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Falaise Castle is a fortress located in the south of the commune of Falaise in Normandy, France. William the Conqueror, the son of Duke Robert of Normandy, was born at an earlier castle on the same site in about 1028. It has been protected as a monument historique since 1840.
Falaise Castle history
The first stone castle at this site, was built somewhere between 962 and 1020, perhaps by Richard I of Normandy but more likely by his son Richard II, Duke of Normandy. Around 1028, Richard II’s grandson, William, was born in this castle as an illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy. This William, nicknamed ‘the Bastard’, would become the first Norman king of England, following his conquest of England in 1066 and would hence be known as William the Conqueror.
The iteration of the castle that remains today was erected in 1123 by Henry I of England on the remains of its predecessor. The main castle consists of 3 keeps. The oldest is the large quadrangular Norman keep was built by Henry I. The second one is the small quadrangular keep which was built against the west wall of the large keep during the reign of Henry II of England in the 2nd part of the 12th century. The third and youngest is the large round tower built by Philip II of France in the 13th century, after he had taken the Duchy of Normandy for France.
During the Hundred Years’ War, between 1337 and 1453, Falaise Castle changed hands several times. During an English occupation, the round keep was repaired by an English commander called Talbot. Since then that keep was called the Talbot Tower.
In January 1590 the castle was besieged by the troops of Henry IV of France. After that, the castle lost its military importance and fell into decline.
The castle was abandoned in the 17th century after which it fell to ruin. .
In the 1870’s the keeps of Falaise Castle were restored by the architect Victor Ruprich-Robert, a follower of the famous Viollet-le-Duc. In August 1944 the walls of the castle enclosure were damaged during the Battle of the Falaise Pocket, but the keeps escaped unscathed.
Falaise Castle today
Between 1987 and 1997 the keeps of Falaise Castle were again restored. A controversial reconstruction of the front section of the large keep was built out of concrete and steel. The architect was later fined.
The castle now operates as a museum for visitors with tablets containing extensive information about the castle and its history.
Getting to Falaise Castle
The castle is located in the middle of Falaise town. To reach the castle by car from Caen or Le Mans, take the National N158, exit at exit 11 and follow Boulevard des Bercagnes. If coming from Lisieux, follow the D511 then Boulevard des Bercagnes. The car park is located at the foot of the ramparts on Boulevard des Bercagnes.
The entrance to the castle is on Place Guillaume le Conquérant next to Falaise town hall, 100 meters from the car park.
William the Conqueror’s medieval Castle
Come and experience history at first hand. Discover the castle in virtual reality with the aid of a touchscreen tablet.
Falaise Castle is a solid stone fortress dating from around 1000. Built by the first Dukes of Normandy, it was enlarged after the conquest of England in 1066. In the12th century, William’s descendants built two square, typically anglo-norman, keeps using the foundations of the original castle.
These buildings show the Dukes of Normandy at the height of their powers. They are most sophisticated of the Royal Dukes’ palace/keeps and best preserved of their fortresses in France.
The virtual reconstruction breathes life into the palace, taking you back to the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.
You go back to two different eras with the two circuits:
The outside circuit shows you the first fortified enclosure and the daily life in the basse-cour (lower town) in the 12th century.
You go inside for the real immersion in the history of the castle.
Through your touchscreen tablet, the rooms of the keep appear before you as they would have been in the 13th century. You are plunged straight into the splendour of the Anglo-Norman court - how the people lived in the castle, how their lives were organised, what they all did as part of the daily life of a fortified castle. Images of the people who once lived here appear to tell you their stories with the sounds that accompanied their lives.
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Falaise, town, Calvados département, Normandy région, northwestern France. It lies on the Ante River, about 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Caen. The town was the birthplace of William the Conqueror, first of the Norman kings of England. The castle (12th–13th century), which overlooks the town from a high crag, was formerly the seat of the dukes of Normandy and is the oldest fortress in Normandy. The lofty Talbot Tower was added by the English in the 15th century. The town is famous for a battle in the area (the “Falaise pocket”) during the Allied reconquest of France in 1944 in which 50,000 German troops were encircled and taken prisoner. While still under German occupation, two-thirds of Falaise was destroyed by Allied bombing, but it has since been restored. Industries in the town include the manufacture of household appliances and foodstuffs. Pop. (1999) 8,434 (2014 est.) 8,294.
Château de Falaise
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.
Château de FalaiseView all photos
The first fortress to stand on this site in the Norman city of Falaise was built in the 10th century by a Viking chieftain whose descendants went on to become the Francisized Normans. According to a popular legend, it was a century later, in the year 1027, that a young girl named Herleva had a terrifying and prophetic nightmare from which she would awake screaming.
