Philip of France and the Castle of Gisors

In 1174 there was a talk between the kings of England and France but king Louis brought his ten year-old son, Philip along to the negotiations at the castle of Gisors, then in English hands. The colloquy having been concluded, Philip astonished his father by arguing that the more his father praised the castle for all its virtues, the more he hoped the edifice had more so that he could seize them all when he would capture the castle. Here’s Gerald of Wales’ account of Philip’s interjection which brings color to the latter’s character and underlines his resolve that subsequent years of conquest were to show all too well.

“In colloquio quodam inter dictos reges prope Gisortium habito, ubi tunc praesens cum patre fuit Philippus Lodovici filius, quasi tunc temporis duodenus existens, cum plurimi Francorum castellum oppositum attentius intuentes pulchritudinem ejus et fortitudinem, nuper nimirum in immensum adaucti et Pariis egregie lapidibus aereisque turribus et arduis in altum exstructi, multa cum admiratione laudarent, dictus puer in audientia magna cunctis admirantibus ait, “Structuram lapidum illorum valde commendatis”. Et prosequendo, “per fidem,” inquit, “quam debeo patri meo, vellem quod omnes lapides illi argentei vel auri vel etiam gemmae pretiosissimae forent; dum tamen id nemo praeter me solum vel per me sciret, aut scire posset.” Et cum universi super hoc pueri verbo non mediocritater admirarentur, subjunxit, “Nec inde miremini, quia, quanto melius pretiinque majoris oppidum illud existeret, tanto carius idem, cum ad manus meas devolveretur, haberem.”” (Giraldi Cambrensis Opera, Rolls Series, vol. 8, 289)

Some people might have called this presumption back in 1174/5 but king Philip soon proved them all wrong. The castle of Gisors still stands but if we are to judge it by this account, we must conclude that it was rebuilt after the siege of 1193 and lost its alleged splendour. To be honest, standing at its feet today, it still looks formidable.

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