Each place has its own history that had already been discovered but there is always a part of history that will never see the light of the day. Each place has its mysterious side that will always remain hidden. We think we know Bordeaux because it is so popular and there are millions of books about it but the truth is that the city, the wine region and all the chateaux have still a lot to discover… let me introduce you to La Bataille de Castillon. This is where it all begin…
Every summer in Castillon-la-Bataille there is a performance La Bataille de Castillon, the reproduction of the battle of Castillon in which England and France were fighting with each other for Aquitaine region. This August I have seen for the first time and it made a big impression on me. And now I understand the importance of Castillon-La-Bataille in the history of the Aquitaine region (Bordeaux).
Below you will find a short promo movie of La Bataille de Castillon from 2013 which has been published by Tourisme Gironde.
La Bataille de Castillon (dir. Eric Le Collen) takes place at night. The darkness of the night has the most important role here because the battle of Castillon is a light show. Actors, animals, the whole scenography and music allow you to move to the past and witness the happy life of people living in Castillon before 1453. You can then watch the scenes showing the battle with amazing pyrotechnical effects. The performance takes place on every July and August weekends.
It is worth to visit the picnic that takes place before the show. You can watch the mediaval fighting and the life of people from XV century, children can play games and watch animals and adults have possibility to taste the wines from Castillon. I paid about 25 Eur for the ticket including the wine tasting voucher.
And now a little bit of history. I will try to make it not so boring and not so long that you don’t have to come back to your school nightmares ;)
The reason that Aquitaine and England were united was Alienor, the Queen of France by her first marriage and the Queen of England by her second. Her second husband was the King of England and Duke of Aquitaine, so they had to pay the vassal homage to the King of France, which led to a conflict that lasted three centuries and the last part of it is known as a ‘Hundred Years’ War’.
Local population was loyal to the King of England due to the huge privileges secured from the commercialisation of wine. France not only wanted back the beautiful land of Aquitaine but also take over the wine business.
Since about 1450 the fighting between England and France intensified; in late 1452 nearly 70-year-old John Talbot came to Bordeaux to help the people defend themselves against the attacks of the French.
People of Aquitaine wanted to remain under the English reign and it was them who asked England for the support in the fight against France. It had put Charles VII, the King of France, in a fury and in July 1453 the French army moved to Bordeaux reaching Castillon on the 14th of July, breaking up camp by the river Dordogne near Castillon and ultimately defeating England and taking over the Aquitaine on 17th* of July 1453.
The exact details of the battle are very difficult to establish as the writers differ in their stories and for example until today the real number of people that were killed during the battle is not known and differ from 500 to 4000 deaths according to different sources.
The battle of Castillon (La Bataille de Castillon) was not the last one and French were fighting another three months to release the Aquitaine from the English and take over the city of Bordeaux, Libourne and Saint Emilion.
The French recovery of Aquitaine did not mark the end of the conflict between both France and England, but the battle of Castillon marked the end of ‘ancient world’ and was very important for the Aquitaine region. Firstly: the French language started to develop; secondly: the way of thinking changed and people wanted to live in a new world; and at last there was a significant change in developing the art, medicine, science and astronomy.
What were the economic consequences for the wine trade? In 1454 Charles VII removed the open trading of wine and created the export taxes but the port of Bordeaux remained open to English merchandise. Trading between these two countries went down by about 80% regarding to difficulties to get the license for coming into Bordeaux and the huge security to English ships. A few years later the French King Louis XI changed the law and reduced the export tax and made the negotiations easier, giving the English the special permission to live in Bordeaux. The wine trade had its new beginning.
John Talbot died in Castillon and his death was heralded as glorious. The Chateau Talbot in Saint Julien has John Talbot’s name. It is said that the name of famous Chateau Cheval Blanc Premier Grand Cru Classe (A) is also linked to John Talbot as he was riding the white horse. But on Cheval Blanc website there is no information about that so I leave it only as a curiosity.
And there is another movie that I found on You Tube (author: Earl Vignobles Delpit).
* The battle in Castillon (La Bataille de Castillon) finished on 17th of July 1453. “ The 17th of July, which was a Tuesday and not a Sunday, is the date considered most correct. However in 1582 to recuperate the ten days lost due to the Julien calendar, Thursday the 4th of October was followed by Friday the 15th of October. In reality this battle was therefore on the 28th of July by today’s calendar.” (source: G.R.H.E.S.A.C.)
The historical facts I took from the materials published by Groupe de Recherches Historiques et de Sauvetages Archeologiques du Castillonnais (G.R.H.E.S.A.C.). I am not the author of all the pictures and I have no author rights to them – some of the pictures have been taken from Facebook profile of Castillon la Bataille(https://www.facebook.com/La.Bataille.de.Castillon) and their author is Kristo Photographie (http://www.kristo-photographie.fr/).