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Posted on Feb 27, 2004 in Stuff We Like

Military History in Gaming: Chateau Gaillard

Jim H. Moreno

Richard I

Richard I (Richard Plantagenet, ?the absent king’) was born in 1157 to King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, who has an interesting history herself during the Second Crusade. Better known as Richard Coeur-de-Lion, or Richard Lion-Hearted, he reigned from 1189 ? 1199 as King of England and Duke of Normandy. For a study of a king at war, Richard fits the bill:

  • In 1172, Richard joined his brothers Prince Henry and Geoffrey in a failed revolt against their father.
  • In 1179, he captured the so-called ?impregnable’ Taillebourg Castle in Saintonge.
  • In 1183, he joined his father in battle against his brothers’ revolt in Aquitaine.
  • In 1189, he enlisted the aid of his future enemy Philip Augustus to attack and defeat Henry II. Henry II died two days after the battle’s end. 

Richard set off on the Third Crusade in 1191, conquering Messina, Cyprus, and Jaffa along the way. In Acre, he once again met up with Philip, and together they lay siege to the city for about two years. Afterwards, there arose an argument between the two kings that caused Philip to return to France. Richard then marched his army towards Jerusalem, the critical mission objective of all the Crusades, controlled by Saladin. His sound victories against Saladin at Jaffa and Arsuf are prime examples of Richard’s expertise at warfare. Richard twice engaged Saladin’s much larger army at Jerusalem, but failed to take the city.


Richard soon received word about his brother John’s usurping attempts and set sail back to England. During his voyage, he was captured by Leopold V of Austria, and was imprisoned by the Roman Emperor Henry VI for two years (1192-1194). Richard bought his freedom with a vast majority of England’s wealth, and finally returned home, where he set about engaging in minor skirmishes to retake England’s lost territories. He also constructed Chateau Gaillard during this time, but more on that later.

March of 1199 found Richard in another battle, but this one was to be fatefully different for him. While laying siege to the castle of Chalus (which belonged to the Archbishop of Limoges), Richard went to inspect the defenses along the castle walls unarmed and wearing only minimal armor. An alert enemy crossbowman, unable to resist such an open target of opportunity, fired at Richard. The bolt struck Richard in his side, but did not immediately kill him. Lack of what we today call proper medical care allowed the wound to fester and become worse, and King Richard died a few days into April.

Philip Augustus

Born to King Louis VII of France and Ad謥 de Champagne in 1165, Philip Augustus II reigned France from 1180 until his death in 1223. His reign was marked by just as much warfare as Richard’s. While maybe not as skilled as Richard, Philip was certainly not an incompetent military commander:

  • From 1181-1186, Philip warred against and defeated an army grouped from Burgundy, Champagne, and Flanders.
  • In 1187, he attacked King Henry II’s French territories.
  • In 1188, he allied himself with Richard I, which forced King Henry II to appease Philip by releasing more territories to him.
  • In 1190, still allied with newly crowned King Richard I, Philip set off on the Third Crusade. 

After his dispute with Richard as the siege on Acre was ending, Philip returned to France. In a secret treaty with Richard’s brother John, Philip regained Normandy. Hearing of Richard’s release from imprisonment in 1194, John saw the error of his way, and renounced his ties with Philip. From then on, Philip and Richard waged a seemingly nonstop series of battles that did not end at Richard’s death. With Richard death, however, Philip knew his chance had arrived. King John, unable to equal his brother Richards’ skill at warfare, finally lost the war to Philip in 1206.

Outside of military history, Augustus is known for his great civilian accomplishments in Paris: surrounding the entire city with a wall for defense, the building of Les Halles (central market), constructing the Louvre Museum, starting construction on the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, paving the streets of Paris, and chartering the University of Paris (the Sorbonne).

King John

If you are familiar with folklore and fantasy fairy tales, you’ll know this to be the same King John who was the arch-enemy of Robin Hood and his merry men.

King John (1166-1216), as we learned in high school history classes, is remembered best for his part in agreeing to the Magna Carta (1215), which, in turn, is best known as a major source document for the United States Constitution.

John (aka ?Softsword’ and ?Lackland’) officially reigned as king from 1199-1216. Not near the soldier or commander Richard was, he was ill suited for the battles he engaged in:

  • In 1200, John fell into continuing the war with Philip Augustus after the death of Richard Lion-Hearted. Like his brother Richard, John also continued to tax England to pay for the war, which did not sit well with the people.
  • In 1203, John’s nephew, Arthur of Brittany, suddenly disappeared while at war with John. It is believed Arthur was murdered because many people felt he was the rightful heir to the throne.
  • By 1205, John had lost the French territories of Anjou, Brittany, Maine and Normandy (the Battle of Bouvines) that Richard had reclaimed after the Crusade. 

Nine years after losing the war with Philip (1215), John foolishly tried to regain the territories lost in France. He lost again, and this time his victors made him pay for a truce. Just as he was about to lay another heavy tax on his people to pay for the truce, the English barons rose up in rebellion against him, fed up with his abuse of the crown. The Magna Carta was then written up, and John had no other option than to accept its terms.

Sometime the next year, however, John tried to renege on the charters’ terms, and once again the barons declared war on him. Stricken with dysentery, John was traveling the countryside when he attempted to ford a stretch of water to take a shortcut. He made it across, but the whole of his king’s treasure didn’t. Hated, beaten, and now broke, King John died only a few days later.

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1 Comment

  1. Awesome article! Thanks for giving such a thorough and interesting insight into the history of gaming and gaming history! Keep up the great stuff, this is exactly why I keep coming back to Armchair General!