The castle was often besieged (most notably by Simon de Montfort
in 1211 and 1212). It resisted assault but was surrendered under
diplomatic pressure. It was recovered on the death of Simon de Montfort.
It was taken by force only once, in 1486, thanks to treachery during
a feud between two branches of the Foix family.
From the 14th century, the Counts of Foix spent less time in the
uncomfortable castle, preferring the Governors' Palace (Palais des
From 1479, the Counts of Foix became Kings of Navarre, and later
Kings of France. Henri IV of France, annexed his Pyrrenean territories
As seat of the Governor of the Foix region from the 15th century,
the castle continued to ensure the defence of the area, notably
during the Wars of Religion. Alone of all the castles in the region,
it was exempted from the destruction orders of Richelieu (1632-1638).
The castle remained a garrison until the Revolution. It saw grand
receptions for its governors, including the Count of Tréville,
captain of musketeers under Louis XIII and Marshal Philippe Henri
de Ségur, one of Louis XVI's ministers.
The Round Tower, built in the 15th century, is the most recent,
the two square towers having been built before the 11th century.
They served as a political and civil prison for four centuries until
Since 1930, the castle has housed the collections of the Ariège
départemental museum. Sections on prehistory, Gallo-Roman
and mediaeval archaeology tell the history of Ariège from
ancient times. Currently, the museum is rearranging exhibits to
concentrate on the history of the castle site so as to recreate
the life of Foix at the time of the Counts.
The County of Foix
The County of Foix was an independent medieval fief, and later
a province of France, whose territory corresponded roughly the eastern
part of the modern département of Ariège (the western
part of Ariège being Couserans).
During the Middle Ages, the county of Foix was ruled by the counts
of Foix. In 1290 the counts of Foix acquired the viscountcy Béarn,
which became the centre of their domain, and from that time on the
counts of Foix rarely resided in the county of Foix, preferring
the richer and more verdant Béarn.
The county of Foix was an independent fief and consisted of an
agglomeration of small holdings ruled by lords, who, though subordinate
to the counts of Foix, had some voice in the government of the county.
The provincial-states of the county, which can be traced back to
the 14th century, consisted of three orders and possessed considerable
power and energy. In the 17th and 18th centuries Foix formed one
of the thirty-three gouvernements, or military areas, of France
and kept its provincial-states until the French Revolution. In 1790
it was joined with Couserans to form the département of Ariège.
The county of Foix, as it existed just before the French Revolution,
had a land area of 2,466 km² (952 sq. miles).
The Counts of Foix
The Counts of Foix flourished from the 11th to the 15th century.
They were at first feudatories of the counts of Toulouse, but after
the latter's defeat in the Cathar Crusade they succeeded in establishing
their direct vassalage to the king of France.
During the 13th and 14th centuries the counts of Foix figured among
the most powerful of the French feudal nobles. Living on the borders
of France, having constant interaction with the kingdom of Navarre,
and in frequent communication with England through Gascony and Aquitaine,
they were in a position favourable to an assertion of independence,
and acted more like the equals than the dependents of the kings
The title of count of Foix was assumed by Roger of Foix (died ca.
1064), son of Bernard Roger of Couserans, a younger son of Roger
I de Cominges, Count of Carcassonne, de Couserans et de Razés,
when he inherited the town of Foix and the adjoining lands, which
had previously formed part of the county of Carcassonne.
His grandson, Roger II, took part in the First Crusade in 1095
and was afterwards excommunicated by Pope Paschal II for seizing
ecclesiastical property. Subsequently he appeased the anger of the
church through donations, and when he died in 1125 he was succeeded
by his son, Roger III, and then his son, Roger Bernard I.
Roger-Bernard's only son, Raymond Roger, accompanied the French
king, Philip Augustus, to Palestine in 1190 and distinguished himself
at the capture of Acre. He was afterwards engaged in the Albigensian
Crusade defending the Cathars, and, on being accused of heresy,
his lands were given to Simon IV de Montfort. Raymond Roger came
to terms with the Church and recovered his estates before his death
in 1223. He was a patron of the troubadours and a troubadour himself.
