, at the time of the Fronde disorders, the town and the castle of Brie-Comte-Robert, were taken by the royal troops commanded by the count de Grancey. The castle was cannonaded by a battery for more than five hours, losing its south-eastern tower. Jean-Antoine de Mesmes, first President of the parlement of Paris carried out various maintenance works on the roofs and repairs to the access bridges. Legal documents from this period describe some internal developments. The castle was then inhabited by private individuals.
In 1750, Germain-Louis de Chauvelin, lord since 1734, asserting the dilapidation of the building, obtained authorisation to reduce the towers and the curtains to the level of the first floor, excepting however the Saint-Jean tower, the manorial symbol. Repurchased by the king Louis XV in 1766, the manor of Brie-Count-Robert, including the castle, was the subject of an exchange between Louis and his cousin, Louis Charles de Bourbon, Count of Eu. His heirs, the duke of Penthièvre, and then his daughter, the duchess of Orléans, were the last lords.
During the French Revolution, the building was used to imprison the baron de Besenval, colonel of the Swiss Guards and military commander of the Île-de-France. The building was later sold as national property.
Repurchased by the town in 1803, the castle was sold again in 1813. In 1879, one of the successive private owners during this period unfortunately razed what remained of the Tour Saint-Jean, to build a modern house. Massive topsoil deposits transformed the court and the jousting yard into a vast vegetable garden. The commune repurchased the castle in 1923 and it was classified as a monument historique in 1925. From 1982, the municipality undertook a programme to repair the site, including archaeological works. These have guided the later restoration programme of the castle's remains.References:
Château de Falaise is best known as a castle, where William the Conqueror, the son of Duke Robert of Normandy, was born in about 1028. William went on to conquer England and become king and possession of the castle descended through his heirs until the 13th century when it was captured by King Philip II of France. Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840 it has been protected as a monument historique.
The castle (12th–13th century), which overlooks the town from a high crag, was formerly the seat of the Dukes of Normandy. The construction was started on the site of an earlier castle in 1123 by Henry I of England, with the 'large keep' (grand donjon). Later was added the 'small keep' (petit donjon). The tower built in the first quarter of the 12th century contained a hall, chapel, and a room for the lord, but no small rooms for a complicated household arrangement; in this way, it was similar to towers at Corfe, Norwich, and Portchester, all in England. In 1202 Arthur I, Duke of Brittany was King John of England's nephew, was imprisoned in Falaise castle's keep. According to contemporaneous chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall, John ordered two of his servants to mutilate the duke. Hugh de Burgh was in charge of guarding Arthur and refused to let him be mutilated, but to demoralise Arthur's supporters was to announce his death. The circumstances of Arthur's death are unclear, though he probably died in 1203.
In about 1207, after having conquered Normandy, Philip II Augustus ordered the building of a new cylindrical keep. It was later named the Talbot Tower (Tour Talbot) after the English commander responsible for its repair during the Hundred Years' War. It is a tall round tower, similar design to the towers built at Gisors and the medieval Louvre.Possession of the castle changed hands several times during the Hundred Years' War. The castle was deserted during the 17th century. Since 1840, Château de Falaise has been recognised as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.
A programme of restoration was carried out between 1870 and 1874. The castle suffered due to bombardment during the Second World War in the battle for the Falaise pocket in 1944, but the three keeps were unscathed.