Herleva had weeks before been seduced by Robert the Duke of Normandy and was pregnant with her first child. In her feverish dream, a gigantic tree burst from her stomach. Its gnarled roots sprouted from her corpse and spread across Normandy like the tentacles of one of the Kraken monsters of Norse myth. The tree’s trunk towered into the sky as its colossal branches reached across the channel, casting an ominous shadow over England like the claws of a ravenous beast preparing to pounce on the country.
Several months later Herleva would give birth to a son that she named William. The child would be called “William the bastard” for much of his youth, due to both the circumstances of his birth and his temperament. But despite these humble and stigmatized origins, William would one day conquer the Anglo Saxons and become the King of England. He founded a dynasty that lasted many centuries and transformed the political, economic, military, social, and linguistic history of Western Europe.
In the wake of the conquest of England, the Normans never truly forgot their origins in this region of France. In 1123, the son of William, King Henry I of England, returned to Normandy and began work to rebuild the castle where his father had been born. The fortress was strengthened in its defensive capabilities and towers and keeps were added, resulting in the impressive edifice that can be seen today.
But the descendants of the conqueror were a fiercely argumentative and bloodthirsty bunch. For centuries the royal relatives fought each other savagely over disputes and power on both sides of the channel. The castle was the setting of fighting, torture, intrigue, and murder it was in Falaise that King John of England had his nephew Arthur the Duke of Brittany imprisoned and murdered for the twin crimes of plotting to overthrow him and besieging the castle of John’s mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Later in its history, the castle witnessed countless battles between the armies of France and England throughout the Hundred Years’ War, with a seemingly endless cycle of violence occurring here. It was the backdrop for a great many sieges during this period and both armies occupied the castle at different times of the war. Evidence of this can be seen in much of the graffiti carved into the buildings by bored French or English soldiers.
After the medieval age, when castles and knights were replaced with more technologically advanced forms of warfare, the chateau lost its significance and was abandoned. It remained in a derelict state for several centuries until it received recognition as a historical monument in the 1800s and underwent restoration. Fierce bombing during the Second World War later destroyed or damaged much of the structure, but most of the castle remains intact, and is now a museum open to visitors.
Falaise castle is erected from the tenth century onward on a rocky outcrop dominating the river Ante. The defining edifices of the present stronghold are dated twelfth (great and little keep) and early thirteenth century (Talbot tower).
Throughout the ages the fortress is besieged seven times until being taken and decommissioned by king Henry IV in 1590. Afterwards it slowly decays until being listed a historic monument in 1840.
Visitors are handed a lot of keys to interpret the fortress : An outstanding film portrays the various stages of construction. A tablet with 3D reconstructions of rooms is complemented by a guidebook, information panels and fantastic view master boxes in the courtyard.
Topics covered are not only the history and layout of Falaise castle but also the dukes of Normandy, life in a medieval fortress and medieval firearms.
Prior to our visit I was concerned about the use of modern materials and technology in a medieval castle but I am happy to say both worked out really well at Falaise. I wouldn’t want heritage architects standardising this method but here it made a refreshing change.
Honour and praise to the city, the management and the staff for their exemplary upkeep of this formidable stronghold !
History comes alive at Falaise Castle
We had passed through Falaise many times but had never visited the birthplace of William the Conqueror. The castle has been carefully and sympathetically restored and cleverly utilises modern techniques to transport us back into the past. Projections of the main characters tell their stories while ipads allow the visitor to visualise how the castle would have looked nearly a thousand years ago.
The chateau is an impressive find. I was surprised to see it was just behind the Hotel de Ville in the middle or town, more or less. The grounds are nice and the AR tablets are a nice touch. The one thing to remember here there are a lot of steps. A lot. And these are tight, steep stairs. Just keep this in mind when you go.
Very well preserved. Interesting points are shown as they were earlier. Video show about timeline. Great view over city.
We spent around 2 to 3 hours at William the Conqueror's castle. We were issued I-pads (with our id) that gave us further information as we toured around the castle. I'm sure this is a big hit with children and draws them in, especially if they've been dragged around the many castles in the area. No children with us on this visit however. Each room was well presented and information was good. We climbed up various steps, followed well sign-posted paths to complete our journey around this fantastic castle. Everything was available in English, even individuals' stories, told by the characters projected onto the castle walls. This was a good, informative visit, which we followed the next day with a visit to the Bayeux Tapestry!
I hadn't been to the castle since the 1970s, and goodness it had changed. The kids loved the I-pads, the projected characters from the castle's past helped bring it to life, and the woman showing how decorative tiles were made was engaging. There are great views from the castle, and it really is an impressive fortification. Throw in the nearby excellent museum on daily life under the occupation, a couple of interesting churches, and Falaise is well worth a trip.
