Monday 7 May 2012: Launceston Castle, Cornwall
An outstanding example of a Norman motte and bailey castle, with a later circular keep.
The motte was ordered to be built, possibly as early as 1067, by Robert Count of Mortain first Earl of Cornwall - William the Conqueror's half brother on his mother's side. Launceston became the administrative centre for the Earls of Cornwall since it controlled the original route into the County, and the only bridge over the Tamar.
The stone circular inner keep was built by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, the younger brother of Henry III who rebuilt the keep and the bailey buildings in stone.
Richard is a particularly suitable subject for this blip, since he was given Cornwall as a birthday present by his brother in 1225 at the age of 16. Richard's revenues from Cornwall provided him with great wealth derived from tin-mining.
Richard was an international figure and engaged in a bewildering series of marriages, rebellions and expeditions in England, France, Palestine and Germany.
So in 1240 he departed on Crusade, negotiated the release of prisoners and refortified Ascalon. He married as his second wife Sanchia of Provence, sister of Eleonor, Henry IIIs Queen. He was offered the crown of Sicily but the price was apparently too large.
In 1256 Richard was elected as King of Germany by four of the seven Imperial Electors of the Holy Roman Empire. After a disputed election he was crowned by the Archbishop of Cologne "King of the Romans" in Aachen but he only made four brief visits to Germany between 1257 and 1269.
Launceston was the centre of his Cornish lands. His new tower had new rooms with a fine view over his lands, and he also built a great hall in the bailey.
The Castle as the assize centre of Cornwall, was the site of the execution of the 28 Cornishmen after the 1548 Prayer Book Rebellion. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers was imprisoned here by the Commonwealth in 1656.
In 1838 the assizes and the county seat of government were moved to Bodmin, the town having lost its 4 seats in the Commons at the Great Reform Act.