How does the building programme at Portchester Castle reflect Britains changing relationship with France

Topic: EnvironmentNatural Disasters
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Last updated: November 8, 2019

Through out history Britain and France have had an ever changing relationship that could be described as a ‘love, hate relationship’. From the historical features and developments at Portchester Castle, the two can be linked, and the effect that this relationship had on Portchester Castle becomes evident. The castle as we know today was built on top of the remains of a Roman fort. The Romans built forts through out their empire in order to protect against Saxon attack.

France allowed the Saxons to use their coast to stop at before attacking Britain, and because Portchester is located right on the coast of Britain, it was very vulnerable! And therefore it was due to the French allowing Saxons to use their land that Portchester fort was built. After the Battle of Hastings in 1066 which led to William of Normandy, from France being crowned the new king of England, many English people were not supportive of his reign. This is why William the Conqueror granted this land to William Maudit in order to build a castle on it.This reflects the relationship between Britain and France as being hostile and not co-operative at all. In the reign of King John between 1199 and 1216, the castle was invaded and captured by Philip Augustus, the French King, and was not taken back until 1217 when King Henry III came to the thrown.

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Although there were no major changes, it is clear that the relationship between Britain and France during the Norman period continued to be difficult. During the ‘Hundred Years War Period’ from 1337 to 1453, after being left to ruin, Portchester Castle was repaired, extended and improved.It was during this time that the keep and inner gatehouse extensions were made. We know from the period that Britain and France were constantly at battle during this time, however as well as this there are many significant features of Portchester Castle that show the relationship as well. Such as the extensions to the keep and inner gatehouse which occurred in the 1320’s and 1380’s. During the 1320’s, one addition included in the extension was an ‘open walk way’, which would have been used for defenders to be able to look down on and shoot any attackers.

This would therefore suggest that at this time Portchester Castle still needed to be defended against the French. Around 60 years after this, when the second extension occurred, two more defensive features were added to the gatehouse, and they were a portcullis and draw bar holes. A portcullis is a very strong gate that has to be lifted upwards that is made of oak and metal, and draw bar holes are holes on the keep side of the gatehouse doors where a long bar of wood could be placed across to reinforce the door against attackers.This again proves that during this period the castle was not just being used defensively, but was being made better, hence implying that the relationship between Britain and France was not a peaceful one. Soon after the 1380’s extension, in Richard II reign, in 1399, there was an effort for peace with France made, which consequently led to a marriage being arranged between King Richard II and the seven year old Princess Isabelle of France. In preparation for the marriage, Richard II’s palace was built.

This palace was created to entertain and show off to the bride to be, Princess Isabelle, and also had many windows, however only facing the inner bailey. Again, in the Tudor period, when Henry VII came to the thrown, there was an oriel window built in the Northern wall, which dates from 1489. King Henry VII came into power 4 years prior to this, and the remains of the oriel window suggests that peace with France had been made, as without peace, having a window of that size and nature would have been a blatant weak spot in the castles structure.

King Henry also ended the period known as the ‘Wars of the Roses’. By this time there again was an extension added to the gatehouse, however it was left open suggesting peace, and there was also a ‘guard house’ where a guard would be situated, open to attack, which also suggests peace. By the 18th and 19th centuries, Britain and France were once again at war and there were many battles between the two countries, such as the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic War. Changes were once again made, and mainly affected the keep.For example, extra floors and beams were added increasing Portchester’s capacity as a prisoner of war camp. Features that reflect this change can also still be seen in the keep as hooks were put into the beams and hammocks hung between them for prisoner beds.

The castle moat was also made more level and shallower and was used as a swimming pool for prisoners. This period ended in 1815 with the defeat of France in the Battle of Waterloo, showing that peace was still not yet achieved between France and Britain.

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