The easy reduction of Normandy on the fall of Château-Gaillard at a later time proved Richard's foresight; but foresight and sagacity were mingled in him with a brutal violence and a callous indifference to honour. " I would take it, were its walls of iron," Philip exclaimed in wrath as he saw the fortress rise. "I would hold it, were its walls of batter," was the defiant answer of his foe. It was Church land, and the Archbishop of Rouen laid Normandy under interdict at its seizure, but the King met the interdict with mockery, and intrigued with Rome till the censure was withdrawn. He was just as defiant of a "rain of blood," whose fall scared his courtiers. " Had an angel from heaven bid him abandon his work," says a cool observer, " he would have answered with a curse." The twelvemonth's hard work, in fact, by securing the Norman frontier, set Richard free to deal his long-planned blow at Philip. Money only was wanting, and the king listened with more than the greed of his race to the rumour that a treasure had been found in the fields of the Limousin. Twelve knights of gold seated round a golden table were the find, it was said, of the Lord of Châlus. Treasure-trove at any rate there was, and Richard prowled around the walls, but the castle held stubbornly out till the King's greed passed into savage menace; he would hang all, he swore - man, woman, the very child at the breast.
In the midst of his threats an arrow from the walls struck him down. He died as he had lived, owning the wild passion which for seven years past had kept him from confession lest he should be forced to pardon Philip, forgiving with kingly generosity the archer who had shot him.
The Angevin dominion broke to pieces at his death. John was acknowledged as king in England and Normandy, Aquitaine was secured for him by its Duchess, his mother; but Anjou, Maine, and Touraine did homage to Arthur, the son of his elder brother Geoffry, the late Duke of Britanny. The ambition of Philip, who protected his cause, turned the day against Arthur; the Angevins rose against the French garrisons with which the French king practically annexed the country, and John was at last owned as master of the whole dominion of his house. A fresh outbreak of war in Poitou was fatal to his rival; surprised at the siege of Mirebeau by a rapid march of the King, Arthur was taken prisoner to Rouen, and murdered there, as men believed, by his uncle's hand. The brutal outrage at once roused the French provinces in revolt, while the French king marched straight on Normandy. The ease with which its conquest was effected can only be explained by the utter absence of any popular resistance on the part of the Normans themselves.
Half a century before the sight of a Frenchman in the land would have roused every peasant to arms from Avranches to Dieppe, but town after town surrendered at the mere summons of Philip, and the conquest was hardly over before Normandy settled down into the most loyal of the provinces of France Much of this was due to the wise liberality with which Philip met the claims of the towns to independence and self-government, as well as to the overpowering force and military ability with which the conquest was effected. But the utter absence of all opposition sprang from a deeper cause. To the Norman his transfer from John to Philip was a mere passing from one foreign master to another, and foreigner for foreigner Philip was the less alien of the two. Between France and Normandy there had been as many years of friendship as of strife; between Norman and Angevin lay a century of bitterest hate. Moreover, the subjection to France was the realization in fact of a dependence which had always existed in theory; Philip entered Rouen as the over-lord of its Dukes; while the submission to the house of Anjou had been the most humiliating of all submissions, the submission to an equal.
It was the consciousness of this temper in the Norman people that forced John to abandon all hope of resistance on the failure of his attempt to relieve Chateau-Gaillard, by the siege of which Philip commenced his invasion. The skill with which the combined movements for its relief were planned proved the King's military ability. The besiegers were parted into two masses by the Seine; the bulk of their forces were camped in the level space within the bend of the river, while one division was thrown across it to occupy the valley of the Gambon, and sweep the country around of its provisions. John proposed to cut the French army in two by destroying the bridge of boats which formed the only communication between the two bodies, while the whole of his own forces flung themselves on the rear of the French division encamped in the cul-de-sac formed by the river-bend, and without any exit save the bridge. Had the attack been carried out as ably as it was planned, it must have ended in Philip's ruin; but the two assaults were not made simultaneously, and were successively repulsed. The repulse was followed by the utter collapse of the military system by which the Angevins had held Normandy; John's treasury was exhausted, and his mercenaries passed over to the foe.
The King's despairing appeal to the Duchy itself came too late; its nobles were already treating with Philip, and the towns were incapable of resisting the siege train of the French. It was despair of any aid from Normandy that drove John over sea to seek it as fruitlessly from England, but with the fall of Chateau-Gaillard, after a gallant struggle, the province passed without a struggle into the French King's hands. In 1204 Philip turned on the south with as startling a success. Maine, Anjou, and Touraine passed with little resistance into his hands, and the death of Eleanor was followed by the submission of the bulk of Aquitaine. Little was left save the country south of the Garonne; and from the lordship of a vast empire that stretched from the Tyne to the Pyrenees John saw himself reduced at a blow to the realm of England. On the loss of Chateau-Gaillard in fact hung the destinies of England, and the interest that attaches one to the grand ruin on the heights of Les Andelys is, that it represents the ruin of a system as well as of a camp.
From its dark donjon and broken walls we see not merely the pleasant vale of Seine, but the sedgy flats of our own Runnymede.