We have done a lot of history during our holiday round Normandy- and so another historical visit was met with some resistance from my teenage son. However the 3d binoculars and ipads to use whilst touring the main tower were a huge hit! Had to leave id to secure use of the ipads. Liked the narrative from the different dukes of Normandy telling their family history and the virtual recreation of the rooms as they would have appeared. A family pass was €20 which was good value for 4 of us for a 2 hour or so visit. Definitely a castle brought to life with the help of technology. Incidently - you can look round the castle grounds for free and use the 3d binoculars and see a film about the castle through the ages - it's only the main tower that you have to buy tickets for. Be prepared for lots of stair climbing!
The Private Worlds of Loulou de La Falaise
In the sunshine yellow sitting room of her house in the French countryside, de la Falaise paired gilt Rococo mirrors with sofas covered in crisp Majorcan ikat. The colonial Indian daybed was a gift from her mother. Photograph by Alexandre Bailhache
Loulou de La Falaise (1947-2011) was best known as Yves Saint Laurent’s muse, confidante, alter ego—and the virtuoso behind all his famously flamboyant accessories: towering fur toques, clanking bronze cuffs, necklaces strung with coral. Adventurousness typified not only her designs but also her approach to the art of living, in homes of distinguished pedigree in England, Ireland, France, and Italy, as I learned while researching her biography Loulou & Yves: The Untold Story of Loulou de La Falaise and the House of Saint Laurent, out this month from St. Martin’s Press.
Loulou spent much of her early years at Charleston Manor, the rural estate in East Essex, England, of her maternal grandparents, Sir Oswald Birley, the royal and society portraitist, and his Irish wife, Rhoda, a feckless bohemian beauty and eccentric of the first water. Charleston was a working farm when Lady Birley chanced upon it in 1928, “a perfect house in a perfect setting,” according to Nikolaus Pevsner, foremost scholar of English architecture, first built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror’s cupbearer.
Loulou de La Falaise at her country house outside Paris.
Photograph by Alexandre Bailhache
The 15th-century tithe barn at Charleston Manor, East Essex, England.
Photograph by Derry Moore
Sir Oswald had the largest tithe barn in the country transformed into a painting studio for him as well as a theater where the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo performed. Loulou had the run of vast gardens shaped by a trinity of 20th century horticultural greats: Gertrude Jekyll, Harold Hillier, and Vita Sackville-West. Growing up, she stood by, slightly aghast, as her grandmother fed the Fantin-Latour roses…bouillabaisse. Loulou was always good for a quote, but she may have been only half-joking when she told Women’s Wear Daily that Rhoda had occult powers: “Lady Birley had [Charleston] exorcised. Everyone except her is a bit nervous there.”
A fabric-layered guestroom in the French country house captures La Falaise's bohemian spirit. The red velvet curtains came from Charleston Manor.
Photograph by Alexandre Bailhache
In 1966, Loulou became the reluctant mistress of Glin Castle, having married the Irish aristocrat Desmond FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin, a swashbuckling but inconclusive title that may be an Anglo-Irish adaptation of a Gaelic chieftainship. (As Desmond had no male heir, the title expired with him, in 2011.) Glin went up on the banks of the Shannon Estuary in County Limerick, Ireland, in the late 18th century, a bow-fronted, bay-backed Georgian pile with ravishing Adamesque plasterwork and a rare double flying staircase. The castle was later “Gothicized” with turrets, crenellations, pepper-pot lodges, and other toy effects, giving it the air of a child’s fort. Glin’s charms are many, but they were lost on Loulou.
As Madame FitzGerald, “she was expected to order the food, do the placement,” says her friend the decorator Jane Ormsby Gore. “Loulou didn’t know how to run an enormous old-fashioned Irish country house—she was 19!” Loulou bolted from Desmond after barely 18 months, landing in the arms of Donald Cammell, who directed Mick Jagger in Performance. “Desmond had a huge property without a penny. I went crazy,” she confessed to YSL biographer Laurence Benaïm, elaborating later on just what she meant by “crazy” to Rita Konig in HG: “I used to walk along the battlements and scream into the night.”
La Falaise amid irises, lavender, and daisies in her French country garden.
Photograph by Alexandre Bailhache
Loulou joined Saint Laurent in 1972, marrying again five years later in what became known as “the wedding of the decade,” hosted by Yves himself. The groom this time was Thadée Klossowski de Rola, an enigmatic figure with unrealized literary ambitions who also happened to be the son of a monumental painter, Balthus. The newlyweds moved into a double-height artist’s atelier in an Art Deco building in Paris’s 14th arrondissement, the scene at collection time of freewheeling parties where Jagger might be seen chatting with Countess Jacqueline de Ribes, and Rothschilds mingled with punks without incident.
