Perched on a rocky outcrop, this islet had been inhabited since the 2nd century AD. The fortified castle, built in the Merovingian period, and the estate was to have countless occupants before coming under state ownership during the French Revolution.
The fort was built in the 13th century and was used for military purposes for most of its life, belonging to a variety of noble families as they fell in and out of power throughout the centuries. The fort was besieged several times and used as a place to escape; Queen Jeanne Ire stayed in 1348 after fleeing Naples, which had been invaded by her cousin – she used it as a pit-stop on her way to taking refuge in Marseille. The fort wasn’t badly affected by the French Revolution, although a few items were plundered by locals.
Napoleon took a liking to the fort and stayed here during the winter of 1793-94. When he became Emperor, he supplied funds to build up the garrison. After the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the War Ministry allocated money to build an artillery, although they didn’t do much to the outside of the main structure, which was slowly falling into disrepair. It was occupied by a small garrison during World War I until it was finally decommissioned in 1919.
In 1968, General de Gaulle transformed it into one of the official residences of the President of the Republic. The monument houses numerous gifts received by heads of state during France's Fifth Republic.
The Fort de Brégançon served as the official retreat of the President of France until 2013.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.