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The castle of Bricquebec

As shown by the etymology of its name, the origins of Bricquebec (from old Norse bekkr, a river, preceded by brekka, a slope) can be traced back to to the Viking invaders strongly rooted in Cotentin from the beginning of the 10th century. Tradition attributes the foundation of the castle to the Scandinavian Anslech, kinsman of the Duke of Normandy William Long-Sword.

The constitution of this great barony participated in a ducal policy aiming to secure control of newly acquired territories, through the medium of great feudal units. The Cotentin, semi-insular region attached later to the duchy than the rest of Normandy (in 933) long remained jealous of its independence.

From Anslech came, we are told, the long lineage of the Bertrans, a succession of loyal knights whose names are written in each major chapter of the duchy's history. Robert Ier Bertran, called "le tort" ("the lame "), who is counted among the barons in 1066, accompanied Duke William in the conquest of England. His son, Robert II, is believed to have taken part in 1096 in the taking of Jerusalem during the first Crusade. But shortly after the annexation of Normandy by Philippe Auguste, in 1204, the Bertrans gave hommage to the King of France for fifteen noble fiefs held from their barony of Bricquebec.

Robert VII Bertran, was raised to the dignity of Marshal of France, and played an important role during the troubled period at the beginning of the Hundred Year's War. Having obtained for his son the hand of a rich heiress, he aroused the wrath of another suitor, Geoffroy of Harcourt, lord of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, who out of vengeance engaged in a private war against his rival. Sentenced for these acts, Geoffroy of Harcourt soon took refuge at the court of England and there incited King Edouard III to descend on the Cotentin. Robert Bertran, nicknamed "le Chevalier au Vert Lion", attempted in vain to resist the English army which landed in Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue on the 12th of July 1346.

Following the death of the old Marshal, whose two sons died on the battlefield, his four-hundred year dynasty became extinct.

By marriage, the castle and barony of Bricquebec were then transferred to the Paisnel family, already endowed with the castle of Hambye. Given up to the exactions of soldiery, submitted to the ravages of the plague and famine, the peninsula of Cotentin was exposed to the second half of the 14th century, to multiple skirmishes between French, English and Navarrian troops. For a time submitted to the King of Navarre, Bricquebec soon came back to the French camp and supllied King Charles V with a precious step forward in his strategy of reconquest.

After brief and fragile period of peace, the War resumed in 1418. Bricquebec was quickly occupied by the troops of King Henry V of England.Given to William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, then sold by him to captain Bertin Entwistle, the castle stayed under English rule until 1450. When, in 1452 Louis d'Estouteville, the valiant defender of Mont-Saint-Michel, came back triumphant to take possession of the castle, the Middle Ages were coming to an end. At the beginning of the following century, the barons of Bricquebec abandoned indeed the old fortress of the Bertrans to settle in their new residence, the Château de Galeries, designed under the influence of the Italian Renaissance.

To visit in the castle :

  • the motte
  • the impressive polygonal keep
  • the "tour de l'horloge"
  • the "tour du chartrier"
  • the " crypte"
  • the circular towers
  • the medieval accomodation
  • the "tour de l'épine"
  • etc...