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The keep of Rouen Castle, now known as the Tour Jeanne d'Arc
The keep of Rouen Castle, now known as the Tour Jeanne d'Arc

Rouen Castle (Château Bouvreuil) was a fortified ducal and royal residence in the city of Rouen, capital of the duchy of Normandy, now in France. With the exception of the tower wrongly associated with Joan of Arc, which was restored by Viollet-le-Duc, the castle was destroyed at the end of the 16th century, its stones quarried for other construction.

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Although most of you are probably familiar with Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, most people don't know much about their son, Caesarion, otherwise known as Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar, the last king of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt who ruled for just 11 days. It is believed that Caesarion was Julius Ceasar's only son and when Caesar brought his new family back to Rome, he not only broke several laws but also created many enemies in the process. Julius Caesar was already married and had a legal heir, his nephew, Octavian. When he was murdered in the senate in 44BC, Cleopatra and Caesarion returned to Alexandria and Cleopatra named him her co-ruler at the age of 3. Before Cleopatra committed suicide to avoid being enslaved and publicly humiliated as a prisoner of war by Octavian, she came up with an escape plan for Caesarion. What happens after that remains a mystery. Octavian ordered his murder but it is unclear whether his order was carried out successfully. It is possible that Caesarion was on his way to Ethiopia when Octavian's forces captured and murdered him. Other sources say that he was in hiding at the port of Bernenice on the Red Sea and tricked into coming out and then murdered. Or he may have escaped on a ship and lived to old age under a new identity. There is no definitive account of what happened but the most accepted version is that he was captured and strangled to death at 17 years old. Hereward the Wake (also known as Hereward the Outlaw) was an 11th century leader of local resistance to the Norman Conquest of England. He led a huge revolt in the marshy region of Ely in England against the rule of William the Conqueror. Supposedly he was exiled by his father at the age of 18 because he was disobedient and caused problems in the local community so he travelled around Ireland and Flanders where he fought with bears and rescued princesses. When the Normans invaded England he was still in exile working as a mercenary until he found out that they had taken over his family's land and his brother's head had been placed on a spike at the front gate of his house. He went back to England and attacked the Normans during a drunken feast and escaped. During the revolt in Ely the Normans led by William were able to bribe monks to show them a safe route through the marshes and capture Ely. Many of the rebels were captured and tortured, but it is unclear what happened to Hereward. It is possible that he was imprisoned and then escaped when they moved him from one prison to another, another version is that he was pardoned by William and lived the rest of his life in peace. Another possibility is that he might have lived as an outlaw and then killed, or went into exile and was never heard from again. Arthur was an heir to the throne of England who vanished mysteriously after he was arrested and imprisoned in Rouen Castle. As a young boy he was named heir by his uncle Richard but when Richard was on his deathbed he declared his brother John as his heir since Arthur was only 12. John immediately became king but the French nobles preferred Arthur to John, probably because they could more easily control him. His mother had been kidnapped and imprisoned by his step-father so he didn't really have any support except from King Phillip of France. When Richard died he gave him territories and Arthur declared himself Duke of Brittany, Count of Anjou, and Earl of Richmond. Quite a lot of titles for a young man! With the support of Phillip of France, Arthur led a campaign in Normandy against John and attacked his grandmother, John's mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine at her Château de Mirebeau. John surprised him there and Arthur was captured and imprisoned at Chateau de Falaise in Normandy. At the chateau prison John tried to have his servants tortured and mutilate Duke Arthur but Earl Hubert de Burgh protected him. The following year, Arthur was transferred to Rouen and then vanished mysteriously in April 1203. There are several stories surrounding the disappearance of young Arthur who would have been 16 years old at the time. Did King John kill him himself, or order someone else to do it? Did Arthur jump from the window in an escape attempt? Did someone help him escape and assume another identity? John Cabot was an Italian explorer and navigator who mysteriously disappeared with over 300 crew members after one of his journeys to North America. He believed, as Bartolomeu Dias and Christopher Columbus before him, that sailing west would lead to a shorter route to Asia. Cabot started out as a merchant trader in Venice but moved to England after he got into financial trouble. He is responsible for claiming parts of North America for King Henry VII of England, thinking that it was Asia King Henry commissioned Cabot to seek, discover, and find new land which led to [on screen- "seeke out, discover, and finde"] England's rise to power in the 16th and 17th centuries. But what happened to him? In 1498 John Cabot departed from Bristol with 5 ships and a crew of 300 men. The ships carried merchandise such as cloth, caps, and lace as well as supplies for the crew. On the way, one ship was damaged in a storm and sailed to Ireland while the remaining 4 continued on. They were never heard from again until recently, historians discovered some documents with clues as to their fate. It was always assumed that they were lost at sea but at least one of the men scheduled to accompany the expedition, Lancelot Thirkill of London, is recorded as living in London in 1501. Other documents mention John Cabot living in London in the 1500s. Was is possible that the crew made it back? Or did Mr. Thirkill never accompany the expedition? Cabot's expedition may have explored the Canadian coast for a couple of years as there is evidence that several friars from one of the ships stayed in the New World to establish a Christian settlement. If they returned, why is there no definitive record of John Cabot leading another expedition? Perhaps he retired, or perhaps, they never made it back and were lost at sea on the ship The Matthew after all. The princes in the tower refers to Edward V of England and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York who were taken to the tower of London when they were just 12 and 9 years old and were never seen again. Their father, King Edward IV of England died unexpectedly and declared his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, as lord protector of the boys. When Edward V was about to be crowned, his uncle Richard declared that the children were illegitimate and so he was now the only legitimate heir. The act of illegitimacy stated that the marriage between their mother, Elizabeth Woodville, and father Edward V was illegal because of Edward's pre-marriage contract with another woman. At the time the tower of London was a royal place of residence as well as a prison so it is not clear what happened to the boys around the time of their disappearance. There are reports of the princes playing around the Tower gardens and a rescue attempt by their mother and Edward's supporters failed. Many historians believed that they were murdered on the orders of their uncle Richard and a man named James Tyrrell confessed to the murders under torture before he was executed by Henry VII. Yes, the same Henry VII from number 2. He is said by Thomas More to have suffocated the boys with their pillows and buried them under the stairs. However, they may have also been murdered by Henry VII himself after defeating their uncle Richard, and he had a lot to gain by eliminating Edward's lineage. It is also suggested that one or both princes managed to escape and assumed another identity. It is possible that Edward the V may have died of an illness. A man named Lambert Simnel claimed to be Richard, Duke of York but later claimed to be Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick. Another man named Perkin Warbeck also claimed to be the young Richard and was supported by the princes' aunt, Margaret of York until he was captured in 1497. As most evidence is circumstantial and there were many who had a lot to gain by their death, this remains one of the most intriguing mysteries of all time.



