Maitre Jacques or as the English called him Master James has been lauded by historians in the following glowing terms, Dan Jones describing him as “the greatest castle builder of his age. ” Historian Marc Morris eulogised him as “castle-builder par excellence” and “one of the world’s greatest architects.” Writing for the Osprey military series Christopher Gravett added “one of the greatest architects of medieval England”. The introduction to the recently republished Cadw guidebook for the castle at Conwy ascribed the definitive genius of the Savoyard work in Wales, that the whole project was designed as a cohesive whole, a single planned entity.
“The castles of King Edward I (1272-1307)in North Wales are without doubt amongst the finest medieval buildings in Britain. Unlike the great medieval cathedrals at Durham and Canterbury for example, Flint, Rhuddlan, Aberystwyth, Builth, Conwy, Harlech, Caernarfon and Beaumaris were all built from scratch by a single organisation – the king’s works – often concurrently in the uneasy aftermath of war.”
There has been some revisionist history written since historian Arnold Taylor’s work, sadly also much of his work is unavailable and out of print. Furthermore naturally Taylor’s main focus was the Edwardian castles of North Wales, in this blog we will tell the story of the old man who may well have ended his life reflecting on his achievements the River Dee in 1307. For the first time this blog will be the story that began by Lac Léman in the County of Savoy, for the first time will cast light upon the origins of Maitre Jacques, origins that follow through the great cathedral at Lausanne perhaps even back to England. For the first time this will be the story of Maitre Jacques.