Freveval was constructed before 1050, as can be demonstrated by a 1097 charter  which records an agreement between Marmoutier and the monks of Bonneval about the chapel Fractæ Vallis, and includes a report of testimony from two witnesses concerning events which had occurred 15 years before the castle had been built, which was in 1039.  The castle lay in the county of Blois and therefore Count Theobald (1037-89) is creditied as being its founder.  However, from an early date the lords of Freteval held the fortress until the demise of the last male heir, Nevelon Freteval in 1270 when the castle passed to co-heiresses.  One of the heirs sold the seigneurie to Count Hugh Châtillon of Blois.  In 1293 Guy d'Argenton écuyer fils et héritier de feu Hémery d'Argenton jadis chevalier exchanged Fréteval castle with Hugh.  Héloys femme jadis de feu Pierre Connegneux sold the final part of the lordship to Count Hugh in 1297.
The castle, guarding the northern borderlands of Blois seems to have been acquired by Ilbert Lacy of Pontefract during the reign of William I (d.1087).  It must then have reverted to Blois after the death of William.  It fell to the troops of
King Henry II or his father, for in the late autumn of 1160, after taking nearby Chaumont castle on the Loir, Henry fortified Freveval castle.  A year later in October 1161 he met King Louis of France at or near the castle and made a truce with him.  Similarly the castle witnessed the meeting and reconciliation of Henry and Thomas Becket on 22 July 1170.  The Angevin domination of the fortress and district was broken by Philip Augustus in 1187, when he seized both Freteval and IssoudunOn 4 July 1194, Richard I fought and defeated King Philip in battle here, where the English king  routed his enemy again and took a rich booty of horses, tents, siege-engines and much of Philip's treasure while the French king hid ignominiously in a church.  Amongst the other goods seized were the Capetian's chapel which contained all the French archives and even a list of all the English king's rebels and those with whom the rebels had been negotiating. The castle was back in French hands before 1204.  During the Hundred Year's War the castle was attacked in 1418, and although damaged remained inhabited until at least 1487, the date of the last coins found in the ruins.

The castle is set on the ridge dominating the south bank of the Loir and consists of an early circular keep 80' high and 50' in diameter.  In Britain such larger round keeps are described at Pembroke and smaller ones under Llanstephan.  Freteval keep is still standing almost to its full height and, although split from summit to base in places, still retains many Romanesque features in its surviving half.  It also seems to have had early fireplaces, like Rochester keep in Kent.

The round keep is surrounded by a shell keep, similar in layout to the one at Tretower in Wales.  This shell keep seems to have had 4 or 5 D shaped towers in its enceinte, making it somewhat like Conches in Normandy.  Surrounding the shell on four sides was a near contentric ward with 5 more D shaped towers and an entrance to the south.  Both these works were set on scarps.  To the NW was a bailey or upper ward, running through the inner ward from the shell, forming a trumpet shaped enclosure with a rectangular tower to the NE and a hall block? to the north.  The north enceinte of this also formed part of a large outer ward that surrounded the inner ward.  This may have had 2 D shaped towers in the north wall and one at the southern apex of the site.  There was also a rectangular gatehouse in the SE curtain.  To the north two wing walls ran from the upper court down to the river Loir and had rectangular gates through which the road along the south side of the river ran.  The outer ward had a deep ditch and there was a church in the north corner of the outer ward.

Why not join me here and at other French castles?  Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly Sojourns.


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry

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