Why Castles were built?
We want to start off this article by declaring our condolences if you or any of your loved ones have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic that is sweeping the globe at this point time. We are living in unprecedented times and with the increasing global population being forced to go on lockdown we just wanted to wish all our patrons the best in these troubling times.
We have a multitude of initiatives in place to help those that have been affected by this pandemic but here at Luxury Castle Hire we also want to keep our loyal castle enthusiasts entertained and informed with the background surrounding castles and their historical backdrops on society.
In this article, we will be discussing why castles were built and their intended significance, this will be done using shortened stories across history that give adequate portrayals of their intended power and how they were used. We will then discuss how respective constructions of castles have respective purposes, what they meant in warfare and how you- who is reading this- can benefit from their grandiose and ostentatious detail.
If you agree/disagree with any of the observations we make please be sure to let us know on social media tagging #LuxuryCastleHire in your response.
When feudal monarchies yielded greater political and economic influence the local lord would be given vast swathes of land where they would –inevitably- build a castle, in return, was expected their unwavering loyalty and soldiers to their superior in question. This allowed a lord or a usurper- coming into power- to govern effectively disseminating information quickly to achieve objectives. For a lord to receive a vassal of land to build a castle or receive ownership of a region was a bequest of immense influence. This was sometimes used as a bargaining chip by conquerors, as they overtook countries to commandeer surrender or to reward an individual’s public service to the state.
William the Conqueror
When the Duke of Normandy William the Conqueror invaded, England winning the Battle of Hastings in 1066, he tried garnering his kingship status through the traditional English means, the noble councillors named the Withan- this did not work. Instead, he went on a raid through all neighbouring regions near London where the Withan were located, including Canterbury, Dover and Winchester. Hearing of the conquests the Archbishop of York as well as others swiftly submitted to William the Conqueror.
Despite this comprehensive victory, there were still loyalists to the previous Anglo-Saxon regime. In an attempt to appease this small handful of wealthy English nobles that were left, William gave these men vassals of land in the North of England. This left 5% of England’s wealth to the native English barons and lords that were governing before William’s conquest.
Upon the completion of the Battle of Hastings William owned 20% of England’s wealth, his Norman barons and lords- 50%, the church- owned 25% and the English barons-5%.
Owning so much of England’s land William’s barons quickly divided their lands amongst their respective knights who then used English peasants to work their land. Intimidating large castles started sprouting up across the UK partly done to dissuade revolts and rebellions.
How were Castles utilized here?
Given the absolute nature of William the Conqueror’s victory, understanding the nature of the fractious relationship between the Normans and Anglo-Saxons it could be interpreted that William looked to subdue the English into submission, whilst greatly empowering his own barons.
In the first 10 years after Norman victory, there were continuous uprisings from the Anglo-Saxon loyalists in Northumbria and Lincolnshire just to name a few, contributing to future castles being built implementing defensive measures and infrastructure that are still in existence today.
In short, the Normans built castles here as a form of intimidation to attempt to quell uprisings partly due in fact to so few Anglo-Saxons owning any sort of wealth or defensive structures to protect their interests.
King Ludwig II
Germany is a country with a rich history, before it became the great prosperous nation it is now, it was a region that was made of separate smaller factions. These include, The Kingdom of Württemberg, The Grand Duchy of Hesse, The Kingdom of Bavaria as well as many others. All of these regions came together as what we now know as Germany.
In this section we will be looking at a brief part of the Kingdom of Bavaria’s history in the 19th century and why it had a multitude of castles that were constructed, that are still in existence today.
The time is 1873 King Ludwig II abruptly came into power 10 years prior, after his father Maximilian II of Bavaria suffered a sudden illness. He has fought in two wars and has now joined Bavaria with the North German confederation much to the dismay of some members of his council who insist Bavaria should remain an independent state- although they did keep certain sovereignties.
Visiting France and other European regions he marveled at their architectures and was determined to build up the cultural allure of his home state. Using his own personal fortune he built what we now know as the Neuschwanstein Castle, The Herren-Insel Castle, Linderhof Palace as well as many others.
With his personal finances drying up he now looked to borrow money from neighbouring European countries to continue his outlandish expenditure on these incredible structures. However, others within the government did not take kindly to Bavaria slowly falling into debt for reasons such as this. Ludwig was eventually ousted as King and deemed “insane” and as such unfit to rule, whether this was truly the case remains unknown.
How were Castles utilized here?
It can be argued that King Ludwig II used his extravagant outlay on castles as his personal stake in Bavaria’s history.
There are a number of reasons relating to why Ludwig II created so many castles.
1. Ludwig II was not too concerned with the intricacies of politics unlike his father- Maximilian II- and Grandfather- Ludwig I- who were both considered more popular leaders in comparison, knowing this he wanted to have an aspect of Bavarian history that was unique to himself.
