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:
Pembroke Castle is a Norman castle, founded in 1093. It survived many changes of ownership and is now the largest privately owned castle in Wales. It was the birthplace of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII of England) in 1457.
Pembroke Castle stands on a site that has been occupied at least since the Roman period. Roger de Montgomerie, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury founded the first castle here in the 11th century. Although only made from earth and wood, Pembroke Castle resisted several Welsh attacks and sieges over the next 30 years. The castle was established at the heart of the Norman-controlled lands of southwest Wales.
When William Rufus died, Arnulf de Montgomery joined his elder brother, Robert of Bellême, in rebellion against Henry I, William's brother and successor as king; when the rebellion failed, he was forced to forfeit all his British lands and titles. Henry appointed his castellan, but when the chosen ally turned out to be incompetent, the King reappointed Gerald in 1102. By 1138 King Stephen had given Pembroke Castle to Gilbert de Clare who used it as an important base in the Norman invasion of Ireland.
In August 1189 Richard I arranged the marriage of Isabel, de Clare's granddaughter, to William Marshal who received both the castle and the title, Earl of Pembroke. He had the castle rebuilt in stone and established the great keep at the same time. Marshal was succeeded in turn by each of his five sons. His third son, Gilbert Marshal, was responsible for enlarging and further strengthening the castle between 1234 and 1241.
Later de Valence family held Pembroke for 70 years. During this time, the town was fortified with defensive walls, three main gates and a postern. Pembroke Castle became de Valence's military base for fighting the Welsh princes during the conquest of North Wales by Edward I between 1277 and 1295.
Pembroke Castle then reverted to the crown. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle was a place of peace until the outbreak of the English Civil War. Although most of South Wales sided with the King, Pembroke declared for Parliament. It was besieged by Royalist troops but was saved after Parliamentary reinforcements arrived by sea from nearby Milford Haven. Parliamentary forces then went on to capture the Royalist castles of Tenby, Haverfordwest and Carew.
In 1648, at the beginning of the Second Civil War, Pembroke's commander Colonel John Poyer led a Royalist uprising. Oliver Cromwell came to Pembroke on 24 May 1648 and took the castle after a seven-week siege. Its three leaders were found guilty of treason and Cromwell ordered the castle to be destroyed. Townspeople were even encouraged to disassemble the fortress and re-use its stone for their purposes.
The castle was then abandoned and allowed to decay. It remained in ruins until 1880, when a three-year restoration project was undertaken. Nothing further was done until 1928, when Major-General Sir Ivor Philipps acquired the castle and began an extensive restoration of the castle's walls, gatehouses, and towers. After his death, a trust was set up for the castle, jointly managed by the Philipps family and Pembroke town council.
The castle is sited on a strategic rocky promontory by the Milford Haven Waterway. The first fortification on the site was a Norman motte-and-bailey. It had earthen ramparts and a timber palisade.
In 1189, Pembroke Castle was acquired by William Marshal. He soon became Lord Marshal of England, and set about turning the earth and wood fort into an impressive Norman stone castle. The inner ward, which was constructed first, contains the huge round keep with its domed roof. Its original first-floor entrance was through an external stairwell. Inside, a spiral staircase connected its four stories. The keep's domed roof also has several putlog holes that supported a wooden fighting-platform. If the castle was attacked, the hoarding allowed defenders to go out beyond the keep's massive walls above the heads of the attackers.
The inner ward's curtain wall had a large horseshoe-shaped gateway. But only a thin wall was required along the promontory. This section of the wall has a small observation turret and a square stone platform. Domestic buildings including William Marshal's Great Hall and private apartments were within the inner ward. The 13th century keep is 23 metres tall with walls up to 6 metres thick at its base.
In the late 13th century, additional buildings were added to the inner ward, including a new Great Hall. A 55-step spiral staircase was also created that led down to a large limestone cave, known as Wogan Cavern, beneath the castle. The cave, which was created by natural water erosion, was fortified with a wall, a barred gateway and arrowslits. It may have served as a boathouse or a sallyport to the river where cargo or people could have been transferred.
The outer ward was defended by a large twin-towered gatehouse, a barbican and several round towers. The outer wall is 5 metres thick in places and constructed from Siltstone ashlar.
Although Pembroke Castle is a Norman-style enclosure castle with great keep, it can be more accurately described as a linear fortification because, like the later 13th-century castles at Caernarfon and Conwy, it was built on a rocky promontory surrounded by water. This meant that attacking forces could only assault on a narrow front. Architecturally, Pembroke's thickest walls and towers are all concentrated on its landward side facing the town, with Pembroke River providing a natural defense around the rest of its perimeter.