Loulou had close friendships with designers John Stefanidis, Jacques Grange, and David Mlinaric, but beyond the bookcases and mosaic-tiled bathroom Grange facilitated, she did her own decorating, thank you very much. Loulou chose “a blue carpet in order to stand above the sky. Plants and objects like a jungle. Crystal for the feeling of air and fluidity,” as she told François Baudot in Elle Décoration. To design writer Marie Bariller she avowed a taste for “bright, multihued fabrics and colors…painted or gilded wood…lacquered objects, or decorative paintwork…materials with a cracked surface…cotton, velvet, and all handmade fabrics: kilims, blankets from the Atlas Mountains.… I like surprises, things that clash, are unexpected, break unity, disrupt monotony—modern paintings with Louis XV furniture."
For family holidays, Loulou, Thadée, and their daughter Anna escaped to Castello di Montecalvello, Balthus’s home before moving to Switzerland, 40 miles north of Rome. A predominantly Renaissance castle with medieval traces, it had been a granary in the 19th century and a shelter during World War II. Cy Twombly, a neighbor, tried to discourage Balthus from buying it, citing the lack of doors and windows, but this apparently made him only want it more. Loulou thought the austere way her father-in-law had furnished the castle, so as not to compete with the sumptuous 16th-century frescoes, could not be improved: a canopied Directoire bed here, an antique wardrobe in its original, deliciously ravaged polychrome paint there. “Being so empty, it’s free from the past,” Loulou said in W in 2000. “Yet it is ancient history. It has all of the magic of that, but without any of the heaviness.”
The new biography of Loulou de La Falaise.
Courtesy of St. Martin's Press
The gardens at Charleston Manor, the country house of La Falaise's maternal grandparents.
Photograph by Derry Moore
Loulou had the luxury of yet another country refuge, a wisteria-draped 18th-century maison de maître in Boury-en-Vexin, 45 miles north of Paris, near Giverny. As the house was one room deep, it benefited from double exposures. Loulou, prizing light, left the windows uncurtained, dressing them instead by painting the surrounds with ornamental trompe-l’oeil motifs. The decorative mashup included Victorian upholstery a surfeit of textiles from India, Morocco, and points between and nostalgic odds-and-ends recycled from Charleston Manor.
As Loulou’s fellow muse Inès de La Fressange, who helped Karl Lagerfeld raise Chanel from the dead, said of her style, it had “nothing to do with money, and everything to do with taste and imagination.”
Located in Normandy, France, Chateau de Falaise was the birthplace of William the Conqueror. William was born on the same site but in an earlier fortress that served as the seat of the Norman dukes. He was the illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy and Herleva who was reputedly the daughter of a local tanner.
Although William famously went on to become the first Norman king of England he never fully escaped the circumstances of his birth with his enemies dubbing him "The Bastard of Falaise".
The present Chateau de Falaise date from the 12th-13th Century and overlooks the town from a high crag. Henry I of England built a large keep, which was later renovated by Philip II of France. It is similar in design to Norman castles built in England such as Corfe, Norwich and Portchester.
In 1202, Arthur I, Duke of Brittany was imprisoned at Falaise after campaigning in Normandy against his uncle King John of England. John captured Arthur and his mysterious death at Falaise greatly damaged his uncle's reputation.
The castle went on to change hands several times between English and French garrisons during the Hundred Years' War before it was deserted by the 17th Century. It has been recognised as a Historic Monument by the French government since 1840, although it was slightly damaged during WWII as part of the Battle of the Falaise Pocket in August 1944.
On the death of Richard II, Duke of Normandy, in August 1026 his son (also called Richard) succeeded to the duchy. The inheritance however was disputed by Richard III's younger brother, Robert. Not content with his inheritance of the town of Exmes and its surrounding area, Robert rebelled and took up arms against his brother and he captured the castle of Falaise. Richard besieged the castle and forced Robert to submit to him, however the duke died from unknown causes in 1027 and was succeeded by his brother.  Robert fathered an illegitimate son by a woman named Herleva, who was from the town of Falaise and the daughter of a chamberlain. The child, William, was born in about 1028. 
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. 
Arthur I, Duke of Brittany was King John of England's nephew. With the support of King Philip II of France, Arthur embarked on a campaign in Normandy against John in 1202, and Poitou revolted in support of Arthur. The Duke of Brittany besieged his grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, in Château de Mirebeau. John marched on Mirebeau, taking Arthur by surprise and capturing him on 1 August.  From there Arthur was conveyed to Falaise where he was imprisoned in 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.