2. As a result of getting Bavaria to join the North German confederation, governmental accusations of discarding Bavaria’s independence may not have sat well with Ludwig. This may have contributed to him looking to over-compensate in the light of such recriminations.
Whatever the reason behind Ludwig creating such magnificent castles it was clear that he wanted to put a greater cultural spotlight on Bavaria and he did. The opulence of his creations are still enjoyed by millions of tourists every year, it is fair to say he achieved his objectives.
Different Types of Castle Constructions
There are a wide variety of different types of castle structures that are in existence. Castles within fortified outer walls, un-walled fortified castles, townhouse moat castles with a bridge and motte and bailey castles just to name a few. Because of the multitude of constructions, a castle can have, we will look at two different types of castles that are still in existence today, giving a brief explanation as to the thinking behind their creations.
Castles within fortified walls
An example of this type of castle is the Tower of London. Upon visiting this structure, one’s immediate thought is, whose idea was it to build such a comprehensive fortress. It is something comparable to the castles built by King Ludwig II who was vilified for spending what he did on such architecture. The truth is that the Tower of London, dates back as far as 1078 when William the Conqueror who had taken over England was entrenching his roots into the nation. Upon the completion of his portion of the Tower, it went through 300 years of constant expansion from changing rulers up until 1399, contributing to its current monumental appearance.
Another example of this type of castle is Rochester Castle. Like the Tower of London this castle went through constant expansion from the late 11th century and throughout the 13th century. It was used as a strategical tool for many rulers allowing the castle to be under the guardianship of certain respective Earls and noblemen of this time, until it was open to the public in the 1870’s to be used as a tourist attraction.
Why were these Castles within fortified walls?
The Tower of London was a landmark for the ruling elite and over time each ruler may have felt the need to place the stamp of their rule onto the vast structure. Notable rulers that extended the Tower of London include William Longchamp, King Henry III and Edward I to name a few. Although it may have been a monument to portray the wealth of the monarchy, over time its use changed and so too did its significance on modern society.
Rochester was a significant location in the late 11th century. It was considered the first point of a potential invasion of England due to its coastal position and why it was also the first point of protection, additionally its proximity to London provided an ample garrison for soldiers during the 1088 rebellion. The castle suffered two sieges and a peasants’ revolt and was never fully restored, all contributing factors to why it was relinquished by the Monarchy and eventually made open for the public.
In short, both castles were built with fortification due to understanding the extended value their structures had beyond being residencies and the possible threats they could and sometimes did face. Being able to see the intricacies in wall fortifications of castles that were built to be defended is remarkable, especially, as we currently live in the antonymous peace times of this modern era.
Motte and Bailey Castle
Motte and Bailey castles (M/B) were common in England during the late 11th century. Mottes were synthetic hilltops with a castle keep built on top, baileys are enclosed courtyards towered over by the motte.
During the 1066 invasion of the British Isles the Normans looked to exert their dominance over natives, doing this they built M/B castles. These structures were built with wood and could be constructed within two weeks, leading to the land quickly brimming with M/B castles with peasants working within the expanse of the bailey. Over time their wood structure was replaced with stone and future generations began following this custom for castle construction.
An example of a castle outside the British Isles that followed the M/B structure is the Château Gaillard in the French territory Normandy. This castle was built in the 12th Century by Richard the Lionheart who was serving concurrently as the King of England and the Duke of Normandy. Chateau Gaillard overlooks the French commune Les Andelys and unlike the wooden castles built by William the Conqueror in England, this was built of stone which was of huge expense to King Richard at the time.
What significance did M/B castles provide?
Motte and Bailey castles are some of the earliest castles that are on record. The clear and obvious advantage these structures provided was that due to their elevated nature it was a castle that was difficult to attack. Additionally, to reach the castle more often than not, you would have to go through the bailey- where the commoners resided- which gave more time for the defenders to prepare their defences within the castle.
This was an issue siege attackers had with occupants of mottes, choosing instead to capture the bailey and surrounding regions of the motte, to starve the people within the castle keep. This happened with the Chateau Gaillard siege of 1203-1204.
So overall why were Castles built?
There is no straightforward answer to this question. Some were built to exert dominance and cripple their subjects psychologically; some castles were constructed to be defensive and protect themselves at all costs and others were built to enhance the cultural attraction of a region. Whatever the reason a castle was built when you know the historical backdrop behind the structure you’re visiting, it makes your stay that bit more substantial.
The subject of a lot of this long-form article was based around the region of Europe, this does not mean castles only exist in this part of the world, far from it. There is the Amer Fort in India, Shobak Castle in Jordan, Fasil Ghebbi in Ethiopia and Himeji Castle, Japan just to name a few, that will have extensive stories behind their respective reasons for construction.
If you agree or disagree with any of the observations made please be sure to let us know on social media with your opinion, tagging #LuxuryCastleHire.