The castle was built by Philip II of France from 1204 to 1210 following his capture of the duchy from John, Duke of Normandy and King of England. Located outside the medieval town to its north, in a dominant position, it played a military role in the Hundred Years' War and the Wars of Religion. It was the main seat of power, administration and politics in the duchy of Normandy for nearly 400 years, symbolically replacing the ducal palace of Rouen in these roles – of the bailliage and vicomté of the king of France, of the English government of the area (1418–1449), of the échiquier de Normandie (which became the Parlement de Normandie). It was here that Joan of Arc was imprisoned in December 1430 and tried from 21 February to 23 May 1431.

Vulnerable to artillery like other medieval fortresses, all but the keep (now known as the Tour Jeanne d'Arc) was dismantled in 1591.

Tour Jeanne d'Arc

Formerly known as the castle's donjon or "Grosse Tour", this tower is part of Philip's 1204 phase. It housed one of the sessions of Joan of Arc's trial on 9 May 1431, one in which she was shown the instruments of torture, to which she replied "Truly, if you have to pull my members and my soul from my body, I shall say nothing else; and if I say something to you, I would always say to you afterwards that you made me say it by force.".[1] She was not imprisoned here but in the now-lost Tour de la Pucelle, whose foundations may be seen at 102 rue Jeanne d'Arc. The pointed roof was added in restoration works beginning in the 1870s. During the Second World War the tower was camouflaged and turned into a bunker by the occupying German forces. It is now open to the public.


  1. ^ Arc, Joan of (1996). Joan of Arc In Her Own Words. New York: Turtle Point Press. p. 132. Retrieved 31 August 2016.

Dominique Léost, Geoff Simkins (translator), The castle of Rouen and its keep known as the "Joan of Arc Tower", musées départementaux de Seine-Maritime, 2004, 47p

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This page was last edited on 17 May 2019, at 01:24
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