He was succeeded by his son, Roger Bernard II the Great, who assisted
Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, and the Cathars in their resistance
to the French kings, Louis VIII and Louis IX. He was excommunicated
on two occasions, and died in 1241.
His son, Roger IV, died in 1265 and was succeeded by his son, Roger
Bernard III who, more famous as a poet than as a warrior, was taken
prisoner both by Philip III of France and by Peter III of Aragon.
He married Marguerite, daughter and heiress of Gaston VII, Viscount
of Béarn, and he inherited Béarn and Nébouzan
from his father-in-law in 1290, which led to the outbreak of a long
feud between the Houses of Foix and Armagnac.
From 1278 the counts of Foix, and their legal successors, have
also been Co-princes of Andorra.
House of Foix-Béarn
The quarrel was continued under Roger Bernard's son and successor,
Gaston I, who became count in 1302, inheriting both Foix and Béarn.
Becoming embroiled with the French king, Philip IV, in consequence
of the struggle with the count of Armagnac, Gaston was imprisoned
in Paris. He regained his freedom and accompanied King Louis X on
an expedition into Flanders in 1315, and died on his return to France
in the same year.
His eldest son, Gaston II, made peace with the house of Armagnac
and took part in wars both in France and Spain, dying at Seville
in 1343, when he was succeeded by his young son, Gaston III.
Gaston III (1331-1391), called Phoebus, the Latin version of Apollo,
on account of his beauty, was the most famous member of the House
of Foix-Béarn. Like his father he assisted France in her
struggle against England, being entrusted with the defence of the
frontiers of Gascony.
When the French king, John II, favoured the count of Armagnac,
Gaston left his service and went on crusade to fight the pagans
of Prussia. Returning to France around 1357, he delivered some noble
ladies from the attacks of the adherents of the Jacquerie at Meaux,
and was soon at war with the count of Armagnac.
During this struggle he also attacked the count of Poitiers, the
royal representative in Languedoc, but owing to the intervention
of Pope Innocent VI he made peace with the count in 1360. Gaston,
however, continued to fight against the count of Armagnac, who,
in 1362, was defeated and compelled to pay a ransom. This war lasted
Early in 1380, the count was appointed governor of Languedoc, but
when Charles VI succeeded Charles V as king later in the same year,
this appointment was cancelled. Refusing, however, to heed the royal
command, and supported by the communes of Languedoc, Gaston fought
for about two years against John, duke of Berry, who had been chosen
as his successor.
When he was bested in the combat, he abandoned the struggle and
retired to his estates, remaining neutral and independent. He then
resided in Orthez, the capital of Béarn. In 1348 Gaston married
Agnes, daughter of Philip, Count of Evreux (d. 1343), by his wife
Jeanne II, queen of Navarre. By Agnes, whom he divorced in 1373,
he had an only son, Gaston, who is said to have been incited by
his uncle, Charles II of Navarre, to poison his father, and who
met his death in 1381. It is probable that he was killed by his
father; this is the account presented by Froissart.
Gaston was very fond of hunting, but was not without a taste for
art and literature. Several beautiful manuscripts are in existence
which were executed by his orders, and he himself wrote a treatise
on hunting, the Livre de chasse, known in English as The Hunting
Book. Froissart, who gives a graphic description of his court
and his manner of life at Orthez in Béarn, speaks enthusiastically
of Gaston, saying: "I never saw one like him of personage,
nor of so fair form, nor so well made, and again, in everything
he was so perfect that he cannot be praised too much".
