Gien was mentioned for the first time in 760. But the construction of a stronghold by king Charlemagne dates back to the end of the 8th century. A castle which fell to a descendant, Etienne de Vermandois, in the year one thousand. The first counts of Gien appeared in the 11th century: Renaud, the first chap of this family, then Guillaume his son, waged war in the Holy Land with the famous knight Godefroy de Bouillon.
Hey, our Renaud came back from the Crusades, without a single wound! But after a simple little siege, he was defeated by the count of Le Mans and locked in jail in Blois for 4 long years. 4 years rotting in Blois, damned!
His son get back the county of Gien but here we go again: like daddy, Guillaume lost his land after he went to Crusade with king Louis VII. After those counts, king Philip Augustus annexed Gien in 1199. One century later, Charles VII gave it to Charles d’Anjou, who gave it to his sister Marie of Anjou...
Several important things happened: in 1410, John the Fearless married here his daughter Catherine with the duke de Guise. In 1420, Charles d'Orléans, Jean de Berry and Charles d’Armagnac signed here the treaty of the League of Gien against the duke of Burgundy (John the Fearless), who killed the duke d’Orléans (ooo, the naughty one).
Even Joan of Arc came here 4 times to convince the future Charles VII to be crown in Reims. The tradition says she attended to a last Mass in the castle’s chapel at midnight… When Marie d’Anjou died in 1463, Gien fell to the last king of the house of Anjou, Charles IV. Louis XI inherited the castle in 1481 because he was the only heir.
And Louis XI’s daughter turned up, Anne de Beaujeu. Yes: Anne became countess of Gien after her wedding with Pierre de Bourbon, lord who received the fief in the 15th century. Anne of France was king Louis XI’s daughter, who became the regent during the minority of her young brother Charles VIII.
She ruled as a careful and methodical queen. A strong lady! The spitting image of her father, brave and witty. Of course, those lords didn’t agree with that: phew, a women as the regent? Now what? Especially the duke d’Orléans, who wanted to be the king… So that was the beginning of the Mad War: at the end, the duke was defeated and locked in jail! So there.
From 1481 to 1490, Anne entirely re-raised the castle on the foundations of the old medieval fortress. This new building was a real dwelling with all mod cons! Around a vast courtyard, the castle had a southern wing about 75 metres long, with reception rooms inside. The western wing housed the private apartments.
Anne died in 1522: the following owners abandoned Gien little by little. High society were in and out in the castle: king of Scotland James V Stuart, Louis XIII, the young Louis XIV and his mum in exile during the Fronde… Whoa, lots of people!
Anyway, when the département of Loiret owned the place in 1823, he saved it from the ruin! Gien survived to the French Revolution and to plunderings, but a bombing during the World War II completely destroyed it. Today the castle houses the Hunting museum.