A Remarkable Visit – travel back to 1340. One of the largest preserved medieval castles in Europe.
In 1178, King Louis VII (1137-1180) signed a deed in the forest of Vincennes outside Paris which proves that there was once a royal residence here. Re-built buy King Phillippe-Auguste this was a medieval fortress, prison and royal residence and is easily visited on Line One from Paris.
You enter the main entrance via the Tour du Village where you see the remarkable interior layout of the towers, also revealed by ancient documents. It consists of several superimposed rooms, each with a fireplace and a medieval loo, and lit by large windows. Each tower was used as living quarters and for defence purposes.
The donjon (French word for tower Keep) served as a residence for the royal family, and King Henry V of England died in it in 1422 following the siege of Meaux (now a nice spot for making Brie cheese).
The Marquis de Sade was of course incarcerated here in the 18th century for a time for his rude writings and even the French King Henry IV spent a time in the prison there after the Wars of Religion in the 16th century.
You can see some examples of splendid early apartments designed for the Sun King Louis XIV In the 17th century designed for the Queen Mother and Cardinal Mazarin her “adviser” but rebuilding was never pursued once the Chateau of Versailles occupied all attentions.
This came about indirectly because of the hapless but corrupt Minister of Finance in the Sun King’s court, Nicolas Fouquet, in 1653. He had accumulated a large fortune, had promoted the arts and literature and had also commissioned the building of his splendid personal château of Vaux (after the plans of the architect Louis Le Vau), where he lavishly received King Louis XIV.
Sin (whoops, Sun) King Louis, irritated by such success, had Fouquet arrested in 1661 and imprisoned at Vincennes and then at the Bastille, before condemning him to life imprisonment (1664) in a tiny dark cell.
From 1760 onwards Chateau de Vincennes was abandoned as a royal residence and left as a gaol for high-born prisoners.
An interesting bit of fascinating trivia:
Between the years of 1792 and 1793, during the Reign of Terror and the French Revolution, Queen Marie Antoinette, King Louis XVI and their daughter and son were imprisoned in a medieval fortress in central Paris called The Temple before they were both royally beheaded.
The Temple had a huge fortified bastion tower called The Grosse Tour in which they were incarcerated.
In 1808 Napoleon Bonaparte ordered this to be destroyed but two huge original medieval fortified doors from La Grosse Tour still remained and were sent to the Chateau de Vincennes where you can see them today.
From 1940 to 1944, German troops occupied the castle of Vincennes where they inflicted considerable damage to the castle upon their departure on 24 August 1944.