Castle Sieges

This is a look at some of the well known castle sieges that happened over the centuries. There are many castles that have been sieged and there are some significant castles that have been sieged more than once.

The siege of a castle could have been done in one or more different ways. Sometimes they simply encircled the castle to starve out the occupants. But this was only rarely the case. The sieging army usually employed other methods to speed up the process.

Some techniques for castle sieging (Other than just waiting)

  • Breaking through the walls with any number of siege devices like trebuchets, catapults or battering rams
  • Getting attackers over the walls quickly with things like siege towers, grappling hooks or ladders
  • Undermining - Digging a tunnel under the castle in an attempt to either gain entry or more often in an attempt to collapse a tower or part of the castle wall.
  • Politics and Trickery - All kinds of mental tools were used and some of them could be considered psychological warfare. These include forging fake documents or attempting to convince the occupants that no help was coming.
  • Biological warfare - could include tossing dead and rotting animal carcasses over the castle wallls in an attempt to sicken the occupants or poison their water source.

 

 

Some Castle Sieges:

  • 1137 After a three month siege Exeter Castle was taken because its well dried up
  • 1174 Bungay Castle in Suffolk was sieged by undermining
  • 1188 Krak des Chevaliers was sieged by unsuccessfully by Saladin
  • 1203-1204 Richard the LionHeart Castle "Chateau Gaillard" was sieged and taken
  • 1215 Rochester Castle was sieged and fell afer seven weeks. The conditions were very bad and the occupants eventually were fed a diet of horsemeat and water.
  • 1216 Dover castle was sieged and a tunnel was dug which collapsed a tower. The occupants fought off the siege and blocked the breach with trees and rocks.
  • 1216 Hedingham Castle - The siege lasted three days and the castle surrendered.
  • 1266 Kenilworth Castle - Called the siege of Kenilworth, it lasted 6 months. The castle was assaulted by trebuchets, and even barges on the lake. But could not be taken by force. Eventually the castle, and its 1,000 plus soldier surrendered due to starvation and disease.
  • 1271 The Krak des Chevaliers was sieged and taken
  • 1294-1295 The Siege of Madog ap Llywelyn (Conwy Castle in Wales)
  • 1296 Stirling Castle in Scotland was sieged and taken by Edward I
  • 1296-97 Bothwell Castle in Scotland was sieged for 14 months and eventually taken
  • 1298 Dirleton Castle in Scotland was besieged by Edward I
  • 1300 Caerlaverock Castle in Scotland was sieged and taken. An account of this is called Le Siege de Karlaverock, it is a french rhyming.
  • 1304 Stirling Castle after changing sides several times was sieged by Edward I for three months in what is called "The Great Siege" The Siege of Stirling Castle
  • 1326 Caerphilly Castle was sieged by the forces of Isabella
  • 1401 Conwy Castle was sieged for three months. There are a lot of heroic varations as to how the siege was broken including the story of how nine heroic warriors who surrendered their lives in exchange for the freedom of their companions.
  • 1404 Harlech Castle was besieged and taken The siege of Harlech Castle
  • 1422 Karlstein Castle (Czech Republic) during the siege of the castle, Hussite attackers used biological warfare when Prince Sigismund Korybut used catapults to throw dead (but not plague-infected) bodies and 2000 carriage-loads of dung over the walls, apparently managing to spread infection among the defenders.
  • 1453 the City of Constantinople was sieged and taken - the siege lasted two months
  • 1546-47 St Andrews Castle in Scotland was besieged and taken. This is the occurrence of the famous mine and countermine that were dug under the castle. These mines still exist today and can be visited.
  • 1547 At the siege of Saint Andrews Castle in Scotland attackers dug an underground mine. The defenders built their own mine and the two mines met where an underground battle pursued.
  • 1573 Edinburgh Castle was sieged in a cannon bombardment that lasted twelve days and saw 3,000 cannon balls fired. The castle surrendered.
  • 1599 Cahir castle in Ireland was sieged and taken
  • 1617 Chateau de Pierrefonds was sieged for six days and taken by Louis the XII. After the taking of it he ordered it's completed destruction but that task was never fully completed.
  • 1643 After a short siege Dartmouth Castle was taken
  • 1643 The First siege of Corfe Castle
  • 1644 Carlisle Castle was sieged for 8 months, it surrendered
  • 1645 Nunney Castle was sieged and partially damaged
  • 1646 Corfe Castle was sieged twice and eventually capitulated. It was ordered to be slighted
  • 1646 Goodrich castle was sieged by a single mortar called Roaring Meg. It was a monster of a mortar and wrought ruin on the castle walls. The castle surrendered.
  • 1647 Cahir Castle was again sieged and taken
  • 1650 Cahir Castle was sieged and taken for the third time; this time by Oliver Cromwell
  • Carlisle Castle was sieged for three days in 1745 - it surrendered
  • 1745 Blair Castle was sieged and captured by Cromwells forces. This is believe to be the last siege in Britain.
  • 1746 Stirling Castle was unsuccessfully sieged.

 

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Castles and their ruins still dominate the landscape and are a constant reminder to us of a time when violence, or the threat of it, was the norm.

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