The Middle ages was an extremely turbulent time for the Dordogne area. A time of almost constant fighting but also a time when many of the towns and monuments enjoyed by visitors today were built or improved.

During the Middle ages many of the bastide towns in the area were founded. Many are still in existence nowadays (see Towns to Visit). Beautiful examples include Monpazier and Domme.

Monpazier

Eleanor of Aquitaine was next to cause problems in the area. She inherited much of Aquitaine, and married the King of France, Louis VII. But this marriage was annulled after 15 years, and Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet. Henry then became king of England, and a large part of France thus fell under English rule. Not surprisingly this caused some tensions!

The problem was to cause rivalries that lasted hundreds of years. The problem was compounded when Eleanor and Henry had a troublesome son - Richard the Lionheart. When King Henry died, Richard inherited the throne of England and all its French lands.

Advertisement

There is a route in France exploring the major sites where Richard the Lionheart left his mark in France. This route passes through Jumilhac in the Dordogne.  Not on the route but also linked to Richard is the Chateau du Beynac which was captured by Richard the Lionheart and used as a stronghold by his men.

Chateau de Jumilhac

In 1328, following the deaths of the 3 sons of Philippe le Bel, the French selected Philippe Count of Valois to be king, in place of Edward III. Edward III was the king of England and was also the nephew of the deceased French king.

Later, things got worse still, and in 1337 Philippe VI ordered that the lands of Aquitaine be taken from the English. In 1340 Edward III declared himself King of France. Thus the Hundred Years War began. During the Hundred Years war there were numerous 'famous' battles including the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The castles of Castelnaud and Beynac were both heavily involved in the battles of the Hundred Years War.

Chateau de Castelnaud

The war was all but lost for the French, and it was agreed that Henry V was the heir to the French throne. But then Henry V died unexpectedly, leaving only a baby as his heir.

Soon after the young Joan of Arc appeared on the scene and remotivated the French king - now Charles VII - and his armies. It was in 1451 at the Battle of Castillon the English were finally defeated (a battle now spectacularly recreated each year for the enjoyment of tourists).

The 16th century led to further troubles, with numerous sieges, battles and unlimited cruelty during the Wars of Religion (between the catholics and the protestants) that ravaged the region. Several massacres of entire towns took place, and much of the earlier heritage of the Dordogne was destroyed.

It was only in 1598, when the Edict of Nantes granted certain freedoms to the protestants, that the battles came to an end.

Continue to peasant revolts or return to History of the Dordogne