Left without legitimate sons, Gaston de Foix was persuaded to bequeath
his lands to King Charles VI, who thus obtained Foix and Béarn
when the count died at Orthez in 1391. Almost immediately after
Gaston's death Charles granted the county of Foix to Matthew, Viscount
of Castelbon, a descendant of Count Gaston I of Foix. When Matthew
died without issue in 1398, his lands were seized by Archambault,
Count of Grailly and Captal de Buch, the husband of Matthew's sister
Isabella (d. 1426), who was confirmed as legitimate count of Foix
House of Foix-Grailly
Archambault's eldest son, John (ca. 1382-1436), who succeeded to
his father's lands and titles in 1412, had married Jeanne in 1402,
daughter of Charles III, king of Navarre. Having served the king
of France in Guyenne and the king of Aragon in Sardinia, John became
the royal representative in Languedoc, when the old quarrel between
Foix and Armagnac broke out again. During the struggle between the
Burgundian party and the Armagnacs, he intrigued with both, and
consequently was distrusted by the Dauphin, afterwards King Charles
VII. Deserting the French cause, he then allied himself with Henry
V of England. When Charles VII became king in 1423, he returned
to his former allegiance and became the king's representative in
Languedoc and Guyenne. He then assisted in suppressing the marauding
bands which were devastating France, fought for Aragon against Castile,
and aided his brother, the cardinal of Foix, to crush an insurgency
Peter, cardinal of Foix (1386-1464), was the fifth son of Archambault
of Grailly, and was made archbishop of Arles in 1450. He took a
prominent part in the struggle between the rival popes, and founded
and endowed the Collège de Foix at Toulouse. The next count
was John's son, Gaston IV of Foix, who married Leonora (died 1479),
a daughter of John, king of Aragon and Navarre. In 1447 he bought
the viscounty of Narbonne, and having assisted King Charles VII
in Guyenne, he was made a peer of France in 1458. In 1455 his father-in-law
designated him as his successor in Navarre, and Louis XI of France
gave him the counties of Roussillon and Cerdagne, and made him his
representative in Languedoc and Guyenne; but these marks of favor
did not prevent him from joining a league against Louis in 1471.
His eldest son, Gaston, the husband of Madeleine, a daughter of
Charles VII of France, died in 1470, and when Gaston IV died two
years later, his lands descended to his grandson, Francis Phoebus
(died 1483). Francis Phoebus became king of Navarre in 1479 and
was succeeded by his sister Catherine (died 1517), the wife of Jean
d'Albret (d. 1516).
A younger son of Count Gaston IV was John (died 1500), who received
the viscounty of Narbonne from his father and married Marie, a sister
of the French king Louis XII. He was on good terms both with Louis
XI and Louis XII, and on the death of his nephew Francis Phoebus
in 1483, claimed the kingdom of Navarre against Jean d'Albret and
his wife, Catherine de Foix. The ensuing struggle lasted until 1497
when John renounced his claim. He left a son, Gaston de Foix (1489-1512),
a distinguished French general, and a daughter, Germaine de Foix,
who became the second wife of Ferdinand I of Spain.
In 1507, Gaston exchanged his viscounty of Narbonne with King Louis
XII of France for the duchy of Nemours, and as duke of Nemours he
took command of the French troops in Italy. After delivering Bologna
and taking Brescia, Gaston encountered the troops of the Holy League
at Ravenna in April of 1512 and routed the enemy, but was killed
during the pursuit.
There were also younger branches of the house of Foix-Grailly:
the viscounts of Lautrec (descended from Pierre de Foix, younger
son of Jean III); the Counts of Candale and Benauges (descended
from Gaston de Foix, a younger son of Archemboult); the Counts of
Gurson and Fleix and Viscounts of Meille (Jean de Foix, Comte de
Meille, Gurson et Fleix, was a younger son of Jean de Foix, Earl
of Kendal), and the Counts of Caraman, or Carmain, descended from
Isabeau de Foix, Dame de Navailles (only child of Archambaud de
Foix-Grailly, Baron de Navailles) and her husband Jean, Vicomte
de Carmain, whose descendants adopted the name and arms of Foix
Houses of Albret and the House of Bourbon
When Catherine, wife of Jean d'Albret, succeeded her brother Francis
Phoebus, the House of Foix-Grailly was merged into that of Albret,
and later into that of Bourbon with Henry III of Navarre, son of
Antoine de Bourbon and Jeanne d'Albret.
Henry III of Navarre became King Henry IV of France in 1589. In
1607, he united to the French crown his personal fiefs that were
under French sovereignty (i.e. County of Foix, Bigorre, Quatre-Vallées,
and Nébouzan, but not Béarn and Lower Navarre, which
were sovereign countries outside of the kingdom of France), and
so the county of Foix became part of the royal domain.