The Lords of Grandson were first mentioned in the second half of the 11th century, when the castle was built. It was sited on the shore of Lake Neuchâtel to control the coast road. The House of Grandson sired a number of powerful scions, including bishops of Basel, Lausanne, Toul and Verdun. Over the following century, as the Lords of Grandson expanded their power, they often came into conflict with the nearby monastery of Romainmôtier.
In the 13th century the castle was rebuilt by Otto I of Grandson. Otto I is the most famous of the Lords of Grandson. He was a close friend of Prince Edward of England and accompanied him in 1271 on the Crusades to the Holy Land. He participated on the side of the English king in the conquest of Wales in 1283. In 1291 he commanded the Crusader army which unsuccessfully attacked Acre. In 1313 he defeated the rebellious city of Lausanne, which had risen up against the bishop. In addition to being a military leader, he was a skilled diplomat and had the confidence of the Pope, the Emperor and the French and English kings. After he died in 1328, Otto's brother, William moved to England where he was also successful and was the founder of the line of the Lords of Grandisson.
The main line of the house Grandson remained close to the House of Savoy and possessed the confidence of the Count. At the end of the 14th century the Lords of Grandson began to decline. Hugo of Grandson was sentenced to death for allegedly forging documents, but fled to England, where he mysteriously died. Otto III was accused of having killed Amadeus VII, Count of Savoy in a fight. In Bourg-en-Bresse in 1397 he agreed to a judicial duel to prove his innocence. He was beaten by his opponent, Gerhard von Estavayer. John II of Grandson was convicted of forgery and sedition against the Duke of Burgundy and sentenced to death by suffocation. When John II died, the power of the family died with him. The estate was confiscated and given to Margaret of Mümpelgard. Thereafter, there were several changes of ownership.
In the late 15th century, Grandson castle belonged to Jacques de Savoie, an ally of Charles the Bold. In 1475 the castle was taken by the Swiss Confederation. In late February 1476, Charles the Bold brought a large mercenary army with him together with many heavy cannons. When the garrison chose to surrender to Charles, they were all executed by hanging or drowning.
Unaware of the execution of their countrymen, the Swiss Confederation sent an army to lift the siege of the castle. On 2 March 1476 the Swiss army approached the forces of Charles near the town of Concise. They surprised Charles' army and routed them in a short battle. While very few of Charles' soldiers were killed, the Swiss had humiliated the greatest duke in Europe, defeated one of the most feared armies, and taken a most impressive amount of treasure. What is probably a small surviving part of this fantastic booty is on display in various Swiss museums today, whilst a few remaining artillery pieces can be seen in the museum of La Neuveville, near Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
The castle was used as a seat of the bailiff until 1798 and then went over to the private sector.
Today the Château de Grandson survives as one of the best preserved medieval fortresses in the country. Only the dungeon has disappeared, probably destroyed during the construction of the castle's western section. Traces of the dungeon-tower can still be picked out on the northern side.
In 1875, the level of Lake Neuchâtel was lowered as part of a series of projects to reduce flood-risk in the area, so that the Château is now some distance from the lake alongside which it was originally sited, and no longer enjoys the 'natural protection' on its south-eastern side which the lake once afforded.References:
The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.
After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.
The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.
